White House Daily Briefing, September 30, 2003
September 30, 2003
THE WHITE HOUSE
September 30, 2003
PRESS GAGGLE WITH SCOTT McCLELLAN
Aboard Air Force One
10:05 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me run through the President's day. The President had his usual briefings before we departed. He will be making remarks at a Bush-Cheney luncheon when we arrive in Chicago. Following that the President will be meeting with business leaders who employ a large number of workers. This will be to discuss the economy with these business leaders. I expect the President will talk about the steps we have taken to get our economy growing faster. The President will talk about how the economy is moving in the right direction, but there's more to do to create an environment for job creation and he'll talk specifically about some other proposals that he has outlined to improve our economic security beyond the steps we've already taken.
And then I expect the President will listen to the views of the business leaders, get their views about the economy.
Following that we go to Cincinnati for a campaign event, that's at a private residence.
One other item, and then we go into this. I talked to some of you at the White House before I left, but last night the Counsel's Office was contacted by the Department of Justice. This was at approximately 8:30 p.m. last night. The Justice Department informed us that they had opened an investigation and that they were asking that we notify our staff to help preserve all materials that could be related to that investigation.
The Counsel's Office asked if we needed to send out the notification last night. They were prepared to do so. The Justice Department said this morning would be fine. This morning, White House Counsel informed senior staff, asked members of the senior staff to inform White House staffers that they should preserve all material that could be related to this investigation. You have a copy of the memo that was sent out as well on this. I think it explains where things are currently. We expect to receive another letter from the Justice Department later today, giving requests for specific information. And that information will be passed on to staff after it's received from the Department of Justice.
The President has directed the White House to cooperate fully. The President wants to get to the bottom of this as much as anyone, and believes it should be pursued to the fullest extent, as I said yesterday. The President has always expressed his concern that leaking classified information is a serious matter and it should be taken very seriously. The President expects anyone in the administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. And the President believes that if -- anyone who has information relating to this investigation should report that information to the Department of Justice.
And remind me at the end, a quick update on some scheduling matters, I'll give you an announcement on that. But with that, I'm glad to take questions.
QUESTION: Has the President talked to any of his staff members since yesterday and asked them point blank if they were the ones who disclosed this information?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple things. One, the White House Counsel spoke with the President this morning and informed him about the Department of Justice investigation. And the President made it very clear at that time that he expects the White House to cooperate fully. As I said yesterday, I don't get into discussing conversations the President has with his staff and advisors. But the President wants to get to the bottom of this and expects the White House to cooperate fully in every way.
Q: Scott, do you expect the President might address this briefly at the pool spray, when we go in at the roundtable?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the pool event is his meeting with business leaders, so his focus will be on the economy and I expect he'll make some remarks on the economy. Obviously, there is always the possibility you will get to ask questions.
Q: So, Scott, just so we have the scene set right, the President was informed of this by the White House Counsel with himself and senior staff members at what time this morning?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he was informed by White House Counsel. Our senior staff meets daily at 7:30 a.m. every morning. And our Counsel, White House Counsel informed senior staff at that point.
Q: Okay, without the President present?
MR. McCLELLAN: Right. That's just a senior staff meeting. The President doesn't attend those meetings.
Q: How was the President informed?
MR. McCLELLAN: By the White House Counsel this morning.
Q: So following the senior staff meeting --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, before.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Because Counsel's Office made it very clear that the President had directed the White House to cooperate fully.
Q: So was that at about 7:00 a.m. this morning that the President would have been informed directly by the White House Counsel?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd say around that time.
Q: Around 7:00 a.m.?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q: So last night the letter comes from DOJ, but --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no. There's no letter yet. They contacted Counsel's Office to inform them that they opened an investigation and that they would be sending us a letter tomorrow.
Q: But he didn't -- the Counsel didn't inform the President at that point last night?
MR. McCLELLAN: He informed him this morning. Because Counsel's Office -- well, Counsel's Office was the one that was contacted, and the Department of Justice -- again, the Counsel's Office said that we are ready to proceed and notify White House staff tonight, and they said tomorrow morning would be fine.
Q: So that could be read as the Department of Justice giving the White House overnight to prepare for the upcoming letter.
MR. McCLELLAN: Maura, I think that's just a silly suggestion.
Q: Has anybody come forward at this point and talked to you or the President about saying that they spoke to the press about this?
MR. McCLELLAN: I still have -- it's still the same as what I said yesterday. There is nothing that has come to our attention, beyond what was in the media reports, to suggest that there was any White House involvement in the leaking of classified information.
Q: Are you explicitly not asking, having an internal White House inquiry into this? Are you explicitly not asking questions of White House --
MR. McCLELLAN: We are cooperating fully with the Department of Justice, that's why we sent out -- why the White House Counsel sent out the memo this morning requesting all White House staffers to preserve any information that could be related to this investigation and notified the staff that we will be sending out an additional memo once we know what specific info the Department of Justice is requesting. So we will be cooperating fully with this investigation in that manner. That's where things stand at this point.
