Bush Defends Calling DeLay Not Guilty

Associated Press
Saturday, December 17, 2005

President Bush said yesterday his statement that former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was innocent of criminal charges in Texas was meant to signal confidence in the justice system and not to make a pronouncement about the individual case.

"The point I was making was 'innocent until otherwise proven,' " Bush said in an interview aired last night on PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." "It's a belief in the system, and that's not always the way people are treated here in Washington, as you know."

On Wednesday, Bush was asked on Fox News whether he thought DeLay was innocent, and he replied, "Yes, I do."

Spokesman Scott McClellan said Thursday that Bush was exercising his "presidential prerogative" in commenting on the case.

DeLay was forced to step down as the number two House leader in late November after he was indicted on a state charge of conspiracy to violate election laws. A second grand jury indicted him on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money. The initial charge has been dismissed, but a judge has let stand the later charges.

Bush was also asked about the CIA leak case, in which a special prosecutor is examining whether anyone in the administration revealed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003.

Columnist Robert D. Novak, the first to reveal Plame's name in print, said this week he was confident that Bush knows who leaked the information. All Bush would say in response was "I appreciate his bold assertion."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company