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President Bush, no longer joking about the House rubber-check scandal, is standing by three Cabinet members caught up in the affair but says it's up to the American people to sort out the wrongdoers from innocent victims.

The back-to-back-to-back confessions Tuesday by Bush's defense, agriculture and labor secretaries let some air out of the political balloon for House Republicans who have relished watching Democrats squirm as the major abusers of privilege at the shoddily run, in-house bank.A dour Defense Secretary Dick Cheney was the first Bush appointee to confess Tuesday - he had bounced as many as 25 checks. Agriculture Secretary Edward Madigan owned up to 49 overdrawn checks - including one for $8,618 - and Labor Secretary Lynn Martin found 16 in her closet.

Cheney served in the House from Wyoming; Madigan and Martin represented Illinois districts.

Bush, who cracked a joke about the scandal on the campaign trail in Milwaukee on Monday, took a more sober approach in a Rose Garden appearance Tuesday.

He expressed "total confidence in (Cheney's) integrity," and added, "I just haven't heard anything about any of the others."

Judy Smith, a White House spokeswoman, said later, "I'm sure he would say the same about all the Cabinet members, that it's a situation they didn't have any knowledge of.'

"Let's get the facts out, and then I think the American people are very smart," said Bush. "They will be able to make a determination as to what was wrongdoing and who were simply victims of a system that obviously has failed everybody."

Cheney called himself "angry and frustrated" and said he never knew his account had run dry.

Madigan called it "an embarrassment to me, my family and friends" but said it should not "impact my effectiveness as secretary of agriculture."

Martin said she was docking herself $425 in fees that a real bank might have charged and was donating the money to charity.