Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:37 P.M. EST
MR. MCCLELLAN: Hello. Happy Friday to everyone. Let me begin with one announcement, and then I want to make a couple comments on the economy.
The President, today, is announcing his intention to nominate Randy Kroszner and Kevin Warsh to be members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Randy is a professor of economics in the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago. He was previously a member of the Council of Economic Advisors. And Kevin is a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy here at the White House. He previously served as Executive Director and Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions in the Investment Banking Division of Morgan Stanley.
And, secondly, I'd like to talk about the economy. Real GDP for the past year grew at 3.5 percent. That is above the 50-year historical average of 3.3 percent. The latest numbers came out for the 4th quarter -- the preliminary estimate of the 4th quarter numbers showing it grew at 1.1 percent. Everyone anticipated a slowdown from the rapid growth that we were experiencing previous -- experiencing in previous quarters.
The preliminary estimate is lower than what was expected, but I think it's important to look behind the numbers. The reason for this goes to the effects of the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. That took an estimated half percentage point off GDP because of the increase in imports of crude oil, and oil and gas production in the Gulf Coast region being lower. Motor vehicle sales were down significantly, after a surge in the previous quarter. That is estimated to take another .6 percent off GDP growth.
What is important to look at is our economic foundation is strong. Job creation is up. We've seen 4.6 million jobs created since May of 2003, 2 million last year alone; 400,000 jobs in the past two months. Unemployment is down to 4.9 percent, well below the averages of the '70s, '80s and '90s. Independent forecasters continue to believe that there will be strong growth in the quarters ahead and in the year ahead.
We are confident about the path we are on because of the policies this President has pursued and the policies we have put in place. Our policies are working to keep the economy growing and creating jobs. It's important that we continue to act on pro-growth policies. That means keeping taxes low, reining in spending, improving education and health care, and making sure that workers have the job training they need to fill the jobs of the 21st century.
And with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q: So you're not disappointed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Terry, we're confident and optimistic about the path that the economy is on because of the policies that are in place. Our policies are working to keep the economy growing and creating jobs, as I pointed out. Unemployment insurance claims, that came out for the last four weeks yesterday, show that we should expect very strong job growth, going ahead. And so it's important to look at the overall picture. We can look at the one number, but when you look behind those numbers, you can see why we are confident. And when you look at fundamentals of the economy, the fundamentals are strong. And so that's why we're optimistic about the path that the economy is on. And I think you're also seeing that in reaction from independent economic experts today and from the markets, as well.
Q: Can I ask you about the Middle East?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, next question? (Laughter.)
Q: Abbas says that Fatah is not going to be in a cabinet with Hamas, and Israel says it won't negotiate with Hamas. These developments have come out today. Where do things stand now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's a Palestinian constitutional process that is now underway in terms of the formation of the new government. We'll see how that process unfolds and see how the government forms. I think the President made clear what our views were yesterday. The best way to get to the two-state vision that the President has outlined is to continue to move forward on the vision that has been outlined. That's the way to get to peace. The best way to get to peace is through the two-state vision that the President outlined. And we'll see how it unfolds. I'm not going to try to speculate about a government that has yet to form at this point.
If it turns out to be a government that is of Hamas, I think we've made our views very clear on Hamas and our views remain unchanged. And as the President indicated yesterday, and as many others -- the Quartet and others -- made it very clear, that you can't have one foot in politics and one foot in terror. There's -- that's a contradiction that needs to be resolved.
Q: Does that mean, Scott, that the United States could not recognize a Palestinian parliament with the Hamas party in it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: Does that the mean that the United States could find itself not recognizing a Palestinian parliament with a majority of Hamas?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, again, I'm not going to speculate about this point. We'll see how the government forms. But our views on Hamas remain unchanged. And we've made very clear what our views are and what our policy is with regards to Hamas. But the Palestinian people, as the President indicated yesterday, voted for change. But their aspirations for peace and a peaceful life remain unchanged. And the way to get to peace is through the two-state vision that the President outlined. And that's what we will remain committed to. The Quartet put out a statement yesterday, as well, reinforcing what it has previously said, which is that that contradiction needs to be resolved if you're going to participate in the political process. When it comes to an organization that is participating in the political -- in the democratic process, but remains armed outside of that process --
Q: Scott, can I follow that up?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, let me go to Kelly. I'll come to you.
