For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 2, 2003
Press Briefing by
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:47 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: I do want to make one brief statement. The House
right now is voting on the conference committee report on the
legislation that would ban the brutal practice of partial-birth
abortion. This is will be an important step toward building a culture
of life in America. And we look forward to the House passage and urge
the Senate to move quickly on this important piece of legislation, as
With that, I will go right to questions. Terry.
Q Scott, has the White House received any subpoenas for
documents in the leaks case?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q Are you aware of any individuals who have received any? And
will you tell us if the White House is subpoenaed or if individuals
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that question came up earlier. I expect that
we will discuss that matter with the career Justice Department
officials who are looking into this. And if they are okay with me
notifying you of that information, I will certainly do so. My
intention is to share with you the information you need to do your job,
as long as that's consistent with preserving the integrity of the
Q I was just going to say there is a precedent for revealing
this. We had this in a previous administration, and it has come up.
Is that being taken into consideration as you look at this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's why I said, what we want to do is
discuss that matter with the Department of Justice. And if they are
okay with us notifying you of that information, then we will do so.
Q I gather you're asking about subpoenas for things,
information, or records -- I'm asking if that applies, as well -- have
any White House officials been interviewed yet by the FBI?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not to my knowledge. But again, the Justice
Department officials may decide they want to talk to people
individually. So I wouldn't necessarily know. And I should say not to
the White House's knowledge, when I say that, when I'm saying me, not
to the White House's knowledge.
Q So would that mean that there's --
MR. McCLELLAN: At this point, we've received --
Q No senior staff has been interviewed then?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not to our knowledge.
Q How about the CIA?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Are you aware of anybody at the --
MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to ask the CIA that question, or the
Justice Department that question.
Q Can I ask a follow-on point I just wanted to -- why does the
White House feel that it's appropriate to coordinate an attack on
Joseph Wilson in coordination with the RNC and Republicans in Congress,
to attack him on his partisanship and his record as a partisan? Why
does the White House feel that that's appropriate and relevant here?
MR. McCLELLAN: What we are focused on is getting to the bottom of
this investigation. That's what the President wants to happen. He
wants the -- he wants the Justice Department to get to the bottom of
this, the sooner the better. So our focus is on this investigation and
getting to the bottom of it. That's what we are doing. Obviously,
there are -- that's what the subject of this investigation is about,
and that's why it's important to --
Q But my question is --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- keep the focus on the investigation.
Q Right, but my question still hasn't been answered. I mean,
you're not denying that there are challenges and attacks on Joseph
Wilson's character because he's a partisan, and the partisan nature
that the White House believes is irrelevant here -- I'm asking you,
why that's relevant in all of this and why the White House feels it's
appropriate when there's an investigation going on to coordinate such
attacks with the Republican National Committee and with Republicans on
the Hill --
MR. McCLELLAN: David, I have said from this podium that it is not
my place to question someone's motives. That is something that is part
of your reporting that you do in your profession. So that's --
Q But it is the place of others who are working at the White
MR. McCLELLAN: I have made it very clear on that matter that it is
just simply not my position to get into questioning someone's motives.
Q Right, but you're speaking for the White House, and the White
House is coordinating with Republicans on the Hill and with its arm,
which is the political arm, which is the RNC, to go after this guy. So
why is that appropriate? Why is it relevant?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the President wants everybody to focus on
getting to the bottom of this investigation, and that's what we are
doing. We are working --
Q Well, why won't you answer this question?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- to cooperate with the Department of Justice.
And I have answered that -- I answered that question yesterday.
Q Scott, between the time period of mid-July when this story
first broke, and late September when it became much more public, what,
if anything, did White House officials -- the President, National
Security Advisor, Chief of Staff, others, general for the Counsel's
Office -- do to address the leak problem that emerged in July?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll tell you what we were doing in that period.
We were focusing on the priorities of the American people. We were
focusing on moving forward on the legislation to strengthen and improve
Medicare for America's seniors. We were focused on strengthening the
economy that's growing faster now, but we want more action done. We
were focusing on the energy legislation and focusing on addressing some
of the problems there. That's where our focus was.
Now, there was -- there were articles which happen all too often in
this town, of allegations that were made -- unsubstantiated allegations
citing, I believe, senior administration officials, not even
specifically White House at that point. And we didn't have -- we had
no information beyond these unsubstantiated allegations in media
reports to suggest there was any White House involvement in the matter
you are raising.
