WASHINGTON – The White House projected a business-as-usual air Saturday, though a Tuesday deadline to turn over documents in a leak investigation hung over nearly 2,000 staff members.
Interviews with nearly a dozen White House officials found no sense of urgency among the few workers in the office on a weekend.
All White House staffers face an order from President Bush's counsel to come forward by 5 p.m. Tuesday with any documents that might help the investigation into the leak of an undercover CIA (search) officer's identity.
Employees were required to sign a memo certifying either that they have produced relevant documents or have no such documents. The order covers materials such as electronic records, telephone logs, correspondence, computer records, notes and calendar entries.
Late into Friday night, the White House press office sifted through thousands of phone messages dating back to February 2002 and beyond, seeking potential contacts between administration officials and journalists who were the subject of the memo from White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales (search): syndicated columnist Robert Novak (search); Newsday's Washington bureau chief, Timothy M. Phelps; and Knut Royce, a Newsday staff writer.
Investigators are trying to determine who leaked to the three journalists the identity of Valerie Plame (search), a CIA operations officer who has served overseas. She is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who publicly accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq.
The news leak that exposed her identity also exposed the name of the CIA front company she used as a cover.
The company's identity appears in Federal Election Commission (search) records because the CIA operative, using her married name Valerie E. Wilson, contributed $1,000 to Al Gore's presidential primary campaign in 1999. Her husband contributed to both the Bush and Gore presidential campaigns.
The company that appears in FEC records, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, had been a CIA front for Plame, according to The Washington Post. That account was confirmed Saturday, only on condition of anonymity, by an official who recently left the government.
The arduous work of poring through phone logs turned up a few messages from the three journalists.
"We're just double-checking our records because the Department of Justice requested it and because the president made clear he wants to cooperate fully," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
The effort did not resume Saturday.
McClellan firmly ruled out any involvement in the leak by Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Libby did not provide the information, know who did and does not condone it, said McClellan said. He condemned "false, unsubstantiated accusations" that have been published in the news media about Libby's role.
Most people in the White House have no relevant documents and plan to simply sign Gonzales' directive saying so, several officials said.
Others, such as the White House Office of Political Affairs, virtually completed scouring their records Friday, though it was not clear what the search had produced. Still others planned to wait until Monday to complete the process.
The upper West Wing offices of Bush's top aides was described as hectic Friday, but quiet on Saturday.
Some officials made jokes about the inquiry; others complained bitterly that it was being driven by Democrats eager to fan a White House scandal.
No White House official has received a subpoena or hired a lawyer, several said.