Publisher: McClellan isn't alleging Bush took part in 'conspiracy to mislead'
A bombshell excerpt from a new book by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was not an allegation that President Bush helped to mislead the public about the outing of ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame, the book's publisher told CNN.
"I just got off the phone with the publisher of McClellan's new book, and he tells me that McClellan does not charge in the book that the president himself was involved in any kind of conspiracy to mislead the public," reported CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin. "But of course, in the publisher's words, 'Scott did go out to take bullets without the proper flak jacket on.'"
In a series of 2003 press conferences, the former top White House spokesman had maintained that neither then-advisor Karl Rove nor Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, had been involved in the leaking of Plame's identity as a CIA agent. Yellin pointed to a previous interview with Larry King Live, in which McClellan suggested that both he and the president had been mislead about the Plame affair.
"It was also what the president believed at the time based on assurances we were both given," McClellan had told King. "Knowing what I know today, I would have never said that back then...I said that those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. I did speak directly with them and I was careful about the way I phrased it at them time -- even though I believed what they had told me to be the truth."
In one September press conference in 2003, McClellan said that Rove, Libby and another senior administration staffer had all denied being connected to Plame's outing.
"I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out," said McClellan, "and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands."
McClellan's book, called What Happened, contains an excerpt on the Plame affair -- which was revealed Tuesday on the website of the book's publisher.
"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," writes McClellan. "So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby."
The next portion of the released blurb aroused speculation that McClellan was charging the president of intentionally pushing false information to the media.
"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan continues, describing his statements before the White House press corps. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself."
This video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast on November 21.