But the process that is in place for that is for the CIA to look at
those issues, and, if they feel a need to, to report information to the
Department of Justice. They did that.
Q I did not mean to suggest that the President and his staff
had no other focus or no other responsibilities; obviously, tremendous
responsibilities. But this was one thing that had happened which the
CIA's General Counsel has now determined a crime that hurt national
security. Did the CIA -- Director Tenet or anyone else -- during the
time period, mid-July, late September, communicate to the President or
his staff that this was very serious, that it looked like it was
heading towards a criminal investigation, that they wanted some
cooperation from the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not aware of any such conversation.
Q Senator Schumer is calling on John Ashcroft to recuse himself
from this case, Scott. Do you see any need for the General to do
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the Department of Justice will
make decisions of that nature. They -- the Department of Justice has
publicly stated that all legal options are on the table. That's where
But I would remind you that the career Justice Department officials
are the ones who are leading this investigation. These are individuals
with vast experience and are in the best position to get to the bottom
of this. The Justice Department wants to get to the bottom of this.
The President wants to get to the bottom of this. The American people
want us to get to the bottom of this. So that's a shared goal, and
that's a -- that's what we are -- that's why we are working
cooperatively with the Department of Justice to get to the bottom of
this. And, as I said, the sooner the better. And if anyone, anyone
inside or outside the administration has information that is relevant
to this investigation, they should report that information to the
Department of Justice so we can get to the bottom of this.
Q How does the President feel about so many of his friends
possibly profiteering business-wise from his invasion of Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Who are you suggesting?
Q Groups, Allbaugh for one is forming a group for --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think those individuals can address those
matters. If they -- you're talking about former administration
officials? I think that those individuals, you have to ask those
questions. I don't have any specific information about what
individuals are seeking to do outside of the administration.
Q But they seem to be using their name and part of this --
former part of this administration to make inroads into business in
MR. McCLELLAN: You're asking me about people outside the
Q Yes, I am.
MR. McCLELLAN: You need to talk to the people outside the
administration. I don't have specific information on what they're
Q I asked the President's opinion on that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Opinion on people outside the administration
seeking business in Iraq.
Q His cronies, his friends, yes.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any specific information about what
these individuals are doing. If you do, you can ask those individuals
Q You've been reading the papers, haven't you?
MR. McCLELLAN: These are people outside the administration that do
not work in the administration.
Q Scott, Steve mentioned Senator Schumer, but it's not just
him. Senator Specter, a fellow Republican, also said today that he
believes that Ashcroft should recuse himself in order to avoid the
appearance of a conflict of interest because of his relationships with
Karl Rove. What do you think of that? Is that something that you
think might make sense, considering the fact that you do want this to
stay at the Justice Department in the hands of career officials?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's a matter for the Department of
Justice to decide.
Q But in terms of the perception of this, when you have
Republicans now saying that perhaps John Ashcroft should recuse himself
in order to let the career --
MR. McCLELLAN: We talked about this yesterday, the President spoke
about it the other day. The President believes that the career Justice
Department officials at the Department of Justice, the ones who have a
vast amount of experience in these issues, are in the best position to
get to the bottom of this. And that's exactly what he wants those
officials to do. And that's exactly what those officials want to do.
Q But what Senator Specter is saying is that they report to
John Ashcroft, who might have a conflict because of his past work with
MR. McCLELLAN: And the Department of Justice has said that all
legal options are on the table. They will make those decisions.
Q Scott, on Tuesday when you shared with us the second memo by
Judge Gonzales to the staff, it named three reporters. And it said
pursuant to the Justice Department request, please preserve records of
contacts with these three reporters. Was Judge Gonzales singling out
those three reporters, or did the Justice Department single them out?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. Actually, if you look back at the letter, the
language in that letter that we shared publicly with you was verbatim
from the Justice Department. That was the request that they sent us
the other day.
Q So there was -- that was the entire text --
MR. McCLELLAN: And those names were -- those names were verbatim
from the text of that letter.
