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Bush Reaffirms His Confidence in Rove

Karl Rove and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino listen to President Bush at yesterday's news conference.
Karl Rove and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino listen to President Bush at yesterday's news conference. (By Carol T. Powers -- Bloomberg News)

Wilson and Plame are considering a civil suit against Rove.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said it would be inappropriate to discuss the role of specific officials or whether any apologies are necessary until Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation is concluded.

"Why does not everybody wait to see what the facts are?" Snow said. At his news conference, Bush, too, said it would be wrong to comment on an ongoing case, despite his statements about it moments earlier and aboard Air Force One on Tuesday. As long as Bush sticks to this position, Democrats are likely to keep raising the issue.

Republicans close to the White House said Bush will not push Rove to apologize at any point and is confident the issue will soon fade from the public debate. For many Bush critics, that position contrasts with the ethical standards the president set as a candidate for president and in the earliest days of the leak probe.

In October 2000, Bush told supporters: "In my administration we will not ask only what is legal but what is right, not what the lawyers allow but what the public deserves." Snow would not comment on whether Rove's role in the leak case met this standard.

After news of the leak case broke, Bush said he would "fire anyone" who leaked the name of a covert CIA operative.

But in July 2005, the president set a high threshold for dismissal to cover only those aides who "committed a crime." The timing and threshold change had the potential to benefit Rove. By then, it was clear Rove was involved in the disclosure of Plame's identity even if his actions did not break the law.

Rove yesterday referred questions to Mark Corallo, his spokesman for the leak case. Corallo said he could not comment because of the pending trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of lying to investigators in the leak probe. But Rove's view of the leak controversy was made clear by Gillespie and others who are close to the White House deputy chief of staff.

"He did nothing wrong, he was not involved, he did everything right and owes nobody any apology," said a source close to Rove, who would discuss the topic only if his name was not used. The source said Rove was technically correct when he told CNN in 2004 that "I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name."

Gillespie said that there was nothing misleading about McClellan's comments in 2003, when the spokesman denied any role for Rove, because it was commonly known the issue was whether the aide leaked the name of a covert CIA agent. But a transcript of McClellan's comments suggests differently.

McClellan was asked if Rove "told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?" Rove, he said, "assured me" he was not involved in the leak of such information.

It is true there is no known evidence that Rove leaked Plame's name per se; in one instance, he referred to Plame simply as Wilson's wife. But he confirmed her CIA role to two reporters, according to court filings in the Libby case.

"He did not have a role in leaking anything. In this town, leaking is a proactive action: Someone gets on the phone and calls reporters for a purpose," said the source close to Rove.

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