Remarks Announcing the
Nomination of Richard L. Thornburgh To Be Attorney
General of the
The President. It's with great pleasure that I announce my intention to nominate former Governor Richard L. Thornburgh to serve as Attorney General.
Thornburgh's extensive law enforcement experience and proven integrity, along
with his familiarity with the Department of Justice, clearly meet my criteria
for filling this important post. Dick Thornburgh was a prosecutor's prosecutor
for 6 years as the United States Attorney for
proved himself an able manager while serving as Governor of Pennsylvania, our
fourth largest State. And there he reinstituted the death penalty and won
tough, mandatory jail terms for violent and repeat criminals. He was in the
forefront of the war against drugs, cracking down on drug traffickers and
creating preventive education programs for
I could always count on Governor Thornburgh's help, whether in the fight against big spending and high taxes or for balancing the budget and the line-item veto. I could count on him then, and I'm turning to him now, an intelligent and knowledgeable man, an experienced prosecutor, alumnus of the Justice Department, and former Governor. He said once that ``The first civil right of all Americans is the right to be free from fear in our homes, on our streets, and in our communities.'' Nothing could be more true, and that cause could have no greater champion than Dick Thornburgh.
He is the ideal choice for Attorney General, and I urge the Senate to move quickly to confirm him as well as our other Justice Department nominees so that they can roll up their sleeves and get back to work -- or get to work enforcing the laws of the land.
Attorney General Meese
Q. Why is the Attorney General stepping down when no criminality was proved against him and no charges placed?
The President. I think that's a question he'd better answer for you, and I think he would.
Q. Well, why do you think he did?
The President. Well, I think it was personal reasons -- after all that he'd been through, and with his family in mind.
Q. Mr. President, there are some conservatives who are going to say you're bringing the Harvard Yard Boutique into your own administration. [Laughter] What are you going to say to conservatives?
The President. I think I would just answer them that the more Governors I can get into the Federal Government the better off the Nation will be.
Mr. President, what are you going to do about
The President. I can't -- look, Mr. Thornburgh is here, and he has a statement.
Are you going to sit by and let
Thornburgh. Thank you, Mr. President. I want to extend my appreciation to you
for extending to me the great honor and privilege of your appointment as
Attorney General of the
I look forward as well to helping to implement the priorities of the Reagan-Bush administration, especially in the field of law enforcement and administration of criminal justice. I'm confident that the experience I had as Governor for 8 years of one of our major States will serve me and you and the people of this country well in accepting this challenge, and I appreciate it very much.
Q. Do you think you can restore the integrity and morale -- --
Q. Governor, what did you consider your major challenge?
Mr. President, could you just tell us what you're planning to do about
The President. That is under discussion right now.
Q. Do you want more lethal aid?
The President. Wait a minute! I have to move on to another engagement, but Governor Thornburgh has kindly agreed that he -- you have some questions for him.
Q. Governor Thornburgh -- --
Aren't we going to send some response to
Q. -- and the integrity of the Justice Department?
Q. Are we going to do something about their diplomats?
Attorney General's Role
Q. Governor, what do you consider your major challenge in the last 6 months of the Reagan administration as Attorney General?
Governor Thornburgh. I think the major challenge of the Attorney General at any period of time is to provide the leadership to the law enforcement community nationwide that is necessary to keep up a relentless war on problems such as organized crime, drug trafficking, official corruption -- the major priorities that the Federal law enforcement establishment is involved in.
Q. In terms of the cloud, the investigation over the past months of Attorney General Meese, is your challenge also stabilizing the Justice Department?
Governor Thornburgh. Oh, I think it's important to look forward rather than back, and that will certainly be my viewpoint if I'm confirmed. And I think what we will try to do is to carry out a full-bore effort in the law enforcement area.
Q. In looking forward, just exactly how much do you expect to accomplish in advancing the priorities over the next 6 months? Or do you expect to remain in the post if the Vice President wins in November?
Thornburgh. Well, I obviously can't speak for the Vice President. But I think
that law enforcement is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week proposition. And whether
you're on the job for 6 days or 6 months or 6 years, it is a full-time effort
and an important effort to give the people of the
Attorney General Meese
Q. Governor, what do you think of the Attorney General?
Q. Governor, do you feel that you will have to look into the Meese affair because there are still unanswered questions about his ethical conduct -- about whether or not there was something involved with the Israeli pipeline? There were differing recollections in his deposition.
Governor Thornburgh. I really can't answer any substantive questions at this point for two reasons: One, obviously I have not been privy to the workings of the Department of Justice or the Independent Counsel's office up to today, and secondly, I think my prime responsibility is to the Judiciary Committee and the Senate to answer and disclose my views on substance -- --
Q. But without dealing with the substance, is it your intention to look into those allegations and to look at the McKay report and to follow up if necessary?
Governor Thornburgh. Well, my intention, and this is in any area, is to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. And not knowing what that evidence is, I can't give you a prediction.
Q. Governor Thornburgh, what's your understanding -- --
Mr. Fitzwater. Let's take the final question here. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], go ahead.
Q. Well, what do you think of the Attorney General? What do you think of the Attorney General? I mean, what do you think of his performance?
Governor Thornburgh. Well, I'm not in any position to evaluate that.
Q. You haven't even mentioned him, which is peculiar.
Governor Thornburgh. No, as I said, I think it's important to look forward rather than look back. I will -- --
Q. You have no opinion about him?
Governor Thornburgh. I'm not going to express any opinion today on the basis of the information I have. I think in due course I'll have the obligation. And the Senate, through its Judiciary Committee, will have the responsibility to question me at length, as they should, on my views on any substantive matters that affect them.
Mr. Fitzwater. Thank you very much.
Attorney General's Role
Q. But wait a minute. The Attorney General played an important role in this administration in suggesting that this President veto a number of civil rights bills. There is an important housing -- the fair housing bill that's going to come to the President's desk. Do you expect to play a role similar to Mr. Meese's as a counselor to the President on recommending issues? And do you think your views will differ with Mr. Meese at all?
Thornburgh. Well, again, I'm sure you'll understand that I'm not in a position
-- nor would it be appropriate at this time -- to comment on substantive
issues. The office of the Attorney General encompasses
important tasks of advising the President on legal issues, of being the chief
law enforcement officer, and of being the advocate for the people of the
Q. Well, will you head the Domestic Policy Council?
Q. Do you want to stay on if -- --
Governor Thornburgh. That's a question you'll have to ask the President.
Q. Do you want to be a Governor and -- --
Q. Governor, do you want -- --
Q. Would you like to stay more than 6 months?
Q. Excuse me, Governor, do you want to be an Attorney General in the tradition of Ed Meese, your predecessor?
Governor Thornburgh. I'll be an Attorney General in the tradition of Dick Thornburgh.
Q. Do you want to stay on if Bush wins?
Governor Thornburgh. That's something that's entirely premature.
Q. Have you talked to Bush? Have you talked to Bush?
Q. Are you going to campaign for him?
Governor Thornburgh. Well, to the extent that that's proper for the Attorney General, but, again, there is some constraint on it. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at in the Briefing Room at the White House. Marlin Fitzwater was Assistant to the President for Press Relations.