- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush has consulted an outside lawyer about representing him in the grand jury investigation of who leaked the name of a CIA operative last year, White House officials said last night.

There was no indication that Mr. Bush was a target of the leak investigation, but the president’s move suggested he anticipates being questioned about what he knows.

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

“The president has made it very clear he wants everyone to cooperate fully with the investigation and that would include himself,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

He confirmed that Mr. Bush had contacted Washington lawyer Jim Sharp. “In the event the president needs his advice, I expect he probably would retain him,” Mr. McClellan said.

Several journalists have received federal subpoenas to face questioning about the leak, and FBI officials have visited the White House to interview officials. There was no indication Mr. Bush had been questioned.

Mr. Bush has been an outspoken critics of leaks, saying they can be damaging, but he has expressed doubts that the government’s investigation will pinpoint who was responsible.

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.”

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

Mr. Wilson has said he thinks his wife’s name was leaked because of his criticism of Bush administration claims that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Mr. Wilson investigated those reports for the CIA and said they were 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 recused himself from the case.

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