November 20th, 2007
05:38 PM ET
10 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. alan St Louis MO

    SO what is new

    Party of Corruption is OLD NEWS

    Hows the FOOT BALL GAME ?
    Feels like a cold winter is coming do you think?

    November 21, 2007 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  2. Damon, Ames IA

    It looks like Bush didn't do a very good job of surrounding himself with loyalists. 7 years in office and he hasn't learned the rules of being a President. You can't select the best man for the job, instead put the best man for the job who happens to be loyal to you.

    November 21, 2007 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  3. susan trevelyan-syke chicago illinois living in london england

    I commend Mr McClellan for telling the truth and having the integrity to reveal that he was misled into passing on false information to the press and public. If an insider like McClellan had been misled, how easy it has been to fool all of us Americans. Trust is dead.

    November 21, 2007 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  4. mark wilkes barre pa

    Bla bla bla ,, more useless news,, read the previous story,, same thing different blog,, come on CNN drop it already

    November 21, 2007 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  5. JD Rugby ND

    What a surprise it is to learn that Bush and Cheney were involved in misleading media about Plame leak. Of course they were. They also intended to mislead the American people. They have the blood of Americans and Iraqis on their hands and they know it.

    November 21, 2007 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  6. Justin, Kansas City, MO

    Yet more evidence we should impeach these fellas.

    November 21, 2007 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  7. Wayne, Greenville TX


    November 21, 2007 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  8. Art S. Syracuse, NY

    Who, among those of you who are reading this, with a background in constitutional law, can intelligently inform us of the liklihood of the House of Rep. bringing an article(s) of impeachment against the president or vice-president? Was a crime committed if the president truly thought he was telling the truth (a plausible defense given his intellect)? To the layperson it seems obvious that a crime was committed when Valerie Plame's identity was revealed so what are we missing? Is this not something (special prosecutor) Fitzgerald investigated and determined there to be insufficient evidence to prosecute?

    November 21, 2007 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  9. Andre' J. Perrin Richardson,TX

    This comes as no surprise. The majority of American's already know that the Bush administration will go down in history as one of the most corrupt administrations in American history.

    It is a sorry state of affairs when we have leaders who cannot be trusted.

    May God save their soul!

    November 21, 2007 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  10. Steve, Miami, FL

    I think most of America if not the world could of told us this President is a liar and a criminal as well.

    I love how the current White House spokesman Scott Stanzel says, ""The president has not misled his spokespeople, nor would he." Why did any one bother to ask Stanzel for a response to this? What did you expect him to say, that yes, the President does mislead everyone, including me as his current spokesperson.

    Bush and many in his administration really need to be impeached and jailed for crimes against our constitution.

    November 21, 2007 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  11. Bubba, Swainsboro GA

    So, are we to believe that McClellan's telling the truth NOW? He said he was truthful back then. Should we wait for the next book "The Story BEHIND What Really Happened?"

    Someone's trying to get right with God.

    November 21, 2007 08:31 am at 8:31 am |


    November 21, 2007 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  13. ED winter park fl

    What would you expect from the most disgracesful, dishonorable ,deceitful corrupt administration this country has EVER had. A once honorable, highly respected and idol of the worlds people [is after seven years] become the most despised country in the world.As a 78 yr old citizen of this once proud country i have lived and fought for it through a good many admins but this one is our achilles heel.

    November 21, 2007 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  14. Rodney Dallas TX

    Obviously, there must be some truth to the fact or McClellan would not be allowed to put it in a book. Far too many lawsuits could be filed for slander. There must be some proof to make the statement a fact before it can be published. McClellen knows this and I'm quite sure the publisher knows this or they wouldn't be willing to go against the United States Government. Obviously, McClellen (and his attorney) feel they have strong enough evidence to support their claims.

    November 21, 2007 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  15. Chris J, Palm Bay, FL

    I'd like to sell a book, but how do I go about it? I know! Since books that trash Bush sell, I'll trash Bush!

    IF it happened as he claims, why did he not speak up then? Why did he remain in an administration that would ask him to lie? As for the McClellan supporters out wasn't too long ago that he was part of the most dishonest, corrupt administration in history, as you claim. However, now that he trashes the administration you claim he is credible? Give me a break! Is consistency too much to expect from you?

    November 21, 2007 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  16. LA, Newport News, VA

    If McClellan has the goods on Bush (and the proof), why didn't he come forward with it when special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, was investigating? He didn' what's his motive sell his book? It doesn't make sense.

