Bush: Aides Who 'Committed a Crime' Will Be Fired
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Bush: Aides Who 'Committed a Crime' Will Be Fired

LA Times | July 18, 2005
By James Gerstenzang

WASHINGTON — President Bush, whose White House is facing increasing pressure in the investigation of the public identification of a covert CIA operative, said today that he would fire anyone found to have committed a crime.

Last year, he had said he would fire anyone who had leaked such information. Thus, his remarks today appeared to shift his standard, allowing continued service in his administration until the commission of a crime had been established, rather than simply the determination that classified information had been leaked.

At the same time, the president avoided discussing in detail the role of his deputy chief of staff and top political advisor, Karl Rove, in the disclosure that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV had worked on weapons issues at the Central Intelligence Agency.

"I think it's best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions. And I will do so, as well," the president said. "I don't know all the facts. I want to know all the facts. The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who's spending time investigating it.

"I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts," he said, adding, "and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

The president spoke during a brief question and answer session with reporters after he met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.

The president, in June, 2004, was asked whether he stood by his earlier promise to fire anyone who had leaked the name of the agent, Valerie Plame, who was identified nearly a year earlier by her maiden name.

"Yes. And that's up to the U.S. attorney to find the facts," the president said at the news conference on June 10, 2004.

Reflecting the highly politicized environment surrounding the issue, Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, dispatched an e-mail to reporters barely an hour after the president spoke, challenging the shift in Bush's wording.

"Faced with a question about whether or not he will keep his promise to fire those involved in leaking the identity of an undercover CIA agent while we are at war, President Bush backed away from his initial pledge and lowered the ethics bar," Dean said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has emerged as one of the president's most vocal and persistent critics in the handling of the leak, criticized him today for distinguishing between the commission of a crime and the leak of the agent's identification.

"The standard for holding a high position in the White House should not simply be that you didn't break the law," he said. "It should be a lot higher, and if Mr. Rove or anyone else aided and abetted the leaking of the name of an agent, even if they don't meet the narrow criminal standard, the president should ask for their resignation."

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911:  The Road to Tyranny