Rove: Armitage Could Have Ended CIA Leak Case Earlier

On Thursday's The O'Reilly Factor, after discussing Scott McClellan's views on invading Iraq with FNC contributor Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly turned the discussion to McClellan's comments on Rove's role in the CIA leak probe. Rove complained that while the media were obsessed with him during the investigation, Richard Armitage, who was the actual leaker, was virtually ignored, and argued that if Armitage had publicly admitted earlier that he had leaked Valerie Plame's identity, "this would have all gone away. You'll notice when it came out that Richard Armitage was the source of the leak, the media rapidly lost attention." Rove also accused Joe Wilson of making untrue claims about his trip to Niger.

After playing a clip of McClellan from his Today show interview in which he complained that Rove and Scooter Libby had claimed they were not involved in the leak, Rove contended that it was Armitage who leaked Plame's identity: "The identity of Valerie Plame was leaked to Robert Novak by Richard Armitage. What I told Scott was I didn't know her name, didn't reveal her name, didn't reveal, didn't know what she did at the CIA, and that I wasn't the source for the leak." (Transcript follows)

Rove then complained that Armitage had not come forward earlier: "Imagine what would have happened if Richard Armitage had come forward and said, 'You know what? I did it. I talked to Robert Novak and gave her the background and gave her the name.' And this would have all gone away. You'll notice when it came out that Richard Armitage was the source of the leak, the media rapidly lost attention."

The former White House advisor also complained about the media's obsession with him during the investigation:

For about five months, I had news organizations camped out in front of my house when they thought I did it and that something bad was going to happen to me. When it came out that nothing bad was going to happen to me, and that the person who had leaked the name to Robert Novak was Richard Armitage, all of a sudden, those news crews went away. And I never heard them going up on Richard Armitage's lawn.

O'Reilly responded: "Mr. Rove, they don't like you. They don't like the President. They don't like anything about you."

In discussing Joe Wilson's attacks on the administration, after contending that it was untrue that Wilson was sent to Niger as the result of a request for information by the Vice President, Rove disputed that Wilson's report was ever sent to the White House: "He said that he came back with a report that was seen by the White House, which on July 11th of 2003, the CIA issued a statement saying that his report was never forwarded to the White House because of concerns about the quality of the work."

Rove also argued that Wilson's findings in Niger actually gave support to claims that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain yellowcake uranium from Africa, as the President had claimed in his 2003 State of the Union speech. Rove:

He also said that he came back with definitive proof that the Iranians, excuse me, the Iraqis had never attempted to acquire yellowcake from Niger. We now know that that is absolutely incorrect. We know that not only did he not disprove it, he came back with additional information about a previously unknown attempt by the Iraqis to send a trade delegation to Niger. The Niger government said, you know, all we've got is uranium cake. That's the only thing we sell is uranium. So we better not accept a delegation from Iraq because it would be in violation of the international sanctions.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portions of the Thursday May 29 The O'Reilly Factor:

BILL O'REILLY: Continuing now with Fox News analyst Karl Rove, who is criticized in Scott McClellan's new book.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN: By the last 10 months or so of my time at the White House, I grew increasingly disillusioned by things. When the first revelation came out that what I had been told by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, that they were in no way involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, which we now know is not true, when, and despite the fact that I went to the podium and said these people assured me they were not involved.

O'REILLY: All right, what say you, Mr. Rove?

ROVE: Well, as we now know, the identity of Valerie Plame was leaked to Robert Novak by Richard Armitage. What I told Scott was I didn't know her name, didn't reveal her name, didn't reveal, didn't know what she did at the CIA, and that I wasn't the source for the leak. And we now know Richard Armitage was the source. Imagine what would have happened if Richard Armitage had come forward and said, "You know what? I did it. I talked to Robert Novak and gave her the background and gave her the name." And this would have all gone away. You'll notice when it came out that Richard Armitage was the source of the leak, the media rapidly lost attention.

O'REILLY: Just explain to the audience who Richard Armitage is.

ROVE: He was the number two guy at the State Department. And he in a conversation with Robert Novak talked about Wilson and how he went to Africa.

O'REILLY: Okay. Isn't it true, though, that the White House and yourself were furious with Ambassador Wilson, Valerie Plame's husband, and you guys were angry, and that Scooter Libby did eventually mislead the grand jury, which he was convicted of doing?

ROVE: Look, the White House had a right to go out and correct the record with regard to what Ambassador Wilson said. I would remind you what he said. He said that, he implied that he was sent to Africa as a result of a request from the Vice President, which is not true. He said that he came back with a report that was seen by the White House, which on July 11th of 2003, the CIA issued a statement saying that his report was never forwarded to the White House because of concerns about the quality of the work.

He also said that he came back with definitive proof that the Iranians, excuse me, the Iraqis had never attempted to acquire yellowcake from Niger. We now know that that is absolutely incorrect. We know that not only did he not disprove it, he came back with additional information about a previously unknown attempt by the Iraqis to send a trade delegation to Niger. The Niger government said, you know, all we've got is uranium cake. That's the only thing we sell is uranium. So we better not accept a delegation from Iraq because it would be in violation of the international sanctions.

O'REILLY: But why drag Valerie Plame into it?

ROVE: Well, look, it was, again, I repeat, it was Richard Armitage who talked with Robert Novak about it. I can't say much about this because there's a civil lawsuit ongoing. But the public record is, is that my contribution to this was to say to Robert Novak-

O'REILLY: So you never, you yourself never talked about Valerie Plame to anybody?

ROVE: When Robert Novak tells me about a conversation about what he knows about Valerie Plame, I say to him, from my recollection, I say, "I've heard that, too." From his recollection, it was, "So you've heard that, too." And that was the extent of the conversation.

O'REILLY: Okay, but you yourself never talked to Valerie about Valerie Plame to anybody?

ROVE: No. In fact, the only other conversation I have about this before Robert Novak's column emerges is a conversation with Matt Cooper on the Friday after the Sunday of Wilson's column, in which I discourage him from talking about, writing about Wilson. He's thinking about writing a story. And from his own notes, it's clear I'm saying to him don't get ahead on this. It's not worthy of your attention. I'm trying to discourage him from coverage.

O'REILLY: I have no reason to disbelieve you. And I just want to get it on the record. But McClellan's making a big deal. And obviously, the left-wing media is running wild with this. I mean, they couldn't be happier at NBC. This is like the best day they've had over there in 10 years.

ROVE: And again, look, and I hate to be a little cynical about this, but again, you know, for about five months, I had news organizations camped out in front of my house when they thought I did it and that something bad was going to happen to me. When it came out that nothing bad was going to happen to me, and that the person who had leaked the name to Robert Novak was Richard Armitage, all of a sudden, those news crews went away. And I never heard them going up on Richard Armitage's lawn.

O'REILLY: No, they're not going to do that. They don't like you. Mr. Rove, they don't like you. They don't like the President. They don't like anything about you.

ROVE: I'm shocked. I'm shocked. I'm shocked.