WASHINGTON – The revelation that White House adviser Karl Rove (search) discussed a CIA employee with a member of the press has touched off a round of speculation, accusation and interrogation that has some reporters trying to lock down the Bush administration into taking action against Rove.
But the White House was not responding on Monday, with aides refusing to comment on any questions related to the special prosecutor's investigation into the alleged leak of the CIA operative's name and Rove's role.
Click in the box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Carl Cameron.
"Those overseeing the investigation expressed a preference to us that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it's ongoing," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Rove is on the hot seat after his lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed this weekend that in July 2003 Rove spoke to Time magazine's Matt Cooper (search) about former Ambassador Joe Wilson's (search) trip to Niger to investigate intelligence claims that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium, used for making nuclear weapons, from that African nation. Wilson returned without such evidence, and subsequently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times criticizing the administration for manipulating intelligence to justify an invasion of Iraq.
Wilson claimed that his trip was authorized by Vice President Dick Cheney and then-CIA Director George Tenet.
According to Luskin, Rove told Cooper that Cheney and Tenet were not involved in planning Wilson's trip but that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame (search), "apparently works" at the CIA.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller (search) went to jail last week for refusing to give up her source for the story. Cooper avoided jail after he said the source of his story told Cooper that he could disclose the source's identity. Word that it was Rove, revealed in e-mails that Time turned over to investigators, prompted a media frenzy at the White House.
"Did Karl Rove commit a crime?" asked one reporter.
Others appeared to have already decided Rove's guilt.
"Now that Rove has been essentially caught red-handed peddling that information, all of a sudden you have respect for the criminal investigation?" ABC correspondent Terry Moran asked McClellan.
Rove's lawyer insists Rove did not know or disclose Plame's name at the time or that she worked undercover. Such a disclosure is illegal.
"A fair-minded reading of Cooper's e-mail is that Rove was trying to discourage Time magazine from circulating false allegations about Cheney, not trying to encourage them by saying anything about Wilson or his wife." Luskin said.
When the leak investigation began, McClellan publicly denied allegations of Rove's involvement.
"I've said that it's not true and I have spoken with Karl Rove," McClellan said.
Early in the probe, President Bush said those responsible would be held accountable.
"If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is and if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of," Bush said in September 2003.
Bush did not use the word "fired" to describe the fate of the leaker, but some reporters and Democrats seem to expect that response.
"The White House promised if anyone was involved in the Valerie Plame affair, they would no longer be in this administration, his administration. I trust they will follow through on this pledge," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Democrats have already begun to call for Rove's scalp. Some want him fired, others want him suspended and his security clearances revoked. Still others want Rove to testify in congressional hearings.
"He's not getting away with this one," Democratic strategist Bob Beckel told FOX News.
"There can be no gray area here. Regardless of how he phrased it, regardless of how much detail he provided, he revealed the identity of an undercover CIA agent. What Mr. Rove did is reprehensible. Putting the life of an undercover CIA agent in jeopardy can not be tolerated. He clearly deserves his pink slip," Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
But former Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Gilmore told FOX News that he didn't think Rove would face much heat.
"Rove has said that he didn't break the law, it's a matter that's under investigation ... I think you just have to let the hand play out, I think he's going to be okay," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.