Text Of Justice Department Briefing With Reno And Patrick
November 11, 1996SPEAKERS LIST: Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General and Deval Patrick, Assistant U.S. Attorney General
RENO: I want to take a minute this morning to say thank you to one of the finest public servants I have ever known and to one of the great people that I have ever had the chance to work with. Deval Patrick has served as the assistant attorney general in charge of the civil rights division for the past three years.
He has advised me that he intends to step down in January so he can spend more time with his wife and children in Boston. And I admire his decision, as he knows. But, I regret it as much as I admire it.
For quite simply, he has made such an extraordinary difference for the Department of Justice and for the people of this country.
During his three years, he has spearheaded efforts to insure fairness in the lending industry helping to produce record increases in the number of loans to qualified, minority borrowers. He co-chairs the National Church Arson Task Force which has led to the arrest of more than 100 suspects in more than 80 fires since 1995.
He was a leader in the administration and around the country in helping to mend Affirmative Action while continuing to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. He has helped open doors to millions of Americans with disabilities through enforcement, negotiation and out-of- court settlement of cases involving the Americans With Disabilities Act.
And he has provided reinvigorated leadership to a civil rights division that has built a tremendous enforcement record during this administration.
Deval's job has been to be the voice of so many people in America who feel that they do not have a voice. And you have given them that voice.
We will all miss his leadership, his vision, his strength and that wonderful gentleness that he has as well. I am sad to see him go. But, I am very, very proud to have been his colleague.
QUESTION: Have any other assistant attornies general indicated to you they also intend to depart for any reason?
RENO: No, I'll keep you advised as we learn.
QUESTION: Deval, what are your plans? Are you going to go into private law practice or...?
PATRICK: I'm going to go find a job.
I don't have any firm plans. I think my main objective is to be closer to and have more time with my family.
RENO: As many of you will remember, his family's very special. When Deval's -- his nomination was announced by the president, the youngest was hiding behind him.
PATRICK: She spent that time under a table in the Oval Office.
QUESTION: Do you have any regrets about your time here, things you didn't accomplish or things you wish had not been accomplished?
PATRICK: I have not regrets. I am disappointed that I couldn't be here longer frankly because we do have a variety of goals we haven't completed and a number of investigations that are personally important to me.
But, I am very, very confident in the quality and the dedication of the people who work in the civil rights division. And I am certain that they -- together with the leadership of the department which has been consistently supportive through difficult issues at difficult times -- that they will carry on and continue to do the department and the American people proud.
QUESTION: Who will take over the division on an acting basis?
RENO: We will work with the White House to make arrangements for that.
QUESTION: Well, what about the high points. What are you most proud of?
PATRICK: Well, let me take those as two questions. First of all, the high points are every day. This is a -- it is a great blessing to have a job that never has a dull day. And I haven't had a single dull day. Well, maybe one would be nice.
But, in fact, I've had not a single dull day.
I think some of the achievements that we in the division are and should be most proud of are some of the ones that the attorney general noted -- the Fair Lending and Property Insurance programs have been outstanding successes.
And we have a number of initiatives that will follow on from that including -- my hope is that we'll have an initiative on access to credit in poor and minority communities generally, expanding on that Fair Lending work.
I think the ADA work, both the outreach and technical assistance and public information -- which is unprecedented -- and the enforcement activities ranging from, you know, the Olympic stadium now being when it was open being the most accessible sports facility in the world, to a victory yesterday in the first trial the department had in an ADA case in Denver where we had an $800,000 initial verdict. I think that program has tremendous integrity and strength.
The criminal program, both the hate crimes and the police misconduct features, are vital. They have -- we've had more cases and a higher success rate than at any other time in the division's history. And I think that's important.
We've been working in the area of conditions in mental health and mental retardation institutions and prisons and jails.
And that work has been important and meaningful. I can go on and on. I'm very, very proud that we have a vital, active, credible program. And that's, as I say, I think a great tribute to the people who work in the division and to the leadership of the department and to this administration.
QUESTION: What was the toughest issue you worked on?
PATRICK: I think that for a variety of reasons, the evolution of the affirmative action policy was tough because there were so many different pieces of it moving simultaneously -- legal and pure policy, if you will, and political and all the rest of it.
PATRICK: And there were so many different voices, appropriately, made a part of that debate.
But, I'm proud of the outcome and I think the outcome respects American traditions and commitments to providing genuine opportunity in the face of evident discrimination.