Q: How can you describe a belief that the Palestinian people, through their vote, wanted peace, when they voted for a group that does espouse violence and maintains an armed militia? Those things seem to be in conflict.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, I think the President actually addressed that yesterday in his remarks. He talked about the power of democracy. Democracy puts the people in charge. And the people want peace; the people want responsive government. And they voted to change the status quo. And the President said it should be an eye opener to people in the -- leaders in the Palestinian Territory. They voted to change the status quo. They're concerned about things like corruption in the government. They were concerned about making sure that their needs were being met. And democracy leads to government that is responsive. And if it's not responsive, then the people have the opportunity to hold that government accountable and change.
Q: But they also chose a group that has violent intentions.
MR. McCLELLAN: And I just pointed -- what the President pointed out yesterday, you have to look at what they voted for. It was voting for change. But the aspirations of the Palestinian people is one of peace. The Palestinian people believe in an open and tolerant society, and they believe in a diversity of views. I think we've seen that through their actions. They also want government that is responsive to their needs. And in terms of Hamas, as we've said, our views remain unchanged.
Q: Let me just --
MR. McCLELLAN: And -- anyway, go ahead.
Q: -- touch on a separate topic, you may want to come back to Hamas. Senator Reid and Senator Schumer are asking for a more full cooperation on the Abramoff situation with releasing all contacts, WHCA and phone logs, and all of those sorts of things. What is your -- we've talked about this a lot, but what is your response, specifically, to that, and their request for --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President made very clear what our views were. And Mr. Abramoff was involved in wrongdoing. He has admitted wrongdoing. It was outrageous behavior. The Department of Justice is holding him to account for that wrongdoing, and the career team over at the Department of Justice is continuing to investigate the matter, as they should. And the President -- beyond that, the President made pretty clear what our views were.
Q: What would be the implication for U.S. assistance to the Palestinians if Hamas is part of this government?
MR. McCLELLAN: What would be the implications for our assistance? Well, first of all, I think Secretary Rice spoke last night, and she talked about how we recognize that the Palestinian people have humanitarian needs. And I said that I don't want to get into speculating about what the new government may be like. That is in the process of forming now. As the President said, he would like -- we would like to see President Abbas stay in office, and continue to work to move the peace process forward.
We've made it very clear that we do not and will not deal with Hamas because it is a terrorist organization that has as part of its platform, the destruction of Israel. And so our views are very clear when it comes to Hamas.
Now, in terms of assistance that we provide, if Hamas is the government, then we have a policy and legal framework in place that we would have to look at. And we would make decisions at that point. We would review what our assistance is and make decisions at that point.
Q: Now, separately, Israel, as they watch this process unfold, do you have a message for them?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, what the President emphasized yesterday was our commitment to the two-state vision. The two-state vision is the way to achieve peace in the Middle East. The international community has strongly stated their support for the two-state vision. And that's what we're committed to working toward. That's the way you achieve peace in the Middle East.
Q: So then you're saying "if" Hamas is the government, well, there doesn't seem to be any doubt that it will be based on the election results and on what's happening over there today. So what you're really saying, it seems to me, is that unless Hamas renounces the charter provision that calls for the destruction of Israel, the U.S. won't deal with it.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President made our view very clear yesterday. We don't deal with Hamas because Hamas is a terrorist organization.
Q: Follow-up question, how do you know that it is simply a reaction to local conditions, corruption, and local problems that caused the election of Hamas?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that you can look at what was taking place. And the President referred to -- the President referred to the "old guard" that was there.
Q: Right. But why --
MR. McCLELLAN: But we believe -- we believe very strongly that people around the world, and societies around the world want to, one, live in freedom; and, two, that they want peace. And I think that's very clear from what the Palestinian people have said over the years. They want peace.
Q: Where do they say this? I don't --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you can go and talk to people in that region, and you will hear them say that, yes, they want peace. The people in that society --
Q: You keep laying it all off on the problems that they had with corruption and leadership.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, elections are about the government and it's about a competition of ideas, as the President talked about yesterday. I don't think you can ignore those facts.
Q: Have there been any contacts with Hamas, other than your public statements here, and the President's, in terms of trying to reach them or see what can happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: We don't deal with Hamas, as I stated.
