News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bush keeps quiet about aide's role in CIA leak

President Bush kept quiet on Tuesday when asked whether he would fire his top political adviser, Karl Rove, who has come under a cloud over his involvement in a CIA leak scandal.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan faced pointed questions about Rove's role for a second straight day -- and again refused to answer them -- while the Republican party's chairman dismissed criticisms of Rove as partisan attacks.

McClellan said the White House was asked to remain silent on the case by prosecutors investigating who leaked the identify of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.

In an Oval Office meeting with the prime minister of Singapore, Bush did not respond to a reporter's shouted question about whether he intended to dismiss Rove.

Bush had pledged to dismiss any leakers in the case.

A growing number of Democrats are urging Bush to sideline Rove by suspending his access to classified information. Others say he should step down or be fired.

McClellan also declined to comment when asked for a second day whether Bush still had confidence in Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff.

"I don't want to do anything to jeopardize the investigation," McClellan said.

"And just because I'm not commenting on a continuing investigation doesn't mean you should read anything into it beyond that," he added.

The White House came under increasing pressure this week to explain Rove's role in the case following reports that Rove was one of the secret sources who spoke to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Rove's lawyer was quoted as saying his client did not mention Plame by name.

Plame's name was leaked, her diplomat husband said, because of his criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.

Faced with jail if he did not discuss his sources, Cooper agreed last week to testify in the investigation. New York Times reporter Judith Miller refused to testify and was jailed.

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, defended Rove against what he dismissed as "blatant partisan political attacks."

McClellan has refused to address what critics said were contradictory statements issued by the White House.

In September and October 2003, McClellan rejected as "ridiculous" any suggestion that Rove was involved in the Plame leak.

When asked at an Oct. 10, 2003, briefing whether Rove and two other White House aides had ever told any reporter that Plame worked for the CIA, McClellan said: "I spoke with those individuals... and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this... the leaking of classified information."

Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited


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