Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Meet The Press Smackdown

It's nice to see Tim Russert actually get exercized about an issue, especially when it involves smacking down a Republican spinmeister. On Sunday's Meet The Press Russert addressed the Rove scandal with Chairman of the RNC Ken Mehlman and former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta. Here's a nice (albeit long) exchange that addressed what the White House has said in the past vs. what they're saying now vis a vis Rove's involvement in the leak:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me go through the public pronouncements from the White House. Here's President Bush on September 30, 2003, about the leak.
(Videotape, September 30, 2003):
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.
(End videotape)
MR. RUSSERT: "That person will be taken care of." A week after that, Scott McClellan talked to the White House press corps and the American people. David Gregory of NBC News asked him the following question.
(Videotape, October 7, 2003):
MR. DAVID GREGORY: You have said that you personally went to Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Elliott Abrams to ask them if they were the leakers. Is that what happened? Whey did you do that? And can you describe the conversations you had with them? What was the question you asked them?
MR. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Press Secretary): Yeah. They are good individuals. They are 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 with--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.
(End videotape)
MR. RUSSERT: "They were not involved." Is that comment still operative?
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, Tim, I know Scott McClellan very well. Scott's a smart guy. He's an honest guy. He's a very effective spokesman. And he'd love to be on this show this morning commenting. But in contradiction to what he said, attack, attack, attack is not how we'll respond to this investigation. This White House is responding by cooperate, cooperate, cooperate. And what Scott understands and all of us understand as attorneys is that the last thing a prosecutor wants to see are people out talking about the facts of his case. And so Scott is now not commenting. But the fact is--what the facts this week show is what Scott said is accurate. The facts show that Karl Rove was not the source of Bob Novak, that there was another source that, in fact, leaked the information to him, and that Karl Rove at the time didn't know her name, didn't know she was undercover and didn't provide that information to him.


MR. RUSSERT: Whoa, hold on, hold on. Why did Scott McClellan feel comfortable in commenting on the investigation back in 2003 when it was just going on?
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, Tim, it...
MR. RUSSERT: He said to the American people that Libby, Rove, Abrams were not involved. And we now know that, according to published reports and Mr. Rove's attorney, that Mr. Rove confirmed the Novak account and was the source for Matt Cooper, as Matt Cooper testified before the grand jury and explained this morning on MEET THE PRESS. Is that not being involved?
MR. MEHLMAN: Tim, as you know, investigations have different phases. In the very early part of an investigation, when there's less--when there are fewer witnesses testifying, and less activity is one point. Clearly now, I think, that Scott's right. And I give tremendous credit to this president, and to this White House, who is saying, "We don't care about the short-term political heat we may feel. We care about justice being done," which is why they're not commenting.


MR. RUSSERT: But he said they were not involved. Is that accurate?
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, according to the information that's come out this week--and, again, we're here speculating--but the information that's come out this week, that we all agree on, says they were not involved in a leak.
MR. PODESTA: Oh, well, I think that's absurd, and I think the American public sees that. The question at the time that Mr. McClellan was answering was: Was Karl Rove one of the two sources for Mr. Novak? Now, we know that he was. His own lawyers admitted that. And at least he does it off the record on background, but it's clear that Mr. Luskin's out there briefing The New York Times and others, that says that Mr. Rove was the second source. So the one thing--you don't have to be a genius to know that when Karl Rove sent Scott McClellan to the podium to say he wasn't involved, he was not telling the truth. And, I think, at this point, as he sits there as deputy chief of staff in charge of coordinating the Homeland Security Council the National Security Council, he's not serving the president, he's not serving the country. And I think that if he had an ounce of character, he'd do the right thing and resign.


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