Q: So no one inside the White House is asking anyone else inside the White House who may have leaked this information?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's the Department of Justice that is looking into this matter because they are the law enforcement agency charged with looking into this matter. And we will be cooperating with them every step of the way.
MR. McCLELLAN: Does the CIA what?
Q: Does the CIA --
MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to talk to the Justice Department about any information provided to -- I don't know of any information -- I don't know what information has been provided to the Department of Justice, that's a question for the Department of Justice.
Q: Does the White House acknowledge that the leaks did, in fact, take place and emanate from the White House or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: I just said that there has been no information brought to our attention, or that has come to our attention, beyond what we've seen in media reports, to suggest that there was White House involvement in the leaking of classified information.
Q: Scott, will all White House staff now be represented by Alberto Gonzales as White House Counsel? Or is it possible that --
MR. McCLELLAN: No. No, that's not the way it works.
Q: Can you walk us through that a little bit?
MR. McCLELLAN: If information is reported to the Counsel's Office they would be obligated to report that information to the Department of Justice. Typically, if you go back to when we were asked for information previously, relating to Enron's financial condition, there were questionnaires that were filled out and responded to, and that information was provided --
Q: Right. But I mean if they need legal advice or --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- that information was provided to the Department of Justice. The Counsel's Office requested if anybody has information related to this or questions relating to it, they should contact -- they can contact the Counsel's Office. And beyond that, I mean, I'm not a lawyer, so I --
Q: I'm not, either. But say that I work at the White House, and I maybe knew something, but I don't think I did anything wrong, but I'm not sure -- can I -- do I then go to the Counsel's Office?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that what it says in the memo. If you look at the memo it says, it's to report information. But if they have questions to, you know -- no, well, no. If they have information related to this investigation, it should be reported to the Department of Justice. If they have questions about it, they can contact Counsel's Office.
Q: Is anyone going to get outside counsel because --
MR. McCLELLAN: I have no knowledge of anyone.
Q: Has the President spoken to the Attorney General about this?
MR. McCLELLAN: The Department of Justice contacted the Counsel's Office. And, again, the same thing, I don't get into conversations the President has with his staff or advisors.
Q: No, but, I mean, has the President talked to the Attorney General, himself?
MR. McCLELLAN: About?
Q: This issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any conversations that happened, beyond the contacts -- beyond the Justice Department contact to inform us that they had opened an investigation.
Q: Has the President had any communication won't White House staff, other than his conversation with the General Counsel this morning in which he said --
MR. McCLELLAN: I refer you back to my previous -- well, go ahead.
Q: Other than the statement that he gave to the General Counsel, asking all White House staff to cooperate?
MR. McCLELLAN: I refer you back to my previous comments, when I said I don't get into conversations that the President has with his senior staff and advisors.
Q: Just, Scott, and this is maybe a silly question, but people always ask me, what's the mood at the White House? So what's the mood? Are people apprehensive or do people feel like, look, I'm ready for this?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we welcome this investigation.
Q: -- this morning that the President had his --
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, leaking classified information is a serious matter, particularly classified information of this nature. The President wants to get to the bottom of this and he expects anyone -- anyone -- throughout his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. So we look forward and welcome this investigation, and hopefully we'll get to the bottom of this.
Q: Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
Q: Wait, another subject?
Q: Can we ask you a couple other questions on another topic?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I guess so.
Q: There's a report in the New York Times today that Joe Allbaugh and some other insiders are setting up a company -- have set up a company to try to help other companies get contracts, business contracts in Iraq. Is that an appropriate way for Joe Allbaugh and others to use their contacts at the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know exactly what -- you need to talk to them about those questions. He no longer works for the administration. There are certain obligations you have under ethics laws when you work in the administration, and I fully expect he would be adhering to those.
Q: You said there were some scheduling matters?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, two announcements. Let me update you on some campaign, political events. On Thursday, October 9th, the President will go to Lexington, Kentucky, where he'll participate in an Ernie Fletcher for Governor luncheon. On Wednesday, October 15th, the president will participate in a Bush-Cheney luncheon in Fresno, California.
Q: On the 13th?
MR. McCLELLAN: On the 15th.
Q: Is that on his way to Asia?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. And on -- in fact, that evening, the President will participate in a Bush-Cheney reception in Riverside, California. Then on Friday, October 24th, he'll participate in a Bush-Cheney campaign event in Honolulu. And then on Thursday, October 30th, the President will participate in a Bush-Cheney luncheon in Columbus, Ohio and a Bush-Cheney reception in San Antonio, Texas.
Thank you very much.
Q: Is the President -- I'm sorry -- Bush-Cheney?
MR. McCLELLAN: The luncheon is Bush-Cheney. The only one that is not a Bush-Cheney event is the Fletcher for Governor.
Q: Thank you.
END 10:19 A.M. EDT
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