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Text: Cheney News Conference
Thursday, December 14, 2000 Following is the text of a news conference held today by Vice President-elect Cheney after accepting the key card to a government transition office.
CHENEY: I'm pleased this afternoon to welcome representatives from GSA here to the transition office. I have Clay Johnson with me, who's the director of the transition, working alongside me. And at this point I'd like to turn the program over to Mr. Thurmand Davis, the deputy administrator of the GSA.
DAVIS: Thank you, sir.
Good afternoon. First, let me begin by introducing Beth Newberger (ph), who is the associate administrator for communications at GSA; and June Huber (ph), who will be our director of our support team supporting the transition.
GSA is real proud to be here this afternoon to be one of the first members of the federal family to welcome you, and especially you, Mr. Vice President-elect, to Washington.
I have here the official key for the transition space, which I'd like to give to you now.
DAVIS: It's a smart card. And the smart card is the key to the transition space, which is located at 1800 G St., N.W., in Washington. It represents the high-tech environment that GSA's prepared for the transition team, for you and the transition team, provided to support.
With the key, you inherit the best that GSA and the government has to offer, and we'll stand ready to provide you full support in your transition space.
CHENEY: Thanks very much. Thank you, sir.
CHENEY: Clay, you want to hold the key?
JOHNSON: Thank you, sir.
CHENEY: All right. Well, we're delighted to have this opportunity to begin to receive official support from the government for the Bush-Cheney transition. This has been, as many folks have said, a unique time in American political history.
The transition is well under way. We've been able to do that in part through the foresight of the Congress that had authorized the use of private funds as well as public funds for the transition, and we understand why our friends at GSA have been in a difficult position during this period of time until the election was officially resolved, if you will, and, of course, that occurred last night with Vice President Gore's very gracious, I thought, address to the nation, and the acceptance by President-elect Bush. So I'd be happy to respond to a question or two.
CHENEY: The question is, will we remain in these offices or move downtown. We will begin to use the space downtown as we stand up additional parts of the transition--for example, as we begin to identify perspective Cabinet members and put together support staffs for them through the confirmation process, they're likely to be downtown. Some of the elements that are here now will move downtown--the congressional shop, for example; it's a much more convenient location for them.
And I would expect here, in the not-too-distant future, that a lot of what is located here will move downtown. But the folks here have been superb in terms of their support for us, and they've really stepped up at a time when we had a great need and did a lot to make that possible for us, and we want to thank them for that.
Exactly how we finally resolve this question of who's where is still an open question. We haven't really had time to address all of that yet. But we will be using both facilities. For now, I plan to stay here, at least for the next week or two. I live nearby.
It's a great commute, and I want to take advantage of that, but obviously we'll make decisions based on what's most appropriate in terms of having the transition able to function.
QUESTION: Right now, Vice President-elect Cheney, are you working to streamline the process on the FBI checks? And, also, is there any consideration at all that you would actually leave some people in place, to replace them later? Is that...
CHENEY: Well, I don't know. Clay, you may want to say a word about the clearance process. We will move as rapidly as we can to have the Cabinet in place by the time of the inauguration. Ordinarily what happens is that we'll name Cabinet members and they'll start the clearance process.
Hopefully once the clearance process is completed, then the papers can go forward to the Congress. The Congress holds--the Senate holds confirmation hearings, and then usually right after the January 20 inauguration, then they begin to vote to confirm Cabinet members. And we're going to try to adhere to that schedule.
Now there are some things that have to be worked out as we go through that process. And Clay may want to say a word or two about the actual clearance process itself.
JOHNSON: The FBI understands how unusual this circumstance is, and they've committed to attach additional resources to expedite this every way possible. This is a very unusual time, and everything is truncated, and so we'll be working here to expedite things, and the FBI will be doing their part. And we'll be in discussions with the Senate to make sure that they're getting the information that they need to begin their hearings.
But, again, everybody seems to be rising to the occasion to take care of the business that should be taken care of in the time available.
QUESTION: Secretary Cheney, there's been some talk, sir, that you'd like to have all of the Cabinet members named by next Friday, before the Christmas break.
