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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

For Immediate Release
October 8, 2003
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:32 P.M. EDT

Q We now know from Secretary Rumsfeld that he was completely in the dark about this new effort by the National Security Advisor and others to offer a support group for the Iraqi reconstruction --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I don't know that -- the way you characterized the question at the beginning is necessarily accurate. I think you might want to talk to the Pentagon about that.
Q I have, and my point remains that the Defense Secretary has made clear that he was in the dark about this and did not know until he received the memo outlining the effort -- at least, that's what he says. Does the White House have a different view? And, if not --
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, one, keep in mind when we talked about this earlier in the week that the Pentagon continues to be -- has been and continues to be the lead agency overseeing our efforts in Iraq. And Ambassador Bremer, in his role as the civilian administrator for the Coalition Provisional Authority, is overseeing the reconstruction efforts.


Q Does the President still retain complete confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh absolutely. He's doing an outstanding job.


Q Scott, on the leak investigation, will you sketch out a little more specific about the role that the Counsel's Office is playing institutionally within the White House in terms of liaising with the Justice Department, but also providing advice within the institution here? And does the screening --
MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean providing advice? I think they're available to answer questions that staff may have.
Q Okay.
MR. McCLELLAN: But keep in mind that if there's something relevant to the investigation, that our Counsel's Office would be obligated to report it to the Department of Justice. And the role that the Counsel's Office is playing is one of assisting the Department of Justice get to the bottom of this, because no one has more of an interest in getting to the bottom of this than the White House does, than the President does. This is something that we want to get to the bottom of. And there are people inside and outside this administration that can help get to the bottom of this. And if people have information, they ought to talk to the Department of Justice about it so that we can find out who was responsible for doing this.


Q Why do you refuse to answer the question whether Karl Rove said that Joseph Wilson's wife was fair game?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've been through this for now two days in a row.
Q You didn't answer the question --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I did answer the question.
Q But did he say it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I did answer the question.
Q Did he say it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I answered that question, and we've been through it for two days now. And so, it's been addressed.
Q But what was the answer?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to go back through it again today, because we've been through it for the last couple of days. And I pointed out that there are some that are trying to politicize this investigation for partisan political gain, and that's unfortunate. There's an investigation going on and no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than this White House.
Q But why don't you just say --
MR. McCLELLAN: So I've already addressed that issue.
Q -- just say, I don't want to answer that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Anybody else? Dana, you have one?

October 5, 2003

Broder: It is hard to believe that if the president, when he was dealing with a finite universe of possible leakers, did not really put the heat on, that he couldn’t get an answer to his question.
Russert: What do you think, Bob Novak?
Novak: I don’t know. I’m in an impossible position on this and I...
Russert: That’s why you’re here.
Novak: That’s why I’m here, but I’m not going to speculate on that.

Photos: Reuters
Painting: J.W. Waterhouse
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