Q: Does the President believe Mahmoud Abbas should refuse to form a coalition with Hamas?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes that the Palestinian people have gone to the polls in large numbers, in a peaceful way, free of violence, and we congratulate the Palestinian people for doing that. They have spoken at the ballot box. And now President Abbas will move forward with the new legislative leaders and work on forming a government. And that's for the Palestinian people to decide, and they have spoken at the ballot box.
Q: Can the President move forward on the two-state vision while refusing to engage with a Hamas-controlled government?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, two things. One, we're going to continue working with President Abbas and working with the current government that is in place. We'll see how the new government unfolds.
David, go ahead.
Q: Scott, I'm just trying to detangle that last statement because if the -- the new government clearly will be controlled by Hamas. You've set out for us a very clear message: We don't deal with Hamas. You're saying you do deal with President Abbas. And so you're in the situation now of having to deal sooner or later with a government that will be controlled by Hamas one way or another. So is that -- are you telling us that you will be not dealing with Hamas right now?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know how I can be more clear to you. We've stated our views on Hamas. They remain unchanged. And, two, I'm not going to speculate about a government that is in the process of unfolding at this point --
Q: But that government clearly will --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- or the formation of a government that is unfolding at this point.
Q: We don't need to speculate about what form it will take. It clearly -- it clearly will be dominated by Hamas by virtue of this free election. So the question is --
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll see what the formation of the government is.
Q: Thank you, Scott. Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws, individuals are permitted an aggregate amount of $37,500 to donate to candidates during a year, 57,500 political action committees and party committees in a year. There are no aggregate limits on what PACs can donate. And PACs have to register with the Federal Election Commission.
Neither the aggregate limits nor registration apply to Indian tribes. They have an exemption in the law. My question, then, is, does the President believe that the law should be amended to apply the same campaign finance rules to Indian tribes, that apply to Indians and political action committees? And does he believe that Indian reservations should be treated as sovereign nations?
MR. McCLELLAN: Two things. One, the President has supported reform when it comes to our campaign finance laws. He signed some common-sense reforms into law because he believed they helped improve the system. And so that's the standard that he looks at when he looks at such legislation.
Secondly, we want to continue working with Congress as they look at reforms that they may want to pursue, as well. Congress has indicated that they're looking at some reforms; we want to continue working with them. The President has also spoken out about the need to reform these 527 groups, to make sure that they are held to the same standards as other political organizations. And so we'll continue working with Congress on these issues as they move forward, too.
Q: Well, does he also believe, then, that the same kind of, you called it "common-sense" regulations should apply to Indian tribes?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll work with Congress on these issues.
Q: So you're saying he would support a measure such as Congressman Simmons of Connecticut introduced, and which didn't see the light of day?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't looked at that specific piece of legislation.
Q: Can I ask you to clarify your answer to Steve about economic aid to the Palestinians? Did you say if Hamas is the government, we have a policy in place to deal with that? What does that mean?
MR. McCLELLAN: A policy in place to deal with that? No, I said there is a policy in --
Q: There is?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's policy and legal requirements that we have. And if Hamas is the government, then we would review aspects of our aid program under that policy and legal framework that's in place.
Q: Isn't it, though, U.S. policy, if you're not negotiating with terrorists, not dealing with terrorists, not, therefore, supporting terrorists, wouldn't it be a requirement for the United States, under its own policy, to cut off aid to a Palestinian government --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I indicated to you earlier in that statement we do not, and will not, give money to a terrorist organization.
Q: Can I also ask you, on Senator Kerry's comments, what is your reaction to the filibuster call by Senator Kerry, on Judge Alito?
MR. McCLELLAN: On his call yesterday? It was a pretty historic day. This was the first time ever that a Senator has called for a filibuster from the slopes of Davos, Switzerland. I think even for a Senator, it takes some pretty serious yodeling to call for a filibuster from a five-star ski resort in the Swiss Alps. (Laughter.)
Q: But you know he's not there skiing.
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I didn't ask you to yodel. I can hear you. (Laughter.)
Go ahead, Paula.
Q: On the economy, the Congressional Budget Office, yesterday, said that the only way the administration would be able to cut the deficit in half by 2009 is to not extend all these expiring tax provisions, combined with factoring in Iraqi War costs. So I wondered what your response is to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: My response is that our economy is strong and growing, and we need to keep it growing and keep it creating jobs. And the worst prescription for our economy right now would be to raise taxes. You are talking about a $1.3 trillion tax increase on Americans and working families if you raise those taxes, as you suggest. The President has talked about -- and then I would point out that working families would be particularly hard-hit. We know that energy prices have been high, health care costs have risen, and we want more families to be keeping their hard-earned dollars. The government shouldn't be taking that money away from them. We want them saving and spending and investing. That's the way to keep our economy growing, and that, in turn, keeps money coming into -- keeps revenue coming into the federal budget, as well.
