The gaggle kicks off with a discussion of President Millstone.
Q You’re not in denial here? I mean, the President has got his lowest job approval ratings in his presidency. Do you not acknowledge that that’s not, as Secretary Rumsfeld would say, not exactly helpful to Republicans?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have a proud record of accomplishment and a positive agenda for the future. And we look forward to continuing to talk about it.
Q — the public doesn’t agree with —
MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, you can get caught up in polls; we don’t. Polls are snapshots in time. The President is someone who is —
Q It’s quite a snapshot —
MR. McCLELLAN: But let me mention — let’s look at the facts. The President is a strong leader who addresses big challenges and who thinks long-term. That’s what the American people want, someone who’s going to go after the big issues facing this country, and the issues that the American people care most about, and solve those challenges.
Q So the President is not a drag on the Republican Party?
Q But, Scott, the President campaigned for Kilgore. I mean, is he disappointed at Kilgore’s loss?
MR. McCLELLAN: He did support his candidacy, and he supported the candidacy of the lieutenant governor, and he supported the candidacy of the attorney general, and the lieutenant governor won. The President congratulates all the winners, including the two newly elected governors in New Jersey and Virginia. And the President —
Q Has he reached out to Kilgore? Has he offered his condolences?
Q Is he disappointed in Kilgore’s loss?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he congratulates the winners. That’s the way I would express it. The President campaigned for Jerry Kilgore, he campaign for Lieutenant Governor-Elect Bolling, and he campaigned for the attorney general candidate, as well.
Q So you think the President helped the Kilgore campaign, ultimately?
Q His presence was discounted, basically, he didn’t hurt or help Kilgore?
MR. McCLELLAN: He was glad to go in there and do his part to help in that campaign. And he congratulates Tim Kaine for winning, and congratulates Governor-elect Corzine on his victory. And he congratulates Lieutenant Governor Bolling on his victory. And he congratulates all the other candidates that won.
Next, Voice of America’s Paula Wolfson nails Scottie on White House “ethics”.
Q With respect to the ethics guidelines, I understand there’s a document that was, I presume, being used, prepared by the Office of Government Ethics for the briefings. And I have just a few questions, if you could clarify this. Under 18 U.S. Code Section 2, would public disclosure of classified information constitute an offense against the United States government?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that’s for the authorities to determine and our legal system to determine.
Q Okay. And then under — again, these are all — documents.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Paula, I haven’t gone back and read that like you have. It’s all publicly available information. What the President believes is that the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter and it ought to be taken seriously. That’s what the President believes. And all of us here at the White House understand what is expected of us. It’s expected that we focus on the people’s priorities and it’s expected that we adhere to the highest ethical standards.
Q The reason I ask is because — if you’ll forgive me for a minute — under this particular code section — section two, principles — it says that, “Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures its commission is punishable as a principal;” and secondly, “Whoever willfully causes an act to be done, which is directly performed by him or another, would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.” And then, I’ll give the other —
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, thank you. That’s been put into the record. Now, what are you trying to suggest?
Q I’m not trying to suggest anything. I’m asking to clarify these sections —
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think they need clarifying. They’re very — they’re stated right there, available to the public.
Q Okay, so — would any government official involved in the leaking of classified information, or in any way involved in making false statements about that, would they be in violation of 18 U.S. Section 1001, which — and I’ll end here —
MR. McCLELLAN: Paula, let me —
Q — let me just —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Paula, let me just add — let me just stop you right there. This is asking a question relating to an ongoing investigation and legal proceeding. That is a very serious matter. We need to let that investigation continue and let that legal proceeding continue. There is a legal system that is in place. There is a presumption of innocence that is looking at one individual, and there is an investigation continuing on other matters. And we are going to do our part to cooperate with the special counsel in that matter, as we have done.
Q This has nothing to do with the special counsel. This has everything to do with the Ethics of Government Act. And for the record, I would just like to read —
MR. McCLELLAN: I think, for the record, people can go and look at this on our website. And for the record, this is being asked in the context of an ongoing investigation and legal proceeding, and I’ve already indicated to you that we’re not going to have further comment on it while it is continuing. If you want to —
Q I would just like to read, for the record —
MR. McCLELLAN: — go and read that, you’re welcome to do that. But I think other people in this room would like to proceed forward with other questions that they have.
Q If I can take permission from the other people in this room, may I please read this one section? Does anyone have any objection?
Q Yes, I don’t think we’re getting anywhere.
Q Well, that’s not the point.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, there. Thank you.
Q That’s not the point.
MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, do you have a question?
Q Wait a minute, let the majority — let this nice lady speak.
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s all publicly available information.
Q I know. She just has one more —
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a question? She has to give a question.
Q She has just one more.
Q I asked if it was — I asked —
MR. McCLELLAN: Let’s go to the question. I mean, we can all go and look at that on the website.
Q Well, fine, but I’ll save some time. “Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the government of the United States, knowingly and willfully, (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device, a material fact, (2), makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation, or (3), makes or uses any false writing or document, knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry.”
MR. McCLELLAN: It’s been put into public record.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, go ahead.
And we close with your Daily Les .
Q And then President Carter also said, quote, “I’ve never been convinced that Jesus Christ would approve abortion.” And my question: Does the President believe that a 13-year-old victim of gang rape or incest by her father or mother should be denied the right to abortion because he believes Jesus opposes all abortion?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made his views very clear about the sanctity of life and promoting a culture of life —
Q I wonder if you could clarify on this issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is a pro-life President.
Go ahead. Roger, go ahead.