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CNN Larry King Live
Libby Indicted, Resigns
Aired October 28, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby resigns, indicted on five counts in the CIA leak investigation, perjury, obstruction of justice and giving false statements. Will the vice president have to testify at trial? And, what does it all mean for the Bush presidency? We'll ask Washington insiders next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We'll have various dignitaries joining us throughout this hour. With us all the way will be David Gergen, he's in Washington, White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, professor of public service at Harvard's JFK School of Government and director of its Center for Public Leadership, and editor-at-large "US News and World Report" and, Jay Carney, the Washington bureau chief of "Time" magazine.
In San Francisco is Senator Barbara Boxer, member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat of California, co-author of the new novel by the way "A Time to Run."
And, in Washington, Congressman David Dreier, Republican of California, chairman of the Rules Committee, member of the House Republican leadership.
We'll start with the elected officials first. Senator Boxer, surprised?
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Oh, on some levels but it is very disturbing, not only the fact that we are facing this terribly difficult time for our country with such a high level individual being indicted on five counts of lying and all the rest and we're talking about lying to FBI agents, lying to the grand jury. We're talking about obstruction of justice, which means there could be a lot more to this case than meets the eye.
But the bigger picture, which is why did all this happen? It's because this administration we think, and we don't know how deep it goes, wanted to punish a man's family. That's what happened.
Joe Wilson, he told the truth. He said there was no truth to the fact that Saddam Hussein was trying to restart his nuclear weapons program by getting uranium from Niger.
And so, to punish him, they in fact outed this CIA agent and ruined her career and hurt our national security and who knows who they put in jeopardy and that is kind of like the enemy's list that I remember from the Nixon years and it's very chilling to me. KING: Congressman Dreier, as chairman of the Rules Committee, how much trouble is your White House in?
REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well let me say at the outset I disagree with most of what my friend Barbara has just said. Scooter Libby has not been charged with disclosing the identity of a covert agent. We know that he's been charged with providing purportedly false statements to a grand jury. And, I will say this, everyone in this county...
BOXER: And obstruction of justice.
DREIER: Excuse me. Everyone in this country is presumed innocent until proved otherwise and I will tell you that I've worked with Scooter Libby for many years. He is a phenomenal individual and he's someone who has worked long and hard dealing with our nation's homeland security and I think that we still need to have respect for him.
Now the president, Larry, has accepted his resignation and we have to move ahead. We have to deal -- so that is an issue that those of us who serve in the United States Congress have nothing to do with.
We need to continue to do everything we can to focus on the success that we've had with 78 percent of the Iraqi people voting in that referendum, rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina.
KING: Is the party in any trouble?
DREIER: Let me just tell you how I can make sure that the party is not in trouble and that's for us to continue to do out work, cutting federal spending, making sure that the phenomenal news that we got today of 3.8 percent GDP growth, I mean incredible even in the wake of the hurricane we have incredible economic growth. And so I think that if we can focus on our work then to answer your question directly, Larry, the party and the country are not in trouble.
BOXER: Larry, David is in denial.
KING: No, Barbara don't interrupt. Let me get everybody in.
BOXER: He's just in denial.
KING: OK. The headline in the paper, David, tomorrow is not going to be about the GDP.
DREIER: You're right. That's why I'm talking about it, Larry, because I know the headline tomorrow won't be about the GDP and somebody needs to talk about that.
KING: David Gergen it says that Karl Rove is still under investigation. What does that mean?
DAVID GERGEN, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER TO PRESIDENTS NIXON, FORD, REAGAN, CLINTON: I think that's quite a serious shadow still and we'll have to see whether it's dispelled or not. But we learned early this morning that the special prosecutor is actually keeping the case open against him. He wants to continue the investigation.
Now, the "Washington Post" is reporting for tomorrow morning's paper that actually Mr. Fitzgerald was quite close to indicting Mr. Rove but Mr. Rove raised -- gave him additional information in his defense at the eleventh hour. They were involved in negotiations and Mr. Fitzgerald decided not to indict but instead decided he needed to give it a little more time.
So, I think that's where we are, which means that Karl Rove may well not be indicted but, on the other hand, the prosecutor obviously believes he has enough that he wants to push forward.
And so, there is a continuing shadow until this is concluded. I think that's going to be distracting for Mr. Rove. I think it's going to be distracting for the White House and it means this may not end with Scooter Libby.
