Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration Friday acknowledged the White House is taking steps to rescue the Justice Department's troubled effort to find a home for the trial of the accused 9/11 conspirators.
The move represents a setback for Attorney General Eric Holder, who had spearheaded the decision to try self-admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court near the site of the attack on the Twin Towers.
Holder has made an issue of establishing Justice Department independence from interference by political influences.
However, with opposition to the November decision mounting in Congress and in New York City, the White House has stepped in, citing a political dimension that takes the issue beyond the legal considerations that guided Holder.
"Because Congress has become involved in this, because legislation could restrict the venue, and the type of trial, the White House is more involved, yes," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is leading an effort to block funding for a civilian trial in the United States, in favor of placing the defendants before a military commission.
In an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday, Holder said he still strongly prefers a civilian trial but appeared to open the door slightly to a military alternative.
"If for whatever reason it ended up as a military commission trial, given the reformed status of those military commissions, I think that we could have a trial that would stand up to the test that I was talking about before in terms of transparency, adherence to the traditions that we have as a nation," Holder said.
Gibbs told reporters Friday the comments do not represent a softening of the administration's position on a military trial, and insisted President Barack Obama has still not ruled out a civilian trial in New York, despite the local opposition.
"I think he (Obama) will have strong equities in this decision and will hear from a lot of different people," Gibbs said. "We're going to take into account security and logistical concerns that those individuals now have. The cost of the trial, obviously, is one thing."
Administration officials said they did not know when a decision would be made on a venue for the trial.