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

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bush Stresses Libby Is Presumed Innocent - Yahoo! News

By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney volunteered glowing endorsements and expressed no criticism of I. Lewis Libby on Friday as the senior White House adviser was indicted, resigned and lost his security clearance.

Cheney called Libby "one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known."

Bush said, "We're all saddened by today's news."

Libby, known by his nickname of "Scooter," was Cheney's chief of staff, national security adviser and close confidant. He was accused of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to a federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name by someone in the administration.

"Scooter has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country," Bush said. "In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial."

Bush watched about 15 or 20 minutes of a televised news conference by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about his two-year investigation that led to Libby's indictment.

Later, the president glowered at NBC News reporter David Gregory, when he shouted at Bush, "Are you embarrassed by these charges?" The president had to walk within a few feet of the correspondent to get to his helicopter on the South Lawn, and Bush stared hard at Gregory as he continued to shout questions.

Bush flew to Camp David, his mountaintop retreat in Maryland, for the weekend.

Libby was a driving force behind the administration's march to war against Iraq and helped assemble evidence — later proven false — asserting that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which became the rationale for the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

After weeks of suspense and anxiety, there was an obvious sense of relief at the White House that Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, had escaped indictment although he remains under investigation. Apparently told in advance that he wouldn't be indicted, Rove waved to photographers from the window of his home Friday morning and clowned around as he left for the White House.

When Libby's indictment came down, Cheney was in Georgia for a congressional fundraiser and a visit to a military base. He said Libby had informed him that he was resigning to fight the charges, adding, "I have accepted his decision with deep regret."

Libby tendered his resignation to Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, and left the executive mansion shortly after that. Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Libby turned in his White House pass and his security clearance was automatically terminated.

The White House counsel's office sent a memo to all staff directing them not to respond to questions about the Libby investigation or to discuss it among themselves. It also said that "all White House staffers should not have any contact with Scooter Libby about any aspect of the investigation," McClellan said.

While the president's aides have been distracted for weeks by the Libby-Rove investigation, Bush said, "We remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country. I got a job to do and so do the people who work in the White House."

He said the administration was focused on protecting the country and keeping the economy strong, and that he would soon name a new justice to the Supreme Court. Card, in a staff memo, also praised Libby and reminded the staff to remain focused on their jobs.

Accompanying Bush to Camp David was Harriet Miers, the White House legal counsel who withdrew as a candidate for the high court on Thursday in the face of withering criticism from conservatives. In accepting her withdrawal, Bush said Miers would resume her duties helping review candidates for judicial openings.


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