On Friday, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. U.S. News reports that “some Republican insiders” are “worried” about what he might say not only about the Valerie Plame leak scandal, but also on the “workings of the White House and what McClellan calls Bush’s lack of candor about the need for the Iraq invasion“:
But other GOP strategists say McClellan’s experience could underscore one of the weak points of the West Wing — the conversion of the press secretary’s job, at least under McClellan, into what some call a propagandist. “The press secretary has become the mouthpiece and not the fact checker,” says a former senior adviser to a Republican president.
White House officials, who are “concerned” about McClellan’s testimony, are trying to downplay the hearing, focusing instead on the 110th Congress’s “embarrassing lack of accomplishment over the past two years.”
When asked if his testimony next week might prompt any invoking of executive privilege – a power which can allow the president to block testimony- McClellan said, “I don’t have anything incriminating to say here if that’s what you’re looking for.
“Well I imagine if Congress tries to go into other issues, ones I haven’t spoken about in the book, I’m sure the White House would think seriously about that.“
Yesterday, former press secretary Scott McClellan appeared on MSNBC’s Countdown to discuss last week’s Senate Intelligence Report, which found that the White House “built the public case for war against Iraq by exaggerating available intelligence and by ignoring disagreements among spy agencies about Iraq’s weapons programs and Saddam Hussein’s links to al Qaeda.” McClellan accused White House officials of having their “heads in the sand” and said they tried to block the committee’s investigation:
The White House never wanted to have the way the case was made, the way the intelligence was used to sell the war to the American people looked into by Congress. This was delayed for quite some time and Senator Rockefeller pushed this forward to get to the truth. And, the White House can continue to bury their heads in the sand but the reality is still the same.
I think the American people see it for exactly what it is. … We came to the very same conclusion that the intelligence was used in a way to make the threat sound more grave and urgent and serious than it was.
“That [the Phase II report] is basically on the back burner.” [UPI, 3/10/05]
“I don’t think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further.” [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 3/31/05]
“To go though that exercise, it seems to me, in a post-election environment – we didn’t see how we could do that and achieve any possible progress. I think everybody pretty well gets it.” [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 3/31/05]
Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) invited former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to testify before the Committee at a June 20th hearing about reported efforts to cover up the role of the White House in the Valerie Plame leak. “In his book, Mr. McClellan suggests that senior White House officials may have obstructed justice and engaged in a cover-up regarding the Valerie Plame leak,” Conyers said. “This alleged activity could well extend beyond the scope of the offenses for which Scooter Libby has been convicted and deserves further attention.”
McClellan has accepted Conyers invitation and will testify under oath on June 20.
In his explosive new memoir, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan claims that Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, “and possibly Vice President Cheney” encouraged him to “repeat a lie” to the American people about the administration’s role in the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity. This assertion, along with others, has led members of Congress, like House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), to again ask questions about the CIA leak scandal.
On NBC’s The Chris Matthews Show today, Time magazine assistant managing editor Michael Duffy said that the renewed attention to the scandal is causing White House lawyers to be “very concerned”:
DUFFY: White House lawyers are concerned, very concerned, now that Scott McClellan’s book has led Henry Waxman and John Conyers to take another look at the Valerie Plame business. There may be hearings. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may be called. Just another way in which a Democratic Congress might make a difference during the fall.
Last week, Waxman sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, requesting that the Justice Department turn over FBI interviews of President Bush and Cheney that were conducted during the CIA leak scandal investigation. In the letter, Waxman cited “new revelations” from McClellan’s book, including the claim that “[t]he President and Vice President directed me to go out there and exonerate Scooter Libby.”
Additionally, White House lawyers are likely “concerned” that CIA leak special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicated this week that he would be willing to testify before Congress about alleged efforts to push him off of politically sensitive cases like the leak scandal.
As Duffy said, this “could make things rough for everyone who was affiliated with the Plame affair.”
In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air on Monday, host Terri Gross asked former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan if controversial pastor John Hagee had “much sway within the Bush administration.” In response, McClellan said Hagee was just “one of a number of evangelical pastors, social conservative” that “had a heavy influence on some of the White House policies.”
