Leak Seeking in Washington

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, September 29, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Today, President Bush said he wants to know who leaked an undercover CIA (search) officer's name to reporters, and said he welcomes a Justice Department investigation into matter. But wouldn't it be better to appoint a special prosecutor?

Joining us from Washington, Indiana Congressman Dan Burton and New York Congressman Jerry Nadler. Good to see you both once again.

Congressman Burton, what about that? I mean, can we trust the idea that the Bush Justice Department will do due diligence? And wouldn't an independent prosecutor, like we had do due diligence, and wouldn't an independent prosecutor just, like we had during the Clinton years, mean a more objective observer of this?

REP. DAN BURTON, R-Ind.: Well, Alan, first of all, let me say that the president tells the truth, unlike his predecessor.

COLMES: Here we go.

BURTON: And you don't have any problem with him. When he says he's going to do something, he does it.

He's going to make sure this is investigated very thoroughly. And the Justice Department (search) is not going to use any political hack to investigate this.

They're going to pick somebody who's a career Justice Department official over there. And they're going to get to the bottom of it.

The thing that's interesting is that a lot of my Democrat friends that are complaining about all this and jumping on the bandwagon right now were never seen when we were trying to get information out of the Clinton White House. And when I sent criminal referrals to the Janet Reno (search) Justice Department, she did absolutely nothing.

COLMES: You want to bring it back to Clinton. We're not talking about Bill Clinton (search). Bill Clinton is no longer president. And you say well, we can trust this president. You're a partisan. You believe that as a Republican.

There are many people in this country who have a different view of President Bush. Wouldn't it be fair and balanced…wouldn't it be fair to have an objective observer rather than, you know, somebody who works for the administration?

BURTON: Well, I think career person over there who works neither for Democrats or Republicans at the Justice Department will be fair.

But the reason I brought that issue up about the previous administration, Alan, is because all of my Democrat friends who are running for president, who are leaders in both the House and the Senate.

Or jumping over President Bush and trying to make it look like he did something wrong. The fact of the matter is, they were nowhere to be seen when there were problems in the previous administration.

COLMES: I don't know whether he did something wrong or not. He probably personally did nothing wrong, but I think it should be fairly investigated.

Congressman Nadler, what do you sand on this, sir?

REP. JERROLD NADLER, D-N.Y.: I'm not a fan of special prosecutor, but I do think that when serious allegations are made, when Bob Novak (search), who's a conservative columnist, writes that senior administration officials told him that ambassador's wife was an agent and in effect outs an undercover agent, perhaps putting her life or the lives of others in danger, you have to have a serious investigation.

And you can't expect John Ashcroft's Justice Department, or you can't trust…I shouldn't say trust. You can't have confidence that John Ashcroft's very partisan Justice Department will fairly investigate the White House. That's why we allow the appointment of special prosecutors. Although I am glad that no longer we no longer have the special prosecutor statute, which is somewhat different from...

COLMES: Congressman Burton, according to the The Washington Post over the weekend, they reported a senior administration official had said that before Novak's column ran about this in July, two top White House officials, said The Washington Post, called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Joe Wilson's wife, the woman in question here. So it's not just about Novak.

Do you believe that the White House or someone in the administration had an agenda here to try to get this information to journalists? Was The Washington Post not accurately reporting this?

BURTON: Well, I don't think they were trying to get anybody, but that was after the Novak column came out. And after that, it was fair game. It was in the arena anyhow. Everybody already knew about it. So I don't think there's any great revelation about that after the Novak...

COLMES: They said before the column ran they were trying to do that. That's what The Washington Post...

BURTON: I don't believe that's accurate. But in any event, there will be an investigation. They will get to the bottom of it. And if somebody did violate national security and give out the information on a CIA official, then by golly, they should be prosecuted.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Good so see both you men. Congressman Burton, Congressman Nadler, good to see you both.

I want to go back to this issue of a double standard. This is paramount here. Because are Democrats: The question is, are Democrats really concerned about issues like this or are they only concerned when they can score political points?

Congressman Nadler, correct me if I'm wrong. I went back and I've done a search of your positions and Chuck Schumer's positions. For example he's been an outspoken critic here.

