Bush Knew About Leak of CIA Operative's Name

  1. Witnesses told a federal grand jury President George W. Bush knew about, and took no action to stop, the release of a covert CIA operative's name to a journalist in an attempt to discredit her husband, a critic of administration policy in Iraq.

    Their damning testimony has prompted Bush to contact an outside lawyer for legal advice because evidence increasingly points to his involvement in the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to syndicated columnist Robert Novak.
    The move suggests the president anticipates being questioned by prosecutors. Sources say grand jury witnesses have implicated the President and his top advisor, Karl Rove.

    White House spokesmen, however, dismiss the hiring of outside counsel as a routine precaution.

    "The president has made it very clear he wants everyone to cooperate fully with the investigation and that would include himself," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Wednesday night.

    He confirmed that Bush had contacted Washington attorney Jim Sharp. "In the event the president needs his advice, I expect he probably would retain him," McClellan said. There is no indication Bush has been questioned yet.

    A federal grand jury has questioned numerous White House and administration officials to learn who leaked the name of CIA operative Plame, wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to the news media. Wilson has charged that officials made the disclosure in an effort to discredit him.

    Bush has been an outspoken critics of leaks, saying they can be very damaging, but he has expressed doubts that the government's investigation will pinpoint who was responsible. While Bush has said he welcomed the leak investigation, it has been an awkward development for a president who promised to bring integrity and leadership to the White House after years of Republican criticism and investigations of the Clinton administration.

    Even though he has a White House counsel, Bush is dependent on outside lawyers for private matters. A memo distributed to the staff last year reminded officials that the counsel's office works solely for the president in his official capacity and is not a private attorney for anyone.

    Democrats seized on the news to criticize the president.

    "It speaks for itself that the president initially claimed he wanted to get to the bottom of this, but now he's suddenly retained a lawyer," said Jano Cabrera, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. "Bush shouldn't drag the country through grand juries and legal maneuvering. President Bush should come forward with what he knows and come clean with the American people."

    Plame was first identified by syndicated columnist and TV commentator Novak in a column last July. Novak said his information came from administration sources.

    Wilson has said he believes his wife's name was leaked because of his criticism of Bush administration claims that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium from Niger, which Wilson investigated for the CIA and found to be untrue.

    Disclosure of an undercover officer's identity can be a federal crime. The grand jury has heard from witnesses and combed through thousands of pages of documents turned over by the White House, but returned no indictments.

    The probe is being handled by Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, appointed after Attorney General John Ashcroft stepped aside from case because of his political ties to the White House.

    Wilson has suggested in a book that the leaker was Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. But Wilson's book, "The Politics of Truth," gave no conclusive evidence for the claim.

    The White House denied the claim and accused Wilson of seeking to bolster the campaign of Democrat John Kerry, for whom he has acted as a foreign policy adviser.

    Wilson also said it's possible the leak came from Elliott Abrams, a figure in the Reagan administration Iran-Contra affair and now a member of Bush's National Security Council. And Rove, Bush's chief political adviser, may have circulated information about Wilson and Plame "in administration and neoconservative circles" even if Rove was not himself the leaker, Wilson wrote.

    Another possibility is that two lower-level officials in Cheney's office - John Hannah or David Wurmser - leaked Plame's identity at the behest of higher-ups "to keep their fingerprints off the crime," Wilson speculated.

    Sources within the investigation say evidence points to Rove approving release of the leak. They add that their investigation suggests the President knew about Rove's actions but took no action to stop release of Plame's name.
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   pickledpepperRN
  4. by   SharonH, RN
    This is definitely not a surprise. I wonder who those witnesses were that had the courage to step up and tell what the president knew. That was kind of dangerous, look at what they tried to do to Valerie Wilson because her husband merely criticized the administration.
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    I'm still amazed that this never got the attention it deserved. They say Ronald Reagan was the Teflon president.......he had nothing on Dubya! NOTHING sticks to this guy, not the CIA scandal that wasn't, not the blood of some 900 American soldiers who've thus far died in Iraq, not the OT bill, not the Medicare fiasco, not the intended dismantling of civil liberties outlined in the Patriot Act---nothing. :angryfire
  6. by   SharonH, RN
    Arlene, could you post the link to this article? Thanks......
  7. by   pickledpepperRN
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/...in620810.shtml

