BUSH AND CHALABI….President Bush, February 7, 2004:
Russert: If the Iraqis choose, however, an Islamic extremist regime, would you accept that, and would that be better for the United States than Saddam Hussein?
President Bush: They’re not going to develop that. And the reason I can say that is because I’m very aware of this basic law they’re writing. They’re not going to develop that because right here in the Oval Office I sat down with Mr. Pachachi and Chalabi and al-Hakim, people from different parts of the country that have made the firm commitment, that they want a constitution eventually written that recognizes minority rights and freedom of religion.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Chalabi is an Iraqi leader that’s fallen out of favor within your administration. I’m wondering if you feel that he provided any false information, or are you particularly —
THE PRESIDENT: Chalabi?
Q Yes, with Chalabi.
THE PRESIDENT: My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through the rope line, and he might have come with a group of leaders. But I haven’t had any extensive conversations with him.
Chalabi? Who? Oh, right, Ahmed Chalabi. Sorry, barely know the guy. I think he’s a friend of Laura’s or something.
(Thanks to reader Robert E for this amusing catch.)
UPDATE: Via commenter Anthony, more about the Chalabi raid a couple of weeks ago:
One Bush administration official said that in addition to harboring suspicions that Chalabi had been leaking sensitive U.S. information to Iran both before and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, some U.S. officials also believe that Chalabi had collected and maintained files of potentially damaging information on U.S. officials with whom he had or was going to interact for the purpose of influencing them. Some officials said that when Iraqi authorities raided Chalabi?s offices, one of the things American officials hoped they would look for was Chalabi?s cache of information he had gathered on Americans.
Jeez, and just a couple of hours ago I was complaining it was a slow news day!