For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 28, 2005
Afternoon Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
5:25 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: I wanted to just begin with a couple remarks and then give you a little bit of tick-tock of the day. And then I'll be glad to take whatever questions you have.
The special counsel today, as you are aware, announced the indictment of former White House official Scooter Libby. The legal proceedings in this matter will continue for some time, with various pre-trial matters and then possibly a trial. In our system of law, every defendant is entitled to a presumption of innocence; every defendant is entitled to due process and a fair trial. Because of the ongoing investigation and legal proceedings, at the direction of the White House Counsel's Office, all White House officials, including myself, are not going to be able to respond to questions or discuss the factual circumstances of the matter, except as requested by the special counsel, or in consultation with the White House Counsel's Office. All such questions should be directed to the special counsel, or personal attorneys involved in this matter.
I talked to some of you earlier today. Scooter Libby submitted his letter of resignation earlier today. It was delivered to White House Chief of Staff Andy Card. It was -- his resignation was accepted. Andy Card informed the President. He -- Scooter Libby left the White House a short time after his resignation.
And the President, so you know, after he returned -- we were here at the White House, and he had some other meetings and some departure photos, and then he caught much of the first 15 to 20 minutes of the special counsel's press conference, and then he went over to give his remarks over in the East Room, which you all covered.
The White House Chief of Staff sent out a memo to all White House staff and employees of the Executive Office of the President this afternoon. We'll make a copy available to you. This essentially reiterates what the President said in his remarks, which is that the work we do here at the White House is of critical importance and we have always put the people's business first, and that's what we must continue to do, and will do.
The White House Counsel's Office also sent out a memo to all staff reminding them that this is an ongoing investigation and ongoing legal matter, and as such, White House staffers should not be responding to questions about it, or discussing it, except as directed by the special counsel or the White House Counsel's Office. And all White House --
Q Will you give us that memo?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you the information.
All White House -- and it also went on to say, all White House staffers should not have any contact with Scooter Libby about any aspect of the investigation.
And I think that's a general overview of the day, and comments.
Q What time was his resignation letter offered?
MR. McCLELLAN: It was earlier today.
Q Did it happen before he was indicted? Did he anticipate --
MR. McCLELLAN: I would just leave it at it was -- he submitted it earlier today.
Q Could you say when?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll just leave it at earlier today.
Q And was -- let me ask two other things. Was anything done to, like, seal his office or -- seal his office or his desk? And is there anybody -- I assume that he lost his security clearance at the time.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me -- a couple things. One, I'm not going to get into discussing any individual personnel matters. As a standard practice, when a White House staffer ends his or her employment at the White House, then they turn in their hard pass and their security clearance is terminated.
Q So -- okay.
Q -- he doesn't have to return to get personal items?
MR. McCLELLAN: He has left the White House and I do not expect him to return.
Q Was the resignation asked for, or did he do it on his own?
MR. McCLELLAN: He offered his resignation, and it was accepted.
Q Had he not, would it have been requested or --
MR. McCLELLAN: He did. And I think everybody at the White House understands the expectations.
Q And do you know when the last time is he spoke to the Vice President?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can direct those questions to the Vice President's Office. The President did not see him today.
Q Scott -- understands the expectations -- of the President? Do you want to finish that sentence?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think everybody understands what's expected of all of us who serve the American people here in the White House. Our --
Q -- expected by?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the expectations of the President, the expectations of the American people. The President expects us to focus on the people's business and to adhere to the highest ethical standards. And all of us understand that.
Q You cannot be pleased with the prospect of a possible trial that would involve the testimony from senior officials, and dredge up lot of talk about the rationale for war, can you?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, one, you should look back at what the special counsel said in his news conference when it came to this indictment and what it relates to. He answered a question relating to that. And so I would refer you back to what he said.
Two, the President has cooperated fully with this investigation from the beginning. He directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. We will continue to cooperate with the investigation and the legal proceedings that will come.