Q Scott, in addition to the controversy surrounding Ambassador
Wilson's wife, we've seen open, public dissension in the State
Department; the EPA Inspector General has made claims that the White
House doctored air quality reports, and Senator Clinton is using this
to hold up the nomination of Governor Leavitt for the EPA post. Still,
others leave the administration, write an op-ed criticizing the
administration, and then join a Democratic presidential nominee's
campaign. My question is: Is the President or anyone else in this
administration concerned that the Clinton holdovers are undermining the
MR. McCLELLAN: In a certain department?
Q Yes, in these various departments.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the President has assembled a team
that is working together to implement his priorities. We have a strong
team that is in place that is trying to implement what the President's
Q But time and time again you'll see one holdover from various
departments criticizing the administration and --
MR. McCLELLAN: People have the right to express their views.
Q Scott, in the midst of this "leakgate" situation, has the
White House unofficially or officially told the Press Office or senior
administration officials how they should deal with the press in
reference to sourcing information, giving us information on any new
situation -- not just this, but anything? Has anything changed in
reference to this in how the White House relates with us?
MR. McCLELLAN: Has anything changed in reference --
Q How the White House deals with the press, in giving
information, ever since this "leakgate" situation has happened?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what you're referring to
Q I'm referring to, like, we will be able to email you, or some
other White House staffers, talk to them on the phone. Has anything
been put in place, in motion, to kind of curtail -- has the White House
maybe tapped --
MR. McCLELLAN: Try to curtail?
Q Has the White House maybe tapped phone lines, looking through
emails -- no, I mean, I'm not trying to be funny with this, I'm being
very serious. Is there some kind of thing to prevent this kind of
"leakgate" from happening again?
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate what you're saying. At this point,
what we have done is sent the letter -- sent the text of the letter
from the Department of Justice to White House staff. We have shared
that letter, the text of that letter with you, as well, because we
released that memo for you.
Q But has anything changed in the way White House officials are
dealing with the press to prevent --
MR. McCLELLAN: No. To prevent --
Q To prevent this kind of situation, Justice Department probe
-- into giving confidential information that could ultimately result in
someone's -- affect someone's life.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're suggesting that that happened in the
Q I am not suggesting that happened --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, by that question --
Q -- but there is a probe that is going on because there are
MR. McCLELLAN: What we're trying to do is get to the bottom of
this investigation, and work cooperatively with the Justice Department
to do that. But, no other -- we have sent the memo out with the text
of the letter in it to White House employees to make sure that they
understand that it is the request of the Department of Justice that
they preserve and maintain all information that could be related to
their request. And the President has directed the White House to
cooperate fully. And that's what we expect staff members to do.
That's what we've done.
Q On the reconstruction aid to Iraq, it looks like Senate
Republicans now are saying that they'd like to see some of it in the
form of loans, rather than grants. I'm wondering if the White House is
still 100 percent committed to doing this is in grants? Or would you
be willing to listen to a loan package?
MR. McCLELLAN: We went through a little bit of this yesterday.
Our position remains the same. This is an $87-billion package. And we
view it as one package. It is a wartime supplemental that will help us
prevail in the central front in the war on terrorism, which is Iraq
now, and it is in the form of grants. The people of Iraq have been
saddled with a debt from a brutal regime that went through 30 years of
neglect and was more interested in building palaces than building the
infrastructure for the Iraqi people.
Q So does that mean you're opposed to what Senate Republicans
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we put forward a wartime supplemental and we
are urging Congress to pass that wartime supplemental as it is.
Q But then again, I'm still not clear, does that mean you
oppose what the Senate Republicans --
MR. McCLELLAN: It means we support what we've put forward and that
we want that package passed as it is. That's what it means. And we're
working with Congress to get that done; the sooner, the better.
Q Scott, I'd like to take another crack, if I may, at Steve's
question. You keep using the phrase "career Justice Department
investigators leading the investigation." But really what Senator
Schumer is concerned about is the fact that the Attorney General, a
political appointee, in some cases has to sign off on subpoenas. And
is the White House concerned that there just may be an appearance here
that there's foot-dragging. We're this far into it, we haven't heard
any subpoenas have been served or investigators have come on. Is there
just any concern on the part of the White House that because the
Attorney General is a political appointee and he does have a hands-on
role in this, is Senator Schumer right to say that the best thing for
the White House would be to call for a recusal?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I've addressed this question. The Justice
Department has addressed that question. In response to that very
question you're bringing up, the Justice Department said that all legal
options remain on the table. But I think it's important to keep in
mind that the criminal division that is investigating this matter at
the Department of Justice is headed by career Justice Department
officials who have a lot of experience in these matters. And that's
why they're in the best position to get to the bottom of this.
