Q Do you think that the Justice Department can conduct an impartial investigation, considering the political ramifications of the CIA leak, and why wouldn’t a special counsel be better?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There’s leaks at the executive branch; there’s leaks in the legislative branch. There’s just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.
And so I welcome the investigation. I — I’m absolutely confident that the Justice Department will do a very good job. There’s a special division of career Justice Department officials who are tasked with doing this kind of work; they have done this kind of work before in Washington this year. I have told our administration, people in my administration to be fully cooperative.
I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business.
President Bush’s chief spokesman said yesterday that the allegation that administration officials leaked the name of a CIA operative is “a very serious matter” and vowed that Bush would fire anybody responsible for such actions.
The vow came as numerous Democratic leaders demanded the administration appoint a special counsel to investigate the charges that a CIA operative’s name was divulged in an effort to discredit her husband, a prominent critic of Bush’s Iraq policy. The White House rejected those calls, also saying it has no evidence of wrongdoing by Bush adviser Karl Rove or others and therefore no reason to begin an internal investigation.
“There’s been nothing, absolutely nothing, brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that includes the vice president’s office, as well,” said Scott McClellan, Bush’s press secretary. He said that “if anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.”
Justice Department officials said yesterday they have begun a preliminary probe into whether an administration official violated the law by telling journalists that the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent critic of Bush’s use of intelligence related to Iraq, worked for the CIA. Wilson has drawn attention for his report on a trip he took to Niger for the CIA that, he said, did not confirm an administration charge that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear materiel in that country.
A senior official quoted Bush as saying, “I want to get to the bottom of this,” during a daily meeting yesterday morning with a few top aides, including Rove. Senior intelligence officials said yesterday that the CIA filed what they termed a “crime report” with the Justice Department in late July, shortly after syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, citing two unnamed administration sources, identified Wilson’s wife by name. The CIA report pointed to a “possible violation of federal criminal law involving the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”
Q: Yesterday we were told that Karl Rove had no role in it —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q: — have you talked to Karl and do you have confidence in him —
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, I know of nobody — I don’t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I’d like to know it, and we’ll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing.
Q: Scott, you have said that you, personally, went to Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Elliot Abrams to ask them if they were the leakers. Is that what happened? Why did you do that, and can you describe the conversations you had with them? What was the question you asked?
McClellan: They’re good individuals, they’re important members of our White House team, and that’s why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt of that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it’s accurate before I report back to you, and that’s exactly what I did.
Q: So you’re saying — you’re saying categorically those three individuals were not the leakers or did not authorize the leaks; is that what you’re saying?
McClellan: That’s correct. I’ve spoken with them.
Q: But can you confirm that the President would fire anyone on his staff found to have leaked classified information?
McClellan: I think I made that very clear last week. The topic came up, and I said that if anyone in this administration was responsible for the leaking of classified information, they would no longer work in this administration.
Here is Scott McClellan again on October 7, 2003….
McClellan: If someone leaked classified information, the President wants to know. If someone in this administration leaked classified information, they will no longer be a part of this administration, because that’s not the way this White House operates, that’s not the way this President expects people in his administration to conduct their business.
Carl Cameron insists President Bush never promised to fire over the leak.. McClellan on October 7, 2003…
McClellan: No, no. Let me answer what the President has said. I speak for the President and I’ll talk to you about what he wants.
Now we know it was Bush who authorized the leak. I’m sure glad we have an honest president.