November 20th, 2007
05:38 PM ET
11 years ago

Ex-aide: Bush, Cheney involved in misleading media about Plame leak

Scott McClellan with President Bush in 2006.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House is denying a claim in a new book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan that top administration officials - including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney - were involved in his "unknowingly" passing along false information about the involvement of Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Amid a burgeoning controversy about the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's name, McClellan went to the White House podium in October 2003 and told reporters that Rove, the president's top political adviser, and Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, had not been involved.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes in his new book, "What Happened," which is scheduled to be released in April. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."

Reacting to the release of an excerpt from McClellan's book, which was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the book's publisher, PublicAffairs, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, "The president has not misled his spokespeople, nor would he."

The portion of McClellan's book released by PublicAffairs did not give any specifics about the actions of Bush, Cheney, Libby, Rove or then-Chief of Staff Andrew Card with regard to McClellan's dissemination of the false information.

There was no immediate comment from McClellan, who served as White House press secretary from July 2003 until April 2006.

In the excerpt, McClellan writes that "the most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby."

In March, Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators and a federal grand jury about his contacts with reporters concerning Wilson, the wife of Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador who had accused the Bush administration of misrepresenting intelligence on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Just before Libby was to report to a federal prison in July to serve 30 months behind bars, Bush commuted his sentence, although the president stopped short of a full pardon and Libby still had to pay a $250,000 fine.

Rove, who left the White House staff at the end of August, was never charged in the case. But his lawyer has acknowledged he was one of two sources cited by syndicated columnist Bob Novak, who first reported that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA in the summer of 2003.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has since acknowledged that he was Novak's original source for the information that Wilson worked at the CIA, although he insisted the disclosure was not deliberate and he did not know at the time she was a covert agent.

Because deliberately leaking a CIA operative's name can be a federal crime, a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, was appointed to investigate the case. However, no one was charged in connection with the leak itself; Libby's charges resulted from statements he made during the investigation.

Related video: Watch Valerie Plame in The Situation Room

Related video: Armitage admits mistake

–CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.

Filed under: President Bush • Scooter Libby • Valerie Plame
soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. Jack, Fort Myers, FL

    Is there ANYBODY who is actually suprised about this guys comment in his book?

    I can't wait until Colin Powell writes his memoirs. But then, he is probably too much of a professional and gentleman to frag the office of President...even though in this case it needs it.

    November 20, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Impeach them. Impeach them. Impreach them. Try them for war crimes. Try them for war crimes. Try them for war crimes.

    How much outrage must we endure before someone actually DOES something?

    November 20, 2007 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  3. Neill C., Montgomery, Alabama

    This is stupid. Armitage has already admitted he was the leak.

    This is another person like Richard Clark trying to sell a book. McClellan is just mad because he was treated like crap by everyone in the press room. I'm sure the press will just love him now.

    And even if it was true, Plame and Wilson committed treason, they lied, the broke their own cover, Wilson revealed secrets in a newspaper, Plame revealed secrets to Wilson which he inadvertently blabbed during Senate investigations.

    Oh, and by the by, a Democrat investigated it all and came to the conclusion no law was broken over the leak other than obstruction of justice. Whooptee freaking doo!

    This story is a loser and the Clinton News Network would make better use of their energy working on other stuff that actually might stick.

    November 20, 2007 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  4. beverly b., arlington, va.

    There's usually a "forthcoming book" that prompts "ex-White house employees" to say something harmful.

    GEORGE BUSH IS NOT RUNNING FOR President ! Who the heck cares about what some out-of-work politico thinks?!

    November 20, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. David Armendale, SF, CA

    You can just imagine ol' Scotty boarding up his windows in anticipation of the inevitable right-wing smear blizzard coming his way if he were to take follow up questions on his assertion that the Bush Whitehouse was in fact part of the CIA leak and cover-up. And the cover-up continues, as Dana Perino sweeps aside questions about Scotty's statement as skillfully as a matador dodging a delerious bull. Ole!

    November 20, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  6. B. Nelly, Norman, OK

    "...five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved..." Indict the bums! Then send 'em to Gitmo.

    November 20, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  7. Cody Harding, Kinsley, KS

    Everyone, grab your life vests! The ship is sinking...

    Wait, i'm sorry. Just another person whose comments were after their jobs weren't a factor.

    Tenet, Sanchez, now this guy? I won't be surprised if Cheney, Libby, Delay, Townsend, or Snow publish a book about the president's failings. It's classic, really. They keep silent because they want their paycheck, then as soon as they can't be blamed, go pointing fingers.