Paula Jones had her tax returns leaked to the Daily News. I didn't hear you express outrage. Kathleen Willey's personal letters to the president were released. I couldn't find a quote of your outrage.

Linda Tripp's personal files, in a violation of law, were also given out. And I couldn't find a quote from you or Chuck Schumer or any of these Democrats, demanding an independent investigation.

So the question then arises, are you now selectively deciding what instances of outrage you care about?

NADLER: Well, no. First of all, remember, when all of those things allegedly happened...

HANNITY: Well, they did happen.

NADLER: I'm not disputing that. I don't know if they did or not. But when those things allegedly happened, there was already a special prosecutor who'd been appointed on Whitewater. He kept expanding his jurisdiction.

HANNITY: But you were silent. You didn't say a word.

NADLER: Slow down, slow down. I did not oppose the appointment of a special prosecutor initially for Whitewater. Although I did think it was unnecessary, but I thought I said it said it. If it makes people more confidant then fine.

As it turned out, that was wrong because Mr. Starr was such an unfair partisan prosecutor. That's a different issue. But the fact of the matter is when those things that you're talking about happened, there was a special prosecutor. And one had to assume if there was anything to these things he would be looking into them. Therefore it wasn't necessary for me to demand a special prosecutor.

HANNITY: Personal file information was given out. And surely, I should have been able to find a single quote of expression of outrage by you or Chuck Schumer.

NADLER: I can't talk for Chuck Schumer. I can talk for myself. I am certainly outraged if Linda Tripp's personal file...

HANNITY: You should know they were.

NADLER: If you say so I don't remember all this. It was a long time ago. But be that as it may, there was a special prosecutor. I didn't have to demand a special prosecutor. He was there.

And the fact of the matter is, he was investigating everything conceivable, even to the president's sex life, which had nothing to do with Whitewater or affairs of state.

HANNITY: You know, Congressman Burton, here's what I see is going on in the world right now. You could tell me if you think I'm wrong.

You know, this president has been called a fraud, a liar, a miserable failure, and a gang leader. We're now entering a presidential election year here. And Democrats, with their selective moral outrage and their double standards in terms of the application of standards, are just so transparently political to me.

BURTON: There's no question about it. They have lost control of both the United States House and Senate. They've lost the White House and they are desperate to get it back. And they realize the president is much more popular than they would like for him to be.

And they see this as an opening. And the presidential contenders on the Democrat side are jumping all over this, as is the leader of the house on the Democrat side and the Senate. And all I can say is, this president wants to get to the bottom of it. If there's something wrong, I am confident he will mete out justice.

But the problem is the Democrats are going to do everything they can to make him look as bad.

HANNITY: Hang on, Congressman. To his credit, Congressman Burton, he hasn't invoked executive privilege. He hasn't demanded subpoenas for any of this thing. He's been forthcoming and he showed a good sense of moral outrage today, because I would be concerned about this, if information like that was leaked.

But there's an easy way we can get to this here. Bob Novak has come out and said nobody in the administration called him about the leak. If Joe Wilson can name the reporters that called him and told him what, quote, people from the administration called, we can have this solved in two days. This could be out of the way.

But I sense that the same Joe Wilson (search) who threatened…or who had expressed hope that he could take Karl Rove (search) out of the White House in handcuffs, who admits that he mentioned his name without any evidence now, who is backtracking on this, I assume, and he is sycophant of the Clintons, I assume he wants to back away from this.

BURTON: Let me just say this. During the previous administration, at times when they were going to claim executive privilege and I had to fight with their general counsel, the chief counsel of the president, and we told him we were going to have to move a contempt citation if we didn't get things. They fought us hammer and tong.

Here's the president we have now who says, "I want to get to the bottom of it. And if somebody did something wrong we're going to hold him accountable.”


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: Today, I am asking the attorney general to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether White House officials illegally leaked the identity of a covert CIA agent. What has gone on his case is one of the most dastardly, despicable things that I have seen in my more than 20 years in Washington and speaks to lengths of how far some will go to stifle dissent.


HANNITY: What's dastardly is his selective outrage.

