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AMERICAN MORNING

Scott McClellan Resigns as White House Press Secretary

Aired April 19, 2006 - 09:34   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And these pictures are the most disturbing pictures of the morning by far, surveillance camera video from a parking lot in the Las Vegas strip. A security guard gets just pummeled, pummeled by people. One person is under arrest.
Ted Rowlands fills us in on details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Las Vegas police say 18-year-old Daryle Williams was part of this group of teenagers caught on surveillance video in a parking garage near the back of the MGM Grand Hotel. After the group walked past a private security guard in a gold car, someone takes the guard's radio. Watch, as the Guard, now out of the cart, starts to make a phone call. The attack starts with a young man in a baseball cap sneaking around the front of the cart. Within seconds, the guard is getting punched and kicked by the group. He tries to run, but they chase him down and keep hitting him. This person actually starts whipping him with a chain or a belt.

CAPT. DAVE O'LEARY, LAS VEGAS POLICE: This is truly egregious. This is something that, again, as a community, none of us should tolerate.

ROWLANDS: Las Vegas police are asking for help identifying the suspects. They believe the group had just left a nearby movie theater, and the thought is that they are teenagers or young adults. The video is obviously disturbing, and police say they want those involved identified.

O'LEARY: Those folks deserve to be identified. Those folks deserve to be brought to justice.

ROWLANDS: Near the end of the attack, one of the suspects, the one in the dark jacket, reaches down and steals the guard's cell phone, and then after one last kick, the group leaves the guard laying in the street.

O'LEARY: I think the videotape speaks for itself. I don't think anybody in this community would tolerate that type of behavior anywhere.

ROWLANDS: In the end, the security guard was able to get up and walk away. Police say, besides numerous bruises, he suffered a broken jaw and collar bone.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: That is just hard to watch.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: team of really good people.

Our relationship began back in Texas, and I look forward to continuing it, particularly when we are both back in Texas.

BUSH: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLELLAN: Although I hope to get there before you.

(LAUGHTER)

I have given it my all, sir, and I have given you my all. And I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary over the next two to three weeks.

Thank you for the opportunity.

I, first of all, I thank Scott for his service to our country. I don't know whether or not the press corps realizes this, but his is a challenging assignment dealing with you all on a regular basis. And I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity. He really represents, you know, the best of his family, our state and our country.

It's going to be hard to replace Scott. But nevertheless, he's made the decision, and I accept it.

One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas talking about the good old days of his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, "Job well done."

MCCLELLAN: Thank you, sir.

BUSH: You bet. Appreciate you.

O'BRIEN: White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan announcing his resignation. As we have been telling you, there's a new White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten. And as we've been telling you all this week, we are watching several personnel changes for the Bush administration midway through its second term. And we'll keep you posted as the revolving door continues to spin there in the West Wing of the White House. (MARKET REPORT)

O'BRIEN: All right, big news at the White House. We told you just a few moments ago, and you caught the tail end of the president alongside his now outgoing Press Secretary Scott McClellan announcing his resignation this morning. This on the heels of the new White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, indicating be ready for some significant personnel changes, and we have been watching that happen.

Let's listen to the entirety of those comments from the president and Scott McClellan, happened a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm here to announce that I will be resigning as White House press secretary.

Mr. President, it has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to have served you for more than seven years now, the last two years and nine months as your press secretary.

The White House is going through a period of transition. Change can be helpful. And this is a good time and good position to help bring about change.

I'm ready to move on. I've been in this position a long time. And my wife and I are excited about beginning the next chapter in our life together.

You have accomplished a lot over the last several years with this team. And I have been honored and grateful to be a small part of a terrific and talented team of really good people.

Our relationship began back in Texas, and I look forward to continuing it, particularly when we are both back in Texas.

BUSH: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCLELLAN: Although I hope to get there before you.

(LAUGHTER)

I have given it my all, sir, and I have given you my all. And I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary over the next two to three weeks.

Thank you for the opportunity.

I, first of all, I thank Scott for his service to our country. I don't know whether or not the press corps realizes this, but his is a challenging assignment dealing with you all on a regular basis. And I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity. He really represents, you know, the best of his family, our state and our country.

It's going to be hard to replace Scott. But nevertheless, he's made the decision, and I accept it.

One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas talking about the good old days of his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, "Job well done."

MCCLELLAN: Thank you, sir.

BUSH: You bet. Appreciate you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Scott McClellan on his way out. Who knows at this point who's on their way in. For some insights on all of this, let's to our senior national correspondent John Roberts in Washington.

John, this one a surprise?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATL. CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think so.

I think that Scott knew that the writing was on the wall for some time, particularly after Josh Bolten was named the new chief of staff. I met with Scott yesterday at the White House, had a bit of a chat with him. He didn't let anything go, but -- on this particular issue, but you can tell that something was on his mind. I expect that he and his wife, Jill, are probably going to move back to Texas. Don't forget, his mother's running for governor down there. He's run her campaigns in the past, may either do that again or at least have something to do with it. Texas is his home. This was husband adopted home.

And while he's pretty settled here, I think, I would expect he's probably going to move back to Texas in the next few months or so.

As to who comes next, that really is an open question, Fox News program host Tony Snow, who used to work for George Bush 43's father in the early 1990s, has been mentioned as possible replacement, as has Tory Clark, who was the former Pentagon spokesperson, although I don't expect Tory is going to take it. I talked to her about it. She says she just doesn't want the job. Dan Senor, who was a senior spokesperson in Iraq for Paul Bremer, has also been mentioned. a

There's the president just yelling back to the press corps there. Senor has also been mentioned, and don't forget, he just got married, and he didn't take a lucrative job with Google in California because he didn't want to leave his fiancee on the East Coast. So maybe Snow gets it by default. I'm not sure.

