WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mandatory classes in ethics and the handling of classified information began at the White House on Tuesday and one of the first to attend was David Addington, chosen by Vice President Dick Cheney to replace a top aide charged in the CIA leak probe.
Andrew Card, President George W. Bush's chief of staff, and Addington, Cheney's new chief of staff, attended the first sessions, which Bush made compulsory in response to the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Addington's predecessor.
Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was expected to attend an ethics class scheduled for Wednesday.
A total of 3,000 administration officials -- with the exception of Bush and Cheney -- will attend the hour-long briefings over the next two weeks, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
The briefings, held in an auditorium next to the White House and led by Richard Painter of the White House counsel's office, cover rules for safeguarding national security secrets.
The ethics course comes after 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.
Libby, who resigned from his post in the White House, faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted. 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.
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.