McClellan Slams Rove

Posted June 20, 2008 at 2:04pm

Under questioning from Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), former Bush administration spokesman Scott McClellan stated that ex-White House political mastermind Karl Rove would not, in his experience, be a trustworthy witness if he were not placed under oath while talking to lawmakers.

Judiciary Committee Democrats, led by Chairman John Conyers (Mich.), are trying to get Rove to testify before their committee on his role in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D). They have demanded he appear before them on July 10 to talk about the broader issue of politicization of the Justice Department.

Rove has rejected a formal appearance, but has offered to come before lawmakers in private, and without an oath, to tell his side of the story.

At a hearing on Friday into McClellan’s statements in his new book about the Valerie Plame scandal, Rep. Davis asked McClellan, who has known Rove since his days in Texas politics, whether he would trust Rove in the more informal setting.

“Based on my own experience, I could not say that I would,” McClellan said.

Davis further queried whether Rove was capable of lying to protect himself from legal jeopardy. The former aide said of the Plame matter: “He certainly lied to me. That’s the only conclusion that I can draw.”

As to whether Rove would lie to shield himself from political embarrassment: “I would have to say that he did in my situation, so the answer is yes.”

But McClellan drew the line on speculating about whether the White House was capable of creating a “false cover story” to hide its involvement in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

“I don’t have any direct knowledge on that,” McClellan said.

Additionally, McClellan said he believed that Rove must have lied to President Bush about his involvement in the Plame case, since Bush told McClellan that Rove had assured him that he wasn’t involved.

Furthermore, asked by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) which members of the Bush administration should come before Congress to testify on the Plame matter, McClellan pointed to Vice President Cheney and unnamed others below him.

“It would be a benefit if they shared everything they know, and it would be a benefit if they did it under oath,” he stated.

McClellan acknowledged that his appearance before the Judiciary Committee is likely to cost him whatever Republican friends he may have left in Washington.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) asked McClellan if he believed that Cheney instructed his now-convicted former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, to leak Plame’s identity to the media.

“I cannot rule it out,” McClellan said.

McClellan said he did not believe that President Bush “knowingly lied” about the Plame situation to McClellan, but he instead described Bush as leaving an “appearance” of dishonesty.

“The president never has lied to me, but it had the effect … whether or not it was deliberate or conscious,” McClellan said.

Republicans on the committee went after McClellan with a vengeance, questioning his motives in writing the scathing memoir of his time in the White House.

Ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) tried to discredit any notion that White House officials had anything to do with unmasking Plame, pointing out that news reports showed that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Washington Post columnist Robert Novak of Plame.

After Smith made his opening statement — to which one of McClellan’s attorneys objected — he immediately spoke out, arguing that the attorney was speaking out of turn.

In his opening statement, Smith mocked the committee hearing, calling it a political circus and a book club that took political shots at President Bush without providing evidence to back the former spokesman’s claims.

“Welcome to the Judiciary Committee’s first book of the month club meeting. Today it’s Scott McClellan’s ‘What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,’” Smith mocked. “I propose that next time we consider Ann Coulter’s recent book, ‘How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).’”

During the question-and-answer period, Smith focused largely on the mechanics surrounding McClellan’s memoir. He questioned how McClellan chose the title and whether he was aware of the publisher’s criticism of President Bush as a “clearly horrible person.”

McClellan said that he was not aware of the publisher’s views, but that the book was by and large a book of his own words.

“This is my book. I wrote this book,” insisted McClellan, trying to deflect any attempt that he was coerced to write things against the administration.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) pointedly questioned why McClellan was testifying shortly after House calls for Bush’s impeachment. Lungren described the hearing as “Kucinich-like,” referring to Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who has repeatedly called for the president ouster.

McClellan distanced himself from the impeachment fracas. He said that he did come to testify to impeach the president, nor did he think that the president should be impeached.

He called Bush a “decent man.”