A significant moment during today’s White House Press Briefings:
QUESTION: Scott, a couple of years ago you told us that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove had nothing to do with the CIA leak. It appears that you may have gotten bad information before you made that statement.
Now today we learn through extrapolation that, when the vice president said in September of 2003 that he didn’t know who sent Joe Wilson to Niger to investigate the claims that Iraq was trying to buy yellow cake, that he was not speaking the truth.
My question is: Can we be confident that when we hear statements from the White House in public that they are truthful?
MCCLELLAN: I think you can be, because you know that our relationship is built on trust. And I have earned that trust with you all.
As you pointed out, you pointed back to some past comments that I made, and I’ve talked to you about the assurances that I had received on that.
McClellan is emphasizing to the reporter that he was just relaying the assurances he received from Rove and Libby. In other words, they lied to me.
McClellan’s answer differs significantly from when he was asked the same question back on July 11, 2005:
Q Well, you’re in a bad spot here, Scott, because after the investigation began, after the criminal investigation was underway, you said — October 10th, 2003, “I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby, as I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this.” From that podium. That’s after the criminal investigation began. Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that’s not a correct characterization Terry, and I think you are well aware of that. We know each other very well, and it was after that period that the investigators had requested that we not get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation. And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this, because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States. I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point, I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I’m just not going to do that.
Note, McClellan doesn’t try to pass the buck. He just says he can’t comment. Here’s a copy of the transcript from October 7, 2003 when McClellan assured the press that Scooter and Rove weren’t involved:
Q Scott, you have said that you, personally, went to Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Elliot Abrams to ask them if they were the leakers. Is that what happened? Why did you do that, and can you describe the conversations you had with them? What was the question you asked?
MR. McCLELLAN: Unfortunately, in Washington, D.C., at a time like this, there are a lot of rumors and innuendo. There are unsubstantiated accusations that are made. And that’s exactly what happened in the case of these three individuals. They’re good individuals, they’re important members of our White House team, and that’s why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt of that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it’s accurate before I report back to you, and that’s exactly what I did.
Q So you’re saying — you’re saying categorically those three individuals were not the leakers or did not authorize the leaks; is that what you’re saying?
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct. I’ve spoken with them.