Democrats Ready to Pounce on Indictment

Posted October 24, 2005 at 6:42pm

Anticipating that indictments could come down against senior White House officials this week, House Democratic leaders have spent recent days devising a Caucus-wide plan to further highlight GOP ethical missteps and national security compromises.

Sources say House Democratic leaders have held several private meetings to shape their Members’ message if federal indictments are issued against senior White House adviser Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

The two administration officials are under investigation in a case involving the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame and could be indicted on charges related to the disclosure as early as Wednesday.

Democratic leaders today are arming the Democratic Caucus with message points on a response that consists of a two-pronged argument accusing the Republicans of continuing to foster a “culture of corruption” and of compromising the nation’s security by leaking classified information. Democrats are also expected to call for the resignations of Rove and Libby if either or both are indicted.

“This is a very focused effort,” said one senior Democratic staffer. “These people compromised national security. It will be a shift away from the typical ethics strategy.”

Depending on the nature and extent of the indictments, Democrats plan to argue that senior White House officers put America’s safety in jeopardy by leaking the name of the covert CIA operative. They will further argue that Republicans broke all ethical boundaries to try to convince the public that the Iraqi conflict was in their best interest.

Plame is married to Joe Wilson, a former diplomat who publicly criticized the administration’s rationale for going to war.

One House Democratic leadership aide said the minority party plans to explain why indictments at the highest levels of the administration are dangerous for the country. They will also use the issue to further highlight why Republicans cannot be trusted to run the government, the staffer said.

“We are going to talk about the culture of corruption, and tie it back to the president,” the leadership aide said. “It’s all part of them manipulating the facts to make their case for the war.

“It gets right back to the president.”

While Democrats work to coordinate the message of their Caucus, House Republicans appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach.

“There’s not much to prepare for since we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said one GOP leadership aide, adding that if there is a strategy beyond that, it is “at the very, very top.”