KING: Jay Carney, if true, what grand jury is he dealing with since this one went out today?
JAY CARNEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, there was a lot of debate about this, Larry, prior to Fitzgerald's clarification today whether or not he could extend this grand jury or would have to rely, if he wanted to continue the investigation, on another grand jury and the answer is he cannot extend the existing grand jury. They finished their work today.
So, if he continues this investigation he can either turn to another already impaneled grand jury or impanel a new grand jury. Now, he certainly gave every indication in his public statements today that he is close to finishing, that we are at -- he said the bulk of the work of this investigation is done with. So, I would be surprised if he were to impanel an entirely new grand jury. He'll probably rely on one that's already been impaneled for another case.
KING: Because if you're going to indict he needs a grand jury to indict right?
CARNEY: He needs -- he needs a grand jury. He made clear today that he, as the prosecutor, cannot bring an indictment himself. He needs a grand jury.
KING: Senator Boxer, what's the effect on Vice President Cheney?
BOXER: Well I think the whole administration is in deep, deep trouble because, you know, President Bush's father when he talked about the importance of protecting an agent's identity, he said anyone who doesn't do it committed treason.
Now, David Dreier says Scooter Libby, you know, wasn't involved in that. The whole White House was involved in this issue and as President Bush, the current President Bush said when he made a speech in 2001 he said what's going to be important is to bring dignity to the White House, it's to bring integrity to the White House and we're not just going to look at legalities he said. We're going to look at what's right and what's wrong.
And, Larry, it is wrong to punish a man's family because he told the truth about weapons of mass destruction instead of rewarding Joe Wilson for telling the truth and we could have avoided this war perhaps and gone in there with the whole world instead of what we've done, 2,000 dead and 15,000 wounded. This whole White House took us into war and tried to punish the people who raised their head and said this is a mistake.
KING: All right, let me get a break and then we'll get Congressman Dreier to respond.
And we'll have more ahead. We'll be taking your calls later. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE; Mike Wallace on Monday night. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: If it is proven that the chief of staff of the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Congressman Dreier, you must admit that if the charges in the indictment are true, this is a bad time.
DREIER: Absolutely and let me say, Larry, that I'm not in any way ignoring the seriousness of this. This is a very, very serious issue. It obviously now has gone the judicial route and you asked about the future of the party. I can only deal with things that I can control.
What I can control is working with my colleagues in both houses of Congress to ensure that we do the things that I mentioned in the aftermath of that very important referendum that took place in Iraq with 78 percent support for that constitution, looking at the election in December, focusing on border security and immigration reform, making sure that we do all that we can to cut federal spending and keep the economy growing.
KING: But that's not the topic tonight.
DREIER: Larry, it is the topic for me and I'll tell you why it's the topic for me. That's what I can control. That is what I can do recognizing the seriousness of this matter, recognizing that it is an issue with which we have to contend. I can only deal with those things that I have control over.
KING: I got you.
David Gergen, doesn't the other, though, tend to overwhelm the other things?
GERGEN: For now it does, Larry, and I want -- and to try to sort this through in terms of what the special prosecutor was telling us today in that extraordinary news conference, he was quite impressive, he said, look, the issue for him as a prosecutor is this.
He's like an umpire standing behind the batter and the pitcher throws a high hard one and hits the batter square in the head and really hurts him and what he as an umpire has to decide is did the pitcher mean to do that or was it an accident?
And his problem and that's what his -- that's what he was first trying to figure out in this case did somebody mean to out Mrs. Wilson or was it just, did it just sort of happen by accident in the course of other things as part of politics?
And his problem with Scooter Libby, he argues, is that Scooter Libby kicked a lot of dust in his eye when he was trying to make the call, so he can't see clearly and that's why he's brought this indictment.
So, what we don't know is whether this was intentional because he doesn't know or whether it in fact happened in part of the -- as a side thing or it slipped in effect.
So, I think we ought to be, you know, we ought to be pretty cautious about what accusations we make against the administration on this because I don't think we know yet. What we do know if we do have a first sitting White House official to be indicted in over 100 years and that's serious business.
KING: What's the effect on Vice President Cheney, Jay Carney?
CARNEY: Well, I think this is serious for several reasons, Larry. One is that it's quite possible, may even likely that if this does come to a trial the vice president of the United States might be called as a witness.
