quote:WASHINGTON - An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.
"He made his displeasure known to Karl," a presidential counselor told The News. "He made his life miserable about this."
Bush has nevertheless remained doggedly loyal to Rove, who friends and even political adversaries acknowledge is the architect of the President's rise from baseball owner to leader of the free world.
As special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald nears a decision, perhaps as early as today, on whether to issue indictments in his two-year probe, Bush has already circled the wagons around Rove, whose departure would be a grievous blow to an already shell-shocked White House staff and a President in deep political trouble.
Asked if he believed indictments were forthcoming, a key Bush official said he did not know, then added: "I'm very concerned it could go very, very badly."
"Karl is fighting for his life," the official added, "but anything he did was done to help George W. Bush. The President knows that and appreciates that."
Other sources confirmed, however, that Bush was initially furious with Rove in 2003 when his deputy chief of staff conceded he had talked to the press about the Plame leak.
Bush has always known that Rove often talks with reporters anonymously and he generally approved of such contacts, one source said.
But the President felt Rove and other members of the White House damage-control team did a clumsy job in their campaign to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, the ex-diplomat who criticized Bush's claim that Saddam Hussen tried to buy weapons-grade uranium in Niger.
A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President.
"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way," the source said.
None of these sources offered additional specifics of what Bush and Rove discussed in conversations beginning shortly after the Justice Department informed the White House in September 2003 that a criminal investigation had been launched into the leak of CIA agent Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak.
A White House spokesman declined to comment, citing the ongoing nature of Fitzgerald's investigation.
Now let's compare that revelation to what President Bush said two years ago:
quote:THE PRESIDENT: Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action.
There are three alarming conclusion to be made:
1) President Bush knew about Karl Rove's outing of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative from the get-go.
2) President Bush only got angry because the White House got caught red-handed.
3) President Bush lied to investigators and the American people about his knowledge about his subordinates' involvement in the Plame scandal, but he conveniently lied to them after securing a pledge that his words not be considered "under oath."
Meanwhile, Propaganda Minister, cough, I mean, Press Secretary Scott McClellan ran like a petrified rabbit from this morning's press gaggle:
quote:QUESTION: Scott, is it true that the President --
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Welcome back.
QUESTION: Thanks. Is it true that the President slapped Karl Rove upside the head a couple of years ago over the CIA leak?
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Are you referring to, what, a New York Daily News report? Two things: One, we're not commenting on an ongoing investigation; two, and I would challenge the overall accuracy of that news account.
QUESTION: That's a comment.
QUESTION: Which part of it?
QUESTION: Yes, that is.
QUESTION: Which facts --
SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying -- no, I'm just trying to help you all.
QUESTION: So what facts are you challenging?
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: You can't say you're challenging the facts and then not say which ones you're challenging.
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Yes, I can. I just did. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Scott, let me come back to -- so you say you're challenging the accuracy, but you won't tell us why. Why would it be irresponsible for us to report that?
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Report what?
QUESTION: What you said --
SCOTT McCLELLAN: It's up to you what you want to report. I'm just trying to --
QUESTION: Well, if you want us to say it's inaccurate, you need to give us a reason why, or it wouldn't be responsible to report it.
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, there's an ongoing investigation, and as you know, our policy is not to comment on it. So that's where we are.
QUESTION: You just did.
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Based on your personal knowledge, based on your opinion, based on your frustration with the story -- what caused you to say that?
SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, I mean, I read the story and I didn't view it as an accurate story.
QUESTION: Why not?
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to go any further than that. There's an ongoing investigation. This is bringing up matters related to an ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: After you read the story, Scott, did you check with either the two people mentioned, the President or Rove, to ask them? Is that what you base --
SCOTT McCLELLAN: I don't have any further comment, Peter.
QUESTION: Well, is that what you base your guidance on, or is it just -- you know, is it just you're feeling that this couldn't have happened?
SCOTT McCLELLAN: I stand by what I just said and I'm going to leave it at that.
QUESTION: No, just some details on why you're challenging the facts of this case by the briefing would be great.
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Because you asked the question.
QUESTION: No, I think we're all interested to know on what basis you're challenging it.
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Like I said, I'll be glad to talk about the investigation once it has come to a conclusion, but until that time --
QUESTION: You're on the record now. We expect you to really talk about it.
SCOTT McCLELLAN: I'm on the record every day.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, this is really -- you have said you really are going to go into a deep, profiled explanation --
SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, I said I'd be glad to talk about it. I don't know all the facts, Helen.
QUESTION: Didn't you say you were going to write a book about it? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I mean when it's all over, you said you were going to give us a total explanation --
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Exclusive interview for John Roberts.
QUESTION: A PowerPoint presentation, the whole thing. (Laughter.)
SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, I'm not committing to that. Welcome back. I'm glad your gloves are left back there. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Was that particular story part of what you shared with the President today from highlights of the news?
SCOTT McCLELLAN: Again, you have my comment on it and I'll leave it there.
In this case 'classified information' - if, in President Bushes belief (or professed belief), the information was not classified then he could know of Mr. Roves behavior but still be technically telling the truth.
This is similar to the Clinton 'I did not have sex with that woman', and justiying it by the claim that it didn't meet the technical definition of sex.