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

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Democrat Urges Rove to Quit Over CIA Leak - Yahoo! News

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer

The Senate Democratic leader said Sunday that presidential adviser Karl Rove should resign because of his role in exposing an undercover CIA officer, and a veteran Republican senator said President Bush needs "new blood" in his White House.

Rove has not been charged, but he continues to be investigated in the CIA leaks case that brought the indictment and resignation Friday of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, an adviser to Bush and the top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has not made a decision on whether Rove gave false testimony during his four grand jury appearances. Rove is Bush's most trusted adviser.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he is disappointed that Bush and Cheney responded to the indictment by lauding Libby and suggested they should apologize for the leak that revealed the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

"First of all, the vice president issues this very terse statement praising Libby for all the great things he's done," Reid said. "Then we have the president come on camera a few minutes later calling him Scooter and what a great patriot he is. There has not been an apology to the American people for this obvious problem in the White House," Reid, D-Nev., told ABC's "This Week."

Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Cheney should "come clean" about his involvement and why he discussed Plame with Libby before Libby spoke to reporters about her.

"What did the vice president know? What were his intentions?" Dodd asked on "Fox News Sunday."

"Now, there's no suggestion the vice president is guilty of any crime here whatsoever. But if our standard is just criminality, then we're never going to get to the bottom of this," Dodd said.

Democrats appearing on Sunday talk shows portrayed Libby's indictment as one of many serious problems surrounding the White House and one of several allegations raising questions about Republican ethics. Republicans repeatedly said the charges have been made against only one individual and that Libby should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Public opinion appears to be running against Bush. Almost half the public, 46 percent, say the level of ethics and honesty in the federal government has fallen with Bush as president, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll. That's three times the number who say ethics and honesty have risen during that time.

Republican Sen. Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record) of Mississippi said Bush should be on the lookout for "new blood, new energy, qualified staff, new people in administration." He said poor advice may have even contributed to the failed nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

A grand jury charged Libby on Friday with five felonies alleging obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents. If convicted, he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

Libby was not charged with the crime that the grand jury was created to investigate — specifically, who leaked the name of Plame to reporters in 2003. Libby and Rove were named by reporters brought before the grand jury, but it was unclear whether they knew that she was a covert agent.

Reid said Rove should resign or be fired for even discussing Plame. He recalled that Bush once said he would fire anyone involved in the leak, although Bush later amended that standard to say he would fire anyone convicted of a crime.

"If he's a man of his word, Rove should be history," Reid said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., said Rove has not been charged with any crime and that any talk of him stepping down is politically motivated.

"Senator Reid is entitled to his opinion, but he's not the president of the United States, and he doesn't administer justice in this country," Specter said.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record) of South Carolina said there "absolutely" should be an internal White House investigation. But he said allegations of illegal activity appeared to be focused only on Libby.

"I think the likelihood of Karl Rove being indicted in the future is virtually zero," Graham said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged an internal investigation and that Bush, "if need be, take the vice president to the wood shed."

"The real question for President Bush is going to be: is he going to be like Nixon — hunker down, get into the bunker, admit no mistakes," Schumer said, "or like Reagan, who actually admitted mistakes, did a midcourse correction and brought in new people, bipartisan people, people above ethical reproach, into the White House."

Known for Discretion, Libby Is A Surprising Figure in CIA Leak

By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 31, 2005; A01

Friends recall how relieved I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was that his 15 minutes of fame seemed to be behind him, when as Marc Rich's lawyer he was hauled before an aggressive congressional committee investigating how the fugitive financier came to be pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

For a man known to thrive on anonymity, who as Vice President Cheney's top aide would only talk to reporters if his name was not used, and who cautioned White House subordinates not to talk to the media -- no one, least of all Libby, expected an encore.

If only he had known his next 15 minutes would turn out so badly, that he would spiral from the pinnacle of government power to criminal charges.

The senior White House aide was in seclusion over the weekend at his McLean home with his wife and two grade-school-age children trying, as one friend said, "to put one foot in front of the other," after being indicted Friday on five counts of lying, perjury and obstructing justice -- the only person charged in the 22-month CIA leak investigation.

Libby, 55, was braced for the worst, his friends say, but not necessarily prepared, as he pushed through what were likely his darkest days leading up to the indictment.

He was grieving over his mother's death about 10 days ago -- the same day he learned that White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury that Libby may have been the first to inform him of the identity of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame. A few days later, Libby's relationship with New York Times reporter Judith Miller -- who spent 85 days in jail protecting his identity as a source -- was described enigmatically as an "entanglement" by the paper's executive editor.

