Gibbs Questions Justice Department Brief

by Kerry Eleveld | the Advocate

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday put some distance between the White House and the Department of Justice in terms of the department’s approach to defending “don’t ask, don’t tell” in a brief filed last week. Gibbs suggested it was “odd” that DOJ used Gen. Colin Powell’s 1993 testimony to defend the law because Powell has since changed his views on the matter.

“Was it odd that they included previous statements from General Colin Powell on a belief set that he no longer had?” Gibbs posed, in response to a question from The Advocate. “I don’t think the President would disagree with that.”

Gibbs also said that he has never heard the president take a stance on the constitutionality of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

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The transcript of the Q/A is below:

The Advocate: So obviously there’s a number of cases sort of wending their way through the courts right now challenging DOMA and “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  Last week the Department of Justice filed another brief defending “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  It angered a lot of advocates; some legal scholars thought it was a step backwards in terms of dismantling the law.  Is the President at all concerned that DOJ is a little insular or tone deaf on issues that are sort of politically sticky, especially those of interest to the LGBT community?

GIBBS:  I will say this, obviously the President has enunciated his support for ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” rolling back — made a commitment to roll back DOMA in the campaign.  Obviously, the Justice Department has — is charged with upholding the law as it exists, not as the President would like to see it.  We have obviously taken steps on the front of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I think we’ve made a genuine amount of progress.  I will say, was it odd that they included previous statements from General Colin Powell on a belief set that he no longer had?  I don’t think the President would disagree with that.

The Advocate: Does the President think it’s constitutional, “don’t ask, don’t tell?”

GIBBS: I have not heard him talk about that.

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