I mean he is -- he appears in this indictment and he is one of the sources for Scooter Libby of the information that Joe Wilson's wife works for the CIA and, in fact, in the reference to the vice president where he tells Scooter Libby this information it says that he told Scooter Libby that Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, worked for a bureau at the CIA that people who know about the CIA and national security understand to be part of the directorate of operations, which is largely a classified section of the CIA.
And it implies, while it does not state in the indictment that therefore Scooter Libby should have known that this was sensitive information and not to be discussed with the reporters.
So, as David Gergen was saying, there's a lot -- there's a lot that we don't know that we can only interpret for this indictment that if this investigation goes forward could prove even more embarrassing to the administration.
KING: Senator Boxer, should the administration make some personnel changes?
BOXER: I think it would be smart and, of course, David Gergen knows much better than any of us that that can really lift you up when you're in trouble. You know this whole thing goes a lot deeper and I know David Dreier tries to change the subject to cutting the budget and things like that, which by the way we could debate another day.
But the bottom line is we have an arrogance of power here. We see in Tom DeLay. We've got issues with even the Republican leader Bill Frist under investigation. He's got an investigation going by the SEC over a blind trust that may not have been blind.
We've got a lot of deep problems. The Republicans run the White House. They run the House. They run the Senate and they want to, of course, be able to control and I understand it who gets on the Supreme Court.
So, this country has to take a very deep look at this. I think this is symbolic of an arrogance of power, of going into a war based on false pretenses and people are dying as a result of it. And we don't know what happened with Mrs. Wilson and what this meant to the people that she may have had contacts with. So, it's true there's a lot of this that isn't known at this time.
KING: Congressman Dreier, if false information was presented as real information for the war in Iraq isn't that very damaging?
DREIER: Of course. Of course it's damaging and I will tell you that we have a lot of work that needs to be done and what we've really gotten, as I listen to Barbara, is what I hear over and over again. We really have a coordinated chorus of contrarian critics out there who have been on this track of simply demonizing everything Republican.
I think we need to work in a bipartisan way to deal with all of these issues that I have mentioned. That doesn't in any way diminish the seriousness of this issue, Larry, and I will say that I think that we have very important challenges ahead.
But the judicial process is running its route on every single one of those questions that Barbara just raised. Now that that's happening let us focus on our work and I believe that is the most responsible thing that we can do working together to address those issues.
KING: All right. Thank you, Senator Boxer and Congressman Dreier.
DREIER: You bet, Larry.
KING: And when we come back we'll be joined -- Carney and Gergen remain. We'll be joined by a White House counsel who was charged with obstruction of justice and spent time in jail, John Dean. And, the former chief of the Watergate task force, Richard Ben- Veniste.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I accepted the resignation of Scooter Libby. Scooter has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country. He served the vice president and me through extraordinary times in our nation's history.
Special counsel Fitzgerald's investigation and ongoing legal proceedings are serious and now the proceedings, the process moves into a new phase. In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: David Gergen remains with us in Boston. Jay Carney remains with us in Washington. Joining us from Culver City, California John Dean, who served as White House counsel to President Nixon. He was charged with obstruction of justice and spent four months in prison for his role in the Watergate cover up. His latest book is "Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush."
And also in Washington is Richard Ben-Veniste, the former chief of the Watergate task force, of the Watergate special prosecutor's office. In fact, we remember Mr. Ben-Veniste sitting up behind the rostrum and John Dean sitting at the microphones during the famed Watergate hearings. He was also a member of the 9/11 Commission and is a partner in the D.C. law firm of Mayer, Brown, Row & Maw.
All right, John, you were charged with obstruction of justice, convicted, spent four months in prison. What does Scooter Libby face?
JOHN DEAN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT NIXON: Well, I think it would probably run, if I read the indictment correctly about zero to 50, depending on how the sentencing guidelines might confront him.
I happened to plead, Larry, and cooperate with the government. I didn't feel that -- I'm not one that agrees with stonewalling and trying to defeat the government. We had done wrong. It was time to admit it.
One of the most striking things about this whole proceeding to me is one of the things we considered during the Watergate cover up was using the grand jury as a way to sort of pull the cancer away from Nixon, if everyone would go in and take their lumps. Not everyone was willing to go in. Plus, the Congress, when they decided they were going to investigate it, defeated that plan. So, I was quite surprised to hear David Dreier taking the position again that this Congress will do nothing. They are really running interference for this president and it's understandable. They are of the same political persuasion and Congress has given up all of its institutional oversight, if you will.
