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McClellan: Bush Lost Public's Confidence

By Scott Stearns
White House
20 June 2008

A former White House spokesman says Americans have lost trust in U.S. President George Bush, because he is refusing to reveal his administration's involvement in leaking the identity of a previously-covert CIA operative. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the Bush administration dismisses the allegations, saying the former spokesman is misinformed.

Former White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says then Chief of Staff Andrew Card told him that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney wanted him to tell reporters that the Vice President's chief of staff was not involved in leaking the name of a CIA operative.

That Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby, was later convicted of obstructing the investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Her husband, a former U.S. ambassador, was a vocal critic of the president's justification for invading Iraq.

McClellan told the House Judiciary Committee Friday that White House officials leaked Plame's identity to get back at her husband.

"I do not know whether a crime was committed by any of the administration officials who revealed Valerie Plame's identity to reporters, nor do I know if there was an attempt by any person or persons to engage in a cover-up during the investigation," he said. "I do know that it was wrong to reveal her identity because it compromised the effectiveness of a covert official for political reasons. I regret that I played a role, however unintentionally, in relaying false information to the public about it."

Asked about McClellan's testimony, the current White House Deputy Spokesman Tony Fratto said McClellan has probably already told everyone everything he doesn't know, so Fratto does not think anyone should expect him to say anything new.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Democrat John Conyers says McClellan's allegations are the most important matter Congress could examine in its oversight of the administration.

"When White House insiders leak classified information, manipulate media coverage and otherwise employ their immense power to punish dissenters, Congress does not have any other option," he said. "It has a Constitutional duty to check and balance an errant Executive Branch."

The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, questioned McClellan's motivation for writing a book that contradicts everything he said and did as White House Spokesman.

"Scott McClellan alone will have to wrestle with whether it was worth selling out the president and his friends for a few pieces of silver," he said.

McClellan says he wrote the book, in part, because he was prohibited from discussing the matter in 2005 due to the criminal investigation. He says he made a commitment to share with the public what he knew as soon as possible and believes President Bush could restore much of the trust McClellan says he has lost by doing the same.

"The continuing cloud of suspicion over the White House is not something I can remove because I know only one part of the story," he added. "Only those who know the underlying truth can bring this to an end. Sadly, they remain silent."

President Bush commuted Libby's two-and-a-half year prison sentence, sparing him from serving time. McClellan says that was special treatment that further undermined the president's commitment to justice.

Current White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino says it is sad that McClellan is so disgruntled about his experience. She says those who supported McClellan before, during, and after he was press secretary are puzzled because this is not the man they thought they knew.

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