Bugging the White House about Valerie Plame

Robert Novak says Bush knows the truth. So why won't the president come clean?

By Tim Grieve

Published December 15, 2005 8:26PM (EST)

As we reported Wednesday, Robert Novak said earlier this week that people should stop "bugging" him to reveal the name of the senior Bush administration official who first leaked Valerie Plame's identity to him. "I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak said during a speech in North Carolina. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't. So I say, 'Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.'"

Cue taken. According to the New York Daily News, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has sent a letter to the White House in which he asks Bush to reveal the identity of Novak's first source. "You are in a position to clear this matter up quickly," Schumer writes. "Also, unlike Mr. Novak, who can claim an interest in maintaining the confidentiality of his sources, there is no similar privilege arguably preventing you from sharing such information."

When the Daily News asked for a comment about Schumer's request, officials at the White House declined, citing what the Daily News called the White House's "standard response" that Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation remains active. As we observed earlier today, that "standard response" doesn't seem to apply all the time: In an interview with Fox's Brit Hume Wednesday, Bush said that he thinks Tom DeLay is innocent of the criminal charges he's facing and hopes that he'll be exonerated -- despite the fact that Ronnie Earle's investigation into DeLay's actions are every bit as "continuing" as Fitzgerald's investigation is.

Hume didn't ask Bush whether he knew who the original Plame leaker was, but the subject did come up at the White House press briefing today. Asked about Novak's charge that Bush knows, Scott McClellan said: "I don't know what he's basing that on."

Perhaps we can help here, Scott. George W. Bush is the president of the United States. The "senior administration official" who leaked Plame's name to Novak works -- or worked -- for him. The way we see it, that pretty much leaves three options: Either Bush knows or Bush never asked or the "senior administration official" who leaked to Novak lied to Bush about it afterward. Which is it, Scott? Oh, wait, we forgot. The White House won't comment on an ongoing investigation, except when it does.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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