And think about what the President has said, too, about the impact it would have on a family of four making $50,000. They would see a nearly 50-percent tax hike if those tax cuts are not made permanent.
Q: But do you dispute the CBO's --
MR. McCLELLAN: What we've got -- and we'll be coming out with our budget again here shortly -- what is important to do in the budget is set clear priorities, fund those priorities, make sure you're meeting your most important responsibilities, such as protecting our nation from threats, and then hold the line on spending elsewhere. Congress is taking some important steps to rein in spending. We need to continue to build upon that. And that's what this President is committed to doing. We're going to keep us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009, as the President has said.
Q: And, also, on Medicare prescription drug program, since it took effect, some drug companies have discontinued their patient assistance program, which means up to 1 million disabled and elderly are no longer getting free medication. Is the administration trying to address this problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the neediest Americans, the neediest seniors and people with disabilities are fully covered under Medicare and getting their prescription drug coverage free of charge. That was why it was important to move forward and pass Medicare reform to provide seniors and people with disabilities with the kind of drug coverage that members of Congress have already had.
And this President led on that effort to modernize Medicare, provide better benefits and more choices. And people that fall into the categories of the lowest income Americans and the neediest Americans, and those people with disabilities are automatically enrolled in the new Medicare program, where they are getting prescription drug coverage. And as I said, the neediest are getting that coverage free. And then those that are lower-income, maybe not the neediest, are realizing almost completely free prescription drug coverage, if not free drug coverage under this Medicare program.
Many Americans, many seniors that previously did not have prescription drug coverage are now getting it and realizing significant savings. And we're in the middle of a very large transition, and the Department of Health and Human Services and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service is working to correct any problems as we move forward on a transition, and working to make sure that seniors are getting the drugs they need.
Q: But, excuse me, the problem is, some critics have said, that under this current program, you would have to basically have up to $5,000 in drug costs before catastrophic insurance would kick in. That would be close to $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses by some that are not covered --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has said very clearly that the government has a responsibility to make sure that we're meeting the health care needs of the poorest Americans and our elderly, and that we have an obligation to do that. And we also have an obligation to address rising health care costs. That's why the President is moving forward on initiatives to make health care more affordable, accessible, and portable. That's an important aspect to keep in mind, as well.
But this Medicare legislation is providing seniors and people with disabilities with the kind of coverage that they didn't have before. And many Americans are realizing significant savings. And I think if you ask people in the program, many of those seniors who are now receiving that coverage will say it's working very well for them. For those who are transitioning and there's still some glitches, we're working to address that, working with the states very closely.
Q: Back on Hamas again for a second. Insofar as the President said yesterday and you said today that you can't do business with a group that engages in terrorism -- and the President mentioned yesterday can't have an armed wing and can't have destruction of Israel and its plank -- as Bill mentioned, to renounce that plank in the platform related to Israel -- the President said, can't have an armed wing.
If we're talking about, sort of, the rehabilitation of terrorist groups, or a way in which organizations that have had this kind of a history can now become part of the body politic -- and Sinn Fein and the IRA is an example, or whatever -- is it as simple as that, renounce the plank relative to Israel and give up their weapons and disarm, and then suddenly Hamas is a legitimate partner to be trusted? And, if so, how does the international community, how does the U.S. enforce it, make sure that it happens? I mean, if they were to say, yes, we do all those things, these are organizations and histories of people and cultures where there's a lot of violence regardless of what's said.
MR. McCLELLAN: You have the Quartet in place, that is very committed to working toward the two-state vision. You have a road map that was adopted. And, again, in terms of the contradiction that you bring up, that's a contradiction that has to be resolved by the Palestinian people. You can't have one foot in politics when you have the other in terror. You can't be participating in a peaceful democratic process and then operating outside of that process in violence and terror, or armed -- be armed outside of that process. And that's what the President talked about yesterday. The Quartet put out a statement about that, as well.