    "I have met with an attorney to determine whether or not I need his advice, and if I deem I need his advice, I'll probably hire him."
    President Bush

    -----------------------------------
    FOUND IT!

    http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artma...cle_4629.shtml
    From Capitol Hill Blue
    Bush Leagues
    Bush Knew About Leak of CIA Operative's Name
    By Staff and Wire Reports
    Jun 3, 2004, 05:28
  8. by   SharonH, RN
    Quote from spacenurse
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/...in620810.shtml

    "I have met with an attorney to determine whether or not I need his advice, and if I deem I need his advice, I'll probably hire him."
    President Bush

    -----------------------------------
    FOUND IT!

    http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artma...cle_4629.shtml
    From Capitol Hill Blue
    Bush Leagues
    Bush Knew About Leak of CIA Operative's Name
    By Staff and Wire Reports
    Jun 3, 2004, 05:28

    Oh, a big thank you spacenurse!
  9. by   maureeno
    thank you spacenurse for posting the link

    looking more and more like if Bush is elected in November
    he will not complete his term



    "Witnesses told a federal grand jury President George W. Bush knew about, and took no action to stop, the release of a covert CIA operative's name to a journalist in an attempt to discredit her husband"
  10. by   teeituptom
    Quote from maureeno
    thank you spacenurse for posting the link

    looking more and more like if Bush is elected in November
    he will not complete his term



    "Witnesses told a federal grand jury President George W. Bush knew about, and took no action to stop, the release of a covert CIA operative's name to a journalist in an attempt to discredit her husband"


    Impeach bushie and cheney

    fire powell and dumsfield
  11. by   bukko
    Quote from mjlrn97
    I'm still amazed that this never got the attention it deserved. They say Ronald Reagan was the Teflon president.......he had nothing on Dubya! NOTHING sticks to this guy, not the CIA scandal that wasn't, not the blood of some 900 American soldiers who've thus far died in Iraq, not the OT bill, not the Medicare fiasco, not the intended dismantling of civil liberties outlined in the Patriot Act---nothing. :angryfire
    The reason nothing sticks to Bush is because the scandals happen so fast. There's a new outrage every day. People can't focus on the last one because something worse has taken its place.

    Like the $700 million his adminstration swiped from Afghan reconstruction and spent on Iraq war preparations. That alone could be an impeachable offense. When Congress says you must spend money one way, you can't just go spend it somewhere else. We have checks and balances, separation of powers, not a kingdom where the man at the top can do whatever he wants to. But that issue was barely a blip on one 24-hour news cycle.

    The problem that Nixon, Reagan and Clinton had is that they got hung up on ONE major issue -- Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica... Bush has adopted a strategy that is unprecedented in my political knowledge -- stay out of trouble by getting into more trouble. We can't see the forest for the trees.

    Except that more and more people do see that there's a forest of horrors out there, even if they can't zone in on one particular one. I have faith that there is still a majority of Americans who can think, and they'll cast out this demon. Then the investigatory commissions will have a field day dissecting the Bush administration's misdeeds, one by one -- including the outing of Valerie Plame.
    My question is, when (or if) should President Kerry pardon Bush the way Ford did for Nixon?

    One last thing -- remember when Deep Throat leakers REVEALED government crimes? Under Bush, Deep Throat is COMMITTING a crime...
  12. by   Mkue
    Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides
    Bush Fires, Then Praises, CIA Chief Tenet
    Bush Knew About Leak of CIA Operative's Name
    The Bush-Cheney 'Big-Lie' Strategy
    Now, Bush Wants Support From UN
    http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artma...cle_4629.shtml

    other headline breaking news articles from the captial hill blue site.
  13. by   teeituptom
    Like Ive always said

    Impeach Bushie and cheney

    and exhile them to Iraq forever


    fire Powell and Dumsfield
  14. by   ArleneG
    Here is another article on the same subject. Of all of the scandals, this may be the one that sticks:


    ----
    The Serious Implications Of President Bush's Hiring A Personal Outside Counsel For The Valerie Plame Investigation
    By JOHN W. DEAN
    ----
    Friday, Jun. 04, 2004

    Recently, the White House acknowledged that President Bush is talking with, and considering hiring, a non-government attorney, James E. Sharp. Sharp is being consulted, and may be retained, regarding the current grand jury investigation of the leak revealing the identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA covert operative.