And on Friday, the man who friends insist was honored to serve for all the right reasons was forced to resign his $161,000 job as the vice president's chief of staff and as a special assistant to the president -- hobbling out of the White House on crutches because he recently broke his foot.

"He has no sense of entitlement, no sense that he's been victimized. Just an attitude of 'circumstances have to be dealt with,' " said Mary Matalin, a friend and former White House colleague, who spoke to Libby over the weekend. "He knows he has got a job to do, and he will get it done. . . . Whining is not in his lexicon."

Matalin described Libby's friends as "crushed" by the turn of events -- and all of those interviewed expressed bewilderment that a man so meticulous, so discreet, so smart -- could end up in this situation. The investigation was triggered when news outlets reported that Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV -- a very vocal White House critic on the war -- was a CIA operative.

Although Libby was spared an even more serious charge -- purposely unmasking Plame -- reporters testified that Libby did steer them to her.

No one would ruminate on the record about Libby's motives, but there is speculation that perhaps Libby is falling on his sword to protect Cheney, not only his boss, but also a personal friend. The two ride into work together in Cheney's motorcade most mornings. Although Libby testified otherwise under oath, his own notes indicate that it was Cheney who first told him that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. What is not known is whether Cheney was aware of -- or sanctioned -- Libby's effort to discredit Wilson and his wife.

"I've thought about this all night," said one acquaintance. "One possibility is that Scooter was just pushing back because Wilson was after them -- but it just went too far. And frankly he may have thought the reporters would never testify."

Another, who worked with Libby in the White House and considers him a friend, echoed the position of Libby's lawyer: "Perhaps he really did get balled up in the sequencing of his conversations and didn't remember who first told him about her. Unless you've been there, you can't imagine what those jobs are like. It starts at 6 in the morning and ends 8, 9, 10, 11 at night. Seven days a week the phone is ringing off the hook. . . . Not many people would be able to recall who you talked to first."

Friends say Libby is working on expanding his legal team to include white-collar criminal lawyers to get him through this week's arraignment and a potential trial. But at least two close friends worried that the legal battle facing Libby would wipe him out financially.

He left a high-paying job at a law firm to work in government five years ago, and he had recently talked to friends about returning to private practice to rebuild his finances. His wife, Harriet Grant, was a Democratic staff lawyer on the Senate Judiciary Committee who chose to stay home after their children were born.

"It takes a lot of dough to deal with this, and I would not characterize him as wealthy," said Jackson Hogan, a friend from Andover and Yale. "It wouldn't take too long to empty the family's coffers with legal bills."

Another friend who, like others interviewed, spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case, said that Libby had often talked about going back into the private sector to secure his family's future. "He certainly does not have enough money -- not with what he's facing now," the friend said. Some friends are planning to set up a legal defense fund to help Libby.

He found his way into government in the early 1980s through his mentor Paul D. Wolfowitz, now president at the World Bank, whom he met when Wolfowitz was teaching at Yale. An undersecretary of state at the time, Wolfowitz hired him as a speechwriter, and later brought Libby to the Defense Department with him. From those early days in government, Libby developed an interest in terrorism, particularly chemical warfare.

He also built a reputation in Washington as a self-effacing public servant, more interested in service than power, more interested in dealing with terrorism than pushing a political agenda. "Despite what you read, Scooter Libby is not an ideologue," said another longtime friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "He was very much a pragmatist."

It is for this reason that those who know him are astonished that a quiet guy who writes fiction and is interested in poetry, and who strove to stay under the radar screen, is now viewed as a guy who talked too much to reporters, and who concocted a story to cover up his role in the revealing of Plame.

William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said that he never viewed Libby as anything but discreet and honorable in his dealings with the media. "If I talk to 10 people at the White House, the other nine are more open than Scooter. . . . We got nothing from him."

"I remember he would tell us early on not to take a lot of notes -- and if you do, get rid of them shortly thereafter. And not to talk to the press," said Cesar V. Conda, a former domestic policy aide to Cheney.

"If there was such an award in high school -- most likely not to be indicted -- that would have been him," said Ed Rogers, a veteran of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. "He's a by-the-book guy, sure-footed and careful. He's not someone known to play footsie with reporters."

But journalists he spoke to testified that Libby did just that -- that it was Libby who tipped them off to Plame's identity.

"I know he has a story. Believe me, he'll answer," Matalin said. "People who wish the best for Scooter . . . have to take a step back. It's so completely inconsistent with Scooter's work ethic, his intelligence and his history. There's no context in the indictment . . . it's only one side of the story."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Intrigue Has Familiar Ring for Libby and Associates - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 - The intrigue in I. Lewis Libby's novel, "The Apprentice," centers on a group of travelers seeking shelter from a blizzard in a Japanese inn. With a distant war as the backdrop to their conversations, the guests are unfailingly polite, but they are also deeply suspicious of one another's motives.