KING: Richard Ben-Veniste, what's your read on this?
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, in addition to bringing up again the bases that were put forward for our invasion of Iraq, Larry, Mr. Fitzgerald was very clear today in outlining the seriousness of these charges by talking about how important it was to protect the identity of our undercover CIA agents.
And here, Valerie Plame had served her country in a dangerous capacity. We need our undercover operatives to develop human intelligence. It's quite clear that we need more, not fewer, of those agents. It's very costly to train them. Their danger involved in uncovering their identity is not just for them but for all individuals with whom they have knowingly come in contact and so this provides greater aid to our enemies when something like this occurs.
So, this was an important case in its context and from the standpoint of Mr. Fitzgerald's position today I think he impressed a lot of people who didn't know him before. He gave what amounted to almost an opening statement detailing the facts which are set forth in a comprehensive way in the document, the indictment and he's speaking in a way that's appropriate for the American public in a form that is appropriate, not leaking.
There have been no leaks in this investigation and spelling out why this is a serious charge and why he has brought these charges in the form that he's brought them.
KING: David, watching his verbal acuity today you have to be impressed with how he kept quiet for all this time.
GERGEN: I think that's right. It was a -- his performance up there today about an hour with no notes, long opening statement, was a tour de force. I kept thinking to myself if this fellow is -- if this performance is representative of the kind of work he does generally, there's going to come a day when a president of the United States in one party or the other is going to look upon him as a potential attorney general.
He was very strong. I think he did three things today very importantly for his case. One is I think he made it very hard for anybody to attack him personally as bad, as an overzealous prosecutor.
Secondly, I do think he made a very compelling case that blowing the cover of a CIA agent is serious. And, thirdly, he made it -- I think he made a very compelling argument that obstruction of justice and perjury are not technicalities. These are serious issues.
He hasn't yet, you know, he's got a ways to go on this but I thought he gave himself protection on a lot of those issues so that I imagine the Republicans, Larry, will probably now try to go to the defense that well Scooter Libby was very isolated. You know he did this individually, uniquely himself. He didn't represent a group and therefore, you know, this is just a bad apple and we move on.
KING: Jay Carney, were you as impressed with him as David was and do the Republicans separate themselves from Scooter?
CARNEY: Well, I was impressed simply watching him. I echo everything that David just said. I mean it was -- you know anybody can -- when we know so little about a character because he's -- he's tried so effectively not to let any of the information about his investigation or even himself and how he's operating seep into the public realm and then to get this sort of full blown performance from him, you sort of stand back and say wow.
You know it was very important for his investigation not to have any leaks because it was about leaks and it was certainly a stark contrast with the Ken Starr investigation which not only was very leaky that operation but led to an indictment on a leak charge.
So, on the Republican issue, Larry, I think -- I think we saw from David Dreier when you came back to him and he made clear and wanted to reiterate that he was not diminishing the importance of these charges that Patrick Fitzgerald seriously hampered any effort the Republicans might want to make in charging him with chasing after Scooter Libby on a technicality.
I mean we heard those talking points midweek and I think Fitzgerald read about them and made it a very explicit point of this press conference today to ram home the idea that you lie to FBI agents, you lie to a grand jury, you're really challenging the American judicial system at its core and it's a serious transgression.
KING: Do you think, John Dean, it would be very hard to criticize Fitzgerald today?
DEAN: I do. I've been very impressed with his zipped lip throughout the investigation. I've got to tell you though that on this panel tonight is somebody from the Watergate prosecutor's office. That was the same sort of approach they took. There were no leaks out of that office and that's the way it should be and it's been the exception under the Independent Counsel Law where we had lots of leaks.
And this proves again to me the wisdom of using the basic system in the Department of Justice with special counsel are quite competent to undertake this kind of investigation. I actually happened -- when I wrote a column a week ago to call pretty much exactly what he would do today because I didn't think he would overreach and I thought he'd be cautious and I thought there were a lot of rumors that were increasing expectations way beyond what was going to be likely.
KING: Richard Ben-Veniste, he's the kind of guy you wouldn't want to be investigated by?
