Dear Mr. President:
"The opportunity to engage in public service is the greatest honor a President can bestow upon any citizen. I am grateful that you asked me to serve as Chairman of the Joint Commission to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragedy of September 11th.
"Certainly, at this critical point in history, there can be no more important undertaking. For over half a century, I have never refused to respond to the call from a president. Nor have I ever put my personal interests ahead of the country's interests.
"Therefore, to remove any questions about even the appearance of a conflict of interest, I was prepared, as I informed the White House Counsel from the beginning, to submit all relevant financial information to the White House, as well as to independent review and in the end to any procedure, consistent with submissions of other members of the Joint Commission.
"However, it is clear that, although specific potential conflicts can be resolved in this manner, the controversy would quickly move to the consulting firm I have built and own. To liquidate Kissinger Associates cannot be accomplished without significantly delaying the beginning of the Joint Commission's work. I have, therefore, concluded that I cannot accept the responsibility you proposed.
"This is a moment of disappointment for me, of course. I hope very much, however, that the Joint Commission will now be able to be constituted and conduct its important work without delay or distraction.
"The mission, in my opinion, is of such importance that it must begin without distraction and controversy so that it can be completed swiftly, thoroughly and credibly.
"My hope is that, by the decision to step aside now, the Joint Commission can proceed without further controversy.
With high regards and good wishes,
Henry A. Kissinger
George W. Bush
The President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500