This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", April 20, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Mr. Secretary, as always, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thank you. Good to be with you.
HANNITY: All right. There's this new book out. It mentions you a lot. You haven't had a chance to read it.
RUMSFELD: You don't believe everything you read, do you?
HANNITY: I do not believe everything I read.
RUMSFELD: I have not read it. I have skimmed some of the articles in the papers that report on the book, but I've not had a chance to see the book.
HANNITY: It was interesting, though, because I did read your interview that you gave, I believe it was September 20.
RUMSFELD: We released it to the press.
HANNITY: Released it to the press. Right. Somewhat contentious with Bob Woodward (search), a little bit.
RUMSFELD: Well, I've known him over the years and I've been interviewed for his last book. I declined, but the president asked me to please do it, so I did work for the president, so I did it.
And this time I declined again, and the president asked me to do it, so I did it.
HANNITY: Did you feel you were treated fairly the first time?
RUMSFELD: I never read his book, but what I read in the papers seemed to me to be, you know, some accurate and some not. It's the context of things. And I've never written a book, so I can't say that I could do it better, but it's probably a difficult thing to do.
HANNITY: Let me ask you, let's go back to where he starts his book, which is the day before Thanksgiving, November 21, 2001, 72 days after 9/11.
And the president -- you were meeting with the National Security Council and his advisers, and after this meeting the president pulls you aside. Tell us what happened in that meeting.
RUMSFELD: I don't remember the date. I do remember that at the end of a meeting with the president in the situation room, I think it was the National Security Council meeting, the president said, "I'd like to see you for a minute."
And we went off into a little room nearby the situation room in the White House. He asked me what the status of the planning for contingencies in Iraq happened to be. And I responded that I had looked at it and it was, in my view, stale.
And I should say, however, that there have been at least four other occasions when he has asked me to look at contingency plans and asked me the status of contingency plans, so this was not a unique thing. That is what the Pentagon does, is to prepare contingency plans.
And it's what the president should do and he does do, and that is to, say, interest himself in them and want to feel confident that the department of -- his Department of Defense, our country's Department of Defense, has studied and analyzed and prepared contingency approaches for the kinds of things that our country needs to be ready to face.
And so it was a perfectly appropriate thing for the president to be asking, and it was, as I say, not anything that was distinctively different from the three or four or five other times he's asked me the same question about totally different parts of the world.
HANNITY: It would almost be irresponsible if he didn't ask.
HANNITY: You also -- apparently there was an opportunity -- this was five days after September 11. The president indicated to Condoleezza Rice (search) that, while we had to do Afghanistan (search) first, he was determined at that time, even early on, to consider and look at the issue of Iraq and Saddam Hussein (search).
And you're quoted as saying that this is an opportunity to take out Saddam. We should consider it. Five days after Iraq, did you think at that time that he was connected to the 9/11 attack?
RUMSFELD: I don't remember ever saying anything like that. And I doubt that I did. I don't know who suggested I did. Certainly, I didn't say anything like that to...
HANNITY: It's actually a quote.
RUMSFELD: ... to Woodward. Of course. But there are quotes all over these books that people write that are not from the individual who may or may not have said something. They're from somebody who either heard that somebody said something or somebody who was in the room and vaguely remembers that they said something like that.
The short answer is I don't remember ever saying anything like that.
Now the context of the situation is interesting. If you think about it, the president came in January 20. At that moment and before, the United States of America's aircraft were being fired on by Saddam Hussein. It was the only place in the world that any country was firing on U.S. pilots and aircraft and flight crews with impunity or near impunity.
And it struck me as a bad thing that the Iraqis were firing at British and U.S. aircraft, as we were enforcing U.N. resolutions in the northern no-fly-zone in Iraq and the southern no-fly-zone in Iraq.
And I was -- needless to say -- understandably concerned about the possibility that one of our planes would be hit, that we could end up having a crew downed, either killed or taken hostage.
So we worried through the questions of what do we do in that case, and we spent a good deal of time on a code named procedure that we would undertake in the event a plane was shot down.
When they were shot at, but not shot down we had one of various options. One of which, you may recall, occurred when the president was with President Vicente Fox in Mexico in early February.
So the president had every reason in the world to be thinking about Iraq, as did I, and we in the Pentagon had every reason in the world to be developing contingency plans as to how we would deal with those various events.
HANNITY: The Woodward book actually chronicles some discussions and actually spirited debate that you had with Secretary Powell at the time over issues as you're describing and even over the purchase of these expensive trucks, because they could be used as cylinders to fire missiles at either American troops or over in Israel.
Do you remember those moments?
RUMSFELD: I don't. I haven't seen that reference, so I don't recall what that might be referring to.
HANNITY: Let me get to a point that you and Tommy Franks (search) worked out a deal as it relates to money, because there's been some controversy, and your good friend Senator Ted Kennedy (search) was railing about it earlier today.
RUMSFELD: Is that right?
HANNITY: Yes, he was, over what Woodward refers to as the end of July, end of July 2002, where $700 million would have been a large amount of money to get -- start building runways, pipelines, et cetera, and preparations in Kuwait for the possibility of potential of war.
Woodward concludes that some people could look at a document called the Constitution which says no money will be drawn from the treasury without the approval of Congress. Congress was totally in the dark about that. Is that...
RUMSFELD: There's a -- I haven't read his book. Let's say that he said exactly what you said he said.
HANNITY: I just quoted it.
RUMSFELD: Good. That's wrong. It's just his, for whatever reason, has written something that isn't so. It is a misunderstanding of the situation.
The funds that come from the Congress under the Constitution have to be accounted for, and in this instance, I'm sure they were. It is -- there are a whole set of complexities as to how it's done, what they're authorized for. Some have quite narrow purposes, others have much broader purposes.
We have a wonderful group of people in the controller shop in the Department of Defense (search), who spend an enormous amount of time consulting with members of the Congress and the appropriations committees in the House and Senate and their staffs making sure that they understand what we're doing. We also have the advantage of the office of management and budget that we work closely with.
And before we propose anything to the Congress, we go to the OMD. And they look at it and say, yes, they agree that that fits the law or it doesn't.
HANNITY: Could be a general War on Terror then spending...
RUMSFELD: I don't know what he was talking about because I haven't read the book. But there's no question there were sums of money that were authorized by Congress for various things, some more broadly, some quite narrowly.
And I'm sure that when we have a chance to go back that we'll find out what extensive consultation with Congress covered those items.
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