Two days after the indictment of Mr. Libby, the White House shares more than a few similarities with his fictional ryokan, the traditional Japanese inn where ritual can mask reality.

In conversations over the weekend, administration officials and others close to the White House said President Bush's team was relieved that the prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, found no conspiracy. But that relief began to be tinged with a new sense of apprehension. Partly, they say, that is because Mr. Fitzgerald made it clear that his investigation into who blew the cover of the C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson, remained open.

But it is also partly because there is speculation about whether Mr. Libby, facing the possibility of significant prison time if convicted, may decide that even his loyalty to the Bush-Cheney team has its limits.

While Mr. Libby said Friday, "I am confident that at the end of this process I will be completely and totally exonerated," the speculation posits that Mr. Libby may seek a plea bargain that could win him leniency and perhaps limit or sidestep jail time. In return he would have to provide something Mr. Fitzgerald says he still wants: an unobscured view into who at the White House may have signed off on revealing Ms. Wilson's identity, in hopes of discrediting her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. It was Mr. Wilson, a former ambassador, who took issue withreports that Iraq had tried to buy processed uranium from Niger.

But these theories assume that Mr. Libby has something to say about the role of others, and it is unclear that he does.

Mr. Libby is just assembling a criminal defense team. A seasoned lawyer himself, he undoubtedly will rely on his own training and instincts in deciding whether to fight, as he vowed to on Friday, or seek a deal.

"No one thinks this is the end of the road," said one longtime associate of Mr. Libby, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the delicate nature of the court proceeding. "He's the picture of loyalty, and some say we'll now see what happens when Scooter's legal mind is unleashed on his own defense."

But others, the associate acknowledged, "are amazed that Scooter is the one who got tagged" with obstructing the investigation.

A former White House official who often worked with Mr. Libby said on Sunday evening, after talking with his former colleagues, that "the scenario everyone is talking about is whether Scooter explains how this all happened." That would include exactly what was said aboard Vice President Dick Cheney's plane in June, just before a few reporters began to hear that Ms. Wilson worked at the Central Intelligence Agency and had played a role in dispatching her husband on a mission to Niger.

Officially, White House officials will not discuss whether they harbor any concerns about what Mr. Libby may talk about. The case is "so complicated and so layered," one of Mr. Bush's aides said this weekend, that no one knows if what happened on Friday was the investigation's climax, or its penultimate phase.

Mr. Cheney - who appears and disappears in critical segments of the indictment, but whose exact role is as shrouded in mystery as ever - made it clear in a statement that he had no intention of explaining his own role. At the end of a statement praising Mr. Libby's service, he said, "It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the charges or any facts relating to the proceeding."

But Mr. Cheney's statement was also effusive in its praise of Mr. Libby - "one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known," he said - and Mr. Bush was only slightly less complimentary. Both urged that Mr. Libby be given a chance to mount a vigorous defense, with a presumption of innocence.

"For a short-term political gain we would have expressed outrage" at Mr. Libby, one senior administration official said. "But if you are going to be serious about the process, and the presumption of innocence, you can't do that."

Perhaps that was also an unspoken signal to Mr. Libby to stay in the fold; there was speculation on Sunday interview programs that he could, some day, receive a presidential pardon. (That happened to some in the Iran-contra scandal.) But however warm the words, Mr. Libby is already being cast adrift, much like one of the lonely characters in his novel, which he used to give to office visitors who engaged him in discussions about Japan.

Just hours after the announcement of Mr. Libby's indictment on Friday afternoon, an e-mail message to all members of the administration from the White House counsel's office warned that "you should not discuss any aspect of the matter with Mr. Libby and should not engage in any conduct that might be perceived as influencing or attempting to influence the proceedings."

Figuring out Mr. Bush's own reaction to these events is, of course, even harder. But to judge by the comments of some of his inner circle, Mr. Bush remains insistent that his administration did not hype the evidence of unconventional weapons in Iraq, including the nuclear claim at the center of this dispute.

Mr. Bush's aides portray themselves as victims in this case, battered by conflicting intelligence and ill served by the head of the C.I.A. at the time, George J. Tenet. Mr. Tenet, they argue, did not convey to the White House doubts he had about the validity of the charge. But Mr. Tenet's doubts were deep enough that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in an interview in 2003, said that he had never believed the uranium story and that he was mystified why the White House thought it legitimate.