Q Is Mr. Rove's status the same? I mean, the reports say that he remains under investigation. He was not indicted today. Is there anything --
MR. McCLELLAN: Anything -- go ahead.
Q Any change in his status? Has he talked to the President about the continuing investigation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about change in his legal status? Is that what you're -- I mean, it's --
Q Does he still -- he still works here, correct?
MR. McCLELLAN: That would be a question to direct to his personal attorney.
Q No, but he still works here, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw his personal attorney put out a statement earlier today. But, yes, he has been here doing his work.
Q Did the President tell him to stop talking to reporters, or give him a stern talking to, or anything?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into any discussions the President has with any of his senior advisors.
Q Isn't this a very unnerving day for the White House? One day Scooter Libby is one of the senior advisors of this administration; the next day he's placed off-limits for anybody on the staff to speak to?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like the President said, we're all saddened by the news. This is a serious investigation. At the same time, all of us recognize the importance of the work we're trying to accomplish on behalf of the American people. And we are going to remain focused on the priorities that the American people care about. That's what we have always done, and that's what we will continue to do.
Q Some legal analysts think it's unlikely that Rove will be charged in the future. Is that the sense that you have at the White House, the fact that he wasn't charged today is indicative of the fact that it is unlikely he will be charged in the future?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to speculate about what is an ongoing investigation. We will let the investigation and the legal proceedings continue, and we'll do our part to continue to cooperate.
Q Did the President read the indictment?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Did the President read the indictment?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't believe so. I can double-check that, but I don't believe he did.
Q Should we read anything into the fact that Harriet Miers --
MR. McCLELLAN: When he watched the press conference, he was in the private dining room.
Q Scott, the President has said, and you have said, that no one wants to know more than he does who leaked Valerie Plame's name, whether or not any White House officials broke the law. It now appears that there will be no report, and Mr. Libby is not charged with outing Valerie Plame. So how does that leave your hopes, in terms of finding out what happened?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the special counsel has conducted a thorough investigation and a serious investigation. It continues. He expressed today that it is entering a new phase now where you have public charges and a public trial expected. And so there will be different rules that will apply. I think we all would like to understand the facts, and we need to let the legal process work.
Q If I can follow that, does that mean that at some point in the future you expect this to be made clear to you as a part of Mr. Libby's trial? It would appear -- or are you coming to accept at this point that no one broke the law about outing a CIA agent? Is that what you take from what happened today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not trying to speculate about any part of the investigation because it's ongoing at this point. And so I don't --
Q I'm not talking about the investigation; I'm talking about the President's hopes of understanding what happened.
MR. McCLELLAN: Right. What's your question about --
Q Where is he going to get that information?
MR. McCLELLAN: We would all like to know what the facts are. The special counsel indicated that the investigation continues. And it is now entering a new phase, as well, in terms of the legal proceedings.
Q Scott, you've long said that you want to say more about this case when it's over with. When is that going to be? When are you going to be able to say more about it? So you're --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I just indicated to you that at this point, it's important that we don't prejudice the opportunity for there to be a fair and impartial trial. And that's one of the fundamental principles of our legal system. And we have great respect for the legal process, and we need to let it continue at this point. I think the special counsel indicated in his remarks that he wanted to move as quickly as possible, and I think all of us would like to see that happen.
Q Scott, there are also reports that there's likely to be congressional hearings on prewar intelligence. Will the White House also advise the executive branch, as well as -- the intelligence agencies to cooperate fully if there are hearings on this issue?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that those issues have already been addressed. There was a bipartisan, independent commission that looked into those issues, and I would encourage you to look at what they had to say.
Q In a week when the President had to withdraw his Supreme Court nominee, and then see a top aide face criminal charges, has this been like one of the roughest weeks of his presidency?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is a White House that has faced many challenges over the course of the last four-and-a-half, five years, and it is a White House that has always risen to those challenges and met those challenges. We will continue to do so. We understand the importance of the work we're trying to accomplish, and we are here to carry out the optimistic agenda that the President has outlined. And that's where our focus has always been, first and foremost, and will continue to be.
