November 20th, 2007
05:38 PM ET
15 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. Christopher, Madison, WI

    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.
    Posted By deroy, WPB, FL : November 20, 2007 6:37 pm

    From your grammar and spelling I'm going to guess that you are 5 years old and excuse you from this adult discussion.
    BTW... the CIA and the Pentagon did confirm her undercover status. Stop watching Faux Noise!

    November 21, 2007 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  2. AN, Arlington, VA

    Christopher, Madison, WI...on one point I agree with you:

    "Matters of national security should be taken seriously and not brushed under the rug. "

    For this reason, the matter concerning Sandy Berger should also not be swept under the rug.

    November 21, 2007 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. fedupwithourgov't

    IMPEACH and haul them all away in handcuffs!!

    They shouldn't get away with murder...literally!!

    November 21, 2007 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. Christopher. Madison, WI

    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.
    Posted By Heidi, Bloomfield, CT : November 20, 2007 7:43 pm

    You actually found time to turn off Faux Noise to barf up this oldie but goodie talking point. For the last time. Valarie appeared in print AFTER she was outed. It has been confirmed by the CIA and the Pentagon that she had nothing to do with her husband's assignment. In fact the White House recommended he go based on his background and contacts. They didn't like the truth so they threw his wife under the bus and falsified the story. Please people research your information before you spout off Rupert's BS!

    November 21, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Mike, Seattle

    To Robert in Pacific Grove. I wish I could share your opinion about dooming the GOP in '08 but the little red unthinking lemmings and the cows in the Republican Congress will probably do just fine. We deserve the government we get.

    November 21, 2007 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. Bubba, Swainsboro GA

    Ryan, Christopher;

    When someone is revealed as a secret agent, what they did in the past becomes important. Who did she have lunch with when her husband was in meetings? Who has been locked up or killed because of this information?

    As a patriot, I'd like to see the people who did this punished.

    November 21, 2007 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  7. Bill W, Coatesville, PA

    Can Bush pardon himself?

    November 21, 2007 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. Ryan Indianapolis

    Alright lets hear it Demodumbies,,,First of all Mrs.Plame was not a undercover agent,,get your facts str8,,,second she and her worthless husband had their own agenda and was trying to discredit the administration and tried to play hard ball and got burned. Lets not forget your last president in office not only lied under oath but sold secrets to the chinese and murdered over a dozen of people that got in their way....I am glad Valerie Plame was outed , The wilsons played hard ball and got burned....LOSERS

    November 21, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Dave, NY, NY

    The leaking of this piece of a book that is being released next year shows that Mr McClellan like many of those in Washington pray at the alter of the big buck. If this had been released when there was no book in the works it might have been believable but the timing of it's release brings his integrity into question....

    November 21, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. Rich Centerville, OH

    Ryan you're the consumate hypocrite. If this was a Dem Press Secry who was talking about a Dem Administration you would be using your worn out 'TREASON THING' taking us back to the Civil War.................AGIAN.

    Basically Ryan, you contradict yourself so often you should stop being an embarrassment.

    November 21, 2007 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  11. Frank tulsa, ok

    Ryan, only the Dems are traitors huh? Yeah it's Plame's fault that she was outed and YOU'RE WRONG about her CIA status as you tell us to get our facts straight. You're a walking bag of wind.

    Go back to your hole in Indy

    November 21, 2007 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  12. Doremus, VT

    Williamsburg, VA:
    Nationalism, belief and rationale truth are not the same thing and agreement (or not) on the issue is irrelevant. A proper conscience would understand this. You are clearly a blind loyalist and demonstrate the frustration this must cause.

    November 21, 2007 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  13. r

    Alright lets hear it Demodumbies,,,First of all Mrs.Plame was not a undercover agent,,get your facts str8,,,second she and her worthless husband had their own agenda and was trying to discredit the administration and tried to play hard ball and got burned. Lets not forget your last president in office not only lied under oath but sold secrets to the chinese and murdered over a dozen of people that got in their way….I am glad Valerie Plame was outed , The wilsons played hard ball and got burned….LOSERS

    Posted By Ryan Indianapolis : November 21, 2007 2:12 pm

    Ooh, sorry Ryan, unfortunately you violated the gross stupidity clause in the voting rights act so you can no longer cast your ballot.

    November 22, 2007 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  14. owqo ao

    Of course we know that the Bush administration is a bunch of scumbags. They actually remind me of the mafia.
    Cheney is one scary, albeit totally ridiculous, character. Who the hell does he think he is? He's Haliburton's boy wonder, that's who he is. Prick!

    November 22, 2007 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  15. john riggs eagle pass texas

    If I were working at a job and was no longer wanted and only created problems I would resign,but I am not sold out to looters and foreign interests.

    November 22, 2007 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  16. Faye

    How many Iraqi and Afgahnistan children have died today because of OIL. That is the real under"lying" issue... excuse the pun.

    December 12, 2007 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
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