WASHINGTON -- The Senate's top Democrat said yesterday that President Bush should explain how a covert CIA officer's name became public and called for presidential aide Karl Rove to resign because of his role in the leak case.
Bush "should apologize," Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said on ABC's This Week. "The vice president should apologize. They should come clean with the American public."
FOR THE RECORD - An article yesterday gave an incorrect home state for Sen. Lindsey Graham. He represents South Carolina.
Rove, Bush's deputy chief of staff and his top political adviser, has not been charged in the investigation into how Valerie Plame was exposed as a covert CIA officer through a series of leaks to reporters in 2003. On Friday, a federal grand jury indicted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide and an adviser to Bush, on five counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby resigned his post and has left the White House.
Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in announcing the indictment that his investigation would continue, although the grand jury's term has expired.
Rove's attorney said in a statement Friday that Fitzgerald said "he has made no decision about whether or not to bring charges and that Mr. Rove's status has not changed."
Reid argued that Bush had promised to terminate whomever leaked the information and that he should live up to that pledge.
"If he's a man of his word, Rove should be history," Reid said on CNN's Late Edition.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Friday that administration officials would not comment on the "factual circumstances" of the case because of the continuing investigation and legal proceedings.
As Reid and other Democrats pressed for more information from the White House, Republicans said yesterday that Bush should move on to other things, particularly choosing a new nominee for the Supreme Court, while the legal process plays out for Libby.
White House counsel Harriet E. Miers withdrew from consideration for the high court last week after an outcry from conservative Republicans and an impasse over releasing documents related to her work for the president. Bush is expected to make his choice soon, perhaps as early as today.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a North Carolina Republican, said he thought the likelihood that Rove would be indicted was "virtually zero." The fact that Libby wasn't charged with actually disclosing classified information about Plame's identity was a positive for an embattled White House, he added.
"Is it a good thing to give false information? No," Graham said on CBS' Face the Nation. "Is this a different story than if it had been about Karl Rove? Yes. Is it a different story than if it had been about trying to disclose her identity to put her to risk? Yes.
"It's a bad story, but a different story than the way it started."
But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, said on CBS that real harm was done in exposing Plame, even if the criminal standard wasn't met. The Libby indictment, along with other problems -- including the botched response to Hurricane Katrina -- was evidence of a White House that "has run out of steam" and is at a crossroads, he said.
"The real question for President Bush is going to be: Is he going to be like Nixon -- hunker down, get into the bunker, admit no mistakes -- or like Reagan, who actually admitted mistakes, did a mid-course correction and brought in new people, bipartisan people, people above ethical approach into the White House," Schumer said. "This is the fundamental question for the White House. They are at a real turning point. Thus far, they've admitted no mistakes at all. And that's not a good sign or a good attitude."
Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, said on Fox News Sunday that Bush needs to get back to his legislative agenda, starting with the Supreme Court.
"You can't diminish the seriousness of it, but the people out there in the real world -- they want to know what are we going to do about the federal judiciary, what are we going to do about, you know, gas prices and home heating fuel prices, and an agenda," he said. "They don't quite understand all of this."
Lott also recommended a White House shake-up that would bring in "new energy," implying that different people might have prevented the calamity of the Miers nomination.
After an especially rough week -- which also included the American death toll in Iraq topping 2,000 -- Republicans said they expect Bush to try to get back on track by moving quickly to tap a Supreme Court nominee with a considerable track record that will showcase a conservative judicial philosophy.
"I am confident the president is going to nominate a conservative," Lott said.
Several names are said to be under consideration, including U.S. Circuit Judges Samuel A. Alito Jr., J. Michael Luttig, Karen J. Williams and Priscilla R. Owen.