McClellan today: “I said if you have a specific issue of concern, then we’ll be glad to take a look into that.” Knight-Ridder has a specific issue: “McClellan has ducked whether there are any pictures of Bush with Abramoff, saying only that he’d look into the question.”
“The organization behind the annual Davos, Switzerland, meeting of world leaders said yesterday that ‘no progress’ was made in 2005 toward eliminating weapons of mass destruction. … The World Economic Forum also called efforts to eliminate terrorism ‘largely unsuccessful’ last year.”
During yesterday’s press briefing, Scott McClellan told the press he was not going to discuss any “staff-level meetings” White House staff may have had with Jack Abramoff:
Q: Who was in the staff meetings [with Abramoff]?
McCLELLAN: I don’t get into discussing staff-level meetings.
Q: Why not?
McCLELLAN: Well, if you got something to bring to my attention, Elisabeth, I’ll be glad to look into it. If you’ve got something specific, I’ll be glad to take a look into it.
Q: Did [Abramoff] meet with Karl Rove, for example?
McCLELLAN: We don’t – we don’t ever tend to get into those staff-level meetings.
In fact, in previous press briefings, McClellan has repeatedly discussed both internal staff meetings and meetings between White House staff and outsiders, even detailing by name which officials were involved.
A few examples below from just the last six months:
McCLELLAN: Remember, last week the President met with Senators Specter and Leahy and Senator Frist and Senator Reid. That was part of the consultation process, and White House staff — Harriet Miers, our Counsel, Andy Card, Chief of Staff, and Karl Rove, Deputy Chief of Staff, have been reaching out to listen to ideas from members of the Senate.
to crack down on cell phone records privacy abuses.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was first asked about meetings between Jack Abramoff and White House staff on January 4. On January 5, McClellan said he would have a “thorough report” on staff level contacts “very soon.”
Fourteen days later, the stonewalling continues:
QUESTION: Scott, just quickly, back to Abramoff, can you give any more specificity on those meetings? When they were, years, times?
MCCLELLAN: No. This is sticking with our past policy. We’re not going to engage in a fishing expedition.
QUESTION: Not even years?
MCCLELLAN: Well, the Hanukkah receptions were back in 2001 and 2002.
QUESTION: OK. You talked about the Hanukkah receptions. Can you talk about the staff-level meetings and what years those were or months?
MCCLELLAN: No. I did a chat for you all to provide you that information, but we’re not going to engage in a fishing expedition. I know that there’s some that want to do that. But I don’t see any reason to do so.
QUESTION: Can you tell me why you wouldn’t want it out there?
MCCLELLAN: Well, this has been keeping with past practice in terms of in similar incidents.
What is the White House trying to hide?
At today’s press conference Scott McClellan claimed he has never heard reports that the United States sent detainees to Syria, where they were tortured:
QUESTION: There are allegations that we sent people to Syria to be tortured…
MCCLELLAN: To Syria?
QUESTION: Yes. You’ve never heard of any allegations like that?
MCCLELLAN: No, I’ve never heard that one. That’s a new one.
QUESTION: Syria? You haven’t heard that?
MCCLELLAN: That’s a new one.
QUESTION: Well, I can assure you it’s been well publicized. My question is…
MCCLELLAN: By what, bloggers?
Actually it was reported on page A1 of the Washington Post more than two years ago:
A Canadian citizen who was detained last year at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as a suspected terrorist said Tuesday he was secretly deported to Syria and endured 10 months of torture in a Syrian prison.
McClellan himself was asked about in on 2/28/05:
Q Has the President ever issued an order against torture of prisoners? And do we still send prisoners to Syria to be tortured?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has stated publicly that we do not condone torture and that he would never authorize the use of torture. He has made that –
Q But has he issued an order?
MR. McCLELLAN: — statement very publicly, and he’s made it clear to everybody in the government that we do not torture.
Q Well, why do we still hear these stories then?
MR. McCLELLAN: If there are allegations of wrongdoing, then the President expects those allegations to be fully investigated and if there is actual wrongdoing that occurs, then people need to be held to account. The President has made that very clear.
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.
The Bush administration’s implementation of its new Medicare prescription drug benefit wasn’t quite a “seamless transition” as Medicare administrator Mark McClellan promised. The Miami Herald has called the implementation of the new program an “unmitigated disaster.”
But instead of mitigating the disaster, the Bush administration has launched a PR campaign:
President Bush’s top health advisers will fan out across the country this week to quell rising discontent with a new Medicare prescription drug benefit that has tens of thousands of elderly and disabled Americans, their pharmacists, and governors struggling to resolve myriad start-up problems.
“Several hundred thousand” people enrolled in the new plans were unable to fill essential prescriptions and many states declared public health emergencies. Twenty states have stepped up to the plate to “help low-income people by paying drug claims that should have been paid by the federal Medicare program.”
McClellan, who has found plenty of cash for his propaganda campaigns, now refuses to reimburse these 20 states that picked up the administration’s slack:
People are in Medicare drug plans, and it’s the Medicare plans that are supposed to pay for the medications.
On January 5, Scott McClellan promised a “thorough report” on all Abramoff visits to the White House:
Q Any update on the Abramoff visits to the White House beyond the three parties that he attended?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I indicated yesterday that I think there were some — a few staff-level meetings. But, no, I’m making sure that I have a thorough report back to you on that. And I’ll get that to you, hopefully very soon.
Yesterday, McClellan changed his mind. He said he won’t discuss any visits between Abramoff and White House staff:
Q Specific staff? You were going to get back to us on the specific staff —
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, my understanding from the check that we did was that there are just a few staff-level meetings in addition to those.
Q Who was in the staff meetings?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t get into discussing staff-level meetings.
Why has McClellan decided to stonewall? What he discovered was probably very damaging to the White House. We already know that Abramoff and his team met with administration officials hundreds of time in the first few months of the administration:
In President Bush’s first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws
Also, Bush personally met with Abramoff at least once early in his presidency:
Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President. From the same two clients he took to the White House in May 2001, Abramoff also obtained $2.5 million in contributions for a non-profit foundation he and his wife operated.
The public has the right to know how much access the White House gave to a lobbyist who is admittedly corrupt. The White House press corps should not let this issue drop.
defends Murtha from recent right-wing smears.