The White House Press Corps came roaring back today, discovering the "Is Karl Rove Guilty of Leaking a CIA Operative's Name" story — just nine days after most other media began reporting it.
And — Whoa, Nelly! — did they batter McClellan, early and often, with questions. A whopping 33 questions, including ones in which the press corrected McClellan spin (huzzah!), pointed out contradictions in McClellan statements (huzzah!), and openly suggested that McClellan was snowing them in saying he "couldn't" comment (huzzah!).
Unfortunately, McClellan offered a lot of variations of "I can't answer that" and "I've already said I can't answer that." Clearly, it was frustrating to the press corps.
But cheers nonetheless to these reporters for finally having the gumption to ask about the topic, and get McClellan on the record — albeit a few days later than some would want. If only they were always this relentless in their pursuit for the truth.
Some key exchanges, from the official transcript:
Q Does the President stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak of a name of a CIA operative?
McCLELLAN: Terry, I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked relating to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point. And as I've previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it. The President directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation, and as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren't going to comment on it while it is ongoing.
Q Excuse me, but I wasn't actually talking about any investigation. But in June of 2004, the President said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak, to press of information. And I just want to know, is that still his position?
McCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that's why I said that our policy continues to be that we're not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium. The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium. And so that's why we are not going to get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation, or questions related to it.
Q Scott, if I could — if I could point out, contradictory to that statement, on September 29th, 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one who said, if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired. And then on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation is when the President made his comment that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved. So why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now you've suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, "We're not going to comment on an ongoing investigation"?