Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Sunday that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should apologize for the actions of their aides in the illegal disclosure of a CIA undercover agent's identity.
Reid also said Bush should pledge not to pardon any aides convicted as a result of the investigation into the disclosure of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.
Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, resigned Friday after he was indicted on five charges relating to statements he made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a grand jury investigating the Plame leak. Bush and Cheney gave glowing endorsements and expressed no criticism of Libby after the senior White House adviser was indicted, resigned and lost his security clearance.
Reid also said that Karl Rove, the president' closest political adviser, should step down. Rove has not been charged with a crime. The closest the indictment comes to Rove is its discussion of an unnamed senior White House official who talked to newspaper columnist Robert Novak about Plame and discussed the matter with Libby. That could describe Rove.
The prosecutor in the CIA leak case has said his investigation is "not quite done," but declined comment on Rove during a news conference on Friday. When the investigation began, the White House denied that Rove had been involved. Bush promised to fire anyone on his staff responsible for such a leak. He later stepped back, saying just that he would remove aides who committed crimes.
Reid said he was disappointed that Bush and Cheney expressed support for Libby in their public statements after his indictment. Cheney called Libby "one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known." Bush said Libby "has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country."
"The vice president issues this very terse statement praising Libby for all the great things he's done. Then we have the president come on camera a few minutes later calling him Scooter and what a great patriot he is," Reid told ABC's talk show "This Week." Republican Senator John Cornyn said it was premature to discuss a presidential pardon because no one has been convicted in the investigation.
Reid said the Libby indictment and other scandals in the Republican-led government _ including the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and an investigation of Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee _ as well as 2,000 dead in Iraq and high energy prices have had a negative impact on the outlook of Americans.
The president's overall job approval was at 39 percent in an Associated Press-Ipsos survey conducted in early October. The poll also found that only 28 percent of respondents said the country was headed in the right direction, AP reports.