In his explosive new memoir, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan claims that on Sept. 27, 2003 he asked Karl Rove “an unambiguous, unqualified catch-all question” about whether he was involved in “any way” with the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. “Karl replied categorically, ‘No. Look, I didn’t even know about his wife,'” writes McClellan.
But on Fox News this week, Rove disputed McClellan’s description of their conversation, claiming that “Scott’s questions to me were: did I leak Valerie Plame’s name, and the answer is no.”
On NBC’s Meet The Press today, host Tim Russert asked McClellan about the discrepancy between his and Rove’s stories, pointing out that “one of you is not telling the truth.” Rove’s story is “pretty disingenuous,” replied McClellan. McClellan then added that he said the same thing under oath to a grand jury:
MCCLELLAN: But, let me mention this, that question, when I said, “were you involved in this in any way” and he categorically said, “no.” That is absolutely true. It is what I said under oath to the grand jury. It is what I told investigators. And, secondly, that is the same question I asked Scooter Libby. The very same question I asked Scooter Libby.
As McClellan points out, Rove was in fact involved in the outing of Valerie Plame, speaking about her to two reporters, including Robert Novak, whose column eventually outed her.
Later in the interview, Russert asked about whether President Bush should have fired Rove after his involvement was revealed. Recalling his own statement on behalf of the administration that “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration,” McClellan said, “I think the president should have stood by the word that we said”:
RUSSERT: But you believe Rove should have left?
MCCLELLAN: I think the president should have stood by the word and that meant Karl should have left.
As McClellan notes, “the bar was moved” by President Bush when it was revealed publicly that his top adviser was involved in exposing an undercover CIA agent. “He said we were going to set the highest of standards, we didn’t live up to that,” said McClellan.