Leak Scandal Goes To The Top

Leak Scandal Goes To The Top

What did the President know and when did he know it? Yesterday, the New York Daily News reported that, according to a “presidential counselor,” an “angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair.” According to the article, the run-in occurred “shortly after the Justice Department informed the White House in September 2003 that a criminal investigation had been launched.” If the report is true, it raises serious questions about the integrity of President Bush’s statements about the investigation. (At yesterday’s press conference, White House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to dispute the specifics of the article.) The report also suggests that testimony provided to the special prosecutor by Bush and Rove may have been inaccurate.

DID BUSH KNOW WHEN HE SAID HE DIDN’T KNOW? Josh Marshall notes that on October 7, 2003 — around the same time as Bush’s alleged rebuke of Rove — Bush said, “I mean this town is a — is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don’t know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official.” Bush added, “[T]his is a large administration, and there’s a lot of senior officials. I don’t have any idea. I’d like to. I want to know the truth.” The New York Daily News article suggests that Bush already knew the truth: one of the leakers was Karl Rove.

DID BUSH TELL PROSECUTORS ROVE DENIED ANY INVOLVEMENT? National Journal investigative reporter Murray Waas reported on 10/7/05, “In his own interview with prosecutors on June 24, 2004, Bush also testified that Rove assured him he had not disclosed Plame as a CIA employee and had said nothing to the press to discredit Wilson.” Apparently, Rove has been telling a similar story. The AP reported that “Rove told President Bush and others that he never engaged in an effort to disclose a CIA operative’s identity to discredit her husband’s criticism of the administration’s Iraq policy, according to people with knowledge of Rove’s account in the probe.” These accounts, if true, are completely inconsistent with the facts reported in yesterday’s New York Daily News. Although Bush was not under oath, making false statements to a federal agent is still against the law.

EVIDENCE OF A CONSPIRACY: Today, the AP reports that “Rove and I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby discussed their contacts with reporters about an undercover CIA officer in the days before her identity was published.” The conversations are “the first known intersection between two central figures in the criminal leak investigation.” According to people familiar with Rove’s testimony, “Rove told grand jurors it was possible he first heard in the White House that Valerie Plame, wife of Bush administration Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA from Libby’s recounting of a conversation with a journalist.” (Rove has also testified that “he probably first heard of Wilson’s wife in a casual social setting outside the White House in the spring of 2003 but could not remember who provided the information.”) The coordination between Rove and Libby lends credence to the report that “Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge.”

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