Remember when the Plame leak scandal broke and Bush reassured the nation that he was going to get to the bottom of it? Here’s what he said on September 30, 2002:
"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."
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan explained that "appropriate action" meant "[i]f anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration," adding that Karl Rove had specifically assured McClellan that he was not involved, and that "the President expects his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct and the highest ethics."
So Bush didn’t know? Well, that looks like bullshit. Bush knew as far back as two years ago about Rove’s involvement, the NY Daily News reveals:
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.
So here’s the political math:
"I don’t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information" = "I did not have sex with that woman".
But here’s the REAL lede. The President wasn’t angry about the leak; he was angry because they got caught.
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.
But here’s the REAL heavy-duty implication, from Josh Marshall:
Patrick Fitzgerald interviewed President Bush (at least, he was interviewed by his team; I don’t remember whether it was Fitzgerald specifically who conducted it, though I would assume it was. …Still, though, an interview took place and at the top of the list of questions must have been just what happened and what the president knew.
Did President Bush say that he knew Rove was involved? Did he deny it?
Obviously, we have many more questions than answers here. But if President Bush knew about Rove’s role from the beginning, then all of these interviews and grand jury appearances and the almost inevitable contradictions between them become real trouble for the White House.
So could Bush be facing perjury? Sadly, no. When Bush was interviewed as part of Fitzgerald’s probe, he was not under oath. But that does not mean he will avoid legal troubles. Here’s an arguably relevant statute:
UPDATE: Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) writes a letter to Bush, asking him for an explanation.