Joe Wilson: Bush either 'out of touch' or accessory to a crime
President Bush is either "out of touch" or an accessory to a crime in connection to the outing of ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame, according to Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Appearing on CNN's American Morning program, Wilson told anchor John Roberts that an excerpt from a book penned by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan -- which charged that the president was "involved" in the passing along of false information about the Plame leak to the media -- confirmed Vice President Dick Cheney's involvement in the affair. Wilson also said that a "cloud" of suspicion had now shifted to the office of the president.
"I think it now makes it very clear the extent to which the vice president was involved," said Wilson. "And now, because of McClellan's statement, that cloud is over the president himself. He's either completely out of touch or he's an accessory to obstruction of justice both before the fact and after the fact."
In the book, McClellan states that he 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."
As reported by CNN on Tuesday, however, the book's publisher is now contending that McClellan was not charging that the president was involved in a 'conspiracy to mislead the public."
In 2006, Wilson and Plame brought a civil lawsuit against Vice President Cheney, the vice president's former chief of staff Scooter Libby, and ex-White House adviser Karl Rove. The suit alleges that Plame's outing was a retaliation for Wilson's political criticisms of the president and amounts to a violation of the couple's Constitutional rights.
The book excerpt could strengthen that case, which is currently on appeal, according to Wilson.
"The argument that we've made in our civil suit is that public officials were abusing the public trust in the exercise of their official duties in support of a private political vendetta," he told CNN. "I think what McClellan says certainly makes that very clear. At a bare minimum, for openers, I think it's incumbent on the president and vice president now to release the transcripts of their statements to the special prosecutor so that we now have a fuller understanding of what they knew, when they knew it and what they said to Justice."
Later in the segment Wilson said Congressional hearings into the matter would be justified.
"This is a betrayal of the national security of the country," he continued. " This is essentailly treason. Had the vice president told Libby to tell the Russian military attache my wife's name, there would be no question about what we'd be calling this. The fact that he brokered it through a bottom-feeder like Bob Novak doesn't make it any different."
Three Democratic contenders for the presidency have already weighed in on the McClellan excerpt, including Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who called for an investigation into the president's role in the Plame leak.
Sen. Joe Biden (D-CT) said that President Bush should "immediately come forward and explain any action taken by him or his administration to mislead the American public...it appears from McClellan's account that the president himself was 'involved' in spreading false information. That is outrageous."
Fellow presidential hopeful Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) stated that it was "a low point in our history when the leader of the free world fights to deceive the American public." Added the governor: "Rather than defend the Constitution, President Bush has bamboozled the country. Whether it is outing a CIA operative, illegally spying on Americans, or advocating the use of torture, the Bush administration has made a mockery of our legal system."
This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast on November 21.