November 21st, 2007
01:30 PM ET
11 years ago

Publisher says Bush's role in W.H. misinformation clarified in book

(CNN) - The publisher of an upcoming book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday it will clarify how President Bush was "involved" in McClellan's giving misinformation to the media on the culpability of two officials in the Valerie Plame Wilson case.

"There's no suggestion in the book that the president deliberately lied and sent him to the podium to tell people something that wasn't true. But it's pretty clear Scott went into battle without proper body armor," said Peter Osnos, founder and editor at large of PublicAffairs Books.

"Scott's not suggested that the president was himself party to a conspiracy to mislead. But it's pretty damn clear that other people knew what they had done and didn't tell the truth," Osnos said.

McClellan, who was press secretary from July 2003 until April 2006, is declining interviews.

McClellan told CNN early this year that he believes the president was given assurances that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, and Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, were not involved in leaking to the press that Valeriei Plame Wilson was a CIA covert operative.

Amid a swelling controversy about the leak of Wilson's CIA role, McClellan went to the White House podium in October 2003 and told reporters that Rove and Libby had not been involved in the leak.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes in his new book, "What Happened," which is 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."

McClellan does not explain what he means by the word "involved," nor does he give specifics about any actions taken by Bush, Cheney, Libby, Rove or Card with regard to McClellan's dissemination of the false information.

In the excerpt, McClellan says five administration officials were "involved" in his "unknowingly" passing along false information about the involvement of Rove and Libby in leaking Wilson's identity.

Osnos said the excerpt was released now, because the company's book catalog came out Tuesday, and the media began asking questions.

Reacting to the excerpt, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement Wednesday, "The president has not and would not ask anyone to knowingly pass on false information."

Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, believe the "outing" of her identity was an act of retaliation after Joe Wilson questioned of a claim by President Bush before the Iraq war that the British had learned that Saddam Hussein had sought to obtain uranium from Africa.

"I think it (book excerpt) now makes it very clear the extent to which the vice president was involved, which, of course, then makes it very clear how important to the vice president the commutation of Mr. Libby's sentence was," Joe Wilson said on CNN's "American Morning" on Wednesday.

Libby was convicted in March of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators and a federal grand jury about his contacts with reporters concerning Valerie Wilson.

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.

"They basically closed ranks, guaranteed that the cloud (special prosecutor Patrick) Fitzgerald said was over the vice president's head would not be lifted," Joe Wilson said. "And now because of McClellan's statement, that cloud is over the president himself.

"He is either completely out of touch or he's an accessory to an obstruction of justice both before the fact and after the fact."

He added, "At a bare minimum, for openers, think it's incumbent upon the president and vice president now to release the transcripts of their statements to the special prosecutor, so we now have a fuller understanding of what they knew, when they knew it, and what they said to Justice."

In addition, the public deserves to know "whether or not they continue to frustrate the efforts of the Justice Department and the efforts of the government to get to the bottom of what is essentially the betrayal of national security of our country," said Wilson.

The Wilsons filed a civil lawsuit against Cheney, Libby and Rove over the leak, but a federal judge threw the lawsuit out in July on jurisdictional grounds. Joe Wilson said they are in the process of appealing, and hope the suit will be heard early next year.

On Tuesday, Valerie Wilson issued a statement saying she was "outraged to learn" that McClellan had confirmed "that he was sent out to lie to the press corps and the American public."

Valerie Wilson's name was revealed in a column by Robert Novak in the summer of 2003, who cited "two top administration officials."

The lawyer for Rove, who left the White House in August, has acknowledged he was one of the sources. Rove was never charged.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has said he was Novak's original source for the information, although he insisted the disclosure was not deliberate, and he did not know Wilson was a covert agent.

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

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soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Gary, Boston USA

    Either the pres knew what was going on, OR he is so utterly incompetent that he allowed such activity go on right under his nose without seeing it. It is that simple. Which scenario do you think is most likely? Even I have to admit, Bush isn't the idiot we like to portray him as being. Sure he is misguided and inarticulate, but the guy is not stupid.

    November 21, 2007 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  2. Wayne, Greenville TX

    McClellan, who was press secretary from July 2003 until April 2006, is declining interviews.

    If Scott McClellan knows what's best for him, he'll also decline taking any airplane trips for a while. He just committed the mortal sin of defying the Bush Family Evil Empire (BFEE).

    November 21, 2007 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. Jack, Fort Myers, Fl

    No kidding. Most rational and realistic Americans already knew that already. But thanks for the report.

    November 21, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  4. Brian, Los Angeles

    This should be the largest story in the country right now. It should be followed with a microscope and there are conclusions the media need to make and talk about. It's incredible how this is just being brushed away. This could be the smoking gun to the demise of the Bush regime. Come on CNN, get on it!

    November 21, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  5. Angel, Loas Angeles of Anaheim

    And Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy had nothing to do with either.

    We the ignorant masses will believe anything we're told, won't we?