And it's important to keep in mind that the Justice Department
wants to get to the bottom of this, too. If someone in the
administration, anywhere in the administration, leaked classified
information, we want to know who it is. The President has always made
it clear that the leaking of classified information is a very serious
matter. And I think the Justice Department shares the White House's
concern about the leaking of classified information. So we're working
toward the same goal here. And we're working cooperatively with them
to get to the bottom of this matter.
Q Can I follow up, Scott? Just quickly?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've -- I mean, we've been through this
Q Can I just -- just very quickly. You talk about the fact
that all legal options are on the table. But this isn't a question of
legal options, this is a question of a potential conflict of interest,
a perception of that, with John Ashcroft. And that is why the two
senators are calling for him to recuse himself.
MR. McCLELLAN: And those are decisions for the Department of
Justice to make.
Q What's the President's view of the comment that got Rush
Limbaugh in trouble?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that Rush Limbaugh addressed the matter.
Q You know, Scott, when you click onto the White House website
and you enter the word, "bigotry," the President has addressed this
issue 136 times. Why would not -- why wouldn't you, on his behalf,
want to address it in this instance, where someone has associated the
selection of athletes on the basis of their race for certain positions
on the field?
MR. McCLELLAN: I did answer the question, and I think that he
addressed the matter -- I think that Rush Limbaugh addressed the
Q Is it because Limbaugh is a political ally and often someone
who supports administration causes and so forth that you don't want to
address this yourself?
MR. McCLELLAN: You've asked the question, and I've responded to
Q Thank you. Two -- first on Korea, any comments on their
statement that they are developing atomic weapons?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've seen them make those statements
previously -- don't have anything to confirm what they're saying. But
what needs to happen is North Korea needs to recognize that all that
they are doing with these kinds of threats and bluster is isolating
themselves. The international community has made it clear that
escalation by North Korea will only lead to further isolation.
I think many countries -- the United States at the forefront --
have expressed concern about the reprocessing of spent-fuel rods.
There is no legitimate use for plutonium harvested during this
procedure. And it's a clear indication -- it would be a clear
indication that they are intent on enlarging their nuclear arsenal,
despite the call from the international community for North Korea to
change its behavior. North Korea -- we've been talking about these
issues in the six-party talks. And North Korea has received the
message from all these nations that they need to end the nuclear
weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way, once and for
Q And on Korea, on the extension of the security fence in Korea
-- I'm sorry, Israel -- are you concerned about that? Have you
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has expressed his concern about the
fence. We've been talking with the Israelis about that matter and we
are continuing to discuss it with the Israelis.
Q That was my question, but I have another one. Scott, there
are indications the economy is improving. But many major U.S.
companies, such as Levi Strauss are still fleeing the country to take
advantage of cheap labor overseas. This is putting hundreds, if not
thousands of Americans out of work. What is the President doing to
stop this loss of American jobs?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is acting to get our economy growing
stronger, and he wants to -- he's emphasized the importance of acting
on additional fronts, in addition to what we've already done. If we
strengthen our economy and make sure that we have a level playing field
in trade matters, those are important steps that we can take to improve
the economic situation here at home. It's already -- the economy is
moving in the right direction, but there's more to do. That's where
his focus is.
Q Scott, just a quick follow-up on that. A number of news
organizations in recent days have got polls showing that the American
public is increasingly disapproving of the way he's handling the
economy. I understand that you say the economy is improving, that
there's still more to do. But I'm wondering, how concerned is he about
this perception that he's not up to the task?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think, one, I reject the way you phrased that. I
reject that premise. But the President -- the American people want a
President who leads and acts. This President is acting to strengthen
our economy. That is -- one of his highest priorities is to get the
economy growing even faster. That's why we took the action that we
The President -- we inherited a recession; the President acted to
get us out of the recession. It was a very shallow one because of the
actions that we took. We obviously went through a difficult period
where -- the September 11th attacks, the corporate scandals, the march
to war that the President refers to. But the President is not
satisfied because there are people who are still looking for work who
cannot find a job. That's why he's urging action on additional fronts,
as well. That includes expanding trade; that includes reforming --
lawsuit reform; that includes making the tax cuts permanent so people
can have certainty for their planning purposes; that includes passing a
comprehensive energy plan. So there are a number of other things we
can do to strengthen our economy even more.