    (Plame is the wife of Bush critic and former ambassador Joe Wilson; I discussed the leak itself in a prior column, and then discussed further developments in the investigation in a follow-up column.)

    This action by Bush is a rather stunning and extraordinary development. The President of the United States is potentially hiring a private criminal defense lawyer. Unsurprisingly, the White House is doing all it can to bury the story, providing precious little detail or context for the President's action.

    According to the Los Angeles Times, Bush explained his action by saying, "This is a criminal matter. It's a serious matter," but he gave no further specifics. White House officials, too, would not say exactly what prompted Bush to seek the outside advice, or whether he had been asked to appear before the grand jury.

    Nonetheless, Bush's action, in itself, says a great deal. In this column, I will analyze what its implications may be.

    The Valerie Plame Grand Jury Investigation

    The Plame investigation took a quantum leap in December 2003, when Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself. Ashcroft's deputy appointed a special counsel, who has powers and authority tantamount to those of the attorney general himself. That means, in practice, that Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States Attorney from Chicago, does not report to the Justice Department regarding his investigation. (In this sense, Fitzgerald's position is similar to that of an Independent Counsel under the now-defunct independent counsel statute.)

    Those familiar with Fitzgerald's inquiry tell me that the investigative team of attorneys is principally from his office in Chicago, and that they do not really know their way around the workings of Washington. This has resulted in an investigation that is being handled Chicago-style - not D.C.-style. That's significant because in Washington, there is more of a courtesy and protocol toward power than exists in the Windy City.

    The Fitzgerald investigation has not made friends with the Washington press corps, many of whom are being subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. Those journalists with whom I have spoken say they are not willing appeared before any grand jury to reveal their sources. So this issue is headed toward a showdown. And under existing law, a journalist cannot refuse to provide information to a grand jury.

    Nor, based on the few existing precedents, can a sitting president refuse to give testimony to a grand jury. And that appears to be the broad, underlying reason Bush is talking with Washington attorney James Sharp.

    Reasons the Plame Grand Jury May Want Bush's Testimony

    Why might the grand jury wish to hear Bush's testimony? Most of the possible answers are not favorable for Bush.

    There is, of course, one totally benign way to view the situation. "It is hard for me to imagine that Pat Fitzgerald is going to be going aggressively after the president," one Washington lawyer told the Los Angeles Times. "My guess is that he feels a need to conduct an interview because he needs to be in a position to say, 'I have done everything that could be done.'" The lawyer added, "If [Fitzgerald] closes the case without an indictment and has not interviewed the president, he is going to be criticized."

    But from what I have learned from those who have been quizzed by the Fitzgerald investigators it seems unlikely that they are interviewing the President merely as a matter of completeness, or in order to be able to defend their actions in front of the public. Asking a President to testify - or even be interviewed - remains a serious, sensitive and rare occasion. It is not done lightly. Doing so raises separation of powers concerns that continue to worry many.

    Instead, it seems the investigators are seeking to connect up with, and then speak with, persons who have links to and from the leaked information - and those persons, it seems, probably include the President. (I should stress, however, that I do not have access to grand jury testimony, and that grand jury proceedings are secret. But the facts that are properly public do allow some inference and commentary about what likely is occurring in the grand jury.)

    Undoubtedly, those from the White House have been asked if they spoke with the president about the leak. It appears that one or more of them may indeed have done so. .

    If so - and if the person revealed the leaker's identity to the President, or if the President decided he preferred not to know the leaker's identity. -- then this fact could conflict with Bush's remarkably broad public statements on the issue. He has said that he did not know of "anybody in [his] administration who leaked classified information." He has also said that he wanted "to know the truth" about this leak.

    If Bush is called before the grand jury, it is likely because Fitzgerald believes that he knows much more about this leak than he has stated publicly.

    Perhaps Bush may have knowledge not only of the leaker, but also of efforts to make this issue go away - if indeed there have been any. It is remarkably easy to obstruct justice, and this matter has been under various phases of an investigation by the Justice Department since it was referred by the CIA last summer.

