Politics

Senate Democrats Call for Rove's Resignation

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In Depth

President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, comes under scrutiny from critics who say Rove is the informant that leaked the identity of a CIA operative. The White House has defended Rove while Senate Democrats are saying he should be fired.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Some Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove to resign. Karl Rove is at the center of the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA officer. The White House said yesterday that President Bush has confidence in everyone who works there. NPR's David Folkenflik reports.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK reporting:

For a second day, White House spokesman Scott McClellan faced a crush of questions about Karl Rove. Rove has admitted being a source two years ago for Time magazine's reporting on CIA agent Valerie Plame, even though McClellan denied it at the time. Reporters grilled McClellan yesterday.

Mr. JOHN ROBERTS (CBS Reporter): Can you say whether or not you stand by your statement...

Mr. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Spokesman): I'll come back to you.

Mr. ROBERTS: ...of September 29th, 2003 that it's simply not true that Karl Rove disclosed the identity of a CIA operative?

Mr. McCLELLAN: John...

Mr. ROBERTS: Can you stand by that statement?

Mr. McCLELLAN: John, I look forward to talking about this at some point, but it's not the appropriate time to talk about it.

FOLKENFLIK: Up on Capitol Hill, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid told reporters President Bush should keep his word.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): We also have to go with what the president said. He said if anyone in his administration's leaked this name, they will be fired. That's what I said.

FOLKENFLIK: But Republicans told a different story. Arizona Senator John Kyl says it wouldn't be responsible to read too much into Rove's actions.

Senator JOHN KYL (Republican, Arizona): First of all, we don't know anything about it, because grand jury proceedings are secret.

FOLKENFLIK: And Kyl said Rove still had his support.

Sen. KYL: I said he should not resign.

FOLKENFLIK: Other Bush administration officials have testified in the case, such as McClellan, the spokesman, and Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. The first journalist to publish the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame was columnist Robert Novak. Novak wrote about Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson had criticized President Bush's justifications for invading Iraq and had claimed the disclosure of his wife's job was political payback. Rove's lawyer says he merely told Matthew Cooper of Time magazine about Plame off the record, to warn him not to put too much faith in Wilson's criticism. Larry Johnson is a former intelligence official who entered the CIA the same month as Plame. He says Rove stripped Plame of the ability to go abroad on assignment and compromised her past contacts as well.

Mr. LARRY JOHNSON (Former Intelligence Official): There are some things which may not be illegal under the law but are wrong under every moral and ethical code.

FOLKENFLIK: It's against the law for a federal official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert agent. But Karl Rove's lawyer says Rove has been told as recently as last month that he's not a target of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Tom Dillard says that means Rove appears to be out of legal jeopardy. Dillard was a US attorney in Florida under President Reagan.

Mr. TOM DILLARD (Former US Attorney): There may be some assurance given that that status will not change as long as Mr. Rove continues to cooperate with the special prosecutor.

FOLKENFLIK: To be prosecuted, the person making such a disclosure has to know that the agent is undercover and that the government is trying to keep it that way. Several former federal prosecutors say that can be hard to prove. Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, says Rove never even disclosed Valerie Plame's name. But that alone is not enough to protect Rove, says David Marston. He's a former US attorney in Philadelphia appointed by President Ford.

Mr. DAVID MARSTON (Former US Attorney): If it was sufficient, you know, if it was a description of someone who works in the third cubicle on the second floor, that's a different matter and it would not matter if he used her name or not if it were that specific.

FOLKENFLIK: Former prosecutors say special prosecutor Fitzgerald has played his cards so close to his vest that it's hard to tell who his real target is, or whether he has one. David Folkenflik, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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