Ooooh, tricksey gagglers, asking about an indicted White House staffer in order to fool poor Scottie.
Q Scott, the departure of David Safavian from the Office of Management and Budget would seem to indicate that this administration has no tolerance for employees who face indictments. Is that an accurate assumption?
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate your question and I think you’re asking that in the context of some of the current events, and I’m not going to even jump in to try to speculate on those matters.
Q Given the time that Karl Rove would need to spend preparing for the testimony he delivered today and the hours that he spent at the courthouse today, how does that kind of absence and that kind of additional assignment for him affect the work that’s going on here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a lot of important priorities that we’re focused on here at the White House. We are a nation at war.
Q And of course there are many people who work here beyond Mr. Rove, but you have always suggested that he is enormously important to this White House and that the President has full confidence in him. And, clearly, Karl Rove would have to spend some time working with his counsel on this matter, and has spent some time away from the White House, and so he would not be available to give the President advice in those moments. Has there been any impact?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has a great team, and the President is the one who is leading our efforts to address these important priorities. And that’s where we’re focused and that’s what we will continue to do, is carry out the work of the American people, because that’s what they expect.
Q Does the President still have full confidence in Karl Rove?
MR. McCLELLAN: Jessica, this is asking questions all in the context of an ongoing investigation. And —
Q He’s one of the President’s chief advisors. Does he have confidence in his ability to perform the job?
MR. McCLELLAN: Karl continues to do his duties as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the President, and you’re trying to ask a question in the context of an ongoing investigation. The President has made it very clear, we’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation. What we’re going to do is support the efforts of the special prosecutor —
Q But, Scott, there’s a difference between commenting in a way that would interfere with an investigation and conveying the sense and the clear idea that the President is engaged and concerned —
MR. McCLELLAN: And I’ve already answered that question, and what I said previously still stands. So I would encourage you to go back and look at what I said previously. But you’re asking this question today in the context of some grand jury testimony that’s going on. So that’s asking a question in the context of an ongoing investigation.
Q But going to the workings of the White House, you said that there is an extensive White House staff that can take up the issues. Is the suggestion that Karl Rove is less and less engaged and less able to perform his duties?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn’t say that at all, did I?
Q What are you saying, then? Is Karl Rove fully engaged, and is this White House —
MR. McCLELLAN: I just said he’s continuing to do his duties.
Q Scott, I just have two quick follows to some questions that were asked earlier. One, are you trying — are you saying that, CIA leak aside, you can’t say that the President has full confidence in Karl Rove?
MR. McCLELLAN: Maybe you didn’t hear what I was saying earlier. I said, what I said previously still stands.
Q What did you say previously? You say that all the time.
MR. McCLELLAN: You can go back and look at it. I’ll be glad to share the transcript of when that question came up last time.
Q Either he does or he does not. So he does have full confidence?
MR. McCLELLAN: We’ve already addressed that, Jim.
Q Why can’t you repeat it?
Q But why can’t — if you’ve addressed it, why can’t you repeat it for me? Clearly —
MR. McCLELLAN: Why do you have to keep asking a question that I’ve already answered when —
Q Because I don’t know the answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, because you’re asking in the context of an ongoing investigation. And it’s very easy to go and look at our transcripts and pull that information —
Q That’s why I said — that’s why I said, “set the leak aside,” just in general are you refusing to —
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. And I said I stand by what I said previously.
Q Okay, topic two, since you won’t answer that question.
MR. McCLELLAN: I did answer that question.
Now watch as Scottie becomes the laughing stock of the gaggle.
Q What do you say to reports that the White House is very jittery about everything that’s been happening, and that the President is under a great strain?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you’ve been covering the President today. The President has been having a pretty full day here at the White House. Like I said, we’ve got a lot of important work on the plate, and we are moving forward on the President’s agenda.
Q Where do these reports come from, that they — do they have any validity?
MR. McCLELLAN: From your colleagues, who write them.
MR. McCLELLAN: From your colleagues, who write them.
Q I mean, do they have any basis?
MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean, “do they have any basis”?
Q That’s what I’m asking.
MR. McCLELLAN: Ask those colleagues.
Q No, I’m asking you —
MR. McCLELLAN: I told you what we’re doing.
Q — you know what’s going on in the White House.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we’re focused on the priorities of the American people.
Q Come on, Scott, have you got a case of the shakes, or not? Come on. (Laughter.) Hold up the hands, let’s see (Laughter.)
Time to rake Scottie over the coals for lying about the scripted teleconference.
Q And regarding yesterday’s event with the President and the soldiers in Tikrit, has there been any adjustment in the administration’s position about whether or not it was scripted or rehearsed, and what sort of protocols will be followed in the future?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you heard from the troops. The troops that were participating in that event said that they were expressing their own thoughts. So you heard directly from the troops. And these are troops that are on the ground in Iraq, who were giving the President and the American people a firsthand account of the progress that is being made on the ground.
Q Scott, just to follow on the event yesterday the President had with the troops. Was that a fairly typical way that he gets information about what’s happening in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q Could you elaborate?
MR. McCLELLAN: He talks to troops in a variety of different formats. He gets information directly from his commanders, as you are well aware. He has a number of meetings, participates in weekly meetings with his commanders on the ground in Iraq.
Q When the President meets with his commanders, is there a more vigorous give-and-take, or what we saw yesterday —
MR. McCLELLAN: Of course there is. I don’t even know why you’re making such a suggestion.
Q Just asking.
Q Okay. When we take a look at yesterday’s event, last night the Pentagon put out a statement saying essentially that they regretted if there’s any perception that the event was staged or that the participants were coached. Does the President regret that —
MR. McCLELLAN: There you go again, because the statement also said that these were their own thoughts that they were expressing. And you heard from the troops.
Q Right. But the statement also said what I just said. Did it not end —
MR. McCLELLAN: The statement was — the statement —
Q — did it not end by saying that we regret —
MR. McCLELLAN: — said a lot more than what you just said.
Q But I’m asking, does the President share — does the President share the concerns of the Pentagon —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it’s a wrong perception to suggest that the troops weren’t saying what they thought and what they believed. They were expressing their views.
Q But the Pentagon felt that they needed to put out that statement and clarify what happened, but also said that they regret there was a false perception —
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. There was a lot of attention given to it.
And now, your Daily Les.
Q Scott, a two-part. This morning’s Washington Post quoted Louis Farrakhan at a local press conference yesterday saying, “It is the responsibility of government to prove the rumor false” — that’s the possibility that New Orleans levees were intentionally blown up. And my question: Does the President believe this government has any such responsibility to disprove this astounding Farrakhan claim?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven’t even seen his claim, Les.
Q Oh, all right.
MR. McCLELLAN: We’ve got other things going on.
Hmmmmm. I wonder what those “other things” are that keep Scottie so busy.