Can you adhere to that schedule, or is that just too quick?
CHENEY: We're going to move just as rapidly as we can. I don't want to set artificial deadlines. I think that would be inappropriate.
But we will--well, we've made significant progress, in terms of the conversations that we've been able to have internally with President-elect Bush and myself, Andy Card, Clay and the others who are involved in that effort.
We are going to do everything we can to get everybody named as quickly as possible, but I don't want to establish an artificial deadline and say that it's all going to be done a week from Friday. If we make it, that would be fantastic, but I don't want to set out an artificial deadline.
QUESTION: When do you expect to see the first nominations come out, and then how far have you been set back?
CHENEY: I expect to see the first announcement soon.
That's all you're going to get today.
And the process, in terms of the transition being shortened--as I mentioned earlier in our earlier press briefs--it has an impact, because of our ability to go out and begin to actively and aggressively interview people, be able to source various folks, in terms of what kinds of individuals we ought to look for for certain jobs, or to be able to check out the references on certain individuals. All of that has really been pretty limited by virtue of the fact that there was still a lot of uncertainty about going forward.
The area, for example, of talking with those in the Democratic Party had been awkward while there was still contest under way. Those constraints are now off, and we're able to begin to be much more aggressive in that regard.
I might also point out--I think you know, President-elect Bush will be in Washington the first part of next week, most of the day, Monday and Tuesday. He will be meeting with President Clinton at that time as well as Vice President Gore, and also with the bipartisan Congressional leadership. Probably those meetings will take place Monday and Tuesday.
We will have a number of other things that we're doing here at that time. One of those, obviously, is the further work with respect to selecting perspective Cabinet members, so there will be a fairly intense period of time at the beginning of the week when he's here Monday and Tuesday.
QUESTION: How do you plan to reach out to Democrats as you begin the process? And does the president-elect plan to hold press conference any time soon?
CHENEY: I would refer to you--you probably better check with Karen Hughes in terms of the timing of when President-elect Bush will hold a press conference.
I think he's already begun the process of reaching out.
And in terms of contacting folks on the other side, I called Joe Lieberman this morning, and we had a very pleasant conversation. I watched Senator Lieberman's speech in the Senate today. I thought it was an eloquent speech, and certainly in keeping with his stature and reputation. And we look forward having the opportunity, the two us, to get together next week and begin to work together. So I would think it's fair to say the reaching-out process has already begun.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) a million dollars that's appropriated by the Congress was for the Office of Government Ethics to come up with concrete ways to expedite and streamline the personnel application process, the background checks, et cetera. Have they specifically told you, at this point, how they intend to streamline and expedite the process?
CHENEY: I'll ask Clay to address that.
JOHNSON: I think the new money was to fund a study by them to determine how that could be done in the future. I don't think that the intention was that it would impact us. There was also part of that money that was intended to help us train and indoctrinate new members of the administration to best prepare them to be successful here, and we will develop those programs with those funds and put them to good use.
QUESTION: Secretary Cheney, Governor Gilmore's name has been mentioned in press reports for a possible Cabinet position. Is he someone that's being considered?
CHENEY: I can't get into the business today of encouraging speculation.
I know there's a lot of speculation out there on a lot of people. There are a lot of great folks around that would make a significant contribution in any administration.
But I think it's unwise, and perhaps misleading, for me to get into the business of saying we're considering this person, we're not considering that person. So I'm going to refrain from commenting on any one particular individual as we go through this process.
Yes? In the back.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if that's the case, then when would you possibly be announcing a secretary of state and a national security advisor?
QUESTION: Monday? Tuesday?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you give us a bit more of an idea of what President-elect Bush expects in the meetings with President Clinton and Vice President Gore? And also whether there was something in Vice President Gore's speech last night that you would have like to have heard that you didn't?
CHENEY: On the latter part, I thought--first of all, I can't speak for President-elect Bush in that regard. Second, I really thought Vice President Gore's speech was very good. I liked it very much; I thought it was totally appropriate to the occasion.
And the widespread praise that it's received in the commentary afterward I thought's been totally appropriate. I share those sentiments.
