Democrats yesterday called on President Bush to fire Karl Rove in order to make good on his vow to discipline anyone who leaked a CIA operative’s identity, but the White House clammed up and refused to answer questions.
“The White House promised if anyone was involved in the Valerie Plame affair, they would no longer be in this administration. I trust they will follow through on this pledge,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “If these allegations are true, this rises above politics and is about our national security.”
Several recent press reports have named Mr. Rove, White House deputy chief of staff and the president’s senior political adviser, as a source who spoke to reporters about Mrs. Plame, a CIA employee. It is illegal to knowingly reveal the name of an employee whose identity the government is trying to conceal, such as an undercover CIA agent.
Mr. Rove never has publicly acknowledged talking with any reporter about Mrs. Plame.
“I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name,” he told CNN last year.
Yesterday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan was barraged with questions about Mr. Rove’s role, but Mr. McClellan refused to field most queries, saying the entire matter is part of an “ongoing investigation.”
During the daily White House briefing, reporters asked the spokesman about his comments when the story first broke. At an Oct. 10, 2003, briefing, when asked whether Mr. Rove and two other White House aides ever told any reporter that Mrs. Plame worked for the CIA, Mr. McClellan said: “I spoke with those individuals … and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this … the leaking of classified information.”
Yesterday, Mr. McClellan said he was “well-aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously, and at some point, I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I’m just not going to do that.”
When asked whether Mr. Rove committed a crime by releasing the name of a covert CIA operative, the spokesman said: “This is a question relating to an ongoing investigation.”
In addition to Democrats’ calling on Mr. Bush to make good on his promise, one Democrat yesterday raised questions about whether “Mr. Rove acted alone or whether there was a conspiracy with other White House staff.”
California Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, said Mr. Rove must testify before Congress.
“The intentional disclosure of a covert CIA agent’s identity would be an act of treason,” Mr. Waxman wrote in a letter to committee Chairman Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican.
“If there were evidence of such a serious breach during the Clinton Administration, there is no doubt that our Committee would have immediately demanded that the deputy chief of staff testify at a hearing. This would have been the right course of action then, and it is the right course now,” Mr. Waxman wrote.