Press Conference, February 8, 1924

Date: February 8, 1924

Location: Washington, D.C.

I will take up first the matter of Mr. Brewer’s report relative to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. I learned within a month or six weeks after I became President that he was making an investigation, and that he had discovered a number of peculiar things. I wasn’t able to give personally the necessary time for a careful investigation of it, so I called Charles G. Washburn of Worcester, Mass., and who was formerly a Congressman for several years. He is a well known lawyer and business man. I wanted him to go over the matter with Mr. Brewer. Mr. Brewer had not then finished his investigation, and Mr. Washburn recommended that he be given until the 15th of January to finish his investigation, at which time he was to make a report, which Mr. Brewer made. Mr. Washburn looked at it and conferred with Mr. Brewer, and suggested that it be referred to the Treasury Department in order to see whether they had explanations for many of the seeming discrepancies that were reported by Mr. Brewer. Of course I had talked with Mr. Mellon about it. He thought that they had explanations for the discrepancies that had appeared. I didn’t know exactly what the discrepancies were, except that they related to a seeming duplication of bonds. So the report of Mr. Brewer was sent to the Treasury Department for that purpose. As I understand it, when the Treasury Department requested that he turn over to them certain exhibits that he had, duplicate bonds and duplicate coupons and so on, he refused to do that. Mr.Brewer went to court seeking some kind of a process to restrain someone, in order that the evidence might be preserved. I think I have now related the circumstances to you and my connection with it. My position is that I wanted Mr. Brewer’s charges thoroughly sifted, feeling that if the Treasury Department wasn’t able to explain the discrepancies that he found, then his report should be taken up for action by the Department of Justice. I am really at a loss to know why Mr. Brewer resorted to court action when I was doing all I could. The Dept. of Justice and the Treasury Department were to consider the charges which he was making, with a view to answering them where they could be answered, and with the view on my part of taking appropriate action on any that could not be answered.

Mr. President, has the Treasury Department made any answer to the various charges?

They haven’t. They haven’t been able to. No specific answer yet. They haven’t been able to get the evidence that Mr. Brewer has some bonds and some coupons that he thinks are duplicate, so that it was for the purpose of looking to see what he had that the Treasury Department wanted those things, in order that they might use them in their investigation.

Do you happen to know that the evidence is part of the files of the Department of Justice or the Treasury Department?

I understand that they are papers that would be in the Treasury Department, were it not for the fact that he had, in the course of his investigation, taken them out of the Treasury Department.

Mr. President, is that against the law, or has he any right to withhold the records he has?

I can’t pass on that. He had the right, because he was employed to do the investigating, and he went over the country looking into banks and bond houses, getting evidence in that way.

Mr. President, is he still in the Government service?

He was the last I knew. I suggested he be employed until this investigation was finished up, in order that he might help a bit. Of course, if he leaves the Government service and then undertakes to keep the Government property that he had, I should think there would be some question as to his right to retain it.

Here is a question too, about the investigation of the gasoline situation. I think a request came to me yesterday, I think, from Governor, I don’t recall his name, in relation to the increase in the price of gasoline, so that I referred it to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, in order that they might make an investigation and provide any appropriate remedy.

I didn’t notice the statements that were made by Premier MacDonald in his conference with the American correspondents, so I wouldn’t be able to comment on them. I assume they were the usual friendly statements that the officer of one government would naturally make in relation to another friendly government.

An inquiry about the Wash Resolution. I have signed that with the following statement:

I have approved Joint Resolution S.J. Res, 54, in order that a prompt and thorough investigation may be made and appropriate action taken. I express no opinion with reference to the facts which purport to he found in the preambles to the resolution and with reference to those parts of the resolution which, under the Constitution, do not require concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives and which are unnecessary to he presented to the President of the United States to make them effective. As I said in my public statement issued under date of January 26th, it is for the courts to determine the legal effect of the circumstances incident to the execution of the leases and contracts mentioned, and whether they were executed with or without authority on the part of the officers purporting to act for the United States and in good faith. I reiterate that it is the function of the Courts to determine criminal guilt and to render judgment in civil cases and that I propose to have done.