    I will not defend Bush, for it was his faulty decisions that lead to the leak. However, this man should be held responsible for not doing his part to curb the problem.

    November 20, 2007 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  8. Ryan Indianapolis

    WHo cares, Valeria Plame was not even undercover at the time and her and her husband had their own political agenda.

    November 20, 2007 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  9. NoMoreCrap

    Like we didn't already know! Puhleease CNN!!

    Come on CNN. It's not any secret anymore that this is the most corrupt administration in US history. The Neocon madmen have driven the USA off a cliff. Hillary and Guiliani are getting a free ticket to do more damage to the nation because the media is asleep on the job!

    November 20, 2007 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. John Q. Public, USA

    Some people will say anything just to sell a book...

    November 20, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  11. Jim White Gainesville, FL

    This one is very straightforward. Put McClellan under oath, at a table in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Then use the testimony to draw up articles of impeachment for Bush and Cheney and place them on that table. We have felony charges on the disclosure of Plame's identity, on the cover-up and on Bush commuting Libby's sentence to further the cover-up.

    November 20, 2007 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. David Ramsauer, Columbia, SC

    This revelation, at the very least, implicates the President and Vice-President in conspiracy to cover-up and obstruct the investigation into a felony. This felony and its cover-up may, in the worst case, also be construed as Treason.

    It is time to begin impeachment hearings. Let Congress investigate this matter and proceed to trial if warranted.

    November 20, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |

    What's new. Any thinking American know that the Bush top echelon are a pack of lying, thieving hyenas. Most Americans have come to expect these criminals to obfuscate the truth and hide behind the cloak of executive prerogative.

    November 20, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  14. Jon, Los Angeles, CA

    The Republicans wanted to impeach President Clinton for a lie that didn't affect anyone other than his own family affairs. It seems the current president may have been involved in a lie that has directly affected many lives and the security of the nation.
    I hope that the leaders of this country have enough guts to hold George Bush to his statement on record 'Whoever is reponsible for this will be held accountable". Let's go ahead and do just that. At the very least a REAL investigation needs to be held.

    November 20, 2007 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. Rocco, Wellington, FL

    I am never surprised by the Bush Administration. Why do so many hardcore neocons continue to support this tyrant? This Vice President and President should be impeached even if it takes to Nov 2008

    November 20, 2007 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  16. Sick of Bush Midlothian, IL

    Dana Perino says she wasn't sure what McClellan meant. He meant the president and vice president were involved dimwit.

    November 20, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  17. Lee, Mays Landing NJ

    The mind set of the Bush White House and the Republican operatives around them was almost like the mafia or organized crime with conspiracy, lies and cover-up.
    It was all about protecting their original falsehoods to get us into this diasterous war and to retain political advantage at great permanant cost to this country. Scott MCLellan was just a minor cog, but discarded as he was not enough of a true believer even if he were a republican himself.

    November 20, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  18. kris b., washington, d.c.

    Please buy my book, lefties.


    Scott McClellan

    November 20, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  19. A voter for Ron Paul

    Is this really a suprise?

    November 20, 2007 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  20. kite, nj

    Valerie Plame got fame and fortune. You can tell she is relishing her outed status, like the Jersey girls...

    November 20, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  21. scott,manchester NH

    oh my God,...Bush was involved in lies,scandal and a cover up?'ve GOT to be kidding!
    like the idiots that voted for him said, though: "hey, he's the kind of guy you could sit and have a beer with; he's got my vote!"

    November 20, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  22. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    But I thought the whole thing was just a conspiracy theory invented by us "looney left" liberals! Can't wait to see what the usual Bush defenders on the Ticker will say to try to spin this one around. Hillary is paying off McClellan? It's all part of a plan by CNN and George Soros to turn the US into a communist state?

    Doesn't matter. Most people are so set in their ways and follow their respective party's talking points that nothing could persuade them otherwise.

    November 20, 2007 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  23. T. Tim, Lodi, WI

    "Bush's original pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak..." By that logic Bush must now fire himself.
    Bravo! Never too late.

    November 20, 2007 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  24. Tony, Enterprise, Alabama

    This comes as no surprise to anyone.

    President Bush has presided over the most corrupt, inept, and dangerous administration in the history of the Republic. He should have been impeached years ago, and I think he still should be.

    His place in history is secure, worst President ever.

    November 20, 2007 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  25. aj huntington ny

    Are you sure this isn't just an exaggerated claim to sell books. After all , it's about money , isnt it?

    So , how and when was "the President himself" involved in this passing (unknowingly, of course) of false information?

    November 20, 2007 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
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