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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

White House Briefing

Aired March 31, 2004 - 13:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Want to take you straight to the White House briefing now. Scott McClellan addressing Iraq with reporters. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, that's what I just pointed out. Independent analysts have looked at this and they've talked about how it would have a negligible effect. And, in fact, if you go back to some recent action that was taken, it showed that it had a negligible effect on gas prices.

QUESTION: Did anyone at the White House approve the Treasury's decision to analyze Kerry's tax plan?

MCCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Do they think that that's proper for civil servants to be doing that kind of work?

MCCLELLAN: For the Treasury Department to do analysis of...

QUESTION: For the civil servants to be...

MCCLELLAN: ... tax proposals?

QUESTION: For civil servants to be...

MCCLELLAN: I don't know if I agree with the characterization of your question. I think you ought to talk to the Treasury Department. I think they have addressed this matter.

QUESTION: A second question on Richard Clarke: A lot has been made about Dr. Rice's testimony -- whether she would testify -- but not a lot has been made about the perjury charges that Bill Frist made on Friday on the Senate floor. He said basically that Mr. Clarke had two different stories under oath. Isn't that perjury? And should he be prosecuted for that?

MCCLELLAN: Well, those are decisions that others make obviously. You know, I think that this is a decision that was made by Senate leaders. They made a request of us, and our role is to look at those issues and see what could be declassified.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCLELLAN: Well, that was a decision...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCLELLAN: Can I finish? That was a decision by congressional leaders.

QUESTION: If he did have two different contradictory statements under oath, shouldn't he be prosecuted for perjury?

MCCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to get into a speculation about that. We've made our views very well known. I think most Americans view Dick Clarke and his contradictions as yesterday's story. This is about the war on terrorism, and the important role that the 9/11 commission plays in helping us move forward in the war on terrorism.

We have taken significant steps since September 11th to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent another attack from happening. And the work of the 9/11 commission is very important, particularly if they can help provide us additional recommendations beyond what we've already done that would help prevent another attack from happen.

QUESTION: Can you explain to us why the White House requested that the president and vice president jointly answer questions as opposed to separately?

MCCLELLAN: Well, one, we've said from the very beginning that it's important for the 9/11 commission to have all the information they need to do their job, and we've worked very closely and cooperatively with the 9/11 commission to make sure that they have all that information. We have provided, as the chairman and vice chairman have pointed out, unprecedented access to information from the administration to the 9/11 commission, including our most sensitive national security documents.

MCCLELLAN: And that's the spirit in which we have worked.

Now, keep in mind that the 9/11 commission already has more than 2.3 million pages of documents. There have been more than a hundred briefings, and that includes at the head-of-agency level. And there've been more than 800 interviews and meetings with administration officials. Some 900 audio cassette tapes of meetings and other materials have been provided to them, and more than 60 compact discs of radar, flight and other information.

So they already have a lot of information, and we want to work in a way that helps make sure that they have the information they need.

The commission very much welcomed the decision of the president and vice president to sit down together and meet with the entire commission and answer whatever questions they want to raise with the president and vice president.

This is a good way to make sure that they're getting the information that they need to do their job.

QUESTION: Why the specific insistence that they be together? I mean...

MCCLELLAN: This is a good way to help them get the information they need and do so in a timely manner.

Remember, they've already got a lot of the information, they've already conducted a lot of the interviews, and what they're trying to do is get the information they need to complete their work and provide a full report to the American people. And we are helping every step of the way, and this is a way that will help them move forward in those efforts.

QUESTION: Why is the joint session better than separate sessions, which is what they asked for?

MCCLELLAN: Well, one, it'll help make sure they get that information in a timely manner. They can talk to both of them and help better understand how to piece together all the information that they've already received.

QUESTION: Last Friday, Senator Tom Daschle vowed that all of the president's nominees -- that number's about 45 -- will be held up in retaliation for the recess appointments of Judges Pickering and Pryor. Is the president willing to give up his constitutional prerogative and bow to the will of the minority?

MCCLELLAN: This is unfortunate, that a minority of Senate Democrats continue to play politics with our nation's judicial system and with the judicial nominees of the president of the United States.

A majority of senators support these highly qualified nominees that are being held up, and the president acted in a couple of instances to fill judicial emergencies -- seats that needed judges in place so that they could rule on important matters for the American people.

PHILLIPS: White House press secretary Scott McClellan, address reporters there in the daily briefing. We were listening to it on a number of issues, focusing particularly on Iraq and the attacks that have been happening in Fallujah.

Scott McClellan saying despite the attacks, no matter how cruel they get, the U.S. is not going to be intimidated by what's happening there. Because as you know, today was one of the deadliest days this year for the coalition in Iraq.

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