In the end, it may be only Mr. Libby who can answer that question. He may yet get his chance, or he may choose the Japanese option, leaving the end of the story full of ambiguity. : TIME Magazine -- A Time To Regroup

Bloodied by scandal, setbacks and casualties, Bush is looking for fresh troops and a new battle plan

You have to wonder sometimes why Presidents even run for re-election, given how things usually turn out. Second terms have a way of veering into wild and menacing terrain, spiked with indictments and scandals and betrayal and grief. Some friends become less friendly because they know you are on your way to retirement while they are on their way to the next campaign. Your team gets tired, the ideas stale, and the fumes of power more toxic. It was through those badlands that President George W. Bush trudged last week, and for once he was walking alone. "The problem is that the President doesn't want to make changes," says a White House adviser who is not looking for a West Wing job, "but he's lost some of his confidence in the three people he listens to the most." Those three are his Vice President, Dick Cheney, whose top aide, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, has been charged with brazenly obstructing the investigation into who leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame; Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, who while not indicted has still emerged as a player in the scandal; and chief of staff Andrew Card, who gets some of the blame for bungling the response to Hurricane Katrina and even more for the botched Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers. "All relationships with the President, except for his relationship with Laura, have been damaged recently," the White House adviser says. The closest aide who is undamaged is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice—who is off minding the rest of the world—and, of course, Bush himself. "The funny thing is everybody's failing now, in which case perhaps it's time to look at George Bush's relationship with George Bush."

Especially since, above all things, Bush values loyalty, both to his friends and to his own beliefs. He does not abandon either easily, so these next weeks pose an interesting dilemma. The thing about the wilderness is that if you stay there, you die. That's why the worst week of Bush's presidency actually brought with it a quiet sense of relief among some of his restless aides. "This has wakened them from their notion of infallibility," says a Bush adviser. Those who have been arguing for what would count in this White House as radical change—fresh faces, shiny plans, a wider exchange of ideas—felt that at last they had some leverage because Bush could no longer insist that everything was working just fine.

What no one can know but everyone can spin is whether this week marked a point of no return or a turning point. Top advisers have all but written off the rest of the year as a loss. The aim is to relaunch Bush's presidency in January with a new agenda rolled out in his State of the Union address, now that Social Security reform lies crumpled in a ditch. But to do that, he would need to adapt the style and system that served him well for four years but has now demonstrably failed; add new blood to a team that functions as a palace guard but not as an early-warning system or idea factory; and summon the charisma from his days as a candidate to reconnect with Americans in what has become his last campaign.

The Week from Hell
Knowing that the week was likely to produce a convergence of public relations catastrophes, Bush's staff gave him a very busy, very public schedule. He was a patient audience member at a daylong conference that First Lady Laura Bush held on Helping America's Youth, and he worked the crowd in one hotel ballroom for so long that a veteran cameraman said it was like having Bill Clinton back. Bush palled around with Democratic luminary Vernon Jordan at a luncheon and invited a group of military wives to suggest a gift for his 28th wedding anniversary. "Sorry I asked," he quipped when urged to give diamonds.

But there was no escaping or disguising what had happened. More than anything else, it was the Miers meltdown that dissolved once and for all the image of a President whom no one defies and whose luck never runs out. The whole debacle, even Bush insiders say, reflects the problem of a leader who doesn't hear from enough people. "This was entirely avoidable," says an adviser involved in the process. "After Katrina, after Michael Brown, the issue of cronyism was already on the table and a negative. It was incredible to try this."

Although Miers did not formally call Bush with her decision until Wednesday night, by then the deed was all but done. Her meetings with Senators were not winning her any support. One who attended them described her as "smitten by the President," talking endlessly about her admiration for him in her soft Texas drawl. She was unfailingly gracious, but she faced a tough crowd, and the private prep sessions were just as shaky. By that time, conservatives were so riled, even a Bush win would have been a loss. The cost would have been permanent, unforgiving fury from a whole swath of his base—and a Democratic Party smelling blood. Instead, Bush hopes that if he gives his allies a profound sign of respect and acknowledgment of their righteous power, they will agree to unite behind him for the fights ahead.

The Libby Meltdown
In many people's minds, the epic fiasco that was the Miers nomination could not have happened if Rove had been at full strength. Tortured by kidney stones, distracted by a circling prosecutor, Rove was not in top form during the 24 days that the nomination was collapsing.

There was "a weariness to him you didn't see before," an associate says. "He's very strong, and it's the first time since I've known him that he was fighting for his own political life and not his candidate." It was only after his fourth appearance before the grand jury that aides sensed "a burden off his shoulders," as though Rove judged from the line of questions that he might yet escape.

