WASHINGTON - A House committee subpoenaed yesterday records of the FBI's interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney during the investigation into the leak of a covert CIA officer's name.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform demanded the documents from Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey days before former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is expected to testify about Cheney's role in leaking CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to the news media in 2003.
Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, asked for the transcripts late last year and renewed his request earlier this month after the committee received an unedited transcript of grand jury testimony in which former Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was quoted as saying it was "possible" that Cheney had told him to leak Plame's name.
Waxman said that McClellan's book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, also raised questions about whether Cheney had directed McClellan to "mislead the public."
Waxman also wants the unredacted transcripts of FBI interviews with McClellan, former White House political adviser Karl Rove, Libby and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the department was reviewing the subpoena to determine how to respond. The committee set a deadline of noon Monday.
Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, has accused high-level White House officials of leaking his wife's identity to retaliate for his criticism of the Iraq war.
After a two-year investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby was indicted and convicted in connection with the leak on charges of obstruction, perjury and lying to the FBI. After Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2 -year sentence and Fitzgerald acknowledged that he didn't anticipate indicting Rove, the investigation was seen as essentially over.
McClellan, who's expected to testify Friday before the House Judiciary Committee, renewed questions about the leak with his book. He wrote that Bush and Cheney directed him to "exonerate" Libby in his daily news briefings and that Cheney may have been among the senior White House officials who knew the truth but encouraged the former spokesman "to repeat a lie." McClellan also contended that Bush told him he had authorized the leak of Plame's name.
Bush said in a 2004 news briefing: "If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of."
Last week, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Keith Nelson turned down the committee's request for the FBI reports on Bush and Cheney, saying that the committee's request "raises serious separation of powers" and confidentiality concerns.
But Waxman said there were "no sound reasons" that the Justice Department couldn't release the documents. He has accused the Justice Department of blocking Fitzgerald from turning over the documents.