But, you know, as I said, there wasn't any indication from Scott yesterday that this was coming, but there had been a few hints over the past couple of weeks that he was probably going to be moving on. Let's take a listen to what he said at one of the daily press conferences, the daily press briefings, at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCLELLAN: As you know, any White House goes through change. People decide to leave after they've served there for a while. It's hard work serving here at the White House. And so he said to the senior staff -- and I think this will be passed on to others, as well -- is that if you're thinking about leaving sometime in the near future, now would be a good time to do it, because this is this transitional period. And so that's the way I would look at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: All right. So Scott indicating that perhaps a change in employment was in the cards for him, and certainly this morning confirms that. Apparently, a little bit of delay in the president's departure this morning. Typically when they have an announcement, they always turn off the auxiliary power unit -- and, Miles, of course, you'll know what that is, being a flier -- on the Marine One helicopter.

Perhaps they just can't get that going again. They might need a jump start. The president got on the helicopter, then got back off again. Don't know if they'll be able to start it back up. But there's usually a couple other ones flying around just overhead as part of the decoy formation that they fly when they go out of the south lawn of the White House. It they can't get this Marine One up and running, they'll either land another one, I would expect, on the lawn, or they may take the president up to an alternate departure site, either up at the Naval Observatory or down at the reflecting pool -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. We just -- as a matter of fact, as you were speaking, John, as some folks there at the White House -- there's always somebody there to see him off, getting a bonus opportunity to spend time with the president there as he's delayed. We're told he is going to motorcade, so we'll keep you posted on that. Obviously, some sort of mechanical problem with Marine One.

Let's get back to Scott McClellan, John. Reading the tea leaves on what you just talked about, I gather he's leaving under his own steam. But by the same token, Josh Bolten was very vocal in leaving the door open and suggesting if you're high ranking and you're thinking of leaving, do it now, or there might about few nudges. Was is a combination of him wanting to leave and him, perhaps, expecting to be nudged out?

ROBERTS: I expect that Scott was part of the overall changeover. I really don't think he wanted to go. He really enjoyed the job, and I don't think it really was in his heart of heart's of desires to leave the White House.

I think Josh Bolten -- and this is just speculation on my part -- but I think Josh Bolten probably came to him and said, Scott, we've got to make changes. Bolten has said to various Republicans that we've talked to that communications was big problem at the White House, and that the communication shop was probably going to have to be revamped some.

In terms, by the way, Miles, of who could possibly take over for Scott, just got an e-mail from my old friend Trent Duffy, who was one of the deputies, saying, thanks a lot, man. Please include me in the...

M. O'BRIEN: Don't forget me!

ROBERTS: Don't forget me. Please include me in the list of people as "The Washington Post" and others are. So, yes, Trent Duffy is a name that's under consideration there, though we're not sure at this point who's going to get the nod on that one.

M. O'BRIEN: Obviously, Trent doesn't need his own press secretary. He's doing his own work behind the scenes in realtime.

ROBERTS: Well, if he could do as good a job for President Bush as he's doing for himself right now, maybe he gets the job.

M. O'BRIEN: He might have just gotten the job, I don't know.

ROBERTS: Sorry, Trent. Didn't mean to embarrass you so much.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, let's bring in Elaine Quijano to the mix here. And Elaine is on the north lawn of the White House, opposite side of the building from where the president is right now, as he poses for pictures and waits for his departure. I guess they're probably gathering up a motorcade right now for him.

Elaine, first of all, Josh Bolten filled the vacancy created by his departure for the Office of Management and Budget and then the U.S. trade representative position, which the vacancy was created by that replacement. What are the next jobs that are kind of in contention that might be in play right now in the Bush White House?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, what is out there that is open continues to be the position of domestic policy adviser, the top domestic policy adviser position that was vacated by Claude Allen's resignation earlier in the year. In some respects, it was thought that perhaps that would be the next one, the next move that we might see. That, of course, before the news Scott McClellan delivering just a short time ago.

I want to share with you, also -- I'm not sure if our viewers are up to speed. We have a little bit more information on the problem with Marine One from our producer, who is actually on the south lawn. Erica Dimler (ph) saying that President Bush, after we heard the helicopter engines firing up and then being killed, President Bush says that -- said that there was an issue with the helicopter, but that everybody is safe. Apparently now we understand there was some sort of radio failure. They could not talk to the tower, and so President Bush will now be motorcading over to Andrews Air Force Base -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: All right. So no real serious issue to consider there, but obviously, Marine One needs to stay in radio contact. Elaine Quijano, domestic policy adviser, any other slots that come to mind right now that might become topics of discussion?

QUIJANO: Well, Certainly CNN has been reporting for the last couple of weeks Republican sources, and even some within the Bush administration, saying that perhaps the next couple of areas. Obviously, besides communications, the other area would be legislative affairs. It is no secret that the relationship between this White House and the Republican-led Congress has been quite strained. We saw that with the Dubai Ports World deal. And that really is an area where they feel there perhaps needs to be some change. But whether or not any of those changes might be immediate, it remains to be seen.

What we have learned, though, is that those appear to be the areas where there might be some movement. Now, it is interesting to note -- and we heard some of the names being thrown out there -- there is so much speculation, but, of course, the president keeps these kinds of things very close to the vest. This announcement by Scott McClellan not unexpected, in terms of hearing sort of rumors, if you will, within Washington. But certainly the changes are under way. Scott McClellan saying himself this is a time of transition here at the White House -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House for us. Thank you very much. Back with more in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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