"Does the President think Karl Rove did something wrong, or doesn't he?"

The White House press corps still wants to know. Bush spokesman Scott McClellan isn't helping much.

Published July 13, 2005 8:00AM (EDT)

Q: Scott, some White House advisors expressed surprise that the President didn't -- 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?

MR. 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?

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

Q: Well, why doesn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was not asked that specific question, Terry. You know that very well. The questions he were asked -- he was asked about were relating to an ongoing investigation.

Q: But, Scott, he defended [Alberto] Gonzales without even being asked --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come to you in a second. I'll come to you in a second. Go ahead.

Q: Yes, he defended Al Gonzales without ever being asked. [Laughter.] Ed brings up a good point. Didn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think he was asked about the Attorney General.

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?

MR. 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?

MR. 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 --

MR. McCLELLAN: You heard from the President earlier.

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

MR. 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.

MR. 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.

MR. 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.

MR. McCLELLAN: I look forward to talking about it once the investigation is complete, as the President does, as well. And you heard from the President earlier today.

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? Was it --

MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate your question.

Q: Was it a knowing leak with the intent of doing damage? I'm just wondering when he talked about that, what those parameters were?

MR. 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.

Go ahead, David.

Q: Scott, when the President asked that question at Sea -- was asked that question at Sea Island, and, in fact, when you made your statement that Karl had had nothing to do with this, was there an ongoing investigation at that time?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we've been through this for two days now, and I've already responded to those questions.

Go ahead, April.

Q: I'm going to give you another --

Q: I'm sorry, I wasn't here yesterday, so could you refresh my memory? Was there an ongoing investigation --

MR. McCLELLAN: The briefings are available online.

Q: -- at the time that you answered previous questions on this issue?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I responded to those questions the past couple of days. Go ahead.

Q: The answer is, yes.

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?

MR. 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.

MR. 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: This is not -- this is about -- this is a personal -- this is not about the -- I mean about the investigation. This is about the personal business of this family, an American family, a taxpaying family, a family that works for the government of the United States. And the executive branch -- someone in the executive branch let this family down in some kind of way, shape, or form. Is there any regret from the White House that this family was affected by the leak?

MR. McCLELLAN: It doesn't change what I just said. Go ahead, Goyal


Q: The Washington Times editorial page this morning published a cartoon comparing White House correspondents to sharks. My question, do you think that they were wrong to make this comparison? [Laughter.]

Q: Go ahead, Scott, let her rip.

MR. McCLELLAN: I have a picture up in my office that everybody can look at.

Q: We'll allow you to comment.


MR. McCLELLAN: It may not look like it, but there's a little flesh that's been taken out of me the past few days. [Laughter.]

Q: Where?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, it may not look like it. [Laughter.] I can assure you that it has been.


Q: Scott, Secretary Rumsfeld has in the past told Congress, under fire from certain members, that he has, in fact, offered his resignation and the President has, in fact, rejected that idea, and said, no, I'd like you to stay on. Is the same true of Karl Rove, either in the context of offering a resignation or offering to take a leave of absence? And how has the President responded?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've made the President's views on Karl very clear and his support for all those who work at the White House, including Karl Rove.

Q: We know that the President has supported Karl publicly, but I guess what I'm asking is, has Karl Rove offered, as a courtesy to the President, that?

MR. McCLELLAN: And again, these are all some of the similar questions that have been coming up over the last couple of days, and I don't have anything to add while this investigation is ongoing. But I think the President's views are very clear when it comes to Karl Rove and others who work here at the White House.

Q: Scott --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go to Jessica, and then I'll come back to you.

Q: Scott, I've spoken to one person at least who says that when -- after being interviewed by the special prosecutor was asked not to discuss subjects, the substance of their interview, but was free to talk about this investigation more broadly. So my question is, has the White House been asked by the special prosecutor not to talk about specific testimony, or to discuss nothing about this at all?

MR. McCLELLAN: These questions came up the last couple of days, and again --

Q: But you haven't been explicit. Did the special prosecutor say to the White House --

MR. McCLELLAN: Again --

Q: -- don't discuss this?

MR. McCLELLAN: I want to help the investigation proceed and come to a successful conclusion. And the best way to do that, as I've said, not only the last couple of days, but going back nearly two years, is to not get into discussing the investigation from this podium, and those questions --

Q: Because the prosecutor asked you not to?

MR. McCLELLAN: And those questions I've been through the last couple of days, this morning, and there's really nothing to add. And I appreciate it, but we've exhausted this discussion, I think. And we need to let that investigation proceed.

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?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he does.

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

MR. 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.

MR. McCLELLAN: David, you had a question on Iran?

By Salon Staff

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