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. Brad, Omaha NE

    ok congress – can we have some oversight now?

    lets talk treason

    maybe we could hire those white doods in Jenna to throw up a noose in front of the white house...

    November 20, 2007 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  2. Jeb

    Why is he "spurring" them now?

    November 20, 2007 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. En

    Why is it that all former members of the WH who left would never admit anything while on the gov. payroll, then after they are free agents, they can reveal all lies? Is there any law for this?? They were practically lying while in charge. For us and the world, thus inflicting great harm to many (wars).

    November 20, 2007 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  4. Igor Crawford, Texas

    None of this is really surprising. We all know what a lieing, incompetent group is running this country into ground.
    When will Americans wake-up to all of this and send in the sanitation crew in to clean up all the garbage.

    November 20, 2007 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Frank Honolulu HI

    How many lies does Bush have to make until someone stands up to the criminal nature of his administration?

    November 20, 2007 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  6. Buster, San Diego, CA

    Congratulations Scott. You are great American Hero. You were scapegoated just like Valerie Plame was by this lying, cheating and unpatriotic Bush government. How could Bush fire himself, when he was the source of the leak. Bush didn't do the honorable thing and resigned from office for outing an honest, hardworking and patriotic Valerie Plame. The people who were killed (secret!) due this outing deserves ab abswer, The damage caused to national security is enormous and this President does not care as getting even and vendetta was the only goal when Bush and Cheney leaked Valerie Plame's identity. Shame on them. I am ashamed to call Bush, my Commander in Chief.

    November 20, 2007 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  7. Josh Maloney, Oakland, CA

    So tell me why Bush and Cheney didn't stand trial?
    Wait...what am I thinking? Bush would have pardoned himself and Cheney.

    November 20, 2007 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  8. Daniel, Los Angeles, California

    The President needs to be impeached and sent to jail. He has broken the law and covered it up as well as commuted the sentence of someone that was lawfully convicted. Is that the reason he let Libby off is because he's the one that leaked confidential information? Obviously.

    November 20, 2007 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  9. Smarter Than You

    How much was he paid for that?

    November 20, 2007 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  10. G. Rasputin, Lakeland FL

    Gee: the President and Vice President were involved in outing Valerie Plame and then lying about it?!? What a great big fat shock. "Time to move on" is right – to impeachment.

    November 20, 2007 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  11. Tut, Nebraska City, NE

    What great fortune we now have a new, impartial AG who will get to the "top" of this story. Let's see, what was the penalty for treason in the last two centuries? Nope, I'm registered GOP.

    November 20, 2007 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  12. Independent in IA

    Good Heavens!!! Anybody with any brain at all knew that from the first. Bush has played fast and loose with the truth his entire tenure in the W.H. and will continue to do so until they drag him kicking and screaming from the oval office when his term is through.

    November 20, 2007 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  13. Joe, Boston MA

    How much more proof do we need that this administration belongs in prison?!?

    November 20, 2007 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  14. Jason, Austin, Texas

    Let the impeachment begin.

    November 20, 2007 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  15. Scott, Madison, WI

    So much fingerpointing ... It's surprising this wholly (allegedly holy) corrupt administration hasn't gone blind, or at the very least, drowned in their lies and deceit.
    Or so the b-i-b-l-e tells me so.

    November 20, 2007 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  16. Jim - Chicago

    When are these AHs ever going to be impeached??? What does it take??? Throughout the last 7 years, so many people have spoke against this white house and they just brush it off..

    think of the lives lost and money spent.


    why are they not?? I'm losing all faith in our government. Canada is starting to sound more and more like home to me!!

    November 20, 2007 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  17. Alicia, Rancho Cordova, CA

    Well, well, well. I hope Valerie Plame gets her day in court over this. And I hope that justice will be served, and all the things spoken and done in darkness will be brought into the light, and shouted from the rooftops. It's about time.

    November 20, 2007 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  18. John

    Lies(criminal in this case) from the White House? Bush, Rove and Cheney? NO. Not from this administration. Add another crime to the list. These men should be behind bars. Makes me want to puke that these no good sleazeballs have ruined our country in so many ways and will never be held accountable for any of it. Self serving, profiteering dirtbags with a lifetime of lies and corruption. No better than Bin Laden or Hussein and I hope they all end up burning in hell along side each other.

    November 20, 2007 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  19. C. MacLean, Raleigh, NC

    Liar, liar, pants on fire.

    Rove, Libby, Cheney, and Bush lying to the American people? Well, duh.

    After all, these are the same people who lied to Americans about nuclear weapons in Iraq and are still lying to Americans about Bin Laden.

    They would lie to their own mothers – and probably have – to get what they want.

    Add former attorney general Gonzalez and former secretary of defense Rumsfeld to this collection of bozos who couldn't recognize the truth if it hit them in the face and you have a real snake pit of amoral liars and thieves.

    Impeachment isn't nearly enough – it is past time we started heating up tar and gathering up feathers.

    November 20, 2007 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  20. Mags, Boston MA

    I am shocked. Not. Lying liars and the liars who lie for them will eventually turn on each other.

    November 20, 2007 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  21. John Lubeck Livermore, CA

    Many people said that we should not underestimate George Bush – they were correct. We knew that he was ignorant. He truly defines the word. But where we underestimated him was that his ignorance is exceeded not only by his arrogance but more importantly by his deceitfulness.

    It will truly be a blessing if America can come to find out and truly understand that at the heart of George Bush is a liar. Maybe then, the next time they vote someone into elective office, they will think about what they have done this time.

    November 20, 2007 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  22. Joseph, Bronxville, NY

    Hey CNN, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT STORY RIGHT NOW, not the sentencing of some idiotic Mormon polygamist.

    I am a moderate Democrat, but if McClellan testifies that Bush and Cheney directed him to lie about the outing of a CIA Operative, they should be impeached IMMEDIATELY.

    If what McClellan says is true, I would expect the Democratic Congress and presidential candidates to support impeachment as well.

    And now back to CNN's hard hitting coverage of Michael Vick, some random arch-bishops sex life, and the story about a deer leaping over a police car on a highway.

    God help the USA.

    November 20, 2007 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  23. Heidi, Bloomfield, CT

    Valerie Plame, the COVERT agent who was on the cover of a popular magazine. How covert! She outed herself and chose her husband for a "fact finding" mission. She is as believable as Hillary Clinton's denying her knowledge of Bill's philandering.

    November 20, 2007 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  24. Matt, Boston, MA

    Even on the million-to-one odds that McClellan actually has discovered some vestigial remnant of a conscience and really does intend to come clean about the leak (only on payment of hefty royalties, of course), we still won't get the smoking gun they're all hiding.

    The part of his brain that people use to tell the unobfuscated truth was removed long ago, whatever physical or electronic evidence there was has likely long been destroyed, and they'll just deny and claim executive privilege about whatever he says anyway.

    It's really just all about the entertainment value of seeing the sharks turn on each other, as the administration (blessedly) spirals towards a close and they all start preparing their defenses for the eventual criminal charges in each of their futures.

    November 20, 2007 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  25. Robert Bradley

    Tell me something I don't already know about this criminal administration.

    November 20, 2007 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
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