WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former White Press Secretary Scott McClellan says in an upcoming book that he was misled by President George W. Bush and other high officials into misinforming the press about a CIA leak case that fueled debate about the Iraq war.
McClellan says he publicly exonerated former top White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis “Scooter” Libby because Bush had called on him to help restore his credibility after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
“There was one problem. It was not true. 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,” McClellan said in an excerpt released on Tuesday.
McClellan, a long-time Bush aide, whose job as White House press secretary from 2003 to 2006 was to field questions from the press, was not available for comment.
His book “Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong with Washington” is due out only in April, but the publisher, Public Affairs, posted the excerpt on its Web site as a teaser.
Asked about the excerpt, White House press secretary Dana Perino said: “The president has not and would not ask anyone to pass on false information.”
A criminal investigation into who leaked the identity of former CIA analyst Valerie Plame reached into the ranks of top White House aides and resulted in the conviction of Libby on perjury and obstruction of justice charges in March.
Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was sentenced to 2 1/2 year in prison. Bush commuted the sentence in July.
Plame’s cover was blown after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to build its case for war.
No one was charge with criminally disclosing Plame’s identity.
Rove, Bush’s former White House political adviser, was investigated but not charged, in the CIA leak probe.
On the day when Libby’s verdict was announced, McCllelan was asked in an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live” whether he had been lied to by those involved.
He responded: I did speak directly with them and I was careful about the way I phrased it at the time, even though I believed what they had told me to be the truth.”
Reporting by Joanne Allen, editing by Chris Wilson