Q You're rejecting the premise, you're basically saying the
opinion polls are inaccurate?
MR. McCLELLAN: It think the American people recognize that the
President is a strong and decisive leader who is acting on a number of
fronts to address the important priorities for the American people.
Q Scott, back on the Wilson matter for a second. Metaphorically
speaking, there is one holdover from the Clinton administration that
seems to be in play here, and that's the notion that every time
controversy comes up, the two political parties do snipe at each other
about it. And in spite of what you said earlier regarding the parties,
does the President realize that this is the sort of thing that can hurt
MR. McCLELLAN: The investigation?
Q The investigation, the --
MR. McCLELLAN: If we get to the bottom of this -- the President
has been the one out -- speaking out front of this that we need to get
to the bottom of this investigation. Look, we recognize that,
certainly, there are people who have made some unsubstantiated
accusations of the White House leaking classified information. More
recently they have been forced to back away from those unsubstantiated
accusations. Now you see what happens here in Washington, D.C. Some
have, all of a sudden, decided to move the goalpost and sensationalize
this issue for a political -- for partisan political gain. We
Q It's been that way for a while.
MR. McCLELLAN: We recognize that this is what happens in
Washington, D.C. It's unfortunate, and I think it can -- it's a real
-- not only does it take away from the subject of this investigation,
it's a disservice to the American people.
There are a number of important challenges facing this country that
we need to be working together on to address. The President is someone
who does everything he can to bring people together to get things
done. And that's what he's going to continue to do. He's focused --
we're going about our business. We're focused on the priorities for
the American people. And we will continue to remain focused on the
priorities for the American people.
Q Who is moving the goalposts?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we all know. The subject of this
investigation is whether someone leaked classified information.
Yesterday some of the questions began to move the goalpost and focus on
other issues that are not the subject of this investigation. And we
all know who these people are.
Q Who are they?
Q We'd like to know --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you watch TV, you will see who they are.
Q Who are they? Who are they?
Q What did Democrats -- are you referring to Democrats on the
Hill who, by calling for a special counsel -- do you think that that is
somehow changing the subject of what the investigation is about for
political gain? Is that what you're referring to?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are -- the leaking of classified information
is a very serious allegation. And the President has made it very clear
that he wants to get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately, there are
some that are looking through the lens of political opportunism. There
are some that are seeking partisan political advantage. I don't need
to go into names. We all know who they are.
Q Can I follow on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can go to that, then I'm going to come to
Q If the President wants people to stop trying to get partisan
political gain from this, why doesn't he tell Ed Gillespie, the
Chairman of the RNC, to stop questioning Joe Wilson's motives?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there are some people that are making
unsubstantiated allegations and unsubstantiated rumors about the White
House leaking classified information. And some of those people have
been forced to back away from that, and then all of a sudden they move
the goalpost and focus on another issue that's not the subject of the
Q Are you talking about Joe Wilson now?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we all know who these people are. If you look
at yesterday's questions in the briefing, I think you know exactly what
I am talking about.
Q Does the President think Ed Gillespie, who is, after all, his
political arm, ought to stop being involved in this issue then?
MR. McCLELLAN: I've already answered that question earlier.
Q This moving the goalpost question, are you saying that the
President condemns and believes it's wrong for any members of his staff
to leak classified information, but that he has no opinion, or that
it's okay if once leaked some members of his staff peddle that story in
order to do down Ambassador Wilson or his wife --
MR. McCLELLAN: One, I addressed that matter yesterday. So I've
already addressed that matter.
Q Remind me.
MR. McCLELLAN: What's your question? Are you getting to are
people talking about what's in the news?
Q Yes, that is precisely what I'm getting at.
MR. McCLELLAN: People always talk about -- you all talk about
what's in the news, I talk about what's in the news, people always talk
about what's in the news.