Many European leaders talked about it, too, that if you're going to participate in the democratic process and be part of that process, then you have to renounce terror and violence, and renounce a platform that calls for the destruction of Israel. The people in the region aspire to live in peace, and we want to help them move forward to that two-state vision because the two-state vision is the way you achieve peace. Democracies lead to peace.
Q: Looking ahead to next week's speech, what broad message does the President hope to send with this year's State of the Union?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has talked to you -- he talked to you just yesterday about some of what he would say, so I'm not going to go too much further than that. But the President will chart a path forward for America in his remarks. He will talk about our actions to extend peace abroad and prosperity at home. And you heard him yesterday, he talked about how we as a nation have always been better and stronger when we're working to shape events, rather than being shaped by those events. We live in historic times, and it's important that we continue to lead and work to shape those events to build a better, stronger and safer America.
And the President will have some new policies that he'll talk about that will reflect the priorities that the American people care most about. But this is more of a visionary and directional speech than it is a laundry list of proposals. So it's more thematic in nature is what he'll be talking about. And you heard some of the areas that he'll touch on yesterday when he started the press conference here in this room. The President is optimistic about our future and confident about the path we are charting to make our country safer and stronger and better.
Q: But last year's speech was about setting -- about preparing the groundwork for a broad -- at least in part -- for a broad social and political change. What kind of an objective does he have for this year's speech?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I kind of just gave you a hint of it. I don't want to go too much further than that at this point. It's still a few days off. You'll still be hearing more from him. He's going to be participating in some speech preparation later this afternoon. He's already participated in some earlier this week that was really focused more on the editing of the remarks. It's more of an editing session. And you'll hear more from him soon.
Q: How long is it running?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll give you an estimate as we get closer to it.
Q: Thank you. Scott, if this question was asked already, excuse me, but we could not get in. They have everybody out, nobody could get in.
MR. McCLELLAN: Glad you're in.
Q: This is my question -- I have two. A tunnel half a mile long has been discovered between Mexico and the United States. This well-constructed tunnel was reportedly used to smuggle drugs. But a Homeland Security official says, it could also have been used by terrorists to transport people and weapons into the U.S. Is the President concerned that homeland security is almost impossible when our southern border can be so easily penetrated?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we commend our customs and border officials for the job that they do. They were -- they have discovered some tunnels recently, and it's important that those tunnels be shut down -- and that's what they're doing -- for whatever purpose that they're serving, whether it's to smuggle people illegally into the country, or for drug trafficking. And so we commend them for the work that they're doing.
And we also have some other concerns that we've been focused on recently, as well, when it comes to border security. But our border security officials are working round-the-clock to step up efforts to enforce our borders, and we appreciate the job that they do. And you just pointed out one example of success.
Q: I have one more question. The President says he will not deal with Hamas as long as it is committed to the destruction of Israel. But since Hamas is now the duly-elected party of the Palestinians, how can the United States ignore it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I did -- I was asked this question earlier in the briefing, and I've already kind of gone through it a couple of times.
Q: Scott, I have a two-part. Within hours of the President's statement "a political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal," former President Jimmy Carter held a news conference in Jerusalem, where The Jerusalem Post reports he "urged the international community to directly or indirectly fund the new Palestinian government, even though it will be led by an internationally declared terror organization." And my first question. Does the White House know of any Jimmy Carter plea for the support of a mafia? And why would that be any worse than this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think the President made his views pretty clear yesterday that you can't be a partner in peace if you have as part of your platform the destruction of Israel. The President wants peace. I think the Palestinian people want peace. And that's what we're committed to. We're committed to the vision that the President outlined. And many others are, as well, and that's where we are.
Q: So what about President Carter? What does he have to say about President Carter?
MR. McCLELLAN: You want to ask President Carter, you can ask President Carter about his remarks. But we've made our views very clear.
Q: On the day after the imperial Japanese at Pearl Harbor killed a smaller number of Americans than were killed on 9/11, the 1941 Republican leadership came as a group to the White House to pledge support in wartime to Democrat President Roosevelt. And my question: Have any of the Democratic leadership come to the White House to assure President Bush of their strong support in this war?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Les, I think that all of us here in this town believe it's important to act to protect the American people. And one of the things the President will be talking about in his remarks is the importance of working together to address our national security and strengthen our national security.