Despite accusing Bush Sr. of collaboration with the Antichrist, Hagee delivered for George W. Bush in his 2000 book, God’s Candidate for America. In that book, Hagee was unequivocal that Jesus would vote for Bush. “If you are concerned about the sort of America your children and grandchildren will grow up within,” Hagee wrote, “then you need to cast your vote for George W. Bush and the Republican Party.”
It appears that, according to McClellan, Hagee’s efforts paid off and Bush rewarded him by giving him “sway” in the White House.
Politico reports today that “buzz is already beginning to build” about a possible film based on former press secretary Scott McClellan’s tell-all book. “We’ve been talking to TV people, and interest is starting to come, but it’s too early to say anything,” McClellan’s literary agent told Politico. The film could compliment other Bush-based movies, including Oliver Stone’s “W”, starring Josh Brolin as the 43rd president.
Last week, in response to Scott McClellan’s explosive memoir, former senator Bob Dole sent a vitriolic personal e-mail to McClellan, calling him a “miserable creature.” “[Y]our type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique,” Dole charged.
On CBS’s Early Show today, McClellan responded to Dole’s and the right wing’s attacks on him. McClellan shrugged them off, saying the attacks were “personal” diatribes that still did not refute the “key themes” of the book:
McCLELLAN: These are some unpleasant truths and hard realities that I’m trying to address in the book. And no one is really refuting the key themes and perspectives in the book. What they are doing is taking some of these personal attacks and misrepresentations and trying to shift this focus away from what this book talks about. I think it’s important to get it back on the larger message in the book.
Indeed, it’s difficult to find a right-wing personality directly taking issue with the substance of McClellan’s book. For example, former White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy writes today, “Please forgive me, Scott, if this sounds personal, but you’ve just filleted me and everyone who worked with you.” “I mean my lack of interest in Scott McClellan’s personal odyssey of self-discovery is a negative,” said Newt Gingrich.
Whether McClellan’s charges have some truth to them is left unaddressed by these ad hominem attacks. “The ink [the book] generates isn’t doing much to distract the American public from the overarching narrative that McClellan’s book is a part of: Unpopular president, unpopular war, dispirited party,” notes Ana Marie Cox.
Commenting for the first time on Scott McClellan’s new book, Vice President Dick Cheney said in an event at the National Press Club this afternoon, “I haven’t read Scott McClellan’s book. I don’t plan to read Scott McClellan’s book anytime soon.” Later in the same event, when asked what he thought of tell-all books by former administration insiders, Cheney said, “I thought Bob Dole got it about right.” Watch it:
[L]urking behind it all remained the magic man, Vice President Cheney. No one knew better how to orchestrate what was happening from behind the curtain while the grand production was playing out on stage. Quietly slipping in and out of internal deliberations, his influence and wand waving barely discernible to the outside world, Cheney rarely showed all his cards and never disclosed how he made things happen. Yet somehow, in every policy area he cared about, from the invasion of Iraq to expansion of presidential power to the treatment of detainees and the use of surveillance against terror suspects, Cheney always seemed to get his way.
In his explosive new memoir, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan claims that on Sept. 27, 2003 he asked Karl Rove “an unambiguous, unqualified catch-all question” about whether he was involved in “any way” with the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. “Karl replied categorically, ‘No. Look, I didn’t even know about his wife,’” writes McClellan.
On NBC’s Meet The Press today, host Tim Russert asked McClellan about the discrepancy between his and Rove’s stories, pointing out that “one of you is not telling the truth.” Rove’s story is “pretty disingenuous,” replied McClellan. McClellan then added that he said the same thing under oath to a grand jury:
MCCLELLAN: But, let me mention this, that question, when I said, “were you involved in this in any way” and he categorically said, “no.” That is absolutely true. It is what I said under oath to the grand jury. It is what I told investigators. And, secondly, that is the same question I asked Scooter Libby. The very same question I asked Scooter Libby.
Later in the interview, Russert asked about whether President Bush should have fired Rove after his involvement was revealed. Recalling his own statement on behalf of the administration that “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration,” McClellan said, “I think the president should have stood by the word that we said”:
RUSSERT: But you believe Rove should have left?
MCCLELLAN: I think the president should have stood by the word and that meant Karl should have left.
As McClellan notes, “the bar was moved” by President Bush when it was revealed publicly that his top adviser was involved in exposing an undercover CIA agent. “He said we were going to set the highest of standards, we didn’t live up to that,” said McClellan.