News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

McClellan vs. Press Corps on Rove, Tuesday Edition

By Greg Mitchell

Published: July 12, 2005 2:10 PM ET

NEW YORK For the second day running, White House Press Secretary Scott McClelllan suffered through relentless grilling from reporters who demanded answers or at least comment on disclosures that top Bush aide Karl Rove had discussed CIA agent Valerie Plame with Time magazine's Matt Cooper.

McClellan at an afternoon briefing again refused to say much, claiming he did not want to jeopardize the “ongoing investigation.” He also would not discuss revoking Rove's “security clearance,” what President Bush knew about all this, or when Rove first told Bush that he had talked to Cooper.

More than yesterday, however, he clearly said that Rove still had the president's ”confidence,” although he put it in a somewhat lukewarm way: “Any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president. They wouldn't be working here at the White House if they didn't have the president's confidence.”

Asked why he could not comment when Republicans had allegedly been given “talking points,” possibly by Rove himself, McClellan responded: “Ask the RNC.”

He also refused to respond when asked if the administration had a “credibility problem.” Instead, he said this line of questioning was not “constructive,” and asked for questions on other subjects.

“Do you not sense that perhaps you, the president or Karl need to say something more to close the credibility gap?” a reporter asked.

“I might harm the investigation by talking,” McClellan replied. “I'm not going to comment on news reports. We want to know what the facts are--the way to do that is let the investigators do their work.”

One exchange went like this, according to the official transcript:

"McCLELLAN: I think you're trying to get at the specific news reports and wanting me to comment on those specific news reports and --

"Q: But they're news reports that have been confirmed by Karl Rove's attorney, Scott.

"McCLELLAN: John, you can keep jumping in, but I'm going to try to keep going to other people in this room, as well. And we can have constructive dialogue here, I think, but that's not the way to do it.

"Q: It's not my job to have a constructive dialogue, Scott. Sorry."

But the questioning overall proved somewhat less intense than Monday's marathon, as it became clear that despite the innuendo and sarcasm, McClellan would stonewall.

President Bush, at an Oval Office photo opportunity Tuesday, was asked directly whether he would fire Rove -- in keeping with a pledge in June, 2004, to dismiss any leakers in the case. The president did not respond.

Greg Mitchell ( is editor of E&P.


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