Q: Have the Democrats ever come, like they did in 1941 -- like the Republicans?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we just had some Democrats here that were just here earlier this week talking about the importance of succeeding in Iraq. There were Democrats and Republicans sitting in there, in the Roosevelt Room. The President thought it was important to reach out to them as he has done with other Democrats and Republicans in Congress. And he will continue to do so, reaching out to work with them on these important priorities. All of us stand firmly behind our troops, and we must work together to make sure they have what they need to get the job done. And that's what this President has done and will continue to do.
And it's important to listen to ideas from others. And that's part of what the President has been doing, as well.
Q: Scott, can I just have a quick follow-up --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Victoria. I'll come back to you. Go ahead. You're jumping in. Hang on. Go ahead.
Q: Scott, you said the other day that Michael Brown is now a private citizen. And in reply to a question about the Katrina investigation yesterday, President Bush talked about executive privilege. Do you expect the White House -- or does the White House intend to have Michael Brown use executive privilege? Or can he use executive privilege if and when he testifies?
MR. McCLELLAN: You're asking me a complete hypothetical. I don't know what the plans are. He's already testified. I don't know what his plans are down the road in terms of the hearings or anything. I'm not going to try to speculate on something like that from this podium. But what we're going to do is continue to work in a cooperative way with the House and Senate.
In fact, as the President said, "a fellow named Rapuano," our deputy Homeland Security Advisor, Ken Rapuano is, or was back on the Hill this morning talking with the committees and providing them information so that they can do their job. We want to do everything we can to help them do their job. There's also a separation of powers issue involved here that the President talked about yesterday -- and I've talked about this week, as well -- and it's not relating to this particular matter. That's something that's been a long precedent that's been in place for quite some time.
But we've provided some 120 officials for interviews or to testify before the committees. And we're going to continue working in a cooperative way to make sure they have what they need to do their job. Hundreds of thousands of pages of documents have been provided to the committee, as well.
We've also got the comprehensive lessons learned review going on here at the White House, and that's nearing completion. The President's Homeland Security Advisor, Fran Townsend, is overseeing that. It's important that we identify what worked and what didn't work, and then apply the lessons learned to future events. And that's what we will do.
Q: The Senate is still saying that despite the many documents you have handed over, they don't necessarily have what they need, and that they need the documents so that they can determine whether they're relevant.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a lot of documents that you reference that I've seen reported in the media. So, obviously, they're getting their documents. There were some earlier this week.
Q: Well, they say that they're not.
MR. McCLELLAN: April, go ahead.
Q: Scott, what is Mr. Rapuano, or Ms. Rapuano's position?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mister.
Q: Mister, okay. What is Mr. Rapuano's position?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor.
Q: Okay. And what specific --
MR. McCLELLAN: And he does a great job.
Q: Okay. Well, what specifically did he testify about as the President is trying to withhold some information, conversations that were clandestine? What did he specifically hear that wasn't clandestine?
MR. McCLELLAN: I can't agree with your characterization there and the way you make it sound, first of all. But he was -- I don't have a report from the hearings -- or it wasn't a hearing, I guess it was a specialized briefing. He had provided a specialized briefing before. Secretary Chertoff has testified; others have testified before the committees. But we felt this was an important way to help them get the information they need to do their job.
But the President believes senators ought to be able to have confidential conversations with their advisors, and most presidents have felt that they ought to have the right to have confidential conversations with their advisors, too.
Q: So are you saying that confidential conversations are not clandestine? Is that what you -- I mean, confidential, private and secret? I mean, don't you mesh those two words?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's important for the President of the United States to be able to receive open, candid, and honest advice from his staff. It's important for members of the Senate to receive that same kind of advice. And the President talked about the chilling effect it would have if that principle was violated.
Q: The Fatah demonstrations in Gaza, would you just tell us, is the President concerned about unrest in the Palestinian territories?
MR. McCLELLAN: The Quartet put out a statement yesterday saying that it's important to respect the elections and to respect the constitutional process that is in place as it moves forward, and do so in an atmosphere of calm and security. And so we continue to urge that, as well.
Carl, you had something.
Q: Yes, thanks, Scott. Your answer to the question about President Carter's remarks, was that the equivalent of the White House didn't want to dismiss it, cold-shoulder it?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think we have a different view than what he was expressing, and if I didn't make that clear, I apologize. Very different view.
Thank you. Have a good weekend.
END 1:14 P.M. EST
Scott McClellan, Press Briefing by Scott McClellan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/272686