Scott McClellan: On his way out, but still playing the game

The press secretary hints that Secret Service logs might not show all of Jack Abramoff's White House visits, but he won't say anything more.

Published May 2, 2006 7:03PM (EDT)

Is it possible to just tell the truth?

As we reported earlier today, the Secret Service, faced with a lawsuit over a Freedom of Information Act request, has agreed to turn over logs showing Jack Abramoff's comings and goings from the White House. The decision comes after months of foot-dragging and a false promise or two from Scott McClellan, but we figured that this would be the end of it. The Secret Service will produce the logs to Judicial Watch by May 10, and -- assuming that Judicial Watch makes them public -- we'll all know then when the disgraced GOP lobbyist visited the White House and whom he saw when he was there.

Right? Wrong -- maybe.

As TPMmuckraker is reporting, McClellan went out of his way today to say that the logs the Secret Service is producing might not cover all of Abramoff's White House visits.

Now, to be fair to McClellan, we should say that there's probably something admirable -- at least by the standards of this White House -- in saying upfront that you're not going to be telling the whole truth. But the admirable quickly gave way to the embarrassing today as McClellan repeatedly refused to explain himself. Are there more visits than those logged in the Secret Service documents? Are there other logs? Some other explanation? Reporters asked, but McClellan wouldn't say.

The transcript:

Reporter: Are you concerned, since the White House had refused for a long time to turn over those records?

McClellan: I mean, I wouldn't look at it as a complete historical record of things -- of events here at the White House. I'd just caution you on that ...

Reporter: What is that?

Reporter: What does that mean?

McClellan: Well, I mean, they have certain records, but I wouldn't say that -- I would just not view that as a complete record, but they have certain records that they keep and that they will be providing ... They don't keep all those -- all historical records. It's just certain records that they keep that they will be providing.

Reporter: Are you going to turn over your records?

McClellan: Well, I've already -- I mean, I've already talked to you about what I know, and if there's anything you have to bring to my attention, you're welcome to, but I don't know of anything that's been brought --

Reporter: But you brought it to our attention that there is more to it.

McClellan: No, I didn't. There's nothing changed in terms of what I've previously said on it.

Reporter: Are you saying ... that Abramoff could have made other visits that are not recorded in the Secret Service records?

McClellan: I'm just saying that they have -- I don't know exactly what they'll be providing, but they only have certain records, and so I just wouldn't view it as a complete historical record.

Reporter: What other kinds of records could there be?

Reporter: Are you going to add to it?

Reporter: Not all visits to the White House are included in that record?

McClellan: I don't know that they are ... Again, talk to the Secret Service. I think they only maintain certain records. I just wouldn't view it as a complete historical record.

Reporter: You're saying they don't save everything?

McClellan: I mean, what I said previously still stands. I think he attended two holiday receptions at the White House, and there are some additional staff-level meetings. But I said I couldn't rule out that there might be other large events that may have taken place that he attended. But that's what I know, and that still stands ...

Reporter: You don't know what meetings they may or may not have?

McClellan: I'm just saying that they only keep certain records.

Reporter: Are they going to make a broader release than just to Judicial Watch? Are they going to give it to everybody? Will we get it, or is just --

McClellan: Talk to the Secret Service. I'll see if I can find out more, too. They're the ones that have their records, and that's what -- the request was made, and they are providing those records, whatever records they have.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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