Former White House spokesman Scott McClellan told Congress Friday that the Bush-Cheney Administration continues to conceal information about abuses of power committed to punish former Ambassador Joe Wilson for challenging the President’s storyline with regard to the “need” to invade and occupy Iraq.
“This matter continues to be investigated by Congress because of what the White House has chosen to conceal from the public,” McClellan told the House Judiciary Committee. “Despite assurances that the administration would discuss the matter once the special counsel had completed his work, the White House has sought to avoid public scrutiny and accountability.”
Speaking under oath, the longtime aide to President Bush seemed at times to dumb down his testimony, softening points made in his explosive book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.
In the book and in interviews promoting it, McClellan suggested that key players in the White House — including political czar Karl Rove, vice presidential chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Vice President Dick Cheney — had at critical points in 2003 lied to him (or, at the least, conspired to keep him in the dark) about their involvement in the leaking information about the fact that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA covert operative.
Before the committee, the former spokesman was more cautious.
“I do not know whether a crime was committed by any of the administration officials who revealed (Wilson’s wife) Valerie Plame’s identity to reporters. Nor do I know if there was an attempt by any person or persons to engage in a cover-up during the investigation. I do know that it was wrong to reveal her identity, because it compromised the effectiveness of a covert official for political reasons.”
McClellan specifically attempted to absolve President Bush, while keeping open the prospect that Cheney was an active conspirator. “I do not think the president had any knowledge (of the efforts to harm Wilson by leaking his wife’s identity),” the former spokesman said. “In terms of the vice president, I do not know.”
McClellan’s testimony confirmed Libby’s role in the campaign to discredit Wilson. And he raised new questions about former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card’s involvement in the wrongdoing.