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

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dems Seek Probe on Rove Role in CIA Leak

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
20 minutes ago

Democrats stirred the pot Thursday in the case of powerful presidential aide Karl Rove and the news leak that unmasked a CIA agent. They triggered a partisan clash in the Senate, sought a House investigation and brought the husband of the undercover operative to the Capitol, where he accused the White House of a "smear campaign."

Senate Republicans countered with legislation — swiftly sidetracked — put together largely to embarrass Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and his deputy.

"We should not be doing this," Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, scolded both sides during a 90-minute debate full of barbs. "This is exactly why the American public holds Congress in such low esteem right now."

The partisan flare-up occurred on a day that President Bush offered Rove a silent show of support, chatting amiably with the political adviser as they walked to a helicopter on the White House lawn.

There was nothing friendly in the full Senate when lawmakers debated a spending bill for the Homeland Security Department.

Reid, D-Nev., invoked the name of the first President Bush when the senator criticized the current administration of "playing politics with our national security."

Speaking in favor of his legislation to strip Rove of his clearance for classified information, Reid said the president should already have done so. Instead, Reid said, the administration has attacked its critics. "This is what is known as a cover-up. This is an abuse of power," Reid said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. said Democrats were resorting to "partisan war chants." He said it was up to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to determine the facts surrounding the publication of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name and her connection with the intelligence agency. "He is investigating the whole matter," Frist said.

Sen. Norm Coleman (news, bio, voting record), R-Minn., accused Democrats of shattering a peaceful period of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate. "Why don't we all step back and lower the rhetoric," he said.

Across the Capitol, Rep. Rush Holt (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J., introduced legislation for an investigation that would compel senior administration officials to turn over records relating to Plame disclosure.

"This is not about Karl Rove," Holt said. "This ... is about holding the executive branch accountable for a breach of national security."

Just outside the Senate chamber, Plame's husband, a former diplomat and opponent of the administration's Iraq policy, criticized Rove in personal terms.

"I made my bones confronting Saddam Hussein. ... Karl Rove made his bones by dirty political tricks," said Joseph Wilson, who was the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War.

At a news conference hosted by Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), a New York Democrat who heads his party's Senate campaign organization, Wilson said he has been targeted by a "smear campaign launched from the West Wing of the White House."

In rebuttal, the Republican National Committee distributed a document entitled "Joe Wilson's Top Ten Worst Inaccuracies and Misstatements." The Senate GOP leadership quickly organized a news conference of its own.

"This is politics, pure and simple," said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. "Joe Wilson has perpetrated one of the greatest political hoaxes or all times."

After simmering for months, the matter has intensified in recent days with the disclosure that Rove was a source for Time reporter Matt Cooper, who wrote a Web site article that identified Plame as a CIA officer.

Cooper testified Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating whether anyone in the administration illegally leaked Plame's name and identity. Wilson has said the leak was an attempt to discredit him.

Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has said the White House deputy chief of staff has done nothing wrong. Rove "has been repeatedly assured he is not a target of the investigation," Luskin has said.

But twice this week, the president passed up chances to state his continued confidence in the aide most closely identified with his political successes. Democrats eagerly stepped in.

In the end, their effort in the Senate to strip Rove of his security clearance was defeated on a party-line vote of 53-44.

Frist's alternative lost, too, by a 64-33 vote. Some 20 Republicans joined all voting Democrats in opposition.

The proposal said any federal officeholder who refers to a classified FBI report on the floor of the Senate would be denied access to the material. That was a reference to Reid, who referred briefly several weeks ago to an FBI report on one of Bush's judicial nominees.

Frist's proposal also would cover any federal officeholder who makes a statement "based on an FBI agent's comments which is used as propaganda by terrorist organizations."

That was a reference to Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, who apologized recently for having likened interrogation practices at an American-run prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to those of Nazis, Soviet gulags and rulers such as Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in Cambodia.


Post a Comment

<< Home