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For Bush, Effect of Investigation of C.I.A. Leak Case Is Uncertain


New York Times
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON

WASHINGTON, July 23 - His former secretary of state, most of his closest aides and a parade of other senior officials have testified to a grand jury. His political strategist has emerged as a central figure in the case, as has his vice president's chief of staff. His spokesman has taken a pounding for making public statements about the matter that now appear not to be accurate.

For all that, it is still not clear what the investigation into the leak of a C.I.A. operative's identity will mean for President Bush. So far the disclosures about the involvement of Karl Rove, among others, have not exacted any substantial political price from the administration. And nobody has suggested that the investigation directly implicates the president.

Yet Mr. Bush has yet to address some uncomfortable questions that he may not be able to evade indefinitely.

For starters, did Mr. Bush know in the fall of 2003, when he was telling the public that no one wanted to get to the bottom of the case more than he did, that Mr. Rove, his longtime strategist and senior adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, had touched on the C.I.A. officer's identity in conversations with journalists before the officer's name became public? If not, when did they tell him, and what would the delay say in particular about his relationship with Mr. Rove, whose career and Mr. Bush's have been intertwined for decades?

Then there is the broader issue of whether Mr. Bush was aware of any effort by his aides to use the C.I.A. officer's identity to undermine the standing of her husband, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration of twisting its prewar intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program.

For the last several weeks, Mr. Bush and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, have declined to address the leak in any substantive way, citing the continuing federal criminal investigation.

But Democrats increasingly see an opportunity to raise questions about Mr. Bush's credibility, and to reopen a debate about whether the White House leveled with the nation about the urgency of going to war with Iraq. And even some Republicans say Mr. Bush cannot assume that he will escape from the investigation politically unscathed.

"Until all the facts come out, no one is really going to know who the fickle finger of fate points at," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster.

The case centers on how the name of a C.I.A. operative came to be appear two years ago in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who identified her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. The operative, who is more usually known as Valerie Wilson, is married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration eight days before Mr. Novak's column of twisting some of the intelligence used to justify going to war with Iraq. Under some conditions, the disclosure of a covert intelligence agent's name can be a federal crime.

The special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has kept a tight curtain of secrecy around his investigation. But he spent more than an hour in the Oval Office on June 24, 2004, interviewing Mr. Bush about the case. Mr. Bush was not under oath, but he had his personal lawyer for the case, James E. Sharp, with him.

Neither the White House nor the Justice Department has said what Mr. Bush was asked about, but prosecutors do not lightly seek to put questions directly to any president, suggesting that there was some information that Mr. Fitzgerald felt he could get only from Mr. Bush.

Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington, said the lesson of recent history, for example in the Iran-contra case under President Ronald Reagan, is that presidents tend to know more than it might first appear about what is going on within the White House.

"My presumption in presidential politics is that the president always knows," Mr. Lichtman said. "But there are degrees of knowing. Reagan said, keep the contras together body and soul. Did he know exactly what Oliver North was doing? No, it doesn't mean he knew what every subordinate is doing."

Although it is possible that other officials will turn out to have played leading roles in the leak case, the subordinates whose actions would appear to be of most interest to Mr. Bush right now are Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby, who as Mr. Cheney's chief of staff had particular reason to protect the vice president.

According to accounts by various people involved in the case, Mr. Rove spoke in the days after Mr. Wilson went public with his criticism in July 2003 to both of the first two reporters to disclose that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A., Mr. Novak and Matthew Cooper of Time. Mr. Cooper has said he also spoke about the case with Mr. Libby.

By September 2003, as a criminal investigation was getting under way, Mr. McClellan was telling reporters that Mr. Rove had nothing to do with the leak, saying he had checked with Mr. Rove about the topic.

Around the same time, the president was saying he had no idea who might have been responsible. Asked by a reporter on Oct. 6, 2003, whether the leak was retaliation for Mr. Wilson's criticism, Mr. Bush replied: "I don't know who leaked the information, for starters. So it's hard for me to answer that question until I find out the truth."

Asked the next day if he was confident that the leakers would be found, Mr. Bush, alluding to the "two senior administration officials" cited by Mr. Novak as his sources, replied: "I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth."