But whether or not he's in trouble with the law, friends say, he's certainly in trouble with Bush. Rove will continue managing the intersection of politics and policy in the White House but will have to regain the unfettered powers he once held. "The President's relationship with Karl has been damaged over the scandal," a Bush friend says. A source close to Rove says when Bush asked Rove whether he was responsible for leaking Plame's CIA identity to columnist Robert Novak, Rove told him "absolutely not." While that may have been strictly true, Fitzgerald's indictment suggests that Rove did at least discuss Wilson's wife with Novak, as he did with TIME's Matthew Cooper. As for Cheney, who retained Libby as the scandal unfolded and did not follow the advice of some to move him out five months ago, his relationship with Bush has suffered "a strain, not a rupture," says a presidential adviser. That much was clear when the White House let it be known that Card had called Cheney to inform him of the choice of Miers. In earlier times, he would have been intimately involved in such a decision.

Cheney's standing has suffered mainly because Libby emerges as such a liability. Fitzgerald threw the book at him not for anything he said to reporters but for what he said to the FBI and the grand jury. The indictments suggest that the aide whose aim was to spin the war might have tried to spin the prosecutor. "Lying was a remarkable act of stupidity on Libby's part," says Richard Nixon's former White House counsel John Dean. "He's old enough to know better. He watched Watergate and Iran-contra. To try to pull the leg of the grand jury was really quite remarkable."

As expected, Libby promptly resigned, and Bush and Cheney expressed their regrets and followed with the inevitable promise to focus on the nation's business. By itself, the departure of Libby won't necessarily affect Bush Administration policy toward Iraq. Although Libby was one of the earliest and most urgent proponents of the war, he doesn't seem to have been as influential in charting U.S. policy since the invasion. But the indictments once again cast light on the Administration's case for invading Iraq and come against a backdrop of growing discontent about the war and where it's headed among some of Bush's former allies.

Until recently, the doubts about Bush from the right have focused on the mismanagement of the war rather than on the decision to go to war. But even before the Libby indictments, the wall of silence had been crumbling. First there was the Oct. 19 speech by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, in which Wilkerson charged that a "cabal" of Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had "flummoxed" a President who is "not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either." Even more stinging was the interview given by Brent Scowcroft—National Security Adviser to Bush's father during the first Gulf War—to the New Yorker, in which he not only questioned the wisdom of invading Iraq but also criticized the wider Bush doctrine of spreading democracy in the Middle East.

But neither man belongs to the White House inner circle and neither has a better plan. Wilkerson rejects an idea that close to 50% of Americans support: beginning a withdrawal of U.S. troops now, whether the Iraqis are ready or not. The fact that even some of Bush's critics continue to advocate staying the course in Iraq helps explain why there doesn't seem to be much urgency in the Administration for speeding up the exit strategy. Notes Leslie Gelb, former Council on Foreign Relations president: "All Washington political insiders are saying the writing's on the wall, the troops are coming out. I don't think they're factoring the President into account. He's not running for re-election. He's a true believer."

The Reset Button
There's a theory going around Washington about why this year has gone so haywire, one that goes to Rove's essential strength. "These guys are very good at campaigning," says an outside adviser to the White House, "and not so good at governing." As long as there is an election on the horizon, they function like a humming machine and their coalition stays in line. But in an environment where that isn't there, they fall apart.

The year's successes—an energy bill, the highway bill, bankruptcy reform, a free-trade agreement—all came before the Category 5 bad news of the fall. But a well-received court nominee could help Bush turn the corner. He will be traveling to South America and Asia before the holidays, which is why the White House road map to recovery starts in earnest in January. "It is fundamentally a question of reconnecting with the American people," says a senior member of the Bush team. "One of the good things about being President of the United States is that even when you're down, you have the ability to control your own destiny through the bully pulpit."

Bush officials are literally going back and reading his campaign speeches. Aides say they have a "back-to-basics" strategy focusing on such traditional Republican issues as spending restraint. As part of the search for a fresh agenda, groups of Bush aides are working on new immigration and tax-reform policies for possible rollout. But immigration is an issue that splits the party's base, and the recommendations of Bush's tax-reform commission, most notably doing away with the mortgage-interest deduction, are universally viewed as a nonstarter. To try to lower energy prices, the White House is considering taking steps—legislative, diplomatic or jawboning. But in a global economy, getting prices down is easier said than done.

