JEFFREY BROWN: And now other news related to this incident. For that I'm joined by Jim VandeHei, White House correspondent for the Washington Post.
Jim, you've had another day to work on this. What more do we know about what exactly happened in the shooting on Saturday?
JIM VANDEHEI: We've learned very little today about the specifics of the shooting. What we do know is that on Saturday, the vice president was hunting with a party of five in south Texas. Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old attorney with Texas, a very frequent hunting partner of different Republicans and different politicians, had sort of moved away from the group, had gone to retrieve a downed quail and never announced himself to the pack that he was behind the hunting line.
The vice president then apparently turned to shoot a quail and hit him several times causing what at the time didn't seem like that serious of injury but today we've had this medical update that it's resulted in a minor heart attack and has put the fellow back in intensive care.
JEFFREY BROWN: There have been a lot of questions about how this was handled by authorities. Anything new about when local police, for example , were notified?
JIM VANDEHEI: What was unusual here is that the police did not talk to the vice president until the next morning. I mean, if I was in a hunting accident, would I have to contact authorities immediately and be interviewed but there was an agreement worked out between the Secret Service and the local sheriff to wait until the next morning while the medical care was given to Harry Whittington.
I think the reason that there's this big uproar is that we don't know why there was that much of a delay and why there was a big delay in alerting the public. I mean, this is the vice president involved in a hunting accident which would be classified as fairly significant news, and for the White House to wait, you know, at least 14 hours to disclose it and then disclose it in a very unusual way, they disclosed it by asking the property owner to disclose it to a local newspaper as opposed to just alerting the press through the White House communication operation, which is sort of standard operating procedure, if you will.
JEFFREY BROWN: Just staying on the incident, again, for one more moment. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department issued a report. Was there any detail, surprising detail there? And I'm wondering, are there any other investigations by authorities going on? Or is this at this point considered a closed case?
JIM VANDEHEI: It appears to be a closed case. The only thing that we found through that investigation that was different is this news that the vice president is probably going to be issued a warning for not paying $7 for a bird hunting stamp that you need on your Texas license. That does not appear to be a big deal. The vice president has basically explained that he had his staff pay what he thought were the proper fees to the Texas authorities and that because of a miscommunication that $7 wasn't sent in.
So as far as we could tell from talking to local authorities, talking to the Secret Service and the vice president's office, we don't think that the investigation is really continuing.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now as to the question you just raised about how all this came out, we now know that the president was told Saturday night, right?
JIM VANDE HEI: We know that the president was told Saturday night probably around 8 o'clock by Karl Rove, which would have been about three or four hours after the shooting incident. That part is not that unusual. What happened after that was the communications people who would alert the media, who would alert the public, they weren't told until the next morning.
So essentially you had the vice president and his closest staff aware of this and the president, Karl Rove, and a few others in the White House aware of it but they made the collective decision not release that public information.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we've seen these contentious briefings at the White House in the White House press room. Why are they saying that they chose not to disclose it?
JIM VANDEHEI: Well, they're saying that they were more concerned about the health of Mr. Whittington, that they wanted to get proper medical care. It does seem they're offering a false choice because they're saying they couldn't both administer the medical care and inform the public when they clearly could have. I mean, Karl Rove or the president or the communications staff, they're not involved at all in medical treatment so they could have done both at the same time.
I think the reason you see these very contentious briefings goes to probably a much bigger issue that's sort of unfolded over the last five years and that is this penchant of the White House to not disclose information or to be secretive, particularly with the vice president's office. This is a vice president who's enormously powerful but also enormously secretive -- very hard to get information about his whereabouts or his role in creating and administering policy.
I mean he's obviously very instrumental in the build-up to the Iraq war, is hugely instrumental when it comes to all foreign policy issues, yet we get very little exposure to him in his role in the White House. And I think there's been this constant friction, which always existed but I think exists more with this White House between the press and the White House because we just feel that there isn't the freedom of flow of information that we're used to.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, Jim, finally or briefly, can you see anything behind the scenes now? I read the statement from the vice president earlier on the show. He has yet to make any public appearances. Do you see anything happening behind the scenes?
JIM VANDEHEI: I do. I think there's a lot of Republicans who are concerned that you're taking basically a hunting mishap and turning it into what could be a very big political issue because it's becoming a distraction. Remember, the president would like to talk about health care today and tomorrow.
Instead, his spokesman and this entire White House is consumed with dealing with this Cheney controversy. So there's a lot of pressure on Cheney both from inside and outside the White House to come out and simply explain your role and apologize, you know, for accidentally shooting this gentleman and the White House feels like that's the best way to put this behind them.
But the vice president just does not like to deal with the press. He's not very worried about his image and has sort of made it clear internally that he would rather keep his discussions with the victim private, feels like they're friends. He's dealing with him in a proper way and doesn't owe the press or owe the public an explanation.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right. Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post, thanks very much.
JIM VANDEHEI: You have a good evening.