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Inside Politics

Bush backs Rumsfeld

President vows 'full accounting' of abuse

Stay with CNN-USA for frequent updates on the Bush administration's show of support for Donald Rumsfeld, and for a look ahead at Tuesday's testimony on the Hill by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who wrote a U.S. Army report on abuse of prisoners in Iraq.
President George W. Bush praises Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

CNN's Bill Hemmer speaks with Sen. Joe Biden on the abuse scandal.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux on Rumsfeld under scrutiny.
Gallery: Abuse at Abu Ghraib prison (Contains graphic content. Viewer discretion advised.)

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Donald H. Rumsfeld
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush stood beside his embattled defense secretary Monday, praising Donald Rumsfeld for "courageously leading our nation in the war against terror."

"You are doing a superb job," Bush said. "You are a strong secretary of defense. And our nation owes you a debt of gratitude."

The praise came amid Democratic calls for Rumsfeld's resignation in the wake of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal.

An internal Army report details what it describes as "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuse" of some Iraqi prisoners by their U.S. captors at the Abu Ghraib prisoner outside Baghdad, Iraq. Seven soldiers face criminal charges in the case, and six officers have received career-ending reprimands. Investigations into the treatment of the prisoners continue.

Speaking to reporters, Bush was flanked by Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. He defended his administration's handling of the abuse reports at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

"There will be a full accounting for the cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees," Bush said. "Conduct that has come to light is an insult to the Iraqi people and an affront to the most basic standards of morality and decency."

In a closed meeting, Rumsfeld showed Bush classified photos depicting the apparent abuse of Iraqi prisoners -- pictures that have not yet been seen in the media. The White House said Bush also saw still images from video taken inside the prison. In total, he saw more than a dozen images of abuse, White House officials said.

A senior defense official, who has seen several video clips, said they show "inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature."

The official said he did not see any images of rape, but he noted that the images he saw were very disturbing and humiliating.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, warned Friday that undisclosed photos and videos go beyond what has been seen, saying, "We're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience."

Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he had not seen evidence to substantiate that claim, although he acknowledged he was aware of the allegations.

In a daily news briefing Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked repeatedly whether Bush would support making the additional photos public. McClellan emphasized that they are evidence in ongoing criminal investigations and noted that there are additional "privacy issues."

"We remain in close contact with the Pentagon on these matters," he said.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed anger that Rumsfeld failed to warn them about the photos and the extent of abuse before they learned about them in the media -- even though Rumsfeld knew in advance that a televised report was coming.

McClellan said the administration is working to keep Congress informed, saying it plays "an important oversight role."

Bush, after his comments to reporters, took no questions.

Speaking for about 10 minutes, he discussed the Iraq war in general, noting the "offensive against the killers and terrorists" in various parts of Iraq, particularly in Fallujah and Najaf.

He used the occasion to call on Congress to support his latest $25 billion funding request for Iraq, and he reaffirmed the planned transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30.

CNN's Barbara Starr and Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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