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McClellan, in Third Day of Stonewalling, Tells Press They Have Taken a Pound of His Flesh

Editor & Publisher | July 13, 2005

NEW YORK In a third day of fencing with reporters at the daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan continued to stonewall on questions surrounding Karl Rove and the Plame case, but admitted. “It may not look like it, but there's a little flesh that's been taken out of me the past few days.”

Asked what he thought of a Washington Times editorial page this morning that compared White House correspondents to sharks, McClellan simply replied: “I have a picture up in my office that everybody can look at.”

Otherwise, he stuck to his guns in defending the right of the White House to remain silent on this “ongoing investigation.”

Here are the relevant parts of the official transcript:

Q Scott, some White House advisors expressed surprise that the President did not give a warm endorsement to Karl Rove when he was asked about him at the Cabinet meeting. They had expected that he would speak up. Can you explain why the President didn't express confidence?

McCLELLAN: Sure. He wasn't asked about his support or confidence for Karl. As I indicated yesterday, every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the President. This was not a question that came up in the Cabinet Room.

Q Well, the President has never been restrained at staying right in the lines of a question, as you know. (Laughter.) He kind of -- he says whatever he wants. And if he had wanted to express confidence in Karl Rove, he could have. Why didn't he?

McCLELLAN: He expressed it yesterday through me, and I just expressed it again….

Q Scott, you know what, to make a general observation here, in a previous administration, if a press secretary had given the sort of answers you've just given in referring to the fact that everybody who works here enjoys the confidence of the President, Republicans would have hammered them as having a kind of legalistic and sleazy defense. I mean, the reality is that you're parsing words, and you've been doing it for a few days now. So does the President think Karl Rove did something wrong, or doesn't he?

McCLELLAN: No, David, I'm not at all. I told you and the President told you earlier today that we don't want to prejudge the outcome of an ongoing investigation. And I think we've been round and round on this for two days now.

Q Even if it wasn't a crime? You know, there are those who believe that even if Karl Rove was trying to debunk bogus information, as Ken Mehlman suggested yesterday -- perhaps speaking on behalf of the White House -- that when you're dealing with a covert operative, that a senior official of the government should be darn well sure that that person is not undercover, is not covert, before speaking about them in any way, shape, or form. Does the President agree with that or not?

McCLELLAN: Again, we've been round and round on this for a couple of days now. I don't have anything to add to what I've said the previous two days.

Q That's a different question, and it's not round and round --

McCLELLAN: You heard from the President earlier.

Q It has nothing to do with the investigation, Scott, and you know it.

McCLELLAN: You heard from the President earlier today, and the President said he's not --

Q That's a dodge to my question. It has nothing to do with the investigation. Is it appropriate for a senior official to speak about a covert agent in any way, shape, or form without first finding out whether that person is working as a covert officer.

McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, you're wrong. This is all relating to questions about an ongoing investigation, and I've been through this.

Q If I wanted to ask you about an ongoing investigation, I would ask you about the statute, and I'm not doing that.

McCLELLAN: I think we've exhausted discussion on this the last couple of days.

Q You haven't even scratched the surface.

Q It hasn't started.

***
Q Can I ask for clarification on what the President said at Sea Island on June 10th of last year, when he was saying that he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved in the leak of classified information? What were the parameters for those consequences?

McCLELLAN: Again, I've nothing to add on this discussion, and if we have any other topics you want to discuss, I'll be glad to do that.

***

Q I'm going to go to another question, somewhat on the same subject, but a different vein. Let's talk about the Wilson family. Is there any regret from this White House about the effects of this leak on this family?

McCLELLAN: We can continue to go round and round on all these --

Q No, no, no, no. This has nothing to do with the investigation. This is about the leak and the effects on this family. I mean, granted there are partisan politics being played, but let's talk about the leak that came from the White House that affected a family.

McCLELLAN: And let me just say again that anything relating to an ongoing investigation, I'm not going to get into discussing. I've said that the past couple of days.

***
Q Scott, from Africa, Mrs. Bush says, Karl Rove is a very good friend of mine; I've known him for years. And she's not going to speculate on any other part of the case. Well, does the President feel the same way about Karl Rove, the relationship with Karl Rove, a very good friend for many years?

McCLELLAN: Yes, he does.

Q And at this point, is it ebbing or flowing? Is that relationship with the President ebbing or flowing? (Laughter.)

McCLELLAN: Again, this is a creative way to come out to the same kind of questions.

Q You're right, it is, and I want an answer.


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