BEN-VENISTE: Well he's trained in the Southern District of New York, very capable, knows the difference between hype and evidence and I think he has performed very well. You know, on the issue or protecting our very important assets in CIA and elsewhere, Larry, Pat Fitzgerald gained prominence as one of the preeminent, perhaps the most preeminent prosecutors prosecuting terrorist cases in the United States in addition to organized crime.
So, he knows why it is important, why this case is important. In addition, you know, we have still issues relating to Karl Rove even if they don't result in criminal charges.
Initially the president of the United States said that anyone who is involved in leaking the name of a CIA agent should not be working in the White House, so there is still something to be explained here.
Apparently, Mr. Rove was at least temporarily successful in explaining his earlier misstatements or inaccuracies to the grand jury in this reported four-hour session that he had very recently.
But I think the American public is owed an explanation for what happened and why and what was this group all about that was selling the Iraqi invasion to the United States, to the people and what were they doing in terms of protecting a very vested interest in preserving the bases that they had put forward for that invasion.
KING: Let me get a break. And when we come back we'll take a few phone calls.
Still to come, after John Dean and Richard Ben-Veniste leave us, will be Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut and Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.
We'll be back with Jay Carney, David Gergen, John Dean and Richard Ben-Veniste right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Libby, Lewis Libby, Scooter we call him, he has been an old friend of mine. He worked for me at the Pentagon, did a superb job for me when I was secretary of defense. And I was delighted to get him to give up his very lucrative law practice and come back into public service when I became vice president. He's running my staff operation for me, superb individual and very, very competent, capable lawyer and also a good chief of staff.
LEWIS "SCOOTER" LIBBY, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO CHENEY: I'm a great fan of the vice president. I think he's one of the smartest, most honorable people I've ever met. So I'd like to consider myself fully on his team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: By the way, this just in, immediately after the indictment was handed out today against Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, speculation abounded about one person who was identified in the document only as a "senior official in the White House" or "official A." Two sources close to the investigation told CNN late today that "official A" is Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser.
Want to comment, David Gergen?
GERGEN: Well, there is this peculiar paragraph, it's paragraph 21 on the first charge, identifying this official A, and what it says is that Scooter Libby had a conversation with this person -- now we've, it's been identified as Karl Rove -- who said that he, in the last couple of days, had a conversation with Bob Novak, in which they had discussed Mrs. Wilson and that Bob Novak was going to be writing a column about it, and a column appeared a couple of days later.
Now, there were some, Michael Isikoff, who was a guest here on your program last night, who asked Mr. Fitzgerald in the press conference today, was, in fact, this official A, Karl Rove, actually then the person who outed Mrs. Wilson or not? And I think -- and the prosecutor ducked that question, didn't want to get into it.
What is left open is, who first told the press about it? The indictment suggests, in fact, Scooter Libby was the first person to tell a press person, namely Judith Miller from "The Times," it wasn't Karl Rove. So I think we don't -- while that was a mysterious paragraph, I'm not sure how much we should read into it or whether we should interpret that as the foundation of what the prosecutor is still checking out Karl Rove on.
What we do know is a shadow still exists over Karl Rove, and it has -- and it will be some time before it's dispelled.
KING: By the way, Joe Wilson will be a guest on this program early next week. In an interview that will air on "60 Minutes" Sunday night, he has said that there have been threats made against his wife.
Let's take a call. Detroit, hello.
CALLER: How are you, Larry. My question is for Mr. Ben-Veniste. And my question is, how long can Mr. Fitzgerald continue the current grand jury, or does he need to convene a new grand jury as he continues the investigation?
BEN-VENISTE: Well, he's indicated that he will be using another grand jury. The existing grand jury that issued the indictment has expired. They were extended for a six-month period beyond their 18- month original term. He may use any grand jury for the purpose of developing additional evidence, and he has indicated that there is more yet to do.
KING: Lodi, California. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I was wondering, isn't there a point that a reporter should show restraint on giving out names of CIA agents and putting their lives in jeopardy?
KING: Jay Carney? CARNEY: Well, yeah. I can't speak for Bob Novak, the columnist who first wrote about Valerie Plame. It's not -- certainly he has said, I believe, in the very little he's said about this, that he did not know when he referred to her as a CIA operative, he did not know that was a term of shorthand, and he didn't know that she was covert, and therefore that revealing her name would be dangerous in any way. Although we do know that the CIA had asked him not to publish that information.
