PlameGame

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

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bush Says He'll Fire Any Aide Who 'Committed a Crime'

By DAVID STOUT
WASHINGTON, July 18 - President Bush said today that he would fire anyone in his administration who has broken the law in the unmasking of a C.I.A. officer two years ago.

Asked about his close adviser Karl Rove, who is at the center of an investigation into the disclosure of the officer's identity, Mr. Bush said: "If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration. I don't know all the facts; I want to know all the facts."

The remarks appeared to shift the standard for dismissal that has been expressed repeatedly over many months by Mr. Bush's spokesmen - from promises to fire anyone who played a role in the disclosure, to Mr. Bush's statement today that criminal conduct would have to be involved.

The president's comment today, however, was similar to one he made in 2003, when he said that anyone in his administration who had "violated law" would be dismissed.

Democrats pounced on the remarks as a raising of the bar for dismissal. However, Mr. Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, rejected the suggestion that Mr. Bush had added a "qualifier" to the standards for his aides' conduct.

For months, Mr. Bush's spokesmen have said that anyone involved in the disclosure of the C.I.A. officer's identity would be dismissed. Today's developments come amid mounting evidence that, at the very least, Mr. Rove provided backhanded confirmation of the C.I.A. officer's identity.

In the months after the name of the officer, Valerie Plame Wilson, was made public in July 2003, White House officials have said they believe that no one working for the administration was part of the disclosure, and that anyone found to have been "involved" in the disclosure would be dismissed.

Mrs. Wilson's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, has asserted that his wife was unmasked, and her career consequently damaged, in retaliation for his criticism of the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq. He has also said he suspects that Mr. Rove, by all accounts one of the president's most trusted political advisers and an architect of his successful re-election strategy, had a role in the disclosure.

On Sept. 30, 2003, Mr. Bush said he was eager to find out if there had been "a leak" from his administration about Mrs. Wilson. "I want to know who it is," he said. "And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

Just one day earlier, Mr. McClellan had stated a more categorical standard. "The president has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration," Mr. McClellan said. "He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."

Mr. Bush himself appeared to embrace a broader position on June 10, 2004, when he was asked whether he would fire anyone who had anything to do with leaking Mrs. Wilson's name.

"Yes," Mr. Bush replied, and his spokesmen have reiterated that stance repeatedly in the months since then.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, has said that Mr. Rove has been told he is not a target of a federal investigation into the leak.

Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter, says in a first-person account in this week's issue that Mr. Rove was the first person to tell him that Mr. Wilson's wife was an officer for the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Cooper writes that Mr. Rove used indirect language - not mentioning Mrs. Wilson by name, for instance - but that he supplied him information nonetheless.

The first journalist to disclose Mrs. Wilson's identity was the columnist Robert Novak, who has declined for two years to say whether he has testified to a federal grand jury investigating the leak.

Some Democrats have called for Mr. Bush to fire Mr. Rove, who is now the deputy White House chief of staff. The Democrats assert that Mr. Rove may have violated a federal law that bars the deliberate disclosure of the name of a C.I.A. agent.

Republicans have countered that Democrats are prejudging the results of the investigation - and may be eager to do so, for political reasons - and that any conversations Mr. Rove had with reporters might have been for the purpose of steering them away from unreliable rumors.

The questions about Mr. Rove and the unmasking of Mrs. Wilson have dominated the political conversation in the sweltering capital, so much so that the issue came up today as President Bush was appearing with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India at the White House.

Mr. Bush did not respond directly when he was asked whether he was "displeased" that Mr. Rove had discussed Mr. Wilson's wife with a reporter. "We have a serious ongoing investigation here, and it's being played out in the press," Mr. Bush said. He said he hopes the investigation will be over "very soon" and that people should reserve judgment until then.

The president's message was echoed later today by Mr. McClellan, who responded to repeated questions about Mr. Rove by urging people not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

"I think that the president was stating what is obvious when it comes to people who work in the administration: that if someone commits a crime, they're not going to be working any longer in this administration," Mr. McClellan said.

But Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York and Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, both Democrats, said they were disappointed in Mr. Bush's comments and what they believed was his shifting stance. "The standard for holding a high position in the White House should not simply be that you didn't break the law," Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. Waxman wrote a letter to the president in which he said Mr. Bush had "significantly changed" his position, and that a president had "an affirmative obligation" to take quick action to protect national security secrets without waiting for a prosecution to run its course.

The controversy over Mr. Rove comes as President Bush is preparing to nominate a candidate to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. A reporter began a question today by alluding to rumors that the president was close to a choice.

"Really?" Mr. Bush replied, to laughter. He went on to say that he was reviewing a number of candidates, that he would be "thorough and deliberate" in choosing a name, and that he hoped a new justice could be confirmed by the Senate in time for the court term that begins in October.

"And thank you for your question, and thank you for telling me how close I am," Mr. Bush said, "or at least indicating what others think."



Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

1 Comments:

  • At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Joe Wilson (no. not that one) said…

    Now you too can avoid answering questions with ongoinginvestigation.com, which is being auctioned on eBay.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=5789694063

     

Post a Comment

<< Home