Bush aides sent to ethics classes

By Adam Entous
Tuesday, November 8, 2005; 3:21 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's chief of staff Andrew Card and other top White House officials started attending classes on ethics and the handling of classified information on Tuesday in response to the indictment of a top aide in the CIA leak investigation.

Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was expected to attend one of the classes scheduled for Wednesday.

A total of 3,000 administration officials -- with the exception of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney -- will attend the mandatory, hourlong briefings over the next two weeks, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Cheney's new chief of staff, David Addington, was also scheduled to attend, the White House said.

Held in an auditorium next to the White House, the briefings are being led by Richard Painter of the White House counsel's office and cover rules for safeguarding national security secrets.

The ethics course comes after Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted on five counts of obstructing justice, perjury and lying in the two-year investigation into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity after her husband criticized the Iraq war.

If convicted, Libby, who resigned from his post in the White House, faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.

Democrats sought assurances from Bush on Tuesday that he would not pardon Libby or any other officials found guilty of crimes stemming from the Plame investigation.

McClellan would not comment on the prospects of a presidential pardon for Libby or anybody else. "I'm not going to discuss an ongoing legal proceeding. And I'm not going to speculate about any matters relating to it," McClellan said.

The five-count indictment against Libby maintains that other government officials were aware of, if not involved in, leaking the identity of Plame to the media. One of those officials is Rove, who serves as Bush's deputy chief of staff.

Rove was not indicted along with Libby, but lawyers involved in the case said Rove remained under investigation and may still be charged in the case.

The briefings were scheduled for staffers according to the first letter of their last name. If that practice is followed, Rove would be expected at a session at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

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