So you know, each reporter makes his own judgment about what is safe to report, and balances requests from the government versus the public's right to know.
In this case, you know, Bob Novak made a call, and we'll see. One of the enduring mysteries of this case is always going to be, it looks like, you know, who was Bob Novak's first source before he spoke to Karl Rove, and what role did he play in the investigation since he hasn't spoken about whether or not he cooperated.
KING: And John Dean, if Bob Novak didn't know she was covert, what was the story?
KING: He had a wife.
DEAN: He had a wife who obviously had enough of a clout within the CIA to set up this trip to go to Niger. Indeed, that really didn't happen, but it made a good story and it helped to discredit the whole report and the whole effort. So I think that was actually the drill.
KING: This story is not going away. We thank John Dean and Richard Ben-Veniste. David Gergen and Jay Carney remain. And we'll be joined by Congressman Shays and Congressman Harman right after this.
KING: David Gergen and Jay Carney remain.
Joining us is here in New York is Congressman Chris Shays, Republican of Connecticut, member of the select committee on homeland security, chairman of the government reform subcommittee on national security. He's made multiple trips to Iraq, by the way.
And in Washington, Congresswoman Jane Harman, Democratic California, ranking minority member on the permanent select committee on intelligence and a member of the select committee on homeland security.
Both aptly ready to talk about this topic and they certainly fit in with their committees. What do you make of it, Congressman Shays?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONN., HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, it's only an opportunity for the president, if he acts more like Eisenhower, who, when Sherman Adams, had taken a gift, Eisenhower didn't even say goodbye to him. He fired him, and was angry as could be that he had disgraced his position and, you know, basically reflecting badly on the White House.
KING: Are you saying the president should be angry at Scooter Libby?
SHAYS: Well, the president said, I have authorized and I have requested all my staff to fully cooperate. And this is a president, who said he wanted to restore honesty and integrity to the White House.
So, what I'm saying is he can still do that but he's got to be clear that this is unacceptable, period.
KING: Even though not proven.
SHAYS: Not proven, but at least express outrage that even someone in this White House would make people feel that they hadn't been honest.
KING: Congresswoman Harman, what's your read?
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, I'm less worried about the damage to the president than I am about the damage to the men and women who work in our intelligence community.
An undercover officer was outed here. Her career in that capacity is over. But, the people she associated with and perhaps some she, who are still under cover at the CIA might have been exposed by what was done here.
And I think that we should be focused on damage here. Not just damage to the White House and the political chances of this president, but damage to real agencies that in real time have to collect against the threats we face now.
And I hope that these indictments, clearly Scooter Libby's innocent until proven guilty, but the fact that we are prosecuting people for lying. And that the context here is leaking classified information, will send a message that now we're going to be serious about this, and start protecting our secrets, and start protecting the people, who are the ones who get those secrets.
KING: You agree, David Gergen?
GERGEN: Well, I certainly agree that he should be outraged. The president should be outraged about the blowing of the cover of a CIA agent. His father, President Bush senior, takes this very seriously, and you know, he just thinks it's a terrible thing to happen.
And I think the son should share that outrage. I think Jane Harman is absolutely right about that.
With regard to how he should restore his presidency, I do think he ought to treat Scooter Libby with respect in the sense that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And he should be respected that way. And He did give him a lot of loyal service.
What I think is more important to him right now and I think maybe Jane would agree with this, I think it's not healthy for the country to have a disabled president for three years. I think we do need someone in that office who can work with both sides on some of the issues that face us as a country.
And I think he needs to restore some of his moral authority and I worry that he and the people around him are in denial, that they don't think they've done anything wrong, that they believe Harriet Miers went down because of politics and because of press, it wasn't -- they didn't make no mistakes.
That they believe this thing with Fitzgerald is sort of basically trumped up. It's not all that important. That they can close the door on it and simply move on, and now move on to a big fight on the Senate over a supreme court nomination.
I think that's the wrong approach. The Reagan approach, after Iran-Contra, which does seem to me to be the model, was that Ronald Reagan, after a little reluctance, you know, basically said, I take responsibility.
He went on the television, in a national address, and accepted responsibility. He acted humbly. There was a lot of introspection. And he brought in fresh blood, and then he started working in a very bipartisan way with the Congress.