Congressman Nadler I want to ask you this question. Joe Wilson, the man at the center of the storm, told an audience in Seattle that he wanted to, "See whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

When challenged on Good Morning America about the issue he had to admit that he didn't know what he was talking about. He said he got carried away and made up the Rove allegation, quote, out of thin air. Why should we give this man any credibility when he's an admitted liar here?

NADLER: I think he's a husband who is justifiably outraged and may have gotten carried away. He is an ambassador who was sent on a mission and reported back that some of what the president said as justification for the war wasn't the case.

It was exaggerated. And apparently in response, his wife's life literally is endangered and...

HANNITY: Not necessarily. We don't know what her role is yet. That is yet to be determined.

COLMES: I said apparently. And he concluded, maybe jumped to the conclusion that Karl Rove was behind it and he reacted to it.

HANNITY: Let me give you a chance to respond.

NADLER: Excuse me, the key thing here, I have to comment to what was said before the break. The key thing here isn't whether there is selective outrage. Look, everybody's…All the congressmen, all senators from both parties are all partisan to some extent. The Republicans are very partisan, the Democrats are partisan, too.

The real question is, there's a very serious problem here somebody, some bodies, plural, outed a CIA undercover operative. Isn't that what the question is?


NADLER: And the question is who, and the question is can this be properly investigated by Ashcroft's Justice Department.

HANNITY: I don't have a lot of time. I want to ask you this question. We had Ted Kennedy actually say that what happened in Iraq was a fraud cooked up in Texas. We have people that want to be president of your party calling this president a gang leader, an intentional liar, a miserable failure.

Is this…is this not over the top, what you guys are now involved in here, versus the battle of ideas? This is all personal…of late with your fellow Democrats.

NADLER: Well, wait a minute. Your entire interview was…about wasn't this all…instead of talking about the facts, the whole extent of this program was aren't you all partisan and aren't you all partisan and selective. It didn't deal with the facts.

Look, if Dick Gephardt thinks that George Bush is a "miserable failure," that's his opinion. I happen to agree.

HANNITY: A gang leader.

NADLER: The American public will judge. If someone said he was a gang leader, I think that's over the top.

COLMES: Congressman Burton, look, first of all, Wilson is not a partisan. He's not a Clinton sycophant. He was actually appointed by Bush 41. Worked for him. Was called a hero, as a matter of fact, by Bush 41.

And here we have…Is it plausible, Congressman Burton, that here we have Joe Wilson comes out with a column, a damning column about words that he says we were misled by the president in a State of the Union address. Shortly after that, it is exposed that his wife worked for the CIA by Robert Novak who has certainly deep sources in the White House.

You don't see any possible connection there? You don't see the possible fingerprint. And Joe Wilson did go on to say that he didn't mean everything he said about Karl Rove. But his fingerprints are on it. You don't see that possibility here? Is that a plausible explanation?

BURTON: First of all, the beginning of your comment was this guy is a nonpartisan. He's given a tremendous amount of money to the Democratic Party. He's supporting Mr. Kerry to the maximum right now for president.

COLMES: He is now.

BURTON: So come on, don't give me this stuff this guy's not a partisan.

COLMES: He's not a partisan. He was appointed by George Bush 41. His views may have evolved over time. You want to paint him as a liberal or as a Democrat. It serves your purposes. But let's be fair and balanced here. Is that a possible scenario that I just laid out?

BURTON: The fact of the matter is we don't know who may have told Mr. Novak what. And that's what the investigation is going to find out. There are a lot of leaks in this city. We should not allow any leaks that involve national security or people who are involved in intelligence gathering. If that happened, they should be held accountable.

And that's what this investigation is going to show. And so I'm for that. I think everybody is going to be for that.

But I will not tolerate, and I don't think anybody should, the castigating of this president, who's an honest man, trying to do a darn good job and is doing a good job for this country. And it really bothers me that my Democrat friends continue to try to harass him like they have and beat on him when he's doing a good job and then saying that the guy making these accusations is not a Democrat when he's given all that money to Democrats.

HANNITY: We've got to run.

NADLER: The Republicans didn't harass Bill Clinton.

BURTON: He lied. Clinton lied all over the place.

HANNITY: We've got to run.

NADLER: The head of 9-11 commission said he's withholding information.

HANNITY: Thank you both for being with us.

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