Just When They Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse…

Mark Knoller is a White House Correspondent for CBS News.
Think the White House and its defenders are up in arms now about Scott McClellan?

Just imagine the uproar if he's called to give sworn testimony to Congress about what he knows and heard during his White House years.

A democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee is already calling for McClellan to be summoned to testify under oath about such matters as the firings of those nine U.S. attorneys a couple years ago and the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative.

But the White House says it could move to stop McClellan from testifying about private presidential deliberations.

"Hypothetically? Yes, I think so," said White House press secretary Dana Perino at today's press briefing. "The law would allow for that."

But she was quick to explain that the White House would not definitely take that action. But it is an option.

So far, there's been no formal congressional request for McClellan's testimony. If it came, Perino says White House counsel Fred Fielding would study the request or subpoena, and make a recommendation to the President on whether to invoke executive privilege to prevent McClellan from testifying.

Imagine the media circus if McClellan showed up at the witness table at the House Judiciary Committee to tell what he knows – under oath.

Perino began the day refining White House objections to what McClellan wrote.

"The central tenet of his book and our central objection is his premise that we purposefully and intentionally lied – and sent our men and women to combat for a lie," Perino told her morning "gaggle" in the White House briefing room.

She said of McClellan: "He's not free to suggest that people here, from the President on down, purposefully misled America to send its young men and women to war," said Perino.

"That's what is so hurtful to those of us who work here at the White House. That is why we are so puzzled. It's why we are baffled."

Perino says the President long ago admitted he had bad intelligence about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq – and has taken actions to improve the intelligence agencies.

"Where it hurts us is that 4000 service members of our country – who volunteered to serve – have died in Iraq. They did not die in vain. And to suggest that they have, that is really hurtful."

Perino said she still regards herself as a "close friend" of McClellan's but never detected he anguished over U.S. policies in the manner described in his book.

She also never knew that he considered resigning while serving as Press Secretary.

  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.