Q So it's okay with the President if people said, hey, did you
see that Bob Novak column, you know, Wilson's wife got him the job and
that's why you shouldn't believe what he says? That's okay -- leaking
it is wrong; peddling it is okay?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying that it's a serious allegation when
it's suggested that someone leaked classified information. We want to
get to the bottom of that. There are some that are looking at this as
an opportunity for partisan political advantage, in talking about other
issues that are not the subject of the investigation.
Q I'm talking about an issue that is not the subject of the
investigation. I'm talking about changing the tone, about the ethics
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what -- I made very clear that the President
expects members of his administration to adhere to the highest ethical
Q Scott, two quick questions. One, how serious is the
Washington Post story today that there is fundamentalism growing in
this country? And it seems to include a story that we are living among
terrorists. And if President is aware of this, that what he's doing
about it? The FBI is investigating the --
MR. McCLELLAN: The Washington Post story that --
Q On the Saudi charities and fundamentalism growing in this
country. It seemed to me, from the story, that we are living among
terrorists. How serious is the matter, is the President -- get rid of
this, and what he doing, and this under investigation by the FBI? And
number two, if you can update me on the Prime Minister of Pakistan's
yesterday meeting with President Bush.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, one, I think we talked about that last part of
that question yesterday. But the highest priority for the President is
winning the war on terrorism abroad and at home. And we are working on
a number of different fronts: the law enforcement front, the terrorist
financing front, we are working to crack down on terrorist financing at
home and abroad. We are working on law enforcement matters. There are
some things that the public may not see in this war on terrorism, but
the war continues. And we will continue to wage this war until we have
eliminated the threat of terrorism.
Q Scott, could you go back to the subject of Korea -- North
Korea for a moment, and this claim that they've made that they have
extracted plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods? Does the U.S.
government know whether they are telling the truth about that, whether
there's any truth to those statements?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just said we have not confirmed that
statement. But they've made that statement before.
Q And what effect does it have on the potential for another
round of talks, which was thought to be this fall?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what I said. That's why I said that
they will continue isolating themselves by those kind of comments.
It's important that we continue to send the message that we have from
the international community, from the five nations that have said to
North Korea that if they will end their nuclear weapons program once
and for all, then they will be in position to realize the benefits of
the international -- being part of the international community. But
they first must act to end their nuclear weapons program in a
verifiable and irreversible way.
Q Scott, there's a third individual now being questioned in
connection with the handling of sensitive information gathered at the
U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay. What can you tell us about what the
President has been briefed on about these incidents, and how -- what's
the level of his satisfaction with the security of sensitive
MR. McCLELLAN: Those questions you need to direct to the
appropriate authorities who have -- who are looking into that. I think
that I would leave those questions, because there have been charges
filed against individuals. And you need to ask those questions of
either the FBI officials or Pentagon officials that are involved in
Q Is it safe to say that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely, absolutely. It's a serious matter.
Q Can I follow through real quick? In addition to the
statements that the North Koreans made about reprocessing plutonium,
which they've said before, they also said that they do not plan to
export any nuclear materials. That's something they have not said
before. Does the administration see that pledge not to export as a
possible step forward by the North Koreans?
MR. McCLELLAN: They say a lot of things all the time. We don't --
and then later say something else that contradicts what they said
previously. So -- but proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is
a very serious matter, and all the nations in that region have also
made that clear, as well. And that's why the President is moving
forward on that front with his proliferation security initiative, and
working with the international community to pull together to stop the
spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Q David Kaye is briefing both the House and Senate Intelligence
Committees and the House Appropriations Committee, I believe. I assume
the White House is going to get some sort of similar briefing.
MR. McCLELLAN: We're aware of what he is discussing with members
of Congress today. I think he will be providing members of Congress
with -- or he is in the process of providing members of Congress with a
detailed briefing on the progress the Iraq survey group is making in
its efforts to uncover the truth about Saddam Hussein and his weapons
of mass destruction programs.
Q Any comment on his report?
Q And you have gotten similarly detailed briefings?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are aware of what he's discussing with members
Q What's your reaction?
Q But how would you generally characterize the nature of what
he's saying today? We're going to an unclassified version later, but
MR. McCLELLAN: Right, right. There is an intention by the CIA to
provide you a summary of his testimony to Congress. But I think Dr.
Kaye will be speaking about this later. And after he's had a chance to
speak about it, then we probably will have more to stay at that point.
