WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Sunday he has not ruled out a New York federal court trial for Sept. 11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but he was taking into account the objections of the city's mayor and police commissioner.
The Obama administration has come under withering attack, mainly from Republicans, for a decision by his Justice Department to try the terrorist mastermind in a U.S. court near Ground Zero, site of the attack that destroyed New York's World Trade Center.
Obama said using the traditional judicial method was a "virtue of our system" in which Americans should take pride.
He also defended his decision, noting again that the administration of former President George W. Bush had handled terror suspects arrested in the United States in the same way.
"They prosecuted 190 folks in these Article III courts, got convictions and those folks are in maximum security prisons right now. And there have been no escapes," Obama said. "And it is a virtue of our system we should be proud of."
Later Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., responded: "Based on the security, logistical and cost concerns raised by the mayor and the police commissioner, it is not feasible to have the trials in New York. The administration should realize that and move on."
In a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS' Katie Couric, Obama also said that passing health care reform remained the key to bringing down America's skyrocketing budget deficit. He said he was calling Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to a meeting later this month to thoroughly air the issue.
"The biggest thing, the most important thing we can do on deficits ... is to get a health reform package passed," Obama said.
Obama is reaching out again to Republicans on health care reform, despite their unanimous opposition and the election of a new GOP senator who gives the party the necessary votes to block a Senate vote on the overhaul package.
He also said negotiations in Congress that gave special concessions to Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska in return for their health care votes "did not help. They frustrate me."
"I would have loved nothing better than to have come up with some very elegant, academically approved approach to health care and didn't have any legislative fingerprints on it," he said. "But hey, that's the way democracy works."
In a lighter moment, Obama said the Indianapolis Colts "have to be favored" over the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl, "mainly because they've got perhaps the best quarterback in history. I mean, Peyton Manning is unbelievable."
Still, Obama said, "I do have a soft spot in my heart for New Orleans, mainly because of what the city's gone through over these last several years" since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
Obama acknowledged he may be biased against the Colts, since they beat his hometown Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl in 2007.
The Saints won the game, 31-17.