CNN’s Roberts Throws Softballs at Joe Wilson on McClellan

CNN’s John Roberts conducted a softball interview with Joe Wilson on Wednesday’s "American Morning," based upon the claim by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan that he had "unknowingly passed along false information" about the roles of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame "leak." McClellan made the claim in his upcoming book, and further stated that "Rove, Libby, the Vice President [Dick Cheney], the president’s chief of staff [Andrew Card at the time], and the president himself" were "involved" in this "misleading," as Roberts put it.

Roberts first asked Wilson (who was falsely identified as the "former U.S. ambassador to Iraq," when Wilson actually worked as Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq from 1988-1991, and as ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995) for his response to McClellan’s statement. Wilson responded that the statement ‘advances the narrative a bit" about Vice President Cheney’s involvement in the "leak,"and proposed that President Bush was "either completely out of touch, or he's an accessory to obstruction of justice, both before the fact and after the fact" in the matter.

Roberts then brought up Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame’s "outraged" response to McClellan, and asked how his claim might "advance your civil suit." Wilson’s answer:

WILSON: Well, 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. I think what McClellan says has certainly makes that very clear. At a bare minimum, for openers, I think it's incumbent upon the president and the vice president now to release the transcripts of their statements with the -- 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.... And whether or not they continue to frustrate the efforts of the Justice Department and the efforts of the government to get to the bottom of what is essentially, the betrayal of national security of our country.

Wilson repeated this "betrayal" line after Roberts asked if he supported a new investigation by Congress in the matter. Wilson also went again on the offensive against conservative writer Robert Novak for his involvement in the "leak."

ROBERTS: Do you think as a result of what McClellan says in this book, that Congress should open a new investigation into what happened back in 2003?

WILSON: Well, I certainly think that the efforts of Congressman Waxman and Congressman Conyers and Senator Leahy, in investigating the many, many transgressions of this administration, have been useful. I think it would be helpful to have congressional hearings on this matter.

ROBERTS: All right.

WILSON: This is a betrayal of the national security of the country. This is essentially 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 would be calling this. The fact he brokered through a bottom-feeder like Bob Novak doesn't make it any different.

ROBERTS: All right. And again, McClellan is still very careful in how he is portraying this, saying that they were ‘involved,’ not coming right out and saying that they told him to lie.

The full transcript of the Joe Wilson interview from Wednesday’s "American Morning:"

JOHN ROBERTS: ROBERTS: Forty-four minutes after the hour. Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan claims the president and vice president were involved in his misleading the public about the CIA leak case. In an excerpt from his upcoming book, McClellan says he, quote, ‘unknowingly passed along false information about the role that Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby played in the leak that revealed Valerie Plame's identity.’

Here is what McClellan originally said about Rove and Libby at an October 2003 press briefing.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They’re good individuals. They are important members of our White House team, and that is why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved.

ROBERTS: McClellan has since said that wasn't true. But in the book, he goes even further, saying that ‘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.’

Former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson is Valerie Plame's husband. He joins us this morning from Eden, Utah. Joe, good to see you. Let me ask you your response, first of all, to the statement that McClellan put out in this book.

JOE WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, I think it advances the narrative a little bit. I think it now makes it very clear the extent to which the vice president was involved, which, of course, then makes it very clear how important to the vice president the commutation of Mr. Libby's sentence was. They basically closed ranks, guaranteed that the cloud that Fitzgerald said was over the vice president's head would not be lifted, and now because of McClellan's statement, that cloud is over the president himself. He is either completely out of touch, or he's an accessory to obstruction of justice, both before the fact and after the fact.

ROBERTS: Your wife says that she is outraged after hearing about this. She went on to say, quote, ‘McClellan's revelations provide important support for our civil suit against those men who violated our national security and maliciously destroyed my career.’ He very carefully uses the word ‘involved,’ when talking about the idea of misleading. How does that help advance your civil suit?

WILSON: Well, 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. I think what McClellan says has certainly makes that very clear. At a bare minimum, for openers, I think it's incumbent upon the president and the vice president now to release the transcripts of their statements with the -- 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.

ROBERTS: All right.

WILSON: And whether or not they continue to frustrate the efforts of the Justice Department and the efforts of the government to get to the bottom of what is essentially, the betrayal of national security of our country.

ROBERTS: A federal judge threw out that lawsuit back in July. He did it on jurisdictional grounds, not constitutional grounds. Where are you with that whole process?

WILSON: It's in the appeal process, and the appeal briefs are being filed, and I think it will be heard early in the New Year.

ROBERTS: So, will you seek to depose McClellan, as a result of what he is saying here in this book?

WILSON: I think we'll depose everybody who has any knowledge that they can bring to bear on this case.

(CROSSTALK)

WILSON: And remember, the lawsuit also includes, in addition to the four that we've sued by name, it also includes John Does one through nine, so there may well be some interesting information that McClellan has offered here in that regard.

ROBERTS: Do you think as a result of what McClellan says in this book, that Congress should open a new investigation into what happened back in 2003?

WILSON: Well, I certainly think that the efforts of Congressman Waxman and Congressman Conyers and Senator Leahy, in investigating the many, many transgressions of this administration, have been useful. I think it would be helpful to have congressional hearings on this matter.

ROBERTS: All right.

WILSON: This is a betrayal of the national security of the country. This is essentially 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 would be calling this. The fact he brokered through a bottom-feeder like Bob Novak doesn't make it any different.

ROBERTS: All right. And again, McClellan is still very careful in how he is portraying this, saying that they were ‘involved,’ not coming right out and saying that they told him to lie. Joe Wilson from Eden, Utah...

WILSON: All the more reason, all the more reason...

ROBERTS: Yeah.

WILSON: All the more reason to have the full investigation of this.

ROBERTS: All right. Joe Wilson, joining us this morning from Eden, Utah. Joe, thanks for getting up early -- Kiran.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center