Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

On Saturday Dick Cheney shot someone else’s mouth off for a change and the gagglers want to know what happened.

Q Scott, do you think that the shooting accident involving the Vice President on Saturday should have been disclosed to the public on Saturday?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the first priority was making sure that Harry Whittington, Mr. Whittington was getting the medical care that he needed, and I think that’s where everybody’s attention should have been focused and was focused when the hunting accident took place.

[snip]

Q Well, I assume that people — he got immediate medical attention. Aside from the medical attention, which I’m sure was swift, isn’t there a public disclosure requirement that should have kicked in immediately?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and the Vice President’s Office was working to make sure information got out. We learned additional information overnight — throughout the night, we were learning additional information here in Washington. The Vice President spoke with Mrs. Katherine Armstrong and they agreed that she should make that information public. She was an eyewitness, she saw what occurred and she called her local paper to provide those facts to the local paper. And the Vice President’s Office was ready to comment on it at that point.

[snip]

Q Well, it’s not really a hindsight issue here. I mean, the Vice President made a decision about how the public should be notified that basically is at odds with the standard practice of how the President’s own press operation and this White House notifies the public; isn’t that right?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, this was handled by the Vice President’s Office. The Vice President thought that Mrs. Armstrong should be the first one to give that information out, since she was an eyewitness.

Q But let’s just be clear here. The Vice President of the United States accidentally shoots a man and he feels that it’s appropriate for a ranch owner who witnessed this to tell the local Corpus Christi newspaper, and not the White House press corps at large, or notify the public in a national way?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we all know that once it is made public, then it’s going to be news and all of you all are going to be seeking that information. And the Vice President’s Office was ready to provide additional information to reporters. There was no traveling White House press corps with the Vice President, as there is with the President in a situation like this —

Q Right, that’s a distinction without a difference, really. I mean, we have Blackberries

[snip]

Q Katherine Armstrong talked to CNN Sunday evening. She said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press. She also told CNN that she did not believe the Vice President’s Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press. How do you square that with your account that they were coordinating their —

MR. McCLELLAN: The Vice President spoke with her directly and they agreed that she would make it public.

Q So you’re saying that she is lying, that her statement is not correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. You ought to check with her.

Q Well, we did check with her. So you’re saying that’s not correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Vice President spoke directly with Mrs. Armstrong and they agreed that she would make the information public.

Scottie was woefully unprepared today, especially for laying out the timeline regarding what the president knew and when he knew it.

Q You said this morning that the President was informed Saturday night by Karl Rove and Andy Card.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, initially by Andy Card.

Q At that point, what was he informed? Was he informed that the Vice President had accidentally shot somebody?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think initially, again, Andy had the same report that I had, or a very similar report to what I had. And so we didn’t know who was involved. But then there was additional information that was coming in later in the night, or later in the day and on into the morning.

Q They knew exactly what happened —

Q — to not reach the Vice President to find out that he was the shooter? How is that possible?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Kelly, I can only tell you what the facts are.

Q This doesn’t make any sense, though. This happens at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, and you’re saying that until the morning, the President of the United States —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I didn’t say that. I said there was additional information coming in later that evening and into the morning hours of Sunday.

Q You’ve got to clarify this timeline, Scott; it just doesn’t make any sense.

Q When did the President know that the Vice President was the shooter? What time?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there was additional information coming in that night. And the details continued to come in throughout the morning, into the Sunday morning time period.

Q The Vice President did not call the President to tell him he was the shooter?

MR. McCLELLAN: Suzanne, go ahead.

[snip]

Q Over the roughly 12 hours or so, none of that information — it took 12 hours for someone to tell someone up here that the Vice President had fired the weapon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, Jim, keep in mind two things. One, the very first priority was making sure Mr. Whittington was getting the medical care, and that’s where all efforts were focused. There wasn’t a press corps traveling with the Vice President, he didn’t have his full entourage that he might have on other trips, official trips. This was a weekend hunting trip. And then, secondary to that is gathering the facts. And so you want to get the facts together so you can provide that information to the public. And I think that’s important to do, and so they gathered facts together and those facts were coming back to us throughout the evening and into the morning hours of Sunday.

Q Who was gathering the facts? Who was doing that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think there’s the information on the ground there, as well as information then being provided — from the ground there being provided back here.