KING: Jay Carney, do you agree with David Gergen, that you can't have a weakened president?
JAY CARNEY, TIME MAGAZINE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I do. I think it's bad for the country?
KING: You got him for three years.
CARNEY: What David said is we're going to have to see whether or not the instincts that we've seen politically in this White House prevail for most of the past five years, prevail again now, which is that for political soccer, they tend to turn to the base.
They tend to, you know -- they ran a campaign last year that was essentially a 51 percent campaign. You turn out your base. You play to your base. And you get so many of them to vote that you guarantee yourself just enough to win, but you don't try to expand your support beyond, you know, just your core base.
And I think if he does that, if, for example, on the supreme court nomination he reacts to the conservative opposition to Harriet Miers by picking someone who will be highly controversial in the Senate, because he or she is so demonstrably conservative.
Or, you know, sort of an inner face choice then he's made the decision to fight by, you know, reuniting his base behind him. The base that he's lost for the past month or so.
But I think then we're in for three years of a lot of partisan fights. Because the sort of bloom is off the rose on this president. If you can trace the arc from 9/11 to really this moment.
And we've sort of seen it over the course of the year as the president's approval ratings have gone down. And support for the war in Iraq has diminished.
But, with this indictment, which is related to the war, this is a weakened president who is sort of lost whatever extra support that most presidents don't have, that he got from the 9/11 experience.
KING: We'll pick up with Chris Shays.
Got to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR IN CIA LEAK INVESTIGATION: I think what we see here today, when a vice president's chief of staff is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice it does show the world that this is a country that takes its law seriously, that all citizens are bound by the law.
But what we need to also show the world is that we can also apply the same safeguards to all our citizens, including high officials.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Mike Wallace, Monday. You were going to say, Chris?
SHAYS: You know, I just, I want the president to succeed. I strongly support the war in Iraq, but this president isn't going to succeed if he sends the message that loyalty is more important than honesty or the truth.
And if he ran on, I'm going to clean up this White House and I'm going to restore integrity and honesty, any public policy he does, without integrity underneath it, is going to fail. And so we can talk about a whole bunch of issues but it will fail unless he establishes that.
KING: Congresswoman Harman, should he make changes?
HARMAN: Well, the country got a great civics lesson today from Mr. Fitzgerald. And even the president's comments about the rule of law were interesting.
It occurs to me that he might do two things. One is finally, embrace this notion that they we ought to have a framework for interrogations and detentions of these detainees around the world. Something that Senator McCain and many of us are pushing. In fact, Chris and I are co-authors of the House version of that bill. That would be one.
Second, it's time to heal our country. The atmosphere in Washington is absolutely toxic and it would seem to me that a very good idea for this president, especially if he has an agenda he wants to get through Congress in the next years, would be to reach out on a bipartisan basis, admit some mistakes and say he's learned from them and move forward with all of us working together.
KING: But, David, does he have that kind of personality?
GERGEN: Well, I think that's an interesting question, and whether he can change, and as Jay Carney said, really change the way he's conducted the government.
Some people who are close to him tell me he's not going to change. He's stubborn, he's built in, no matter what his mistakes are, he's not going to change. I retain faith in that.
This is a man, after all, had some huge problems in his personal life earlier on and he made a dramatic change in the way he conducted himself, he's much more disciplined individual and I admire him for that.
If he can do that in his personal life, I think he can do it in his public life. But, I do think it raises the question, Larry, because the next big issue on at the agenda, and I'd be interested in Chris Shays on this, is the Supreme Court nomination.
If he's really going to reach out to Democrats, should he then go to his base for the nominee or should he try to go to the center? Isn't that going to be a really acid test of how he plans to govern the next three years?
CHRIS: Well, I think he's got to go to the center. I think he's got to go where most Americans are. Forty two percent of the American people were purple in the last election. They weren't blue and they weren't red. That's the largest majority.
KING: Do you agree with that Jay?
HARMAN: Well yes, I agree with that.
KING: Jay Carney first.
CARNEY: I can't advise the president, and in my position --
KING: Yes, you can.
CARNEY: But, I think that that is one play. The other play is to, you know, maintain that support from your base, because the risk he runs from appointing a centrist, that the same groups who are upset by Harriet Miers will be upset by -- is that he really destroys the unity that has -- the Republican party has shown during his presidency and that could spell trouble for turnout for Republicans in 2006 and for potential Republican nominee in 2008.
