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President Bush says Rumsfeld will stay in Cabinet

From Wolf Blitzer
CNN

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
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George W. Bush
Donald H. Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With Jordan's King Abdullah II at his side in the White House Rose Garden, President Bush came a step closer to formally apologizing to the Iraqi people on Thursday.

"I told him I was sorry about the humiliation suffered by Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," the president said of his earlier comments to the Jordanian king.

Although he said he was sick to his stomach by the pictures, he rejected growing demands for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

"Secretary Rumsfeld is a really good Secretary of Defense. Secretary Rumsfeld has served our country well. Secretary Rumsfeld has been the secretary during two wars, and he is an important part of my Cabinet and he'll stay in my Cabinet," said the president.

Still, the president confirmed his irritation that he had learned about the allegations only after they were reported in the news media saying, "I should have known about the pictures and about the report."

President Bush spoke on a day that The Washington Post published four more pictures apparently depicting U.S. soldiers mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib -- including a shot of a female soldier holding a leash tied to a naked man's neck lying on the prison floor.

The political fallout is escalating amid angry recriminations.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry lashed out at the president and his advisers.

"As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command. I will demand accountability for those who serve, take responsibility for actions," Sen. Kerry said Thursday.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats were lining up calling for Rumsfeld to leave office.

"For the benefit of the United States, for our country, I believe Mr. Rumsfeld has to resign," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Said Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, "Mr. Rumsfeld has been engaged in a coverup from the start on this issue and continues to be so." And Rep. Charlie Rangel took it a step further, saying, "If the president doesn't fire the secretary, if he doesn't resign, I think it's the responsibility of this Congress to file articles of impeachment and force him to leave office."

But Republican leaders reject that -- accusing Democrats of playing politics in this election year.

"They want to win the White House more than they want to win the war and our enemies know it. I am not questioning their patriotism. Don't let them play that little game again. I am questioning their judgment and their fitness to lead," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Thursday.


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