Q Right, and who was doing — who was doing the providing, and who were they providing it to?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, people with the Vice President’s Office. I think you can probably — I would check with his office on more specifics.

Q So when did the President definitively know that the Vice President had shot somebody?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was learning additional details into that evening on Saturday —

Q It wasn’t a detail that it was the Vice President that pulled the trigger? When did that detail —

MR. McCLELLAN: We didn’t know the full details, but I think he was informed because Karl — I think his Deputy Chief of Staff had spoken with Mrs. Armstrong and provided him additional update that evening. So there were more circumstances —

Q Deputy Chief of Staff Rove talked to —

MR. McCLELLAN: — known Saturday evening. So the President was getting more information about who was involved, and that was late Saturday evening.

[snip]

Q All right, if I may then, the Chief of Staff, at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., tells the President that there was an incident. Later in the evening, the Deputy Chief of Staff tells the President that the Vice President was, in fact, the shooter; is that what you’re telling us?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct.

Q And then the further details, then, unfolded throughout the course of the early morning Sunday?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct, additional details, additional information was coming out.

Q On Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m., you were clear, personally, that the Vice President had, in fact, been the shooter?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct. That’s correct.

[snip]

Q I don’t understand what information had to trickle in?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, David, again, what’s important when it happened was to make sure the medical care was getting to —

Q Fair enough.

MR. McCLELLAN: — Mr. Whittington.

Q Fair enough.

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s where all the attention was focused, and making sure he was getting to the hospital —

Q That’s been stipulated here. Everybody agrees that that’s fine.

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct.

Q And it doesn’t seem to me that that would take an inordinate amount of time, it certainly wouldn’t take 22 hours.

MR. McCLELLAN: This is happening Saturday evening.

Q But you’ve got a Situation Room here, you’ve got people who monitor stuff — it’s impossible to find out — I mean, the Vice President knew immediately, oh, no, I’ve shot somebody accidentally, and it takes 22 hours for that —

MR. McCLELLAN: And you know what his first reaction was? His first reaction was go to Mr. Whittington and get his team in there to provide him medical care.

Q I’m sure his first reaction — absolutely. But why is it that it took so long for the President, for you, for anybody else to know that the Vice President accidentally shot somebody?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, early the next morning, Mrs. Armstrong reached out to the Corpus paper — that’s her local paper —

Q Oh, come on.

MR. McCLELLAN: — to provide them information.

Q But that’s ridiculous.

Whew! Scottie was so confused that the White House had to append the follwoing to the briefing transcript.

Response to a Question from the Briefing

Q So when did the President definitively know that the Vice President had shot somebody?

A Chief of Staff Andy Card called the President around 7:30pm EST to inform him that there was a hunting accident. He did not know the Vice President was involved at that time. Subsequent to the call, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove spoke with Mrs. Armstrong. He then called the President shortly before 8:00pm EST to update him and let him know the Vice President had accidentally shot Mr. Whittington.

Questions that Make Scottie Squirm, Part I

Q Scott, there’s a report coming out of a Sheriff’s deputy there who said that he was prevented from interviewing the Vice President by the Secret Service. Do you know anything about that? And is that appropriate?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don’t know anything about that. You ought to direct that to the Secret Service. My understanding was that Secret Service took the appropriate steps to inform law enforcement. But, again, check with Secret Service.

Questions that Make Scottie Squirm, Part II

Q Is it proper for the Vice President to offer his resignation or has he offered his resignation —

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s an absurd question. Go ahead, Ken.

Questions that Make Scottie Squirm, Part III

Q Scott, when you consider the chronology you’re trying to go through here, and all of the various wrinkles of how long it took for the primary information that the Vice President was the person who shot this fellow to get through to the President, himself, is there any notion here of reviewing your own communications apparatus? I mean, this is sort of reminiscent of the levee story, frankly, you know?

MR. McCLELLAN: I reject that. I disagree with that fully, Peter. I don’t know what you’re referring to there, but I reject the insinuation there.

Questions that Make Scottie Squirm, Part IV

Q Scott, under Texas law, is this kind of accidental shooting a possible criminal offense?

MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn’t even speculate on that, but I think the Sheriff’s Office or the local law enforcement office has already commented on that and said it was a hunting accident.