A fish rots from the head

Bush knew, and at least two people in the White House, one of them senior, are saying so.

Thomas DeFrank of the New York Daily News has a two White House sources, one senior (“a Presidential counselor,” according to the story) who report that, contrary to the recent spin, GWB not only knew about Karl Rove’s role in outing Valerie Plame Wilson as an undercover officer but criticized him at the time for handling it so clumsily.

Assume for the moment the truth of that report. That would mean that Bush knew that Rove had committed what at least appeared to be a crime. Yet Rove, and Bush’s official spokesman, were publicly denying that Rove had any connection with it, and Bush was publicly professing ignorance of what had gone on and a desire to “get to the bottom” of the affair. That implicates Bush directly in a conspiracy to cover up a serious crime. Naughty, naughty!

Of course, if, as has been reported, Bush told Fitzgerald’s investigators the same thing he told the public, and if Fitzgerald can prove that wasn’t true, that would make Bush guilty of false statements under 18 U.S.C. 1001 in addition to any conspiracy charge.

The consensus seems to be that a sitting President can’t be indicted, and that Fitzgerald has no authority to issue a report on anyone he doesn’t indict. But Fitzgerald could name Bush as an unindicted co-conspirator in the original Espionage Act offense and in the attempt to obstruct justice surrounding that offense.

Can you say “Watergate”? I was sure you could.

I’m not surprised that Bush knew; I would have been astonished if he hadn’t known. But I am surprised that the Bush White House seems no longer able to hold the conspiracy together enough to protect the Big Guy.

I wonder who decided to talk, and why?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com