|THE TRANSITION CONTINUES|
December 22, 2000
JEFFREY KAYE: President-elect Bush disclosed his nominee for attorney general at a news conference in Austin.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: John Ashcroft will perform his duties guided by principle, not by politics. He will be faithful to the law, pursuing justice without favor. He will enforce the law, and he will follow the truth.
JEFFREY KAYE: The recently unseated Missouri Senator is a favorite of Republican conservatives. Ashcroft is a deeply religious conservative and a strong foe of abortion. The 58-year-old Ashcroft served one term in the Senate, and was the governor of Missouri until 1993. He spent eight years as the state's attorney general.
SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT: Almost every day for the last six years I have walked past the back of the United States Supreme Court building on my way to my Senate desk. Last week, when the most recent Congress ended, so, too, did my routine. And on the final day of the session, I recall walking past the high court beneath the words etched in marble, "justice: The guardian of liberty." That inscription, if less quoted than its counterpart, "equal justice under law," is no less profound. And both perfectly capture my aspiration in serving the next President and in working in the Department of Justice. President-elect Bush, you have my word that I will administer the Department of Justice with integrity. I will advise your administration with integrity, and I will enforce the laws of the United States of America with integrity.
JEFFREY KAYE: The President-elect was asked how the Justice Department under his administration would differ from President Clinton's.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: I can only tell you what it's going to be like in the future, and you can draw your own conclusions. John Ashcroft is a man of deep convictions and strong principle. His job will... to bring... to enforce the law -- that's what his job's going to be, in an impartial way, not in a political way. I'm sure there's going to be ample opportunity to be critical of the administration, which I'm not going to do. It is now time to move forward. That's what the election was all about. It is time. We've had our debates, we've had our discussions, and this administration is going to move forward.
REPORTER: Mr. President-elect and Senator Ashcroft, the Clinton administration has questioned the fairness of the federal death penalty. Will you consider a moratorium on the federal death penalty? And, Senator Ashcroft, as incoming attorney general, is that something that you think should be done?
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: I've obviously been the governor of a death-penalty state. I support the death penalty when it's administered fairly, justly, and surely, because I believe it saves people's lives. And as I stand here now, David, I see no reason for there to be a moratorium at the federal level. I believe this administration should enforce the laws on the books. You're welcome to say something, if you'd like to. Just don't tell them what your advice is. ( Laughter )
SEN. JOHN ASHCROFT: Well, I would say that I've had many of the same experiences that the President-elect has had as Governor, and frankly, his views are, I think, the correct views. And they're obviously his views, but I believe that they are the appropriate views, and I agree completely.
JEFFREY KAYE: President-elect Bush answered questions regarding Ashcroft's civil rights record. Ashcroft once blocked the nomination of a black judge to the federal bench, and he has been critical of the justice department's civil rights division during the Clinton administration.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: There's no question in my mind that he will uphold and enforce the law, the civil rights laws on the books of America. He has had a very good record of reaching out to people from all walks of life. He was a Governor who appointed African Americans to the bench. He's a man who has got a good and decent heart. And he had his reasons of blocking a single nomination, and I thought about that, and I looked at the facts, and I listened to him. And there's no question in my mind that this is a person who believes in civil rights for all citizens.
JEFFREY KAYE: Later this afternoon, Mr. Bush announced his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: Governor Whitman reflects a growing consensus in this country about environmental policy. She and I share the same point of view. We share a philosophy that moves beyond the old central command and control mindset that believes Washington has got all the answers to environmental issues. In asking Governor Whitman to join my administration, I also... I told her how much I will value her advice, to the point of which I'm going to name her position as a cabinet officer.
JEFFREY KAYE: The 54-year-old Whitman became New Jersey's first female Governor in 1994. She has one year left in her second term. She served as the President of New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities for two years.
GOV. CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: My job has given me the best preparation for this new opportunity, an opportunity that I embrace with great enthusiasm and great expectation. New Jersey, we've had... has been challenged. We've had to meet all the environmental concerns. We know the challenges of reclaiming abandoned industrial sites. We know the need to protect our cities, their quality of water, their quality of life, to ensure that our suburbs and rural areas aren't overrun by suburban sprawl. We also face the responsibility of being good stewards to 127 miles of beaches, thousands of acres of forest and woodlands, and a farming tradition that we cherish-- all of this in the context of a dynamic and growing state economy.
JEFFREY KAYE: Mr. Bush took no questions after he announced the Whitman nomination. The President-elect is scheduled to begin a five-day holiday break this weekend.