Q So is the new Supreme Court nominee going to be --
MR. McCLELLAN: Soon, as he said -- I think he indicated earlier.
Q -- just trying to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Just for your planning, I do not expect him to make any announcement while he's at Camp David. Beyond that, I'm not going to speculate about it.
Q What about on the return from Camp David?
MR. McCLELLAN: While he's at Camp David.
Q Thanks something, Scott --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not speculating beyond it at this point. We will try to keep you posted as best we can.
Q He's coming back Sunday night, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's coming back Sunday.
Q Is he interviewing anybody -- or what can you -- is he doing any consultations? What's the situation? Is he working from the short list that he had before?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he is familiar with a number of potential nominees and so he had a foundation to start from. The President is going to move forward in a timely manner. He is going to nominate someone who has the experience and qualifications and judicial philosophy that is needed on our nation's highest court. He will name someone who is fully committed to strictly interpreting our Constitution and our laws, and not legislating from the bench. And he is moving forward.
Q What about the consultations? You've done a lot already; do you feel like you need to consult more?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've had extensive consultations with members of the Senate. We have had unprecedented consultations with members of the Senate, and we're well aware of their thoughts and potential -- well, potential nominees that they have mentioned during the course of those consultations.
Q -- find the need to do any interviews anymore, or has he interviewed enough? Is he going to be doing any interviews at Camp David?
MR. McCLELLAN: When he -- after he makes an announcement, I'll be glad to talk about that more.
Q Democrats say those consultations have been fairly one-sided, the President not volunteering his thoughts on suggestions they make. Do we expect any further consultations with members of the Senate before a nominee is chosen, or is the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I indicated to you -- I never try to rule things in or out, but -- in terms of what the President may or may not do. But we have had extensive consultations. The level of consultation was unprecedented, and it was -- the President felt it was a very important part of the process to listen to the views and thoughts of members of the United States Senate. That's part of the advice and consent role that they play in this process. And it's important not only to the nomination process, but it's also important to continue to consult with them as we move forward on the confirmation process. And that's what we will do once a nominee is named.
Q Will he go for any more of Harry Reid's suggestions? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't see his suggestions.
Q That is a joke -- Harriet Miers --
Q That was a joke.
Q Scott, will the President's outreach to the conservative base about a nominee change from how it was before?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President will do as he has always done when it has come to selecting people to the bench. He is going to look at that individual's qualifications and experience and judicial temperament. That's what he makes the decision based on. And he will select the person who he feels is the best one to fill the vacancy.
Q There's some Democrats who feel -- who are fearing that he will bow to the right and pick someone who is not mainstream at all. They're writing letters -- wrote a letter to the President today urging him not to do this.
MR. McCLELLAN: He will select someone who is highly qualified to serve on our nation's highest court, and someone that all of us can be proud of.
Q Scott, what does the President want to talk to Prime Minister Berlusconi about Monday?
MR. McCLELLAN: Call me over the weekend. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Just him. (Laughter.)
Q Week ahead?
MR. McCLELLAN: I did the week ahead earlier. We'll be putting out -- put it out earlier. And one clarification on earlier -- the President, I think, is going to view Rosa Park's body at the Rotunda, is what he will do. And if there's any additional information related to that, we'll be -- we'll get that to you.
Q That will be Sunday?
MR. McCLELLAN: Monday.*
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know the time off the top of my head. Hopefully, we'll be able to provide that to you on the paper we put out on the week ahead.
Everybody have a good weekend.
Q -- anybody appointed to fill in for Scooter Libby, interim?
MR. McCLELLAN: Any announcements will be made in due course.
Q What time is he due back Sunday?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's early afternoon. I'll have to double-check. It will be on our schedule that we put out. Let me double-check that. I think it's the typical time, early afternoon. Of course, that -- Wendell, that can change, because sometimes he changes his mind and decides to come back a little bit earlier.
Q Trick or treat.
END 5:45 P.M. EDT
* The viewing of Rosa Parks body will be on Sunday.