White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan got in a heated row with a White House correspondent at Monday's press briefing over President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program, RAW STORY has learned.
The questioner, outspoken liberal columnist Helen Thomas, has been covering the White House since President John F. Kennedy, asks McClellan if Bush should obey the law.
The relevant part of transcript follows. RAW STORY has confirmed the questioner was Helen Thomas. Crooks and Liars has the video.
Q: Does the president think he should obey the law? He put his hand on the Bible twice to uphold the Constitution. Wiretapping is not legal under the circumstances without a warrant.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I guess you didn't pay attention to the attorney general's hearing earlier today, because he walked through very clearly the rationale behind this program.
Q There is no rationale --
MR. MCCLELLAN: And Helen, I think you have to ask --
Q -- (inaudible) -- the law.
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think you have ask are we -- well, he's not -- are we a nation at war.
Q That's not the question.
MR. MCCLELLAN: No, that is the issue here.
Q The question is, the point is, there are means for him to go to -- get a warrant to spy on people.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Enemy surveillance is critical to waging and winning war. It's one of the traditional tools of war.
Q But he says he doesn't have running room --
MR. MCCLELLAN: The attorney general outlined very clearly today how previous administrations have used the same authority --
Q That doesn't make it legal.
MR. MCCLELLAN: -- and cited the same -- and cited the very same authority.
Q (Inaudible) -- they broke the law, that's too bad.
MR. MCCLELLAN: And we're going to continue doing everything we can --
Q You know what happened to Nixon when he broke the law.
MR. MCCLELLAN: -- within our power to protect the American people.
This is a very different circumstance, and you know that.