Press Conference, January 29, 1924

Date: January 29, 1924

Location: Washington, D.C.

I have here an inquiry about a petition from the District of Columbia Typographical Union, No. 101, recommending the removal from office of Public Printer Carter. It is my recollection that the suggestion in that petition was that he should be removed because he isn’t qualified to hold the office. That was something on which I didn’t have time to look up the law myself in connection with it, so that I sent it to the Department of Justice to get a report from them as to whether the allegation in the petition was correct. I think the claim was that the law required that a practical printer should hold this position, and the statement or inference was that Mr. Carter not being a practical printer was therefore disqualified.

Another inquiry as to whether the direct use of Federal funds is contemplated in the consideration of relief measures for the banks of the northwest. I am not quite certain what the question means, but according to my interpretation of it, I don’t think the direct use of Federal funds is contemplated. There are two plans under consideration, or perhaps a combination of the two. One is for relief by the Federal Reserve Banking System, and the other is a relief measure by a combination of different moneyed interests to provide some capital and a local organization for administering relief, and they of course could be assisted financially by the War Finance Corporation. That is the plan that the War Finance Corporation has adopted right along, of lending money to the banks, or lending money through some local organization. Otherwise the War Finance Corporation would have to have such a large staff in the field itself, necessarily of men that were acquainted with local conditions, that before they could get an organization the acute need for relief would probably have passed and the opportunity for relief would be gone.

I haven’t any list of the men that were invited to the farm conference next week. This matter to which I have just referred is one of the problems that will be taken up in that conference. A list of those to take part could be secured either from Secretary Hoover or Secretary Wallace, or both, should any one want them.

I have quite a good many inquiries about the oil leases. I have covered that as well as I could in my conference with the press last Friday, and in my more exact statement that I gave out Saturday night. So that I think the press and the public are informed that I am attempting to accomplish two things. First, and the more important to me because in a way it involves the integrity of the Government, is the investigation of the violation of the criminal laws and action against any who have been guilty of such violations; and the second is an investigation as to the legality of the oil leases that have been made, and action for the recovery of the property. Those are the two things that are to be investigated and acted upon, and all the other inquiries that I have here I think are subsidiary to those two important questions. On those two I have made my position as plain and clear as I know how to make it.

There is pending, which leads me to another question that I have here – I have an inquiry about the reason for the conference last evening with some of the members of the Senate. That was in relation to the matters pending before the Senate and as to the form of proposed action, in order that it might work in harmony with the plans that I had, and that those who are trying to promote this action in the Senate might be taking action that was running along parallel lines with mine. I do not recall that the legality or other phases of the naval reserve lease policy was ever discussed in the Cabinet prior to the making of the leases. As I indicated at a previous conference, it might have come up at some time when I wasn’t there, or it might have come up some time when I was there, but I have no recollection of it. I think very likely I should recall it. I recall some discussion about it on the floor of the Senate after the leases were made, and after that I think it was referred to in the Cabinet rather casually and in a way of explaining some questions that had been raised on the floor of the Senate.

Is it proper to ask if the Executive had any advice from the legal Department of the Government concerning the legality of these leases? I mean since the controversy?

That is exactly what I am employing the special counsel to do, – to give me advice about that and direct me as to what action ought to be taken. I haven’t had any legal advice about it.

Mr. President, would you care to express your views specifically on the Senate resolution calling for Secretary Denby’s resignation?

No, I don’t care to discuss that.

I have not reached any decision about the judgeship for the southern district of California.

Of course the whole reason for employing special counsel is to find out what the legal rights of the United States Government are, then to see that those rights are enforced.

Here is another question relative to my formal statement on Saturday evening that I said there was a precedent for the employment of special counsel entirely separate from the Department of Justice. The matter that I had specially in mind was the employment of now Secretary Hughes by President Wilson to investigate some charges that were made in relation to the manufacture of aircraft during the War. I was proposing to proceed on the same plan that President Wilson proceeded under in those cases, – perhaps to carry it further if it is found that circumstances warrant it.

Mr. President, has any report been received from the Interior Department as to the wisdom of the leases?

To me?

Yes, sir.

No. No report made to me. Of course it must be kept in mind that this investigation is being carried on by the Senate and up to the time that the suggestion came that there was grave suspicion of corruption there was very little question I think being made about the wisdom of the leases. Of course when the question of corruption or fraud comes up that vitiates everything and throws a question over the entire transaction and puts a very different light on it from that in which it was viewed before the question of fraud or corruption arose, and that is the reason why I have never made any inquiry about the validity of the leases. That question will now come up, of course, because the United States Government quite naturally will want to recover any property that may have been disposed of if it was in any way tainted with fraud or corruption. My statement of Saturday night was clear and definite that I propose to take action for those purposes, and to have action taken in the courts.

Here is an inquiry about the oil pollution. I do not think that I had in mind when I wrote my message anything in relation to land plants. I was thinking merely of the pollution of coastal waters. I don’t mean by that that I am objecting to the inclusion of land plants within the provisions of a bill, if legislation of that kind is necessary, but that was not brought to my attention at that time, and while my language perhaps may be broad enough to include it, I didn’t know about it and so there wasn’t a conscious reference. If I had known of any trouble of that kind that warranted remedy by legislation by the United States, very likely I should have included it.

No decision has been made about the appointment of the Shipping Board Chairman, and I don’t think it will be made until the nominations that I have sent to the Senate for the three members of the Shipping Board are confirmed.

I am not in a position yet to announce the names of the special counsel that I shall employ because if the bill goes through requiring that they should go to the Senate for confirmation, necessarily and probably I should have to confer with Senators from the states where they were to be appointed, and a conference of that kind might change my plans.

I have already said that so far as I could recall, the making of the leases was not considered by the Cabinet before they were concluded.

Do you have any objection to the question as to whether you expect any trouble getting the counsel?

I don’t think so. I believe I shall be able to pick out a couple of men, one democrat and one republican.

Is it a requirement of law, Mr. President, that they should be confirmed by the Senate?

No. The Senate is proposing a bill that has that as one of its provisions, and should that be so, of course then I should want to confer with the Senators. In the Hughes case, he was made a Special Attorney General, which I had expected to do in these cases.

Will these men to be appointed be dependent on the machinery of the Dept. of Justice in the prosecution of these cases?

No. I have asked for an appropriation of money, and that appropriation has already gone through the House, so I don’t think they will be dependent upon anything but themselves.

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

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

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