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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 6, 2004

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

9:36 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: All right. He had his usual briefings this morning, and you've got the rest of the schedule for the day. We'll be back at the White House tonight. And I'll go straight to your questions.

Q You said yesterday Saddam had the intent and capability to develop WMD. Report coming out today said Saddam posed a diminishing threat; WMD less advanced in '03 than '98.

MR. McCLELLAN: Are you taking quotes from the report?

Q From newspaper accounts of it.

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, okay. Let's clarify that. You said, the report says.

Q Can I get my question out?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but I wanted to clarify your question, because I don't agree with it.

Q One, has the President seen the report; two, will he square those two ideas?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we need to let the report come out -- as I said yesterday -- and we can talk about it further. But I think that, yes, we have been briefed on the report. I think the report will clearly show that Saddam Hussein was a threat we needed to take seriously, and he was in clear defiance of the international community and Resolution 1441. I think it will show that he retained the intent and capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. I think it will show he was working to undermine the sanctions that were in place, through a number of different schemes.

So let's let the report come out, and I'll be glad to talk about it more. But I disagree with the way you stated your question. I don't think that's accurate. We have already heard from the Kay report, the Butler report. And they pointed out that Saddam Hussein retained the intent and capability and pointed out that he was trying to undermine the sanctions that were in place. And it was a matter of time before he would begin a -- pursuing a full-scale weapons of mass destruction -- his weapons of mass destruction efforts, a full -- again, pursuing those again.

Q Has the President seen the report?

MR. McCLELLAN: Been briefed on it. I'll double check to see if we received the final, actual report.

Q What did he tell Cheney last night, besides, congratulations?

MR. McCLELLAN: It was a brief conversation. The President watched the debate last night in the Residence, and he called the Vice President afterwards, and told him he did an outstanding job. The Vice President clearly contrasted the differences on the big priorities facing the American people.

I think the President, today, will continue to draw a stark contrast on our highest priorities -- the war on terrorism, the economy, health care. There are very clear choices facing the American people. This race is about the future, and the American people are paying closer attention to the election. This is a time for choosing, and it's important to clearly outline what the differences are for the American people on those big issues.

I think the Vice President touched on several of those last night. The President will continue to talk about those differences today. The President has a record of accomplishment. Senator Kerry has a record of supporting the failed policies of the past. And he will talk about the differences when it comes to winning the war on terrorism and the differences when it comes to strengthening our economy in his remarks.

Q On Zarqawi, the CIA's report is saying that there is no clear connection that can be drawn between him and al Qaeda. Can you address that? And what --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we talked about this yesterday, and I think Condi talked about it, as well. And they -- no, they're actually -- let's look at what we know, and I talked about this yesterday in -- at the White House with you all.

But we know that Zarqawi was in and out of Baghdad prior to September the 11th. We know that he had established a cell in Baghdad prior to September 11th. We know that a couple of his -- a couple members of his cells were arrested by the Iraqi intelligence service. And we know that Saddam Hussein personally intervened to order the release of at least one of those members of his cells. We know that Zarqawi was in Baghdad when he ordered the murder of an American diplomat, Laurence Foley, who was in Jordan. We know that he was in Baghdad when he was in contact with Ansar al-Islam operatives in northeastern Iraq. This is the network that had the poisons lab that was trying to carry out attacks in Europe.

Q But in the past, you said that he was the -- he was clear evidence of the connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Are you still saying that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look back at what I said yesterday. Look back at what -- well, first of all, the CIA assessment is still a work in progress, as they pointed out. And they pointed this -- these arrests and Saddam Hussein's intervention in having them released. And so the ties between Iraq and al Qaeda were also documented by the 9/11 Commission. There were senior level contacts. And so that's -- those are the facts. That's what we -- that's what we know. And Saddam -- Iraq was a state-sponsor of terrorism. They funded suicide bombers. We've got to -- all right.

Q A top nuclear official says Iran has converted a few tons of raw uranium into gas needed for enrichment. Are you aware of that?

MR. McCLELLAN: We've made it very clear what Iran needs to do. And Iran needs to come clean and fully comply with its international obligations. Iran needs to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons. They agreed to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing. And they need to abide by those rulings. They agreed to the additional protocol, and they need to meet their commitments. And so the international community is speaking very clearly to Iran that if they continue in the direction that they are going, then we will have to look at what additional action may need to be taken, including looking to the United Nations Security Council.

Q Karzai's running mate, assassination attempt?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've seen the reports. I don't have any more information on that, any more information on that at this point.

Q Have you got a travel update for us?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but what is it? Monday, October 11th, he'll make remarks at a Hobbs, New Mexico Rally, then a remarks at a Coors for Senate Luncheon in Denver, Colorado.

Q Name of the candidate?


Q Spell it.

MR. McCLELLAN: You've ever heard it, C-o-o-r-s?

Q Never drunk it. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, that's on the record. I'm going to go back and check that.

Q No, I don't believe you.

Q What else have you got?

MR. McCLELLAN: Remarks at a Denver, Colorado Victory 2004 Rally, and then we'll overnight in Denver.


END 9:44 A.M. EDT