CBS’s Reminder: “Don't Forget that Other Washington Scandal, CIA Leak Investigation”

CBS decided that the night before President Bush’s State of the Union address would be a good time to launch its “State of the...” series with a look at the "State of the Scandals," a judgment which allowed the CBS Evening News to revive the Plame case. Gloria Borger insisted that “on the eve of the President's State of the Union speech, official Washington is distracted, not by policy debates or the war, but by scandal.” She started with Jack Abramoff and how his links to Tom DeLay and Bob Ney have set back their congressional roles. She moved on to point out how President Bush “won't reveal the pictures taken of him with the lobbyist at White House functions.”

Borger then urged viewers: "Don't forget that other Washington scandal that still haunts the White House: the CIA leak investigation. Federal prosecutors want to know who, if anyone, inside the White House knowingly leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent to Washington journalists.” Though the commonality of such knowledge is in play, she then declared as fact: “That's a crime. And lying about it is a crime too. That's what Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, has been charged with.” She asked: “Will Dick Cheney testify?” Borger jumped to how “top presidential advisor Karl Rove is still under investigation for his role in the leaks.”

Borger did, however, note that “while Democrats haven't received any money from Abramoff's own checkbook, they did receive one-and-a-half million he directed to them through his clients.” And she gave rare, yet brief, air time to how “Democrat Bill Jefferson was the target in an FBI sting in which cash was found in his freezer.” (Transcript follows.)

Bob Schieffer, anchoring from DC with Capitol dome in background, set up the January 30 CBS Evening News story:
“As the President reports on the State of the Union, so will we in a special series all this week. We'll begin right here in Washington, which has been rocked by new questions about the ethics of some of the people who worked back there at the Capitol. Gloria Borger now with the ‘State of the Scandals.’”

Borger: “On the eve of the President's State of the Union speech, official Washington is distracted, not by policy debates or the war, but by scandal. Start with this man: Jack Abramoff. Once a well-connected Republican lobbyist, now singing to federal prosecutors in a congressional bribery scandal. His friend, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, forced to give up his leadership post after being indicted in Texas for money laundering. Ohio Republican Bob Ney, forced to give up his committee chairmanship after prosecutors tied him to Abramoff. And while Democrats haven't received any money from Abramoff's own checkbook, they did receive one-and-a-half million he directed to them through his clients. So when a hundred members rushed to return Abramoff-tainted money to charity, it was a bipartisan stampede. Even the President joined in, sending $6,000 in Abramoff donations to charity. What the President won't reveal: The pictures taken of him with the lobbyist at White House functions. And although Abramoff was a top Bush money man, the President says he doesn't know him.”

Bush at last week’s press conference: “I can't say I didn't ever meet him, but I meet a lot of people.”

Borger: “Don't forget that other Washington scandal that still haunts the White House: the CIA leak investigation. Federal prosecutors want to know who, if anyone, inside the White House knowingly leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent to Washington journalists. That's a crime. And lying about it is a crime too. That's what Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, has been charged with. He pled not guilty. The question: Will Dick Cheney testify? Expect this case to drag on. Top presidential advisor Karl Rove is still under investigation for his role in the leaks. Prosecutors have been mum about whether an indictment is forthcoming. Rove remains the President's political point man. And there's more.”

Ex-Congressman Duke Cunningham, November 2: “I broke the law.”

Borger: “Republican Duke Cunningham resigned after admitting he took bribes.”

Congressman Bill Jefferson, January 13: “I've never required, demanded or accepted-”

Borger: “Democrat Bill Jefferson was the target in an FBI sting in which cash was found in his freezer. He says he's innocent. The President is likely to support lobbying reform in his State of the Union speech. No doubt, everyone will applaud [audio of applause]. Gloria Borger, CBS News, Washington.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center