As for a shift in the lineup, Card could be named Treasury Secretary by the beginning of the year. Among his possible replacements are White House budget director Joshua Bolten, former Montana Governor Marc Racicot and deputy budget director Clay Johnson III. An adviser says the personnel shifts will be gradual: "They don't want to communicate panic because they're not panicked."

It won't help that Bush's main enforcers on the Hill are themselves in a defensive crouch. Cheney could find himself a witness in a criminal trial, House majority leader Tom DeLay had to step down to fight indictments for money laundering, and Senate majority leader Bill Frist is under investigation for possible insider trading. The party's ambitious comers are not running as Bush's allies and heirs, and the 2006 campaign promises to be an epic battle. G.O.P. pollster Bill McInturff says the percentage of people who define themselves as "very interested" in the 2006 elections is already at 57%, compared with 39% in October 2002, a month before those midterm elections.

History is certainly not on Bush's side. Since 1966, if a President's approval rating dipped below 50% at a midterm election, his party lost an average of 42 seats in the House—which next year would be enough to put the Democrats back in power. Still, optimists at the White House have reached the point that they are taking comfort from the example of Clinton, who came back strong after his party's shellacking in the 1994 elections and wound up popular despite his own, very different set of scandals. Next thing you know, Bush will be calling himself the Comeback Kid.

Bush, Cheney Urged to Apologize for Aides - Yahoo! News

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Sunday that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should apologize for the actions of their aides in the CIA leak case.

Reid, D-Nev., also said Bush should pledge not to pardon any aides convicted as a result of the investigation into the disclosure of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.

"There has not been an apology to the American people for this obvious problem in the White House," Reid said. He said Bush and Cheney "should come clean with the American public."

Reid added, "This has gotten way out of hand, and the American people deserve better than this."

Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, resigned Friday after he was indicted on five charges relating to statements he made to the FBI and a grand jury investigating the Plame leak.

Reid also said that Karl Rove, the president's closest political adviser, should step down. Rove has not been charged with a crime.

The closest the indictment comes to Rove is its discussion of an unnamed senior White House official who talked to columnist Robert Novak about Plame and discussed the matter with Libby. That could describe Rove.

The prosecutor in the CIA leak case has said his investigation is "not quite done," but declined comment on Rove during a news conference on Friday.

"If you ask me any name, I'm not going to comment on anyone named, because we either charged someone or we don't talk about them," Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said.

When the investigation began, the White House denied that Rove had been involved. Bush promised to fire anyone on his staff responsible for such a leak. He later stepped back, saying just that he would remove aides who committed crimes.

"I think Karl Rove should step down," Reid said. "Here is a man who the president said if he was involved, if anyone in the administration was involved, out they would go."

Bush and Cheney gave glowing endorsements and expressed no criticism of Libby after 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 Libby "has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country."

Reid said he was disappointed that Bush and Cheney expressed support for Libby in their public statements.

"The vice president issues this very terse statement praising Libby for all the great things he's done. Then we have the president come on camera a few minutes later calling him Scooter and what a great patriot he is," Reid told ABC's "This Week."

Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, said it was premature to discuss a presidential pardon because no one has been convicted in the investigation.

"People who actually were trying to use this, of course, to the president's political disadvantage, I think, are going to be disappointed by the fact that this appears to be limited to a single individual," Cornyn said.

Reid said the Libby indictment and other scandals in the Republican-led government — including the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and an investigation of Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee — as well as 2,000 dead in Iraq and high energy prices have had a negative impact on the outlook of Americans.

"I think they're as disappointed as I am .... almost dejected," Reid said.

The president's overall job approval was at 39 percent in an Associated Press-Ipsos survey conducted in early October. The poll also found that only 28 percent of respondents said the country was headed in the right direction.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the White House should conduct its own investigation of the CIA leak. Graham, however, said allegations of illegal activity appeared to be focused only on Libby.

"I think the likelihood of Karl Rove being indicted in the future is virtually zero," Graham said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"I think this will be seen in history and in politics as Mr. Libby giving false information, if proven, and it will not be about an effort by the vice president to disclose a CIA operative."

Schumer said the investigation showed Cheney's office was in a campaign to discredit Wilson's wife because of his criticism of the administration's use prewar intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and that Rove, despite public statements to the contrary, had discussed Wilson's wife with reporters.

If necessary, Schumer said, Bush should take Cheney "to the woodshed."

"The president, again, ought to have some nonpolitical person look into this and see what should be done," Schumer said. "The standard shouldn't just be escaping indictment."

Despite urging calm for Libby, Cheney may face firestorm, too - The Boston Globe

By Susan Milligan, Globe Staff | October 29, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney urged people yesterday to give his chief of staff the benefit of the doubt in facing perjury and obstruction of justice charges, but he might also have been referring to himself.