With respect to the meetings next week, my experience from prior transitions has been this begins the exchange, if you will, between the outgoing administration and the incoming administration. One of the things that we have not really been able to do yet in connection with transition is any interface at all with officials in the government administrations and agencies that are already there.
We haven't talked with folks in the Defense Department or at State or HUD or any of the other departments. And so, this meeting at the top, if you will, sort of sets all of those kinds of contacts in motion to begin to talk about common problems, and make certain that our people get up to speed so that by January 20th, we're in a position to actually take the reins of government, beginning right after the inauguration.
And I think, it's also--again, my experience has been--and I've been there for--I remember the Ford-Carter transition, for example, in 1976. That was after a very hard-fought contest between Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter. It was a close contest in the end.
And the thing that I was always struck by was, what emerged out of that first meeting between the two principals was a sincere effort on the part of the outgoing administration to want to help the newcomers, even though they were of the opposite party and they'd just been battling it out until a few days before, and a sincere effort on the part of the incoming administration to want to do everything they could to get it right.
What emerged, of course, from that transaction was, eventually, the fact that Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter became good friends. And you would you not have bet on that prior to that election.
So I think, and I'm not making any predictions today, I'm saying it's a small fraternity of presidents and ex-presidents, and I'm sure that, you know, when the history books are written on this period of time, you'll find that that meeting next week between the two of them will be very important to healing the wounds, to moving on and getting the new administration in place, ready to go. So it's a very important meeting. Symbols are important in this business, and this certainly has great symbolic significance.
QUESTION: Is there a strategy for sub-Cabinet-level positions, in terms of which ones you'd like to see in place first? And how are you going to go about doing that, whether it's based on the legislative agenda, to get people in the administration who will be important to the first few items of the president-elect's agenda? How will you go about the sub-Cabinet appointment process?
JOHNSON: Well, there will be sensitivity to what the legislative priorities are, but I'm also advised that the most important first few sub-Cabinet members that a Cabinet secretary can have on his or her team are the general counsels, the legislative affairs and the public affairs people. So those will be priorities for us with each of the Cabinet secretaries.
QUESTION: Will Mr. Bush be meeting with prospective Cabinet appointees in the next day or two as he indicated?
CHENEY: That's a reasonable expectation, that in the--clearly over the next couple of weeks, one of the activities he'll be engaged in is talking with prospective Cabinet members.
QUESTION: What would be the main issue in U.S.-Russian relationship and U.S.-European relationship when you get into the office?
CHENEY: I'm happy to pontificate on those kinds of issues at the appropriate time, but I really would prefer, given our responsibilities here with respect to this office, to stay focused on the transition. There'll be ample opportunity down the road to talk specifically about various policy areas, U.S.-Russian relations, et cetera. And so I'm going to refrain from getting into those areas today, if I might.
I'll do one more question. Yes?
QUESTION: I understand you've got about $2.5 million left over from the private funds you raised for this transition; raised about $3 million, spent about $500,000. What do you expect to do with that remaining money?
CHENEY: I think the numbers you cited are accurate--that is, I believe we've raised roughly $3 million in the private effort, and spent about $500,000 of that.
If you remember, if you go look at the Presidential Transition Act, it's specifically authorizes not only public monies to support the effort, which we've now been provided through GSA, but it also specifically authorizes the raising of private funds to supplement those efforts.
And so, what we've done there is very much in keeping with the statute that's there, and I would expect that before we're through we'll spend some additional amount of that money that's already been raised. I can't today say exactly how much, but the tradition was before, and until fairly recently, that transitions were funded completely with private funds.
The appropriation of public monies to support transitions is a relatively recent development, over the last couple of transitions. So the fact that we've got those funds, we will put them to good use, as indicated. If there's anything left over, we'll decide then what's the best way to deal with those.
Once again, let me thank all of you for being here today, and let me thank our friends at GSA for their support. We look forward to a very close working relationship, and we're delighted now to have the opportunity, Clay and myself and the other members of the transition team, to begin to aggressively pursue what's going to clearly be an abbreviated, but we hope very successful transition.
Thank you very much.