    It seems very possible the leaker - or leakers, for two government sources were initially cited by columnist Robert Novak -- may have panicked, covered up his (or their) illegality, and in doing so, committed further crimes. If so, did the President hear of it? Was he willfully blind? Was he himself the victim of a cover-up by underlings? The grand jury may be interested in any or all of these possibilities.

    Bush Needs An Outside Attorney To Maintain Attorney-Client Privilege

    Readers may wonder, why is Bush going to an outside counsel, when numerous government attorneys are available to him - for instance, in the White House Counsel's Office?

    The answer is that the President has likely been told it would be risky to talk to his White House lawyers, particularly if he knows more than he claims publicly.

    Ironically, it was the fair-haired Republican stalwart Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr who decimated the attorney-client privilege for government lawyers and their clients - which, to paraphrase the authority Wigmore, applies when legal advice of any kind is sought by a client from a professional legal adviser, where the advice is sought in confidence.

    The reason the privilege was created was to insure open and candid discussion between a lawyer and his or her client. It traditionally applied in both civil and criminal situations for government lawyers, just as it did for non-government lawyers. It applied to written records of communications, such as attorney's notes, as well as to the communications themselves.

    But Starr tried to thwart that tradition in two different cases, before two federal appeals courts. There, he contended that there should be no such privilege in criminal cases involving government lawyers.

    In the first case, In re Grand Jury Subpoenas Duces Tecum, former First Lady Hillary Clinton had spoken with her private counsel in the presence of White House counsel (who had made notes of the conversation). Starr wanted the notes. Hillary Clinton claimed the privilege.

    A divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed with Starr. The court held that a grand jury was entitled to the information. It also held that government officials -- even when serving as attorneys -- had a special obligation to provide incriminating information in their possession.

    In the second case, In re Lindsey, Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey refused to testify about his knowledge of President Clinton's relationship to Monica Lewinsky, based on attorney-client privilege. Starr sought to compel Lindsey's testimony, and he won again.

    This time, Starr persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to follow the Eighth Circuit. The court ruled that exposure of wrongdoing by government lawyers fostered democracy, as "openness in government has always been thought crucial to ensuring that the people remain in control of their government."

    Based on these precedents, President Bush has almost certainly been told that the only way he can discuss his potential testimony with a lawyer is by hiring one outside the government.

    What Might a Private Attorney Advise Bush to Do?

    It is possible that Bush is consulting Sharp only out of an excess of caution - despite the fact that he knows nothing of the leak, or of any possible coverup of the leak. But that's not likely.

    On this subject, I spoke with an experienced former federal prosecutor who works in Washington, specializing in white collar criminal defense (but who does not know Sharp). That attorney told me that he is baffled by Bush's move - unless Bush has knowledge of the leak. "It would not seem that the President needs to consult personal counsel, thereby preserving the attorney-client privilege, if he has no knowledge about the leak," he told me.

    What advice might Bush get from a private defense counsel? The lawyer I consulted opined that, "If he does have knowledge about the leak and does not plan to disclose it, the only good legaladvice would be to take the Fifth, rather than lie. The political fallout is a separate issue."

    I raised the issue of whether the President might be able to invoke executive privilege as to this information. But the attorney I consulted - who is well versed in this area of law -- opined that "Neither 'outing' Plame, nor covering for the perpetrators would seem to fall within the scope of any executive privilege that I am aware of."

    That may not stop Bush from trying to invoke executive privilege, however - or at least from talking to his attorney about the option. As I have discussed in one of my prior columns, Vice President Dick Cheney has tried to avoid invoking it in implausible circumstances - in the case that is now before the U.S .Supreme Court. Rather he claims he is beyond the need for the privilege, and simply cannot be sued.

    Suffice it to say that whatever the meaning of Bush's decision to talk with private counsel about the Valerie Plame leak, the matter has taken a more ominous turn with Bush's action. It has only become more portentous because now Dick Cheney has also hired a lawyer for himself, suggesting both men may have known more than they let on. Clearly, the investigation is heading toward a culmination of some sort. And it should be interesting.

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