[Breaking news update 1:35 p.m. ET]
President Barack Obama knew there would be "glitches" and said ahead of time there would be problems in the October 1 rollout of a key part of his health care initiative, but "there is no question that we did not anticipate the scale of problems with the website," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday. Separately, Carney said the Department of Health and Human Services will begin conducting daily briefings on Thursday about progress toward fixing problems with the Healthcare.gov website.
[Original story moved at 8:56 a.m. ET]
Before it even launched, red flags went up about the Obamacare website. Health insurance companies complained about it, and the site crashed during a test run. But nobody told the President of any of it, the nation's health chief told CNN.
Kathleen Sebelius said President Barack Obama didn't hear that there may be problems with the sign-up portal for his signature health care law until it went live on October 1. That's when the site nosedived into a technical abyss.
In an exclusive interview with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the Health and Human Services secretary admitted that her department and the White House are displeased with the technically botched website's rollout.
"No one could be more frustrated than I am and the President," she said.
The site was supposed to make it simple for people to search and sign up for new health care policies, but instead it's been clunky and, at times, inoperable. And for Sebelius, that's disappointing.
"We're not at all satisfied with the workings of the website," she said. "We want it to be smooth and easy and let consumers compare plans."
Bringing the 'A-Team'
A team of high-tech experts from within the government and from Silicon Valley is going to tackle the issues, Sebelius said. Jeff Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, will lead the team.
So why weren't they brought in before the website launched October 1?
"We (had) hoped that they had their 'A-Team' on the table" from the start, Sebelius said of the contractors and agencies responsible for the project.
But now, she said, "we want new eyes and ears. We want to make sure that we get all the questions on the table, that we get all the answers and accelerate the fix as quickly as possible."
The secretary attributed some problems to "extremely high" volume, saying nearly 20 million people came to the Obamacare website in the first three weeks after its launch. Yet only 500,000 people have created accounts on the website. And not all of them have necessarily enrolled in health care plans.
It's not like no one saw this coming. When the website crashed during a test run, just a few hundred users were on it.
But the Obama administration went ahead with the launch. Waiting was not an option, Sebelius said.
"There are people in this country who have waited for decades for affordable health coverage for themselves and their families," she said.
A political lightning rod
Sebelius' comments struck some Republicans as surprising and even odd.
"At this point, she has a lot of questions to answer, and we look forward to her testimony in the House next week," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
A Senate GOP leadership aide called the situation "odd."
"Everyone was surprised by her statement that the President was unaware of the website's failures until a few days into it," the aide told CNN.
"They had been claiming that the Obamacare rollout was his top priority and that he was receiving regular updates, which was inaccurate. And he gave remarks on October 1 about how great it was and that people should go sign up," the aide said. "Assuming that he didn't know that the website didn't work, why did they let him make that speech when they knew it had crashed in testing? Did really no one recommend a delay to the President? It just seems odd."
Before the website's launch, Republicans made targeting the program a centerpiece of their agenda. Many insisted they wouldn't vote to fund the entire government unless Obamacare was defunded or delayed.