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White House Tries to Leave Scandal Behind
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White House Tries to Leave Scandal Behind

Politics

White House Tries to Leave Scandal Behind

White House Tries to Leave Scandal Behind
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The Bush administration is attempting to recover its political footing after Friday's indictment of Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. While members of Congress and political commentators were weighing the seriousness of the long-term fallout, White House aides seemed to try to change the subject.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

The Bush administration is looking ahead, trying to recover from Friday's indictment of White House aide Lewis Libby on perjury and other charges. Its strategy appears to be to change the subject even as the debate heats up over the damage already done. NPR's Don Gonyea reports from the White House.

DON GONYEA reporting:

The investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald took nearly two years, and the mood at the White House this weekend is that the news, while certainly not good, could have been worse. Administration officials hope that Libby's resignation Friday and the fact that White House political adviser Karl Rove was not indicted mean they can begin to put the scandal behind them, but that may not be so easy. Democrats are quick to note that Karl Rove remains under investigation, and Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid said it's also known that Rove, despite White House denials, did talk to reporters about the identity of Valerie Plame. Reid appeared on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

(Soundbite of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos")

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): He should apologize, the vice president should apologize. They should come clean with the American public. I think Karl Rove should step down. Here is a man who the president said if anyone in the administration was involved, out they would go. And this was confirmed by...

GONYEA: But over on CBS' "Face the Nation," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham argued that so far the evidence does not implicate Rove.

(Soundbite of "Face the Nation")

Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): But I think the likelihood of Karl Rove being indicted in the future is virtually zero. I think this will be seen in history and in politics as Mr. Libby giving false information, if proven, and it will not be about an effort by the vice president to disclose a CIA operative. Mr. Libby...

GONYEA: Still, Graham agreed with Democrats that the White House should itself investigate the vice president's office, but he downplayed the larger implications of the story. He denied that Libby's alleged actions were part of a broad effort by the administration to discredit a critic of its case for war.

(Soundbite of "Face the Nation")

Sen. GRAHAM: To those who dislike the war and those who are for the war, this doesn't prove it one way or the other. This is about a man who is alleged to give false information and false testimony...

Mr. BOB SCHIEFFER (Host): Well, let me ask Senator Schumer...

GONYEA: That's one view, as the debate goes forward, but there are also those who say you can't separate the leak investigation from the war. Washington Post columnist David Broder on NBC's "Meet the Press" today.

(Soundbite of "Meet the Press")

Mr. DAVID BRODER (The Washington Post): The context in which all of this happened is critical. In terms of American opinion, the war in Iraq is a bleeding wound. It continues to sap the credibility of this presidency. You talk to any...

GONYEA: Which is why an administration that has refused to talk publicly about the leak investigation is now anxious to talk about anything else. White House officials tell reporters to look for the president to announce a new US Supreme Court nominee as early as tomorrow. That would be a huge story which might, for a few hours at least, bump the Lewis Libby indictment from the top of the news.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House.

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