Republicans said the relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove was so deep and complex that it was hard to imagine the president cutting ties with him barring an indictment.

"Can you survive being involved in something you probably shouldn't have been involved in where you didn't break any laws?" Mr. Fabrizio said. "Well, you probably can, especially if you are Karl."

Mr. Fabrizio said that even if Mr. Rove left the White House, he would continue to consult with Mr. Bush "unless they put him in a tunnel."

Mr. McClellan and other White House officials have repeatedly declined to answer when asked if Mr. Rove or Mr. Libby had told the president by October 2003 that they had alluded to Ms. Wilson's identity months earlier in their conversations with the journalists.

But Mr. Bush's political opponents say the president is in a box. In their view, either Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby kept the president in the dark about their actions, making them appear evasive at a time when Mr. Bush was demanding that his staff cooperate fully with the investigation, or Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby had told the president and he was not forthcoming in his public statements about his knowledge of their roles.

"We know that Karl Rove, through Scott McClellan, did not tell Americans the truth," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois and a former top aide in the Clinton White House. "What's important now is what Karl Rove told the president. Was it the truth, or was it what he told Scott McClellan?"

There is a third option, that neither Mr. Rove nor Mr. Libby considered their conversations with the journalists to have amounted to leaking or confirming the information about Ms. Wilson. In that case, they may have felt no need to inform the president, or they did inform him and he shared their view that they had done nothing wrong.

Mr. Bush has also yet to answer any questions publicly about what if anything he learned from aides about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Wilson in the days after Mr. Wilson leveled his criticism of the administration in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003.

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Over and over I keep reading articles about how this preisident is blocking investigations.Whether it be the 9/11,the Rove leak,and many others.You would think the president would want to clear his name of all these inquires.
And yet again this president LIED to me and my fellow Americans.
He put security as a number one issue and said that any leakers would be dismissed.

The Rove,Libby leak was done to discredit a man because they didn't like his report.I have watched many others being stumped that gave (question) to the war not being necessary.
Scott Riter,the UN,Hans,and many others.
So who do you believe are more capable of knowing,men that are experts in there fields or men that are Politicians.
What is a politician,a glorified SALES MAN.
And it appears that it's in black and white(the Downing Street Memos) that this president wanted war before he stepped into office.

I want to know why all world leaders knew this president wanted war before he stepped into power and the American people didn't.

When did we give the president,congress and senate the power to stop an investigation?
When did we give politicians the power over Law Enforcement.
Watching the many medias,talking heads,politicians is sad,there making total fools out of themselves.
It doesn't take a genious to realize that when people are trying to stop an investigation there usually guilty.
We have the criminals deciding and telling the law they can't investigate them.
I want to know is this a NEW LAW,can all AMericans that particapate in criminal acitivtiy decide whether they should be investigated by law enforcement?
But it's the many GOP and MSM that are acting like children.
There having to defend multiply criminal acitvity and it's so deep there telling spins and LIES to the point of ridiculous!

So what the gop and MSM are saying is "It's okay for the Bush administration to do pretty damn well what they want and that includes criminal activity.
The Bush administration is allowed to do what ever they want,no questions asked.
Apperently there trying to establish DICTATORSHIP!

I also realize many good men are being blackmailed,butchered,and threatened,but for god sakes find your Balls and fight!
But don't pretend you care about America,whether your corrupt or whether you are a gutless wonder!
At least give the American people the dignity of not having to suffer threw a sickening game of LIES and CONS.
Be brave and say what you think!

I think Bush should be a dictator.
I think Bush is allowed crimianal activity.
I think Bush is allowed to start war just because he wanted to profit.
I think Bush

As a long time Republican I watched the Monica saga to the point of sickening.Even as a Rep. I said,"what the hecks going on"
All world leaders thought the US was stupid for persuing this issue.
There is no law against having an affair,but there is laws against criminal activity.
And the gop and MSM are trying to stop law enforcement from doing there jobs.
There actually endorsing criminal acitivity.
The gop is doing it by preventing investigations.
The MSM is doing it by letting all negative,criminal acitivty stay unreported. Throwing in an article here and there is a joke.
Maybe somebody should go back and add up all the coverage on Bill and Monica and compare to the coverage on a "War that Might have been started on a LIE"

I guess SEX is more important than Criminal activity.
Then why in the heck has there been ZERO to none stories on GANNON,hmmm.
It doesn't get any juicier than this.

