President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should apologise for the possible involvement of their aides in the alleged illegal disclosure of a CIA undercover agent’s identity, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said today.
Reid also said Bush should pledge not to pardon any aides convicted as a result of the investigation into the disclosure of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity.
“There has not been an apology to the American people for this obvious problem in the White House,” Reid said. He said Bush and Cheney “should come clean with the American public”.
Reid added: “This has gotten way out of hand, and the American people deserve better than this.”
Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, resigned on Friday after he was indicted on five charges relating to statements he made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a grand jury investigating the Plame leak.
Bush and Cheney gave glowing endorsements and expressed no criticism of Libby after the senior White House adviser was indicted, resigned and lost his security clearance.
Reid also said that Karl Rove, the president’s closest political adviser, should step down, though Rove has not been charged with a crime.
When the investigation began, Bush promised to fire anyone on his staff responsible for such a leak. He later stepped back, saying that he would remove aides who committed crimes.
“I think Karl Rove should step down,” Reid said. “Here is a man who the president said if he was involved, if anyone in the administration ws involved, out they would go.”
Reid said he was disappointed that Bush and Cheney expressed support for Libby in their public statements after his indictment.
Cheney called Libby “one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known”. Bush said Libby “has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country”.
“The vice president issues this very terse statement praising Libby for all the great things he’s done. Then we have the president come on camera a few minutes later calling him Scooter and what a great patriot he is,” Reid told ABC’s talk show This Week.
Reid said the Libby indictment and other scandals in the Republican-led government – including the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and an investigation of Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee – as well as 2,000 dead in Iraq and high energy prices have had a negative impact on the outlook of Americans.
“I think they’re as disappointed as I am …. Almost dejected,” Reid said.