Many Democrats have called for the administration to fire the presidential adviser.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- For the better part of two years, the word coming out of the Bush White House was that presidential adviser Karl Rove had nothing to do with the leak of a female CIA officer's identity and that whoever did would be fired.
But Bush spokesman Scott McClellan wouldn't repeat those claims Monday in the face of Rove's own lawyer, Robert Luskin, acknowledging the political operative spoke to Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, one of the reporters who disclosed Valerie Plame's name.
McClellan repeatedly said he couldn't comment because the matter is under investigation. When it was pointed out he had commented previously even though the investigation was ongoing, he responded: "I've really said all I'm going to say on it."
Democrats jumped on the issue, calling for the administration to fire Rove, or at least to yank his security clearance. One Democrat pushed for Republicans to hold a congressional hearing in which Rove would testify.
"The White House promised if anyone was involved in the Valerie Plame affair, they would no longer be in this administration," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "I trust they will follow through on this pledge. If these allegations are true, this rises above politics and is about our national security."
Rehashing the scandal
The investigation into the 2003 leak had largely faded into the background until last week, when New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to jail rather than reveal who in the administration talked to her about Plame.
Cooper also had planned to go to jail rather than reveal his source but at the last minute agreed to cooperate with investigators when a source, Rove, gave him permission to do so. Cooper's employer, Time Inc., also turned over Cooper's e-mail and notes.
One of the e-mails was a note from Cooper to his boss in which he said he had spoken to Rove, who described the wife of former U.S. Ambassador and Bush administration critic Joe Wilson as someone who "apparently works" at the CIA, Newsweek magazine reported.
Within days of the July 11, 2003, e-mail, Cooper's byline was on a Time article identifying Wilson's wife by name -- Valerie Plame. Her identity was first disclosed by columnist Robert Novak.
The e-mail did not say Rove had disclosed the name, but it made clear that Rove had discussed the issue.
That ran counter to what McClellan has been saying. For example, in September and October 2003, McClellan's comments about Rove included the following: "The president knows that Karl Rove wasn't involved," "It was a ridiculous suggestion" and "It's not true."
Reporters seized on the subject Monday, pressing McClellan to either repeat the denials or explain why he can't now.