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

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bush says won't prejudge CIA case, Rove's role

By Adam Entous/Reuters

President Bush said on Wednesday he would withhold judgment for now on the role of his top political adviser, Karl Rove, in a brewing controversy over who leaked a CIA agent's identity.

With Rove seated behind him during a Cabinet meeting, Bush said there was a "serious investigation" under way into who leaked the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame and that he would not "prejudge" the outcome until the federal investigation is completed.

Bush stopped short of issuing a public vote of confidence in Rove as some Republicans had expected. "He was not asked that specific question," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"As I indicated yesterday, every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the president."

Some prominent Democrats have called on Bush to fire Rove, the architect of his two presidential election victories and now his deputy chief of staff, or block his access to classified information. Bush had pledged to dismiss any leakers in the Plame case but has not said whether he would follow through if Rove was found to be responsible.

"I have instructed every member of my staff to fully cooperate in this investigation. I also will not prejudge the investigation based on media reports," Bush told reporters in response to a question.

"We're in the midst of an ongoing investigation and I will be more than happy to comment further once the investigation is completed."

The comments were Bush's first on Rove since reports earlier this week that the adviser, talked to at least one reporter -- Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper -- about Plame's role at the CIA before she was identified in a newspaper column in July 2003.

Rove's lawyer was quoted as saying his client did not mention Plame by name.

Faced with jail if he did not discuss his sources, Cooper agreed last week to testify in the investigation. He appeared before the grand jury on Wednesday.

New York Times reporter Judith Miller refused to testify about sources she spoke to on the story and was jailed.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan broke his silence on the case on Tuesday and said Bush continued to have confidence in Rove.

Republicans accused Democrats of mounting a smear campaign against Rove.

"It is just another politically motivated part of their agenda," said Rep. Deborah Pryce (news, bio, voting record), an Ohio Republican.

Rep. Roy Blunt (news, bio, voting record) of Missouri, the third ranking House Republican, said, "I don't see a significant level of concern" about Rove within Republican ranks.

Bush and McClellan have balked at answering key questions, such as what Rove has told Bush about his involvement in the case, when Rove told him and what would happen if Rove was singled out by the prosecutors.

McClellan said the White House was asked to remain silent by prosecutors investigating who leaked Plame's identity, an act Plame's husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson, said was meant to discredit him for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy in 2003.

On Tuesday, Bush did not respond to a reporter's shouted question about whether he intended to dismiss Rove.

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."

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Donna Smith)


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