Do you think my husband and I would have voted for Bush knowing about his pipe dream PNAC,the answer is NO and every Rep. I know would have say NO.
Do you think I would have voted for a president that was a COCANE addict,the answer is NO and every Rep, I know would say No.
Do you think I would have voted for a president that had a running mate that was under many and major investigations for multiple criminal activities,the answer is NO.

Do you know what the American people are the most SCARED of,it's the CORRUPTION in Washington.
And this administration has went over the edge on corruption.

MEN ARE DYING BECAUSE MEN WANTED TO PROFIT!
I hope you all have trouble sleeping at night and when your done with your glory days and when you have time to think, that you go threw living hell!
Because your not thinking now.

It also appears that percentage wise the few shining stars have been woman.Might be that woman don't join a pack rat mentality.
Maybe the woman of the world will have to save this country called America.

I want to know why the biggest drum beaters of the war never served there country.
We have men that have no friggen idea what war is about saying" We need war"
It gets better than that,Bush went AWOL and Chenney said"I have other priorities".
Isn't that SPECIAL!

Somebody tell me how 50+ dead Brits is carnage,and thousands and thousands of dead innocent Iraq's is spreading freedom?
Please answer this,I really need to know!

Excuse my spelling
I also want to thank the people that are fighting to save America!
Just let me know when the NEW LAW was passed that criminal activity is allowed in America if your a politician!

You go girl!

Keep fighting for the truth. The MSM will never latch on to it until they feel safe to do so. They're either really scared or really corrupt.

....or they are just plain inept

All good questions that the Bush Administration should be made to answer to the citizens...The White House keeps coming up with diversionary news items that the media chase like hounds to avoid being caught. They AVOID any discussion of DSM...I guess to the party in power that Clinton's activity with Ms. Lewinsky is worse than thousands of dead people across the world due to the US illegal war in Iraq-with its citizens and the British citizens being tricked into by lies by Bush, Cheney, etal. When will we find out that Rove let Gannon in to the white house w/legitimate media, that he spend countless days and nights in the white house & who did he belong to: Rove, Libby, or McClelland? Too many things swept under the rug while continuous illegal activity goes on at the citizens white house.

I can only add a little 2 more cents, because WHEW, you are very accurate and thorough and made ALL the valid points... I turned beet red talking to a fraternity boy that believes it's ok to kill tens of thousands of Iraquis to catch Saddam. Oh boy, I said right then> quit school, enlist , throw on a uniform and STICK UP FOR YOUR "OPINION". Young people his age are dying in Iraq when they'd rather be in school. That's WHY they joined the service, to earn money for college, not to fight phony wars that have no WMD's, but lots of oil! Frat boy> walk the walk, don't just talk the talk.

You and your enlightened Republican colleagues are true American patriots! All of your points are valid and are shared by those of us who have been following this fascist rogue regime. In my case, i felt somewhat helpless until stumbling across the Conyers Hearing on the DSM being replayed on C-SPAN Friday night June 17th. That is when I learned about the After Downing Street Coalition. Little by little and one enlightenment at a time, the people will ultimately prevail. THANK YOU FOR YOUR WILLINGNESS TO EXPRESS YOUR RAGE!

Beautiful. Now many Republicans are opening their eyes. Your anger gives me chills. WE NEED YOU ANGRY REPUBLICANS.....

Coulnd't agree with you more. Now where do I find these angry republicans?

Have written to Senators McCain and Kyl and they are absolutely mute on the subject. Kyl has and always will be a wimp and McCain sold his soul to bush in the 2004 election. How he could back bush after the bush campaign maligned McCain in 2000 is beyond me.

And from the Onion - Bush Awaits Orders From Rove On Handling of Rove Scandal

Do not give Bush a break! He is repsonsible for the actions of his subordinates! He is responsible for the invasion of Iraq!

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