QUESTION: If Republicans still control Congress and some of them want to end affirmative action all together and they were to enforce the California Referendum and as you leave the department, how do you see the future of affirmative action? Is it going to survive?
PATRICK: I -- Remember the -- I think the issues aren't finished by any means. The Republicans can control Congress in the last Congress as well and threatened to end affirmative action. And I was very proud to deliver the administration's veto threat at a hearing up there.
I think we've seen the use of this issue degraded in some respects.
The debate is often not about affirmative action as such because -- and I say that because I think that there are so many different ways in which the opposition distorts reality. But, I think the debate that is unspoken but is really at issue is whether ultimately in this country integration is still a national objective.
And I think if we begin to talk about that, then you get some perspective on why affirmative action continues to be important in some context and done the right way today.
As far as who controls the Congress, you know there were all kinds of threats about changes in civil rights laws in the last Congress. And good will and good judgment prevailed and we sustained not a single retreat in federal civil rights legislation.
The California initiative is another matter.
You know, that's been challenged. We're looking at that case. And I'm confident that in California that issue has not been laid to rest yet.
QUESTION: Do you have any different view or perspective on the issue of racism leaving this position than you did coming in? I'm thinking of the fact that in this particular job you're obviously very familiar with all of the specific instances of cross burnings and church burnings and so forth. Is the problem in general greater and deeper than you had earlier thought or not so?
PATRICK: Well, I guess I'd say two things about that. First of all, I would be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to remind everyone that the work of the civil rights division involves race, to be sure, but also issues of sex discrimination, gender discrimination, discrimination on the basis of disability, religious discrimination, and hostility.
And that all of those kinds of unfairness are equally vital to our work.
All of those problems are still with us including the issue of racism in this country. I think that the existence of a vigorous and serious civil rights enforcement program is a part of the important response to that problem.
But, that's only part of the necessary response. The other part of the response, I believe, is trying to improve the quality of the public and private discourse around issues of race. And trying to remind people of the importance of seeing their stake in the struggles of others.
I think that the civil rights issues -- however they arise -- are really ultimately measures of the vitality and success of American democracy.
And I think we have to return to that quality of conversation about the civil rights issues. And I think that adds a perspective about why it is this work is so important.
QUESTION: Do you feel like that the climate in the country is better, worse than when you started? Do feel like you sort of got over a hump a couple years ago when there was this sort of waive of anti-affirmative action sentiment and threats against it?
PATRICK: Well, I think that the climate has not improved in the sense that affirmative action seems to be the reduction of all the variety of civil rights issues. And I think that's too bad. I think that, you know, we've done what we can, as much as we possibly can in trying to improve the climate.
And I think by virtue of having broken the number of records we've broken in the civil rights division, we've done our job with integrity and with honor. But, I also believe that Martin Luther King was right when he said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
QUESTION: This is a position that prompted quite a brouhaha when the administration set out to fill it with a Democratic Congress. Do either of you expect problems getting someone with Deval's commitment to civil rights confirmed in a Republican Senate?
RENO: No, I think, you know, on all of these issues it's going to be important to work with Congress to make sure that we get people in place that represent people like Deval who are willing to give their time, their energy, and their commitment to enforcing the laws of this country.
And I think when people look at his record, look at the record of the division, they're going to be supportive of whomever the president nominates.
QUESTION: What about the Supreme Court? The court itself seems determined to put obstacles in the way of any race-based governmental action or race-based remedy unless there is some tangible, current ongoing discrimination.
QUESTION: Has the Supreme Court made it much tougher for affirmative action to survive?
PATRICK: Well, you know, the court's pronouncement in this area is in the case of Adarand. And in that case the court raised the level of proof, as you know, for defending federal affirmative actions programs, but, did not declare affirmative action on the federal level, per se, unconstitutional. In fact, the court didn't even invalidate the program at issue in that case.
We have been back in court in that case and in a variety of challenges to federal programs since then, and we have sustained not single adverse judgment on the merits so far. We know that it is important. And it is our responsibility to see that federal affirmative action programs comply with the law and that's what we've been doing. And I think there's room to continue to do that.
QUESTION: When you say that affirmative action is still necessary in certain circumstances, what circumstances are those?