In view of the importance of the subject matter, and of the limited legal force now available to care for the vast amount of litigation in which the Government is continuously engaged, I regard the authority to appoint special counsel as appropriate legislation. You will get copies of that as you go out.

I haven’t received any report relative to the United States District Attorney at Denver. That would go first to the Department of Justice. It would be investigated there, and if it were found that he had been engaged in any improper conduct, he would be removed. I don’t wish to say that as prejudging in any way. No report has come to me, but that will be the method of procedure.

There isn’t anything further that I can say now about the Russian regime, other than what was contained in my message to the Congress. I don’t know as I can |give in detail any attitude toward the provisions of the shipping act permitting the imposition of discriminatory charges on foreign shipping as a means of aiding in the upbuilding of the American Merchant Marine. Discriminatory charges are rather of a doubtful expedient, and sometimes they might result in retaliatory measures that would be more harmful to us than any benefit we might secure. So that I should be very cautious about applying them, and only in case of absolute need and necessity.

I don’t know anything new in the Mexican situation, other than what has already been reported. I don’t know of any reports that have been received, which indicate that American lives or property are in any more danger than the general danger that arises from a disordered condition.

I haven’t received and don’t know of any impending resignations from the Cabinet.

I haven’t heard of the report that General Dawes has resigned, or will resign from the special committee of the Reparations Commission. I have one or two questions about that. Those are the source of my firs t information.

The Attorney General is returning from Florida in accordance with his own plan. He has constantly sent word that he will return at any time. He went down to take Mrs. Daugherty down, and because he himself was very much tired out. He took a good deal of work with him, which I understand he is finishing up down there, and for that reason is returning.

No official representations have been made to this country that 1 know of, from Japan in relation to discussions looking towards a new “gentleman’s agreement”.

I have never taken any action relative to the proposal of the members of the House, Ways and Means Committee to present in the tax bill a provision for a reduction of 25% in the 1923 income taxes. Before I should know what position I ought to take on that, I should want to consult with the Treasury to find out what the effect would be on the finances of the United States.

I shall not be able to attend the banquet of the Republican State Voters League for the District of Columbia. I regret very much that I am not able to go.

Mr. President, is it your plan to attend the gathering on Lincoln’s Birthday in New York?

Yes, I expect to go there in the afternoon and speak there in the evening. I have a great many questions today, but a great many I find are duplicates, triplicates, and other “cates”.

I have already indicated that I didn’t know of any representations that have been made, by Japan regarding the laws in California nor any information about General Dawes. I have no official information about the suggestion of Premier Mac Donald relative to another disarmament conference. What reply would be made by this Government would depend entirely on circumstances. We would have to examine first the proposal and see whether it, in our opinion, would lead to anything practical.

Anything in the Cabinet, Mr. President?

We were talking about the Government housing condition in the City of New York – the different departments up there, the Post Office, Labor, Agriculture, etc. We talked over the proposal of trying to assemble them all under one roof. That is a proposal that has been pending some time. It involves the exchange of the present Post Office site for some other site by the City of New York.

Has any decision been reached, Mr. President.

No, other than to have the needs of the Government in the city surveyed by somebody from the Supervising Architects office to see what it would be necessary to propose to the City of New York in the way of land to cover those needs.

Will this be a monumental building, or a real office building?

There wasn’t anything said about that. The discussions heretofore, and they have been going on for some years or more, have been along the line that it might contribute to a civic center in the City of New York. I believe the old Court House site has been definitely decided upon, or turned down?

I don’t know just what has been done.

Did you have any figures before you about it, Mr. President,

No, it came up incidentally and we talked it over; it consumed quite a lot of time.

Citation: Calvin Coolidge: Remarks by the President to Newspaper Correspondents 

The Coolidge Foundation gratefully acknowledges the volunteer efforts of Tamara Harken who prepared this document for digital publication.

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