November 21st, 2007
01:30 PM ET
15 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. John from America

    My comments are being edited – is the freedom?

    Why is my posting being reviewed?

    November 21, 2007 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  2. John from America

    How many people on here get the administrators;

    Your comment is awaiting moderation. Due to the volume of comments we receive, not all comments will be posted.??????????????

    My comments are just questions, what is happening to the free press?

    November 21, 2007 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  3. Dur, Huntington, WV

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

    Posted By Max, Boston, MA : November 21, 2007 3:32 pm

    Why do people feel that Congress is too scared/lazy to start the impeachment process? If they felt they could possibly remove BOTH Cheney and Bush, they would, installing Nancy Pelosi as Commander in Chief.

    November 21, 2007 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  4. Rich Centerville, OH

    Go home McClelland to Texas to your Momma, crybaby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted By lynne : November 21, 2007 2:34 pm

    Well 'lynne' I guess McClellen will have to be added to the vast and overwhelming list of past aides and cabinet members who have come out against a crybaby President who complained about how hard his job was in the 2004 debates.

    I guess you have a lot of crybabies in your party who can't tolerate being sacrificed on the alter of politics by men who would leave their own kids to hang out to dry if it meant covering up the truth.

    Maybe you should stop crying about the crybabies.

    November 21, 2007 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  5. John from America

    I guess comments are OK unless they criticize the GOP??????????

    Your under review???????

    November 21, 2007 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  6. Walt, Belton, TX

    It's all just one more vast conspiracy by the far left. Valerie Plame really only worked for Walt Disney as a spy to keep an eye on what Michael Jackson was doing...........

    November 21, 2007 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  7. Wynter, Loudon, NH

    I'm sorry, but if the White House Press Secretary states a bold faced lie then it is on the head of the President of the United States. He represents the President and he is instructed to state this information. The idea that the President was "out of the loop" is impossible. It's simply that whatever the Press Secretary states is exactly as if the President stated it. It's lying by proxy.

    Telling it like I see it,

    November 21, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  8. bprossersme

    B.S. from a guttersnipe. This stupid man just sank his future employment. No one would hire a turncoat and a lier.

    November 21, 2007 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  9. MCD, San Francisco

    Hey Lynne.. yes Armitage told Novak... however.. Novak needed two sources so he called Rove and asked him to confirm... which Rove did... which WAS ILLEGAL... AGAINST THE LAW! Also, petty, disgusting and outrageous to out one of your own undercover operatives! Get a clue!

    November 22, 2007 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  10. Sam, IA

    Hmm Where have I heard this before? Out of the loop, plausible deniability. Oh, I remember now. Daddy Bush was using those phrases when he was chumming around with Noreiaga and hanging with homeboy Saddam during Iran/ Contra.

    November 22, 2007 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  11. mark wilkes barre pa

    Same old bush haters here wayne, jack, brian, steve. wheres tom from alberqurque on this story ?,,,, Reality flash,, this story is a commercial for a book sale,, could the publisher just say by our book ? happy thanksgiving to all, even my free speaking friends listed above

    November 22, 2007 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  12. JB Boston MA

    After watching all the talking heads discuss this, I guess the conclusion is that Bush did not know. You can look at this as, Cheney kept him in the dark or he asked to be kept in the dark. His commitment to them not being the leak seemed genuine. However, it seems that others did know (Rove, Cheney, Libby). This should get interesting.

    Again, we have a situation where it doesn't seem as though the crime is going to get anyone convicted. It is always lying about the crime!

    November 22, 2007 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  13. Euge, Orlando, FL

    Due to security reasons the public will never know how many agents died because of thie Rove-Chaney-Bush criminal conspiracy to out Ms. Plume. It is time to indict all three under existing law in this outing or for Treason. I think outing an intelligence officer, obstruction of justice in the investigation and witness tampering can be considered treasonous in national security issues in a time of war. I am willing pay for the rope out my own pocket after the convictions just to get a seat.

    November 22, 2007 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  14. Matt, Houston, TX

    Don't you just love the dubya supporters comments here? Every one of them was a personal attack on McClellan. One even called dubya 'intelligent' LMAO! Typical neocon, right wingnut tactic – if you don't have the facts on your side, attack the messenger . . . hey! wait a minute, isn't this what the article is about? Joe Wilson exposed the fact that Iraq was NOT getting, or even trying to get nuclear materials from Nigeria. "Well," ponders dubya, "these facts just won't do. I know, let's ruin his wife's career." Never mind, dubya, that what you did is TREASON IN A TIME OF WAR. Oh, that's right, the laws of this land don't apply to the President or Vice-President . . . as long as they are Republicans.


    November 22, 2007 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  15. JacK, Fort Myers, FL

    And if they knew...he did. This is not plausible denial.

    November 22, 2007 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. Barry, Miami, FL

    Why is it nobody in the Bush administration will give testimony but will tell everything to a book publisher? Nobody stands up and says this is wrong, except Joe Wilson, and look what they did to him. But we'll make book deals and go on a lecture tour while our country goes down the toilet won't we? So much for the Republican's bringing honor back to politics. What a load of crap.

    November 22, 2007 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  17. JC, White City, Kansas

    Nixon was not involed in the Watergate breakin in, but he was involed in a coverup of the breakin because it would not make him look good.

    Bush might not have been involed in the outing of a CIA Officer, but he has not been open to uncovering the truth.

    I can see very little difference in the actions of Bush and the actions of Nixon, other than individuals were brought to justice with regard to Watergate. To date the Presidents contribution has been the pardon of Libby.

    The question will the release of this book, is whether or not Congress will finally do its Constitutional duty and conduct an impeachment hearing the way it is suppose to be conducted and if evidence points at the President and/or Vice President send them to the Senate for trial. But of course this administration would more than likely thumb its nose at Congress and still proclaim Executive Privillege and refuse to answer questions even in an impeachment trial.

    November 23, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Valliant, United States of America

    The Bush Admin. and his Goon Squad that have been yelling national security the loudest then lie to the people and release C.I.A. agents names need to be put to trial on grounds of treason, then hanged the same way saddam was. hopefully their heads pop off before they hit the ground.


    November 25, 2007 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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