PATRICK: Well, I think in the context of a federal programs, the Congress has told us the circumstances that affirmative action -- again done the right way -- is appropriate. Whether that's in the context of integrating the federal workforce and bringing minorities and women into the federal workforce.
We've had some success at that. We still have a long way to go among the executive ranks. Whether it's in the context of education where I think affirmative action is most particularly powerful because of the educational value of a school campus that has a variety of views and a variety of backgrounds represented.
And I think the Congress has said -- again in a variety of contexts -- that making federal contracting opportunities available to businesses who are qualified to do the work from a wide variety of American communities is also important. So, those are some of the contexts. Congress generally makes those judgments and we have been defending those judgments since the Adarand decision.
QUESTION: When you look at the California Civil Rights Initiative, what were your initial thoughts on what the Justice Department involvement might be?
PATRICK: You mean, when it was passed?
PATRICK: After it was passed?
QUESTION: Well, you said you've been looking at it.
PATRICK: After it was passed, of course, I think it was the next morning that the first challenge was filed.
I understand there's been a second challenge filed since then. And the paper were sent to us. We were asked to look at the case by advocates and others and we are evaluating the case as a purely -- it would be a purely discretionary matter as to whether the department would get involved in this case at this stage.
QUESTION: Is there any way the department would be involved in any part of -- I mean, have you looked at the California Civil Rights Initiative and how it will affect federal programs and?
PATRICK: Absolutely. That is important. There is an exception in the initiative for activities in California that are conducted in accordance with federal affirmative action goals and timetables and what have you.
PATRICK: And we do want to make sure that the federal contracting and other federal conditions that exist in California continue to be respected, notwithstanding the California Civil Rights initiative.
One example, for example, is the California university system. The University of California system is, I think, the 14th largest federal contractor, and large federal contractors are required under federal law to have an affirmative action plan for employment and to make good faith efforts toward achieving that plan.That obligation does not change, for example, as a result of the initiative having passed.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, speaking of the Congress and the conservatives in the Congress, they rejected in conference key aspects of the Counterterrorism Bill, as to roving wiretaps and emergency wiretap powers. There's still complaints that, we don't to give the FBI any more power because we still have a lot of problems with the FBI files issue.
Do you plan to try to renew your efforts to get these preventions passed which the FBI considers very important? And if so, how do you hope overcome the conservative opposition to them?
RENO: I think what people must understand and we want to talk with all concerned and those people that have difficulties with the legislation, to point out that we're not trying to expand wiretap authority, we're trying to keep up with modern technology.
We're trying to apply the same principle that presently exists with a roving bug that can go from room to room. There are certain situations in which that is permissible, and the same theory should apply to a multipoint phone system.
The next years in law enforcement are going to present some extraordinary challenges in terms of the requirements upon law enforcement to keep up with modern technology, to develop a capacity to respond to computer crime, to track drug dealers with sophisticated communication system, and all we're trying to do is to take existing wiretap authority, existing wiretap law, and expand it to technology that in some instances is not covered by the present law.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, you're a pretty even-tempered person, but doesn't it make you mad to pick up the papers and see all these anonymous pot-shots being fired at you in the front page of the New York Times?
RENO: I don't get mad, I just wonder what my father would think of newspapers that quote one anonymous source for another anonymous source that nobody can trace publicly. I think you all should ask some questions about it. I think it's very interesting and I wonder what he would say.
But I think the most important thing is, the president is in the process of forming his administration for the next four years.
He's been through a long election. He needs to have time to do that and do it the right way. And he's in the process of doing that and he needs to take some time. I think he deserves a vacation.
And so, I think until you find some substantial sources that are willing to put their name on the line, you should end all this fuss and let him be about his business.
QUESTION: Have you talked to the president or the chief of staff in the last couple weeks about the next term?
RENO: As I indicated previously, they're in the process of forming the administration consultations. Has he set up an appointment with you?
He again, should make all the comments with respect to the process.
QUESTION: Some of the other stories concern the future of your deputy and possible position she might take -- a softball. Would you not like to lose her and do you think she'd be good in position like CIA director at the Pentagon or something?
RENO: I said it last week and I'll say it again. She is one of the most extraordinary people that I have known. I'm surrounded by them in this department. But, she is clearly one of the great people that I have met.
She has been a remarkable deputy. I think the best in the history of this department. She could do so many things so well. I hope I can keep her as long as possible. But, I think this country deserves her service in the best capacities possible.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) President Clinton's statements regarding the future. But do you expect to meet with him prior to say the Thanksgiving holidays?
