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Bush acknowledges administration official leaked Plame's name, immediately 'moves on'
David Edwards and Nick Juliano
Published: Thursday July 12, 2007
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At a White House press conference Thursday, President Bush acknowledged that someone in his administration leaked the name of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, but he avoided addressing the question of whether he saw it as a moral issue or was at all disappointed in his senior advisers.

Michael Abramowitz of the Washington Post who recently wrote an article about how Bush decided on the Libby commutation without consulting with Justice Department lawyers, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, or even old friends who had been lobbying on Libby's behalf asked Bush about his commutation of Libby's sentence.

Abramowitz stated, "You spoke very soberly and seriously in your statement about how you weighed different legal questions in coming to your decision on that commutation. But one issue that you did not address was the issue of the morality of your most senior advisers leaking the name of a confidential intelligence operator. Now that the case is over ... can you say whether you were at all disappointed in the behavior of those senior advisers, and have you communicated that disappointment to them in any way?"

"First of all," responded Bush, "the Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision. Secondly, I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the testimony that people throughout my administration were forced to give as a result of the special prosecutor. I didn't ask them during that time, I haven't asked them since. I am aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person, and, you know, I've often thought about what would have happened had that person come forth and said, 'I did it.' Would we have had this -- endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter? But it's been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House and it's run its course and now we're going to move on. Wendell..."

Bush neither gave Abramowitz the chance for a follow-up question nor apparently remembered that he had already promised to call after Abramowitz on a different reporter, who interjected an objection to being passed over. Instead, Bush called on Wendell Goler of Fox News, who stated, "Thank you, sir. You have spoken passionately about the consequences of failure in Iraq. Your critics say you failed to send enough troops there at the start, failed to keep al Qaeda from stepping into the void created by the collapse of Saddam's army, failed to put enough pressure on Iraq's government to make the political reconciliation necessary to keep the sectarian violence the country is suffering from now from occurring. So why should the American people feel you have the vision for victory in Iraq, sir?"

No questions were asked at the press conference about Bush's pledge to fire anyone in the administration found to be involved in the leaking of Plame's name, a pledge whose origins go back to September 29, 2003, when Helen Thomas asked Scott McClellan at a press briefing, "Scott, has anyone -- has the President tried to find out who outed the CIA agent? And has he fired anyone in the White House yet?"

After a long series of questions from multiple reporters, McClellan finally responded, "There are anonymous reports all the time in the media. The President has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."

In June 2004, Bush replied "yes" when asked "do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have [leaked Plame's name]?" However, in July 2005, he offered an amended version, stating, "I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." No one in the administration was ever fired, but Scooter Libby resigned after being indicted in October 2005.

Critics say Plame was outed in political retaliation against her husband, Joe Wilson, who was critical of the administration's rhetoric on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The following video is from MSNBC's News Live broadcast on July 12.

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Transcript:

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, not you, Michael. (Laughter.)

Q If I could switch subjects --

(Laughter, cross talk.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay, is that -- is that harsh?

Q Yes.

Q No.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Like, the new hall -- I should have been more gentle? (Laughter.)

Q Yes.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Do we ever use kinder and gentler? No.

Q (Off mike, laughter.)

PRESIDENT BUSH: Go ahead, Michael, then you're next.

Q If I could just switch subjects for a second to another big decision you made recently, which was in the Scooter Libby case --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah.

Q -- you spoke very soberly and seriously in your statement about how you weighed different legal questions in coming to your decision on that commutation. But one issue that you did not address was the issue of the morality of your most senior advisers, you know, leaking the name of a confidential intelligence operator.

Now that the case is over -- it's not something you've ever spoken to -- can you say whether you're at all disappointed in the behavior of those senior advisers? And have you communicated that disappointment to them in any way?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Michael, I -- first of all, the -- the Scooter Libby decision was a -- I thought a fair and balanced decision.

Secondly, I haven't spent a lot of time talking about the testimony that people throughout my administration were forced to give as a result of the special prosecutor. I didn't ask them during that time, and I haven't asked them since. I -- I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person, and, you know, I've often thought about what would have happened had that person come forth and said, "I did it." Would we have had this, you know, endless hours of investigation and a lot of money being spent on this matter? And -- but it's a -- it's been a tough issue for a lot of people in the White House, and it's -- it's run its course, and now we're going to move on.

Wendell.

Q Mr. President, you have spoken passionately --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, I'm sorry, John. Okay.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

Q You're taking it away from me?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I am.

Q After doing the fair and balanced, you're going to take --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. (Laughs, laughter.)

PRESS MEMBERS: Ohhh.

Q (Off mike.)

Q You were going to come back to me, sir.

PRESIDENT BUSH: You got the mike, then John, you're next. Possession deal, you know what I'm saying?

Q Thank you, sir. You have spoken passionately about the consequences of failure in Iraq.