WASHINGTON — Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson called on President Bush on Thursday to fire deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, saying Bush’s top-level aide engaged in an “abuse of power” by discussing Wilson’s wife’s job with a reporter.
Wilson decried what he called a White House “stonewall” in the wake of revelations that Rove, a longtime Bush confidant, was involved in the leak to the news media that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA officer.
Bush said Wednesday that he would not comment on discussions that blew her cover because it is the subject of an ongoing investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, however, the president still has confidence in Rove.
Meanwhile Thursday, Senate Democrats appeared to be suggesting that Rove can’t be trusted with the nation’s secrets.
They called for legislation to deny security clearances to officials who disclose the identity of an undercover agent.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wanted to attach the proposal to a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security -- and aides said he hoped for a vote Thursday.
Wilson, in an interview broadcast Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, said he thinks the White House’s posture in this controversy represents a continuing “cover-up of the web of lies that underpin the justification for going to war in Iraq.”
Wilson was asked about statements by Rove’s defenders noting that an e-mail describing Rove’s conversation with Time reporter Matthew Cooper indicated that Rove did not specifically mention Valerie Plame by name.
Abuse of power?
“My wife’s name is Mrs. Joseph Wilson,” he replied. “It is Mrs. Valerie Wilson. He named her. He identified her,” Wilson said. “So that argument doesn’t stand the smell test.... What I do know is that Mr. Rove is talking to the press and he is saying things like my wife is fair game. That’s an outrage. That’s an abuse of power.”
Asked how he and his wife were coping with the continuing controversy, Wilson said, “We have two 5-year-old twins and they occupy most of our free time. She’s obviously nonplussed at this unwanted attention brought to our family. But she’s tough.”
Wilson said that he and his wife “have great confidence in the institutions that have made our country great ... Yes, we do have confidence that justice will be done.”
“I think the president should call in his senior advisers and say, ‘Enough is enough, I want you to step forward and cooperate,’ “ he said.
“The president has said repeatedly, “I am a man of my word,’ “ Wilson added. “He should stand up and prove that his word is his bond and fire Karl Rove.”
Wilson has said the leak of his wife’s name was an attempt by the administration to discredit him after he challenged its assertion that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was seeking to obtain from Niger material to make nuclear weapons.
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