RENO: I think the president and the White House should make the statements and you all should stop picking fights.
QUESTION: It's been reported that you wish to stay as attorney general. What would you be willing to say? What is it you would like to do in the second term of this administration?
RENO: Whoever serves as the attorney general, I think, must continue to address the issue of violence, pursue our anti-violence initiative in which we have developed a partnership with state and local law enforcement that I think has contributed significantly to the reduction in violence.
It is important that we focus on youth violence. As I have pointed out before, it is now down for the first time in some time. But, I don't want that to be a blip on the screen.
I think it is imperative that we all work together -- all of us in law enforcement -- to develop an effective capacity to deal with high-tech crime and computer crime as modern technology gives the bad guys some extraordinary tools.
And we're going to have to have those tools to match them. In this area of civil rights enforcement, I want to continue the work that Deval has done and make him proud of what we continue to do.
One of the issues that I'm concerned about is appropriate dispute resolution. Litigation can be very costly and it can produce results that are not in the best interest of all concerned. I want to do everything I can while I'm attorney general to improve dispute resolution techniques that permit us to resolve cases up front and to expand those.
Yesterday afternoon, as part of my pro bono service, I visited two elementary schools where peer mediation programs were in place. I had a chance to talk with those students.
They're extraordinary young people. They were so interesting and interested in what I thought of what they werve our disputes without knives and guns and fists.
Yes, we can resolve a lot of lawsuits without expensive litigation, all to the best interest of people concerned. In the area of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights division has used mediation as a very effective tool to resolve satisfactorily complaints of violation of the act.
I want to continue to work with Carol Browner in EPA in doing everything we can to protect what I referred to as the -- as I pointed out when I was nominated -- each one of us has a favorite lake, a mountain, or sometimes just a patch of sky.
And I want to do everything I can to continue to protect each person's lake or mountain or patch of sky.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, just to follow up. Do you believe that Kenneth Starr's investigation should be allowed to continue to play itself out fully.
RENO: As I have indicated in the past, I don't comment on that just to ensure his independence.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, without getting into the pending cases involved, I was wondering whether you could tell us something about the policy considerations involved in the establishment of this task force in (OFF-MIKE) on campaign finances. Given that the Criminal Division has extensive practice and the independent's counsel staff had recently, why did you feel it necessary to create this task force?
How many people are working on that? Are they looking beyond the matters raised these specific letters. Do you expect it to continue after you deal with some matters that are raised on those specific letters?
RENO: I think the letters that we have sent and that are public, that letter to Common Cause and to Senator McCain set it forth. Just what has been done and I think since these matters are pending I should not comment further.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, back to Ken Starr for a second. Have you responded to the request from the judges in Arkansas?
RENO: Again, on any matter relating to the independent counsel I don't think I should I comment.
QUESTION: This is to either of you. There is an ex-cheerleader near Midland, Texas, who apparently is no longer a cheerleader because she's disabled and in a wheelchair. Has this drawn any type of ADA attention?
PATRICK: We're familiar with the case. We have been involved in another case recently with the NCAA.
We're looking at the Midland case as well.
QUESTION: In regard to the Olympic Park bombing case, it's been reported that you here in Washington, and Louis Freeh also, had a lot of problems with the agents' down there failure to issue immediately a Miranda warning to Richard Jewell when he came to the FBI for what was considered a voluntary interview, and also that a ruse was used to get him there.
Have you or will you issue any guidance to FBI agents as to when it -- when they should give a Miranda warning to someone who is not in custody? And should ruses ever be used as pretexts for interviews?
RENO: Director Freeh has referred that to the Office of Professional Responsibility for the FBI and that matter is under investigation now. We should not comment until it is complete.
QUESTION: No, no, not with the Jewell case, but with the agents who have to go out every day to interview people.
RENO: You asked the question in the context of the Jewell case...
RENO: And so I am not going to answer it because it would be a comment on a pending matter.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, are you convinced and do you confirm Mr. Kallstrom's statements in New York -- on Friday, I believe -- regarding allegations brought forward by Pierre Salinger that there was something extraordinary about the TWA crash?
RENO: I think it's important that we be very careful in our comments and that we continue to work with the National Transportation Safety Board to find out what happened. And we will continue that effort.
QUESTION: Anything new to report?
Thank you all.
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