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QUESTION: Scott, is there any movement on working out an arrangement with the 9/11 Commission for the President to be questioned? And is it accurate that he wants to restrict questioning to just a single hour?
McCLELLAN: Well, I think the way I would describe it is that, one, -- a couple of things. One, the President looks forward to meeting with the chairman and vice chairman and providing the commission with the necessary information for it to complete its work. We have great confidence that the chairman and vice chairman can share that information with the entire commission.
I would point out to you that it is extraordinary for a sitting president and vice president to appear before a legislative body such as the 9/11 Commission. The President has agreed to do so because of his support for the important work that the commission is doing. And so he has agreed to a private meeting with the commission. They are looking at an hour, as you pointed out.
And I would point out that Chairman Keane, earlier this morning, went on to talk about the unprecedented cooperation of this administration to the work of the 9/11 Commission. And Chairman Keane said, and this is from an interview on CNN earlier this morning, "We have gotten a lot of cooperation from the President. This is one of the first Presidents to agree to an interview." And he went on to point out, even during the Kennedy administration, Lyndon Johnson wouldn't give them an interview. And then he said -- he went on to talk about the cooperation from day one, "when they helped us get our clearances expedited. They have been helpful. We have now seen the most secret documents in the possession of the United States government. There hasn't been a" -- he went on to say, "There hasn't been a single" -- oh wait -- "we have been able to take notes and they will inform our report. There hasn't been a single thing we have asked for that some members of the staff hasn't seen, not a single person who has refused to be interviewed."
So he went on to talk about the kind of unprecedented cooperation that this administration has provided because the President believes in the important work that this commission is doing.
QUESTION: What's your response to those who suspect that Speaker Hastert is secretly --
QUESTION: Why did they --
McCLELLAN: Helen, I just pointed out the chairman of the commission and his comments. Why isn't that being reported?
QUESTION: But there are other members --
McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Mark. Mark was finishing up.
QUESTION: What's your response to those who say Speaker Hastert is secretly doing the White House bidding in refusing to bring up a two-month extension for the commission?
McCLELLAN: Silly, silly idea. I mean, the President supports extension -- supports the extension that the commission has requested. We've made that view known publicly and privately.
QUESTION: Can I follow on that --
QUESTION: Can you answer Mark's question. Can you answer what Mark asked about the one-hour limit --
McCLELLAN: I said, no. I said -- I confirmed that.
QUESTION: And can I just clarify that ...
McCLELLAN: You were thinking about service, I know, when I mentioned that.
QUESTION: What the commission is asking for in that one hour is the entire commission, not just the chair and vice chair. Are you not agreeing to that --
McCLELLAN: The request came from the chairman and vice chairman, and the President looks forward to meeting privately with --
QUESTION: I know. But they followed up by saying that they want --
McCLELLAN: -- looks forward to meeting privately with the chairman and vice chairman to provide them with the necessary information.
QUESTION: Why not all of them? What's the problem?
McCLELLAN: Helen, we have great confidence that the chairman and vice chairman can share all that information with the rest of the commission.
QUESTION: Why do they have to share it? The others have ears.
McCLELLAN: They're going to have a public report. I talked about how this is extraordinary for a President to sit down with a legislative body such as the 9/11 Commission.
QUESTION: What's the President's problem, really, with meeting all of them?
QUESTION: It's a legislative body? I'm sorry.
McCLELLAN: There are lots of ways -- one, I have always said that there are lots of ways -- it's legislatively created, that's what I'm referring to. There are lots of ways to provide the commission with the information they need to do their work. And we have worked -- we have bent over backwards to provide unprecedented cooperation to the commission.
QUESTION: Not from what we hear.
McCLELLAN: And all you have to do is look back at what the commission chairman said earlier this morning.
QUESTION: Scott, may I follow on that?
McCLELLAN: You may.
QUESTION: First, where the idea of a precedent is concerned, President -- sitting President Gerald Ford went up to Capitol Hill and actually testified before the House Judiciary Committee, so there is a greater precedent than what you're referring to.
My question is, in every speech he gives, President Bush invokes --
McCLELLAN: Keep in mind there are separation of powers issues involved when you're talking about a legislatively created body.
QUESTION: I'm sure President Ford was aware of those. In every speech he gives, President Bush invokes the atrocities of 9/11 and he talks about how that event has impressed on him a determination to always honor the victims of those atrocities in his daily conduct of his office. And I wonder if you could explain with some serious Texan straight talk here, Scott, how it is honoring the victims of 9/11 to restrict the questioning of the President on this subject to one hour?
McCLELLAN: I hope you'll talk about the unprecedented cooperation that we're providing to the commission when you report this, James. Because if you look back at what we've done, it is unprecedented. We have provided more than 2 million pages of documents. We provided more than 60 compact discs of radar, flight and other information; more than 800 audio cassette tapes of interviews and other materials; more than 100 briefings, including at the head-of-agency level; more than 560 interviews. So this administration is cooperating closely and in an unprecedented way with the 9/11 Commission, because their work is very important.
QUESTION: That would have been a very pertinent answer had I asked you about the administration. But, in fact, I asked you about the Presidentâs cooperation.
McCLELLAN: And the President is pleased to sit down with the chairman and vice chairman to provide them with the information they need to do their job. And we believe â¦
QUESTION: Why only one hour? Why only one hour?
McCLELLAN: -- we believe that he can provide them the necessary information in this private meeting.
QUESTION: In 60 minutes, thatâs all it will take?
McCLELLAN: Well, the 9/11 Commission -- look back to what the chairman said earlier this morning. He talked about cooperation and the extraordinary commitment of the President to sit down with the commission.
QUESTION: Can you define legislative body? Why is this --
McCLELLAN: Legislatively created. Congress created the 9/11 Commission.
QUESTION: Scott, did the President ask Hastert, during his meetings this week, to extend the deadline?
McCLELLAN: Iâm sorry? Weâve made our views known to Speaker Hastert, yes.
QUESTION: The President, personally, asked him?
McCLELLAN: And they did discuss it, as well. And Chief of Staff Card also spoke to him about our support for an extension.
QUESTION: Whatâs the response that youâve been getting?
McCLELLAN: Well, we continue to urge Congress to extend it for two months.
QUESTION: So youâve got a nowhere so far?
McCLELLAN: Well, youâve heard Speaker Hastert's comments. Youâve heard other leaders comment on it, as well. And we continue to urge Congress to grant an extension.
QUESTION: The President -- we know Andy Card called Hastert, but the President, himself, as well?
McCLELLAN: They spoke about it earlier this week, as well. The Speaker was here a couple of times this week.