As a long-time Scotie watcher, I’ve noticed a trend. Whenever serious questions about criminality in the White House are posed in the gaggle, McClellan tries to intimidate the press by demanding that the questioner provide specific information about alleged wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities. It’s been a very effective tool for stiffling legitimate inquires for some time now.
I first noticed Scottie using this method during the September 29, 2003, gaggle which was the first held after then-DCI George Tenet referred the Plame case to the Justice Department.
Scottie first used it on Helen Thomas.
Q Does he know whether or not the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby —
MR. McCLELLAN: If you have any specific information to bring to my attention — like I said, there has been nothing that’s been brought to our attention. You asked me earlier if we were looking into it, there is nothing that’s been brought to our attention beyond the media reports. But if someone did something like this, it needs to be looked at by the Department of Justice, they’re the appropriate agency charged with looking into matters like this —
Q But has he ordered an investigation inside the White House? If he thinks it’s that serious, wouldn’t you do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have specific information, Helen, to bring to my attention?
Q No. Are you —
MR. McCLELLAN: If you have specific information, bring it to my attention.
Then he challenged the LA Times’ Ed Chen.
Q Scott, this is clearly a serious matter, with possible penalties being going to jail. It’s not going to go away. Why — and as you said earlier, there probably is a limited number of people with access to this information. It doesn’t take much for the President to ask for a senior official working for him to just lay the question out for a few people, and end this controversy today.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, Ed, do you have specific information to bring to our attention?
Q No. But it’s not —
Then CNN’s Dana Bash got the treatment.
Q Scott, what do you say to people out there who are watching this, perhaps, and saying, you know, I voted for George Bush because he promised to change the way things work in Washington. And, yet, his spokesman —
MR. McCLELLAN: And he has.
Q — and, yet, his spokesman is saying that there’s no internal, even, questioning of whether or not people were involved in this and he’s just letting that be handled at the Justice Department, and letting it be more of a criminal investigation, as opposed to almost an ethical —
MR. McCLELLAN: Dana, I mean, think about what you’re asking. If you have specific information to bring to our attention —
Q No, but you say that —
When April Ryan asked about White House involvment in the Boeing/Pentagon procurement scandal on June 7 of last year Scottie was ready.
Q Scott, a question about this Inspector General’s report, involving the lease deal between the Air Force and Boeing. In that report, there are 45 references to White House officials that have been deleted in the Inspector General’s report. And that has to do with White House officials’ involvement in this particular deal as it was being negotiated and then became more controversial. The question is, would the White House object to these names — the names of the White House officials in this report being unredacted, being made public? And, if not, would it, in fact, invoke executive privilege to keep those names — the names of those officials secret?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it was understood going in that this is a jurisdictional matter. The Inspector General for any department only has jurisdiction over that particular department.
Q You’re suggesting that jurisdictional matters would have prevented him from doing any of that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, maybe if you have something to bring to my attention, you ought to bring it to my attention, but —
Q I’m asking you why you don’t want to be more transparent.
MR. McCLELLAN: The people who were involved in wrongdoing are being held to account.
He whipped it out again on Tuesday of this week in response to Jack Abramoff’s meetings with White House staff, but this time the press corps had had enough.
Q Would you qualify it as senior staff that he met with here?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m just saying staff-level meetings is the way I would describe it. And if you have anything specific, I’ll be glad to take a look into it.
Q Well, we’re counting on you for the specifics —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if there’s any reason for me to check into it, please bring it to my attention.
Q He’s pled guilty to some serious charges.
MR. McCLELLAN: And so are you insinuating something?
Q We’re just trying to find out the facts.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you’ve got something to bring to my attention, do so, and then I’ll be glad to look into it.
Q Scott, that’s not a fair burden to place on us. This is a guy who is a tainted lobbyist, and he has connections — we want to know — with whom in the White House. You shouldn’t demand that we give you something specific to go check it out. I mean, this guy is radioactive in Washington. And he knows guys like Karl Rove. So did he meet with him or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: I know of nothing that —
Q Don’t put it on us to bring something specific. It’s a specific question about a specific individual.
Q Can you tell us if he met with Karl Rove?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because we don’t discuss staff-level meetings —
Q Of course you do, whenever you want to discuss staff-level meetings. And if Karl Rove, who has ties to Ralph Reed, which he does, we want to know if he has ties to Jack Abramoff, and if they met —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I can answer that.
Q Oh, great. Well, before you said —
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I mean, about if he knows — yes, he knows — he knows Mr. Abramoff. They are both former heads of the College Republicans. That’s how they got to know each other way back, I think it was in the early ’80s. And my understanding is that Karl would describe it as more of a casual relationship, than a business relationship. That’s what he has said.
But if you’ve got specific matters that I need to look into, it’s my point that I think it’s your obligation to bring that to my attention and I’ll be glad to take a look into it.
Q Well, I don’t —
MR. McCLELLAN: There’s been no —
Q — no, no, but I don’t think it’s our obligation to do anything. If we want to know whether there was pending business that Abramoff represented to members of the staff here at the White House, what do we need —
MR. McCLELLAN: There’s been no suggestion of anything like that out of this White House.
Q — some kind of an affidavit to bring you to —
MR. McCLELLAN: There’s been no suggestion of anything like this in this White House.
Q I’m just asking. I’m not suggesting.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, you’re insinuating. Go ahead.