So, there are political prices whichever path he chooses here. It may be, you could argue it's better for the country to go to the middle, but is it better for his party and he's the leader of his party, that remains to be seen.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more, right after this. Don't go away.
KING: Congressman Harman, this is a what if. What if Rove is indicted?
HARMAN: Well, we have to see what he's indicted for, but I think if he's indicted, he's gone, that's for sure. And then, there is the opportunity for a lot of changes in the White House.
I want to make another pitch for healing. If I were the president, I'd be calling up an Sandra Day O'Connor and trying to talk her into staying another year.
I know her husband is ailing and she's certainly paid her dues, but I would not put the country through another one of these, no matter who the nominee might be. And, let things settle down and reach out for Congress on a bipartisan basis and do the things he pledged to do in the first race.
Compassionate conservatism is an idea I agree with part of, and certainly the compassionate part is necessary as we try to not only heal from hurricanes, but find the right exit strategy from Iraq, and leaving that place a much stronger country, something I strongly support.
KING: Are you nodding, Chris?
SHAYS: Well, I think that would be terrific, if Sandra Day O'Connor stayed another year and the president could convince people ---
KING: But, wouldn't the right wing of your party be angry at that?
SHAYS: You know, they're going to be angry no matter what. We're in a party right now that's got a lot to work out. The president needs to start by just --- one thing all Republicans can agree on, and that is a a strong ethical base.
KING: David Gergen, what do you think of the idea, of asking Justice O'Connor to stay awhile?
GERGEN: I think it's an appealing idea. You know, we're already part-way into the term. If you nominate someone next week, the hearings won't take place until January or February at the earliest. That person wouldn't be in place until March and only three months left in the term.
There's a lot to be said for letting the dust settle, and I think Jane Harman is absolutely on the right track as is Chris Shays.
I do think we heard from the president this afternoon, that he intended to move quickly and it was noticeable that when he got on the helicopter to go to Camp David, there in the helicopter waiting for him, were Andy Card and Harriet Miers. Now, why are they there? They're there to go spend the weekend talking about his next nominee.
KING: Jay Carney, what do you think?
CARNEY: I think we're going to get a nominee as early as Monday. And I think in part, because they'd like a front page filled with their agenda, rather than stories about Scooter Libby or Karl Rove or Patrick Fitzgerald.
And, I think, you know, they're trying to take -- they've lost control of the political agenda in Washington, even before the indictments, and I mean the president -- this was not just a bad day for the president. He's had a bad week and he's had a bad several months.
Originally, when they chose Harriet Miers, they thought that was an opportunity to change the subject for the better for them and it completely and utterly backfired. Now, a new Supreme Court nominee is at least a chance to change the story in Washington.
KING: Under that concept though, it would have to be an almost noncontroversial person, right?
CARNEY: Well, I think a controversy over philosophy for them is better than, politically, than any discussion about lying under oath and obstruction of justice. I think anything is better than that for them, so I think they prefer it.
GERGEN: But Larry, the real danger here is, is that if he puts up a really controversial person from the right, and the Democrats now sensing weakness are then going to oppose, there's a real chance for a filibuster in the Senate. And, the Republicans would then very likely go to the nuclear option to shut down the filibuster. And, if that happens, I think we have total tribal warfare between Democrats and Republicans for the next three years and we don't get anything done.
KING: Could happen, right, Chris?
SHAYS: It could happen.
KING: This is an either way, either or thing. We live in interesting times.
Thank you all very much for an illuminating hour, and we'll be focusing a lot on this in the nights ahead, as I said.
Mike Wallace will be our guest on Monday night and Mr. Wilson will be aboard one night early next week as well. Tomorrow night, on LARRY KING LIVE, Jack Klugman will be with us, and Carlos Santana will be aboard.
That's tomorrow night. Not a bad guitarist.
Sunday night, Wynonna Judd. Not too bad either.
And on Monday night, Mike Wallace and more coverage of what we've been talking about today, plus Mike's extraordinary new book.
Speaking of extraordinary, I had lunch with an extraordinary gentleman today. He's hosting "NEWSNIGHT" tonight, solo. Anderson Cooper is off again.
He's Aaron Brown, the man of renown.
Have a great weekend. You're off next week, have a great week off. Have a good time. Come in under par.
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