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W. House Maintains Silence On Rove

2003/5/7 Karl Rove hesdshot, as White House advisor
AP
For the second straight day, the White House evaded questions about top presidential adviser Karl Rove's role in the leak of a CIA officer's identity.

President Bush did not respond to a reporter's question Tuesday about whether he would fire Rove, in keeping with a June 2004 pledge to dismiss any leakers of Valerie Plame's identity.

At a White House briefing afterward, spokesman Scott McClellan said the president continues to have confidence in Rove.

"Any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president. They wouldn't be working here at the White House if they didn't have the president's confidence," McClellan said.

Prominent Democrats are calling for Rove to be fired.

The White House said two years ago that Rove wasn't involved in the leak. According to a July 2003 e-mail that surfaced over the weekend, Rove told Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper that the woman "apparently works" for the CIA. It added that the woman had authorized a trip to Africa by her husband, U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, to check out allegations that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons.

The e-mail is now in the hands of federal prosecutors who are hunting down the leakers inside the Bush administration who revealed the name of Valerie Plame to the news media.

The revelation about Rove prompted Democratic calls for President Bush to follow through on his promise to fire leakers of Plame's identity, and triggered 61 questions during two press briefings Monday for McClellan.

It was McClellan who provided the previous assurances about no role for Rove, but he refused to repeat those assurances Monday.

"Did Karl Rove commit a crime?" a reporter asked McClellan.

"This is a question relating to an ongoing investigation," McClellan replied.

McClellan gave the same answer when asked whether President Bush has confidence in Rove, the architect of the president's successful political campaigns.

But

reports the investigation was already under way when the White House first defended Rove, and when the president vowed to fire anyone caught leaking.

In September and October 2003, McClellan said he had spoken directly with Rove about the matter and that "he was not involved" in leaking Plame's identity to the news media. McClellan said at the time: "The president knows that Karl Rove wasn't involved," "It was a ridiculous suggestion" and "It's not true."

Rove's own public denials at the time and since have been more narrowly worded: "I didn't know her name and didn't leak her name," Rove said last year.