The leader of the Senate Democrats today called for White House chief political strategist Karl Rove to resign, saying it's time for President Bush to "come clean" with the American people about the administration's role in the disclosure of a CIA operative's name.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), speaking on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," said both Bush and Vice President Cheney owe an apology to the American public.
Reid said Bush should pledge not to pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff who was indicted Friday on five charges relating to statements he made to the FBI and a grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
He took aim at Rove, whose actions were probed by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Rove is reportedly still under investigation.
"I think Karl Rove should step down," Reid said about the White House deputy chief of staff. "Here is a man who the president said if he was involved, if anyone in the administration was involved, out they would go. Anybody who is involved in this, they're gone."
Rove has not been charged with any crime and sources say he is working to convince Fitzgerald that he did not lie to the grand jury investigating the leak. Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who testified before the grand jury, has said that he first heard about Valerie Plame's identity from Rove. On the ABC program today, Cooper said he was surprised to be cited in the Libby indictment.
The investigation is looking into whether Plame's name and employer was leaked to the press in retaliation against her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was publicly opposing the war in Iraq.
"There has not been an apology to the American people for this obvious problem in the White House," Reid said. "This has gotten way out of hand, and the American people deserve better than this."
Speaking on the show, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a close ally of the president's, said Friday's indictment of Libby by Fitzgerald showed that "any alleged wrongdoing is confined to a single individual." Cornyn said Rove wasn't at liberty to discuss the case now.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking on another Sunday morning show, CBS's "Face the Nation," also urged the administration to consider turning to new staff to help set a new mood at the White House. The indictment last week, he said, shows "a White House that has run out of steam, whether it's ethical issues or Katrina or Iraq or the budget deficit, high gas prices. . . . And the real question for President Bush is going to be: is he going to be like Nixon -- hunker down, get into the bunker, admit no mistakes or like Reagan, who actually admitted mistakes, did a mid-course correction and brought in new people, bipartisan people, people above ethical approach into the White House."
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), speaking on "Fox News Sunday," urged the president to make changes in his staff but did not explicitly call for the dismissal of Rove. He said the president's chief strategist should decide for himself if he is a distraction to the administration.
But Lott said Bush "should always be looking for new blood, new energy. I'm not talking about wholesale changes, but you ought to reach out."
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), speaking on the same show, said he agreed that Bush should shake up his staff "but that's really the president's call."
He also said Libby's indictment raises questions about what Cheney knew of the efforts to discredit Wilson and to reveal his wife's covert CIA status. "It seems to me that the vice president has an obligation to come forward," he said.