    November 21, 2007 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  6. lynne

    This pudgy so called Press Sec'ty is the worst in history, and he is also a big coward.
    President Bush gave him an opportunity, and treated him with the utmost respect and then he turns like a Judas.
    Of course the President, Karl Rove et al, did not know that that low life Armitage was the kulpid, and was the guilty one, he (Armitage did not confess until Scooter was charged) The so called Special Prosecutor informed the President and his staff not to talk about this so called crime, which was a fallacy.
    Go home McClelland to Texas to your Momma, crybaby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 21, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. J.Crobuzon

    Is Bush a crook like Nixon, or just kept in the dark and manipulated by clever subordinates?

    I'd prefer the first, actually; the second means Cheney's really president. But maybe Bush really didn't know anything, and when he writes his memoirs they'll be all about cutting brush in Crawford, Texas?

    November 21, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  8. John, Cocoa Beach, Florida

    The slime continues. I've learned not to expect anything else from Bush and his gang!

    November 21, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  9. Chris, Pensacola FL

    Did the White House call the publisher and lash out? Hmmm.

    November 21, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  10. J. Stiles, Carbondale, IL

    Spin, spin, spin... that's what's next. 1984 is here, and Big Brother is in the driver's seat.

    November 21, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |


    November 21, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  12. Max, Boston, MA

    It's like they're daring Congress to impeach them, knowing that Congress is too scared to.

    November 21, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  13. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    I'm waiting to see how the Neoclowns are going to spin this!

    Lush Rumball's show should be a howl.

    Per usual, they'll blame Clinton!

    November 21, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Honestly knowing Bush's level of intelligence and from previous stories I really don't think he knew. I don't think he wanted to know. The VP has a lot of power in the WH and Bush seems ok with that. Maybe this is another reason why Bush should have acted like president and not the the VP take control. Seems like what America hates about this administration comes right from the VP play book.

    November 21, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  15. Francis D'Silva, New Orleans, LA

    I am pretty sure that this story was deliberatly revealed just before Thanksgiving so that other media won't take it. There should be an outrage by the media and the democratic party to take WH to task. When Clinton's personal affair was all over the media, why is such a terrible cover up not getting any momentum? Except CNN, no one has given much coverage to this. That shows that the rest of the media is under Republican control.

    November 21, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. Brian, Tampa FL

    This guy was the worst Press Secretary in history. He always looked like a sweaty used car salesman and stumbled around even the most basic questions. Now he is trying to make a dime by writing a book no one wants to read. What a clown.

    November 21, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  17. Mac, Severn, Md

    Publishers send out "teasers" to promote book sales.

    Book teasers are taken out of context and do not fully disclose what the writer has REALLY said in the book. They are intended to be "sensational", but they fail on merit.

    Same thing happened when Alan Greenspan's book came out. He spent several days un-doing the "teaser" that the Iraq war was started for oil. That's not what he said in the book and that's not what he meant.

    The MSM screams the teaser headline to get attention; this whole business is just a racket to sell books and newspapers. Why don't news agencies actually READ THE BOOK before they print the "teaser"?


    November 21, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. Steve, Portland, OR

    As above, anyone with half a brain knows about the misinformation and guilt and hpoefully one day the unaccountable will be held accountable for this. I had to laugh my a** off at the line in there, " The president has not and would not ask anyone to knowingly pass on false information" What has this administration been about other than this.

    November 21, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  19. Leo, Chicago, IL

    Can we impeach the whole bunch of them NOW? Please? What's the delay?

    November 21, 2007 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  20. JD Rugby ND

    Lying liars telling lies about lying liars. Another chunk chopped out of any remaining credibility of anyone currently or formerly assciated with the Bush/Cheney administration.

    November 21, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. Mrs. America

    Who even questions the truth and lies anymore with this administration. I just assume everything that comes out of the WH is a lie, so there's no new news on this one. I hope we last another year without W doing another major stupid and that whoever is in the WH in Jan. '09 has at least half a brain and is somewhat sane.

    November 21, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  22. Barry, Miami, FL

    Put aside for the moment all the "moral high ground" crap the Repubs have been feeding us all these years. Why is it none of them would give testimony but will tell everything to a book publisher? It makes me ashamed to be an American.

    November 21, 2007 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  23. Joe Bag-of-Donuts

    Enough already. It is time for the American people to demand, probably through the formal Impeachment Process, who in fact is quilty of TREASON in the revelation of a CIA Operative. If this seems trivial, then God help this country going forward with any dignity in taking care of our own citizens or in the arena of diplomacy.

    The internal hypocrisy of the current U.S. administration is outrageous. Forget about any semblance of forthright international dialogue in the international arena – including our allies.

    If you truly support our men and women in the Armed Forces who couragesouly volunteered to defend the U.S., please don't forget that every person who holds a position in the Federal government of the U.S. has taken an oath of allegiance to "defend the U.S. from enemies both foreign and domestic."

    It is time to defend ourselves domestically. Please vote your conscience at every available opportunity.

    November 21, 2007 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  24. aj huntington ny

    Isn't it obvious McClellan is lying to sell books? Why wouldn't you give interviews if you're promoting a book. The President didn't do anything wrong- even the publisher acknowledges it.

    November 21, 2007 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  25. John from America

    Where is the media coverage for such a bombshell? The consolidation of media to right wing mega media conglomerates is stifling the checks and balances of a democracy.

    CNN and other media giants should be all over this story! This is the "smoking gun" of lies and deception of the current administration why is there no investigative journalism?

    November 21, 2007 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
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