Though not indicted yesterday, Cheney is linked to the case as I. Lewis ''Scooter" Libby's source of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson's identity. If the case goes to trial, Cheney may have to testify, analysts said -- a situation that could give Democrats ammunition to further portray the episode as an abuse of power by the White House.

''This augurs ill for Cheney. Obviously, Libby is never going to say that Cheney told him to go out" and leak Plame Wilson's name to reporters, but ''there is circumstantial evidence that it happened," said David Berg, a Houston defense lawyer who represented Susan McDougal in the Whitewater case.

In a statement yesterday, Cheney called Libby ''one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known," and said Libby deserves ''an opportunity to answer the charges and a full airing of the facts." Observers say Cheney, too, could be drawn into the firestorm as Libby's source.

The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, would not talk about potential witnesses in Libby's case. But analysts say Cheney could be called as a witness for or against Libby, a spectacle that would give White House critics a chance to implicate Cheney -- and, perhaps, President Bush.

''It really becomes a forum for unpacking the whole process by which they produced and manipulated the intelligence at some point -- maybe not at the trial, but certainly in the public domain," said John Podesta, a former Clinton administration official who is president of the Center for American Progress. ''We can discuss the consequences of that kind of arrogance of power."

Perhaps the most powerful vice president in history, Cheney and his staff have had unusually strong influence in the Bush White House, particularly in national security policy. Early in the administration, Cheney, a former oil man, headed an industry task force that framed the sweeping energy package Congress approved months ago. And unlike most administrations, Cheney's and Bush's staffs are ''heavily integrated," said John C. Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute.

Because Libby and Cheney were so involved in US policy, ''you'll see a lot come out" about the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, Fortier said, creating more headaches for an administration defending an increasingly unpopular war.

The Bush White House is ''particularly jealous" about keeping administration documents and decision-making from public view, Fortier said. He predicted that Cheney, who fought and won the right to keep the work of the energy task force secret, may well try to exert executive privilege if he is called to testify. But Cheney probably cannot stay completely out of Libby's legal proceedings, said William Leuchtenberg, a presidential scholar. He noted that two sitting presidents have gone to court: Thomas Jefferson had to give a statement in a Virginia conspiracy case, and the Supreme Court ordered Bill Clinton to testify in Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit against him.

Stephen Hess, a professor at George Washington University, said Libby might cut a deal to avoid a trial and keep Cheney off of the witness stand. ''This is an aide who seems to be willing to take a bullet for the cause. It would not surprise me if they didn't go to trial," Hess said. ''On the other hand, it's [Libby's] life on the line." What Scooter Libby And I Talked About -- Nov. 07, 2005 -- Page 1

Exclusive: A TIME correspondent recounts his role in the Libby case

I was wet, smelling of chlorine. It was July 12, 2003, in Washington, a beautiful summer day, and I had just come back from swimming. All morning I had been trying to reach I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby for a cover story about both President George W. Bush's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's controversial Op-Ed. I had been invited to a fancy Washington country club by friends. Since the club didn't allow the use of cell phones, I kept running from pool to parking lot to try to reach Libby, who was traveling to Norfolk, Va., with Vice President Dick Cheney for the commissioning of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. Eventually I raced home without showering in order to take Libby's call. When he finally reached me at around 3 p.m., we spoke for a few minutes as I sprawled on my bed. I had no idea that that brief phone call, along with a conversation with Karl Rove the day before, would leave me embroiled in a federal investigation for more than two years and that Libby would end up facing a five-count indictment. I doubt it occurred to Libby either. That afternoon, we talked a bit on background and off the record, and he gave me an on-the-record quote distancing Cheney from Wilson's fact-finding trip to Africa for the CIA. In fact, he was so eager to distance his boss from Wilson that a few days later, he called to rebuke me for not having used the whole quote in the piece.

We updated the online version of the story, and I went on to co-author a piece for called "A War on Wilson?," which would attract the attention of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

Almost a year passed between those pieces and my legal woes. In May 2004 I was subpoenaed by Fitzgerald, who was interested in my conversation with Libby. Since part of our conversation was on background, I, along with TIME Inc.—which would be formally subpoenaed a few months later because the company controlled my computer-written notes and e-mails—fought the order to protect the principle of source confidentiality. We lost, and in early August 2004 we were both facing contempt. For TIME Inc., part of the global behemoth TIME Warner, that meant a fine; for me, jail.

