WASHINGTON – President Bush said Wednesday he would not judge the role that senior aide Karl Rove may have played in revealing the identity of a CIA agent until a federal criminal investigator has finished his work.
Citing the continuing probe, Bush declined to defend Rove or to weigh in on the politically charged case, which has prompted Democrats to call for Bush to fire the White House deputy chief of staff or to curb his role.
“We’re in the midst of an ongoing investigation, and this is a serious investigation,” Bush told reporters after a morning meeting with his Cabinet. “And it is very important for people not to prejudge the investigation based on media reports. And again, I will be more than happy to comment on this matter once the investigation is complete.”
Bush’s comments came as Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine, was giving testimony to a federal grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of the undercover CIA operative, Valerie Plame.
Cooper, who was before the grand jury for 21/2 hours, had been called to testify about a conversation he had in July 2003 with Rove in which the two discussed the CIA operative. Days later, her name surfaced in a column by Robert Novak and, after that, in a story that Cooper helped write for the Time Web site.
“I testified openly and honestly,” Cooper told reporters afterward, adding that he had “no idea” whether Rove or any other administration official had committed crimes. “That’s something the special counsel’s going to have to determine,” he said. Cooper declined to discuss the specifics of his testimony, saying that he intended to tell the story himself in an upcoming article for Time.
At the White House, Bush was asked twice by reporters about Rove at the end of a Cabinet meeting. Both times, the president declined to address the substance of the case.
About two hours later, White House press secretary Scott McClellan rejected suggestions that the president had failed to defend Rove. “He wasn’t asked about his support or confidence for Karl. … Every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the president,” McClellan said.