November 20th, 2007
05:38 PM ET
7 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. Zeke, Santa Ana, CA

    All with negative comments: I guess the turth does hurt. Let the true colors show.

    November 20, 2007 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. R. Smith

    I've always believed that you don't have to like someone to work for them but you should be able to respect them. It tells me something about McClellan's character that he chose not to speak up when it counted or at least refuse to knowingly pass along lies to the American people. As far as I'm concerned this is too little, too late, for the wrong reason ... to sell a book.

    November 20, 2007 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  3. Jo, ATL GA

    where is patrick fitzgerald? this calls for impeachment period. if the dems can't do anything about this...they are done.

    November 20, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  4. Paul, Pleasanton, CA

    No, please tell us this is not true. How could this happen? The poster boys of truth were misleading the public?

    November 20, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  5. Patrick, Denver CO

    As someone who finds himself defending Bush most of the time, if this is true I find it very troublesome.

    November 20, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  6. Robert, Pacific Grove, Ca

    Mr. McClellan's revelation is the proverbial smoking gun that will doom the GOP in '08, as well as seal Bush's already tarnished legacy...

    November 20, 2007 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  7. Jerry Gertiser

    Well, does anyone need more reasons to impeach Bush and Cheney? They have taken our rule of law, and our constution, and trampled it to death. I could understand and expect this occuring in Pakistan paor China not in the US. What are we to do?

    November 20, 2007 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Why isn't this front page news?

    November 20, 2007 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  9. HMT, Long Beach, CA

    Clinton lies about sexual misconduct and is impeached. Bush lies about engaging in the treasonous act of knowingly exposing a CIA operative, and he remains in office?

    Undoubtedly the worst president this country has ever seen.

    November 20, 2007 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  10. sct, st. louis, mo.

    Well, yeah. Anyone of a certain age wants to know what did they (Bush, Cheney, et al) know and when did they know it. Some light on the subject is refreshing.

    November 20, 2007 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  11. Mike Miller, Ocala, Florida

    With the passage of time it will become increasingly apparent that the Bush administration thinks little, if anything about the truth, the Constitution, or the American people. It will eventually be viewed as the antithesis of the American ideals which have been the fabric of our Nation for generations. History will look back upon this period and hold us as Americans in contempt for having allowed it to happen as well.

    November 20, 2007 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  12. deroy, WPB, FL

    i can't stand bush, but 'butterball' mcclellan is not to be believed.

    PLUS valerir was not an operative, her letter recommending the dansy joe wilson IV states her position as ANAL-yst.

    November 20, 2007 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  13. Anonymous, California

    Who knew? OF COURSE that was the case.
    I mean this whole affair was a scam. Supposedly it was Armitage that was the leaker, blame a low level staff member.

    It was Bush/Cheney all along. Finally the truth comes out.

    November 20, 2007 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  14. Sharon, Littleton, CO

    Great....More lies from our government. Libby took the fall for perjury and obstruction of justice. Perhaps the government can reopen its criminal case against Bush, Cheney, et. al. for commission of the original crime (outing a CIA operative) and McLellan can testify in exchange for immunity. This administration is totally corrupt!

    November 20, 2007 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  15. John Alamogordo New Mexico

    Dana Perino said it was not clear what Scott meant in his comment. as she pondered writing a book herself in a year or so.

    November 20, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  16. Natalie, Whittier, Ca

    It is amazing to me that this does not infuriate every Republican out there....I mean, Republicans always talk about how they support our troops and people out there fighting terrorism, yet Valerie Plame was outed by her own President's people and no one is calling for impeachment. This is like a surreal episode of the next Bourne Identity Movie

    November 20, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  17. Lev Klinemann, Redondo Beach CA

    ...it's hard to understand this case....this case is complicated...no one understands this case...

    CASE AND POINT:

    A USA COVERT AGENT WAS EXPOSED BY HER OWN GOVERNMENT. HER OWN VICE PRESIDENT, HER OWN PRESIDENT.

    (Easy enough for y'a?)

    CASE CLOSED

    P.S. Nobody will ever go to jail for this treason, and then people say democrats don’t love America.

    November 20, 2007 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  18. Jeannie, Sacramento, CA

    Nobody's surprised. If Bush ever told the truth about anything, the entire country would keel over from shock. He is a skillful and accomplished liar. To think, he pledged to bring decency and integrity back to the White House. What a laugh!

    November 20, 2007 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  19. Bill, Galt, CA

    As time goes on, the truth will come out how bad this president really is. Is it time for impeachment hearings yet?

    November 20, 2007 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  20. Steve, Portland, OR

    This whole scandal is ridiculous. I cannot believe what this administration is able to get away with! I feel that the president would have much more credibility if he let Libby serve his time and pay his debt to society. Instead, it reinforces the notion that the rules do not apply to those with power. That seems to be the hallmark of this administration.

    November 20, 2007 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  21. Mac, Severn, Md

    I can't trust these little "brief excerpts" from books anymore. Remember the "brief excerpt" from Alan Greenspan's book a few months ago? It was out of context and mis-interpreted. He spent a few days clarifying that.

    Reporters are lazy......they haven't read the book.....you can't fool us again.

    November 20, 2007 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  22. Molly, Springfield MO

    Once again, we'll sweep Bushco's lies under the rug, so I don't know why the media even pretends that its making any effort to learn the truth. So McLellon wrote a book, now that he can make even MORE money by "telling all." Too little, too late. They should ALL be in prison. If we can impeach for oral sex, don't you think we can impeach for deliberately revealing classified information in an effort to discredit a critic? No, I didn't think so.

    November 20, 2007 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  23. Paul Hudnall, Missouri

    Why the Democrats refuse to pursue the impeachment of Bush and Cheney is mind boggling.How much more evidence do they need?

    November 20, 2007 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  24. Lynn Ensley McCaysville Ga.

    Well. here is one more example to go with unprotected borders, lying to the American people about WMD and the reasons for going to war, the current oil and gas situation, setting Hallyburton up exempt from bidding, to inherit the most vulgar extortions in the history of our country. Allowing our border guards to go to prison for doing their job. Our congress and Senate should be ashamed. Why don't they bring out Ken Starr when we really need him. No wonder the rest of the world is mocking us. Wake up America!

    November 20, 2007 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  25. AD, Schaumburg, IL

    This presidency is a disgrace to all Americans. If anyone else were to have outted a CIA agent, justice would have been swifted, but not in this presidency.

    November 20, 2007 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
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