Today Scottie is still trying to keep some distance between Chimpy and the AbramOffal.
Q On the Abramoff pictures. You had said last week that if we had something specific, that you would then explain further about the connections between the President and the White House and Mr. Abramoff. Can you talk about the specific circumstances surrounding these pictures, and exactly the range of contacts that Mr. Abrmaoff had?
MR. McCLELLAN: I can talk — let me repeat some of what I have said previously. First of all, the Department of Justice is holding Mr. Abramoff and others to account for the wrongdoing they engaged in. The wrongdoing they engaged in was outrageous, and they should be held to account. And that’s what the administration’s Department of Justice is doing. They’re also continuing to investigate whether others were involved, as well, as they should. And they will continue to pursue it to the fullest.
Now in terms of the reports about some of these pictures, as we have previously indicated, the President did not have a personal relationship with Mr. Abramoff. But we also indicated that it should not be surprising that he might have taken some pictures with him at some of the widely attended events that we know both attended. What I indicated previously was, if you’ve got some specific issue that you need to bring to my attention, fine. But what we’re not going to do is engage in a fishing expedition that has nothing to do with the investigation.
Q Why not — why are you guys resistant to open this here? What is there to hide, or why not just say, here are the contacts he had, here are the issues he talked about when he came to the White House, here are the people —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I did do a check, and I indicated to you exactly what I just told you. I indicated to you that there were a few staff-level meetings that he attended at least — he attended two holiday receptions, in 2001 and 2002. There are some 400 to 500 people at each of those gatherings. And of course there’s a photo line at those holiday receptions. The President has participated in tens upon thousands of photo lines or pictures in photo lines over the course of the last five years. He’s taken pictures with many of you. But like I said, we’re just not going to get into a fishing expedition that has nothing to do with the investigation. Though we have been very straightforward about that, when asked about it.
Q I understand that. But why not just say, and just get it over with — say, here are the issues that he talked about — he came to the White House to talk about, here’s who he met with, and then move on. Why not —
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not aware of anything that has anything to do wit the investigation. I know that there’s some Democrats that want to try to make this — try to engage in partisan attacks. But what we do know from media reports is that Mr. Abramoff gave directly or indirectly to Democrats and Republicans. Trying to say there’s more to it than the President taking a picture in a photo line is just absurd.
As usual, the press corps blew it. They let Scottie claim that the only time Bush might have met Jack-Off was during large public events attended by “some 400 to 500 people” when Time has already reported that the two were pictured together at an even the White House’s own spokesman has described as “a meeting with 21 state legislators and two tribal leaders.”
I’ll check back later to see if Scottie’s next claim is true, but I betcha all my ponies that the questioners are screened if the questions are not.
Q Are the questions today screened, pre-screened?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. They can ask whatever they want, and the President looks forward to it.
Somtimes you have to ask a question three times to get any response out of Little Scottie. And then when he does respond he lies anyway.
Q Scott, yesterday on the talk shows several — the lawmakers suggested that the President should ask Congress for any fixes that he might see in the FISA law. Is the President inclined to ask Congress for any changes?
MR. McCLELLAN: …FISA was created in a different time period and didn’t anticipate some of the issues we’d have to be dealing with with all the technological advances that we’ve seen in the last few decades…
Q He doesn’t think there’s anything that needs fixing, then?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, this very issue came up — whether or not there needs to be changes in the law — during the consultations with Congress, with the congressional leaders, and to reflect what the President’s authority is. The President already has the authority to do this. But we work very closely with Congress. That’s why we brief Congress, that’s why we briefed Congress more than 12 times about this very program, the appropriate congressional leaders, and we will continue to do so.
Q — FISA is outdated, why not change it, why not ask Congress to change it so that it reflects the modern era, modern technology?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn’t say it was outdated. We use FISA. FISA is an important tool. It didn’t anticipate some of the technological issues that needed to be addressed through this. This is about addressing a specific problem that was highlighted in the 9/11 Commission report. We had two al Qaeda members operating inside the United States and we didn’t find out about their communications until it was too late.
Q But why not make FISA usable now, in the modern era?
MR. McCLELLAN: I just indicated, we’ll continue to work with Congress. But the President has the clear authority to do what he’s doing, and that’s what the American people expect him to do, to act fully within the law, and to do everything he can to protect them.
And I think there are some Democratic leaders that have continued to engage in misleading, false attacks about this vital tool. And we’re going to continue to educate the American people about this vital tool.
Q You don’t think it’s a false attack to say that Democrats are saying that we don’t want to monitor al Qaeda calls? That’s not exactly an accurate statement.
MR. McCLELLAN: Democrats are attacking this very vital tool in false ways. All you have to do is go look at the remarks, when they talk about the legal authorization. I mean, what I said yesterday, it defies common sense that the President would go and brief members of Congress about this authorization if he thought he was operating outside of his authority. They were fully aware of this program. Democrats didn’t start criticizing it until it — until the unauthorized disclosure of this program to The New York Times.
And it’s important for the American people to understand what this authorization is and what it is not. And that’s why General Hayden is giving his remarks today; that’s why the President is going to be talking about this in his remarks, as well. Now some Democrats want to try to have it both ways. And that’s what this is about.
So Scottie claims that, “Democrats didn’t start criticizing it until it — until the unauthorized disclosure of this program to The New York Times.” This is a bald-faced lie, as Senator John Rockefeller registered his complaint about Bush’s unconstitutional overreach after being briefed about it by Dick Cheney.