Bush: No Comment On Rove

President Bush meets with members of his cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, July 13, 2005, as his deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, left, looks on. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Bush said Wednesday that he will not comment on Karl Rove's role in leaking the identity of a CIA operative while the investigation is ongoing.

"This is a serious investigation," Mr. Bush said at the end of a meeting with his Cabinet. "I will be more than happy to comment on this matter once this investigation is complete.

"I also will not prejudge the investigation based on media reports," he said, when asked whether Rove acted improperly in discussing CIA officer Valerie Plame with a reporter.

Rove talked about Plame – without using her name – in a July 11, 2003, conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. Cooper later wrote an article that identified her.

As CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts reports, Rove's immediate problem is not likely criminal, but political. President Bush vowed last year to fire anyone found to have leaked classified information. Rove's attorney Robert Luskin insists his client never intended to disclose the identity of a CIA operative, only warn Cooper of potentially bad information. So Mr. Bush must weigh whether that rises to a firing offense.

The president's statement Wednesday was a surprise for some White House advisers and senior Republicans who had expected him to deliver a vote of confidence for Rove, his deputy chief of staff.

Mr. Bush refused to directly answer questions about whether he had spoken to Rove about his discussion with Cooper.

"I have instructed every member of my staff to fully cooperate in this investigation," he said. Rove sat stoically behind Mr. Bush during the questions about his involvement.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said later that the president didn't express his confidence in Rove because he wasn't directly asked if he supports him. But he said Mr. Bush still has confidence in Rove.

"Every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the president," McClellan said.

According to Luskin, Rove is in no danger of criminal charges, reports Roberts. Luskin told Roberts that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald assured Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Whether the disclosure of the e-mail exchange with Cooper changes this remains to be seen, but Luskin insists that there is nothing in the e-mail that Rove has not already discussed with prosecutors and the grand jury.

Read John Roberts' analysis of the Rove controversy
Rove's more immediate problem, says Roberts, is the president's pronouncement that he would fire anyone associated with the leak. Rove may not have said the words "Valerie Plame" to Matt Cooper, but according to the e-mail, he did disclose that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife "apparently works" at the CIA.