    November 21, 2007 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  17. Doremus, VT

    Deception unravels into truth spread unevenly.

    Blind trust and belief in high authority is a serious failure of character and conscience visible to all that know truth.

    The sad truth is that the power-mad, warmongering deceivers and dividers at the seat of US government continue to hold a spell over a third of the population.

    The GOOD NEWS is that a third of the population is less than expected if one considers the prevalence of coherent, educated reasoning throughout the general population. In spite of the irritation incited by the perpetual “third,” we should be rejoicing the upcoming transition to a more enlightened and hopefully healing leadership.

    November 21, 2007 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  18. Impeach Them from Illinois

    The American people deserve the truth. The bush Administration has always been a lie. This incompetent president thinks he can rape a nation and then claim innocence, and HE IS ACUALLY GETTING AWAY WITH IT. The Democratic Congress and the American People need to step up and investigate and vote to impeach bush and cheney. Sure, Bill Clinton made a personal misjudgement about lewenski (but nobody blames HER for HER PART in going there)--but THIS bush Administration has secretly skirted criminal actions under political and the public's radar for one too many times-–it's past time that the American people and Congress just keep accepting this.....demand a BI-PARTISAN inquiry into the Administration's actions and decisions over the past 7 years before scandal REALLY blows into a National and International embarrassment. Our global National credibility has suffered enough, don't you think? These continuing lies and cover-ups need to stop.

    November 21, 2007 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  19. Christopher, Madison, WI

    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.
    Posted By Neill C., Montgomery, Alabama : November 20, 2007 5:13 pm

    Wow Faux Noise talking points at work here. Where to start...well Valarie and her husband revealed no secrets and only spoke about this matter after she was outed by this crooked administration. Which Democrat investigated this..oh you mean Fitzpatrick? Holy crap he is actually a Republican appointed by Bush himself. Would you like to add Faux Noise and MSNBC to then "Clinton News Network" as they are reporting on this as well? Matters of national security should be taken seriously and not brushed under the rug. This was a treasonous action all in the effort to cover up lies to get us into Iraq! If you believe otherwise then you sir are a moron!

    November 21, 2007 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  20. Christopher, Madison, WI

    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?!
    Posted By beverly b., arlington, va. : November 20, 2007 5:21 pm

    Some us do care about crimes against the nation and any information leading to the arrest and conviction and war criminals should be taken seriously. Aren't you missing a rerun of Oprah or the Price is Right? God you southern folks and you Faux Noise talking points truly are annoying.

    November 21, 2007 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  21. Williamsburg, VA

    Doremus: Let me understand if someone doesn't agree with your views they are devoid of "...character and conscience..." and an "...irritation...". Hmmm, how democratic of you. I think your intolerance for those in disagreement with you reeks more of facism. You did, however, make my morning...thanks for the chuckle...really!!

    November 21, 2007 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  22. B

    Bush and Cheney.....lied?!?!?!


    They found the WMD's, didn't they?!

    They nabbed OBL, right?!


    November 21, 2007 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  23. Christopher, Madison, WI

    WHo cares, Valeria Plame was not even undercover at the time and her and her husband had their own political agenda.
    Posted By Ryan Indianapolis : November 20, 2007 5:36 pm

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. If you would turn off Faux Noise you would had heard that the CIA and the Pentagon confirmed her status of undercover. For the record slick...once you are undercover you are always undercover until you retire or die.
    Indiana what a great place to waste away and drift off into the land of make-believe. Isn't it a little late in the game to continue to try and convince yourself and anyone around you that the aforementioned talking points are old and have been proven untrue? Come into the light of truth.

    November 21, 2007 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  24. Christopher, Madison, WI

    Some people will say anything just to sell a book…
    Posted By John Q. Public, USA : November 20, 2007 5:49 pm

    True but the story isn't about ManCoutler, Bill O'Rielly, Hannity, Robert Novak or Chris Matthews.

    November 21, 2007 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  25. scott, manchester NH

    i read a few comments arguing that Bush isnt running for prez, so who cares about this stuff....isnt it the typical "ignore the real issue" thing to do to for some of those people?
    isnt it about THE most obvious point that when we hear certain truths come out like this, its entirely about the observation that MANY people simply dont have the ability to read human behavior and be able to figure out WHO the SLIMY ones are... about republicans sticking by their pathetic loser leaders,no matter what kind of information is revealed (from people who know) about the facts...
    Its NOT the slimy republican leaders' faults that the ones who voted for them have have horrible judgment...

    November 21, 2007 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
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