Q Could you give us some sort of general characterization now
because that will be very late and probably --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is a progress report. Keep that -- keep
it in perspective. They continue to do their work, the Iraq survey
group. There's some 19,000 members of the Iraq survey group who are
going through a massive amount of documents, interviewing a number of
people in Iraq -- Iraqis and scientists -- who have knowledge of Saddam
Hussein's history of weapons of mass destruction. And so that -- they
continue to pull together a complete picture of his history of weapons
of mass destruction and weapons of mass destruction programs.
Q Now, one of the things that was revealed today, if the
article is correct, is that the administration is seeking an additional
$600 million to fund the Iraq survey group, to keep it going and to
provide resources for its continued efforts. Is that accurate?
MR. McCLELLAN: There -- as with normal, or other budget
appropriations, there are classified sections within those
appropriations. This is a wartime supplemental. It does have a
classified section, and it would not be appropriate for me to discuss
those classified sections.
Q Scott, now that the leak investigation has begun by the
Justice Department, has the White House given any special instructions
to White House staff as to how to deal with reporters who call in or
approach them with questions about this thing?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.
Q -- no instructions --
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Scott, going back to Iraq for a moment. Given what David
Kaye has and hasn't found, does the President think it's possible that
Saddam Hussein bluffed the U.N., the U.S. and the world, and didn't
have the kind of capability that a lot of people assumed he had?
MR. McCLELLAN: One, the President believes that -- well, the
international community knew that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass
destruction and weapons of mass destruction programs. And the
international community knows that he used weapons of mass destruction,
used chemical weapons. So he had a history there. That's
indisputable. The President directed Dr. Kaye to uncover the truth and
pull together a complete picture, and that's what he's in the process
So today he will -- he's talking about the progress that they are
making. And it's a detailed briefing about the progress the Iraq
survey group is making.
Q But is there any change in your position that they will find
actual weapons of mass destruction --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes he had weapons of mass
destruction and weapons of mass destruction programs, and that the
truth will come out.
Q Follow-up to Jim's question. Why is the amount of money the
administration is seeking for the Iraq survey group classified? What's
the rationale for that?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are classified sections in it. One, I can't
get into the classified section of budget appropriations. This is a
wartime supplemental, and so I can't -- it's not appropriate for me to
discuss it -- the classified section further. You're asking me to get
into confirming or denying certain parts of that matter.
But the Iraq survey group, as I've noted over here, continues to do
its job. Keep in mind that Saddam Hussein had a sophisticated
concealment strategy that was well-known, trying to deceive the
international community, trying to conceal -- and they were caught by
the weapons inspectors in the past for what they were concealing. So
the Iraq survey group has a massive amount of documents, miles of
documents to go through to uncover the full truth of his weapons of
mass destruction programs. And that work continues. And it's
Q I'm not asking you to discuss what's in that classified
section. I'm asking you what is -- as a matter of policy, why does
that amount of money have --
MR. McCLELLAN: That would be asking me to talk about classified
sections of the report.
Q No, just the policy rationale for keeping this -- why is that
-- why does that have to be secret?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's making assumptions about what's in the
classified section of the report. It's a classified section that
you're asking me to discuss.
Q Did any members of the White House staff hire outside counsel
to represent them in connection with the criminal investigation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not to my knowledge.
Q Second question, you have said there's no evidence
implicating current White House staff. Do you know of any evidence
implicating former White House staff?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q Third, Karl Rove used to work for Attorney General Ashcroft.
Attorney General Ashcroft is investigating the White House, why doesn't
that represent a conflict of interest?
MR. McCLELLAN: Career Justice Department officials are
investigating the allegation that there is a leak of classified
information. And I've already answered that question.
Yes, go ahead.
Q This may sound trivial, but before you said the President
believes that the weapons of mass destruction will be found. In
previous statements it's always that weapons of mass destruction will
be found, that we know that they were there. Is there less --
MR. McCLELLAN: Same thing. Same thing.
Q To follow up on that, the Associated Press is reporting that
Kuwaiti security authorities have foiled an attempt to smuggle chemical
weapons and biological warheads from Iraq to some unspecified European
country. Can you confirm that something like this has happened? And
do the Kuwaitis possess those weapons?
MR. McCLELLAN: I have not seen that report. I'll have to look
into. I haven't seen the report.
Q Thank you.
END 1:26 P.M. EDT