The Senate Democratic leader said Sunday that presidential adviser Karl Rove should resign because of his role in exposing an undercover CIA officer, and a veteran Republican senator said President Bush needs “new blood” in his White House.
Rove has not been charged, but he continues to be investigated in the CIA leaks case that brought the indictment and resignation Friday of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, an adviser to Bush and the top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has not made a decision on whether Rove gave false testimony during his four grand jury appearances. Rove is Bush’s most trusted adviser.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he is disappointed that Bush and Cheney responded to the indictment by lauding Libby and suggested they should apologize for the leak that revealed the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.
“First of all, the vice president issues this very terse statement praising Libby for all the great things he’s done,” Reid said. “Then we have the president come on camera a few minutes later calling him Scooter and what a great patriot he is. There has not been an apology to the American people for this obvious problem in the White House,” Reid, D-Nev., told ABC’s “This Week.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Cheney should “come clean” about his involvement and why he discussed Plame with Libby before Libby spoke to reporters about her.
“What did the vice president know? What were his intentions?” Dodd asked on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Now, there’s no suggestion the vice president is guilty of any crime here whatsoever. But if our standard is just criminality, then we’re never going to get to the bottom of this,” Dodd said.
Democrats appearing on Sunday talk shows portrayed Libby’s indictment as one of many serious problems surrounding the White House and one of several allegations raising questions about Republican ethics. Republicans repeatedly said the charges have been made against only one individual and that Libby should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Public opinion appears to be running against Bush. Almost half the public, 46 percent, say the level of ethics and honesty in the federal government has fallen with Bush as president, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll. That’s three times the number who say ethics and honesty have risen during that time.
Lott: ‘New blood’ needed
Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi said Bush should be on the lookout for “new blood, new energy, qualified staff, new people in administration.” He said poor advice may have even contributed to the failed nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
A grand jury charged Libby on Friday with five felonies alleging obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents. If convicted, he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.
Libby was not charged with the crime that the grand jury was created to investigate — specifically, who leaked the name of Plame to reporters in 2003. Libby and Rove were named by reporters brought before the grand jury, but it was unclear whether they knew that she was a covert agent.
Reid said Rove should resign or be fired for even discussing Plame. He recalled that Bush once said he would fire anyone involved in the leak, although Bush later amended that standard to say he would fire anyone convicted of a crime.
“If he’s a man of his word, Rove should be history,” Reid said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Rove has not been charged with any crime and that any talk of him stepping down is politically motivated.
“Senator Reid is entitled to his opinion, but he’s not the president of the United States, and he doesn’t administer justice in this country,” Specter said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said there “absolutely” should be an internal White House investigation. But he said allegations of illegal activity appeared to be focused only on Libby.
“I think the likelihood of Karl Rove being indicted in the future is virtually zero,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged an internal investigation and that Bush, “if need be, take the vice president to the wood shed.”
“The real question for President Bush is going to be: is he going to be like Nixon — hunker down, get into the bunker, admit no mistakes,” Schumer said, “or like Reagan, who actually admitted mistakes, did a midcourse correction and brought in new people, bipartisan people, people above ethical reproach, into the White House.”