On Aug. 5, 2004, the night before TIME Inc. and I were scheduled to be sentenced, I called Libby to see if he would grant a waiver for my testifying. The lawyers representing TIME Inc. and me, who supported my making that call, thought Libby might well do so. After all, he had granted a waiver to a Washington Post reporter, and Tim Russert of NBC had just avoided contempt by testifying about his end of his conversation with Libby. Most important, my exchange with Libby about Wilson had been short and, in my thinking and TIME Inc.'s, not especially provocative. When I reached Libby to ask for the waiver I told him, "I've been called before the grand jury, and I think they're going to ask me about a conversation we had about a year ago.

Most of it was on the record, but part of it wasn't, and I wanted to see if I could get your permission to talk about the part that wasn't on the record." I told him that I would tell the truth about our conversation. Libby told me that he used to be a lawyer and that "to be safe" our attorneys should talk and if it was O.K. with them, it was O.K. with him. So the following week my attorney, Floyd Abrams, spoke with Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, and they hammered out the details of the waiver. On Aug. 23, I had a tuna sandwich and gave a deposition in Abrams' Washington office about the conversation. The Wilson part that really interested Fitzgerald was tiny, as I told TIME readers. Basically, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife having been involved in sending him to Niger. Libby responded with words to the effect of, "Yeah, I've heard that too."

The contempt citation was lifted against me that day, and I breathed easy. As it turned out, a week later, Fitzgerald came back and insisted he wanted to know what another source had told me, and the struggle began all over again, with my refusing to name the source and TIME Inc. fighting the case all the way to the Supreme Court—which in June upheld the lower court's demand that the company turn over my notes and that I testify. Until now, that is the part of my involvement in the Plame affair that has drawn the biggest headlines: TIME Inc. did turn over my notes, over my objections, and my other source—Rove—did grant me a waiver to testify (see "What I Told the Grand Jury," July 25, 2005).

I was surprised last week that the Libby indictment even mentioned me. But apparently his recollection of the conversation differed from mine in a way that led the prosecutor to think he was lying. As for me, I still have no idea if Libby or anyone else has committed a crime. I only know that if there is a Libby trial, I'll testify truthfully and completely, as I did before the grand jury.

Karl Rove: Last-Minute Evidence - Newsweek Periscope -


Nov. 7, 2005 issue - Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's decision not to indict deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove in the CIA leak case followed a flurry of last-minute negotiations between the prosecutor and Rove's defense lawyer, Robert Luskin. On Tuesday afternoon, Fitzgerald and the chief FBI agent on the case, Jack Eckenrode, visited the offices of the D.C. law firm where Luskin works to meet with the defense lawyer. Two sources close to Rove who asked not to be identified because the probe is ongoing said Luskin presented evidence that gave the prosecutor "pause." One small item was a July 11, 2003, e-mail Rove sent to former press aide Adam Levine saying Levine could come up to his office to discuss a personnel issue. The e-mail was at 11:17 a.m., minutes after Rove had gotten off the phone with Matt Cooper—the same conversation (in which White House critic Joe Wilson's wife's work for the CIA was discussed) that Rove originally failed to disclose to the grand jury. Levine, with whom Rove often discussed his talks with reporters, did immediately go up to see Rove. But as Levine told the FBI last week, Rove never said anything about Cooper. The Levine talk was arguably helpful to one of Luskin's arguments: that, as a senior White House official, Rove dealt with a wide range of matters and might not remember every conversation he has had with journalists. In any case, Fitzgerald made another visit early Friday morning—shortly before the grand jury voted to indict Dick Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby—to the office of James Sharp, President George W. Bush's own lawyer in the case, to tell him the president's closest aide would not be charged. Rove remains in some jeopardy, but the consensus view of lawyers close to the case is that he has probably dodged the bullet.

Another lingering mystery: the role played by newspaper columnist Robert Novak and the original "senior administration official" who first leaked Valerie Plame's identity. Novak's July 14, 2003, column identifying Plame touched off the investigation in the first place. One lawyer involved in the case who declined to be identified because of the matter's confidentiality said Novak decided "early on" to cooperate with Fitzgerald's probe and ID his source—whom Fitzgerald never charged, apparently because the mystery leaker told the truth to the grand jury. It still is not clear if Novak testified before the grand jury or simply gave a statement. But the lawyer said Novak—and several other figures in the probe—may initially have been able to testify undetected because witnesses were allowed to take an underground elevator up to the grand jury, making it less likely they would be spotted by journalists. In the summer of 2004, presiding Judge Thomas Hogan ordered all witnesses to go through the front door. As a result, Rove—who made four grand-jury appearances—didn't get noticed testifying until October 2004. Novak declined to comment to NEWSWEEK.

—Michael Isikoff