WASHINGTON – Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is lashing out at the Bush administration, claiming in his new book that the White House intentionally misled him concerning the CIA leak case and that President Bush was involved in his passing along "false information" to the press.
Public Affairs — the publisher of "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong With Washington" — released on its Web site a three-paragraph excerpt of McClellan's book, which is due to be released in April.
The book highlights the contentious period in 2003 when McClellan stood by top White House advisers, including I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby — who since has been convicted on obstruction charges and had his prison sentence commuted by Bush — and Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, who has since left the administration.
The CIA Leak case gripped Washington after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson leveled charges in a July 2003 New York Times column that a key item in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address — that Iraq was seeking to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger — was not true.
Soon after, syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote a piece in which he identified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA operative, thus opening the floodgates of an inquiry focusing on whether the Bush administration retaliated against Wilson and Plame by uncovering her secret identity.
The book excerpt gives no details about the president or the vice president's alleged involvement, but it names five top officials McClellan says allowed him mislead the public.
"I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby," McClellan wrote.
"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."
At the time, the president's chief of staff was Andy Card.
McClellan also writes he felt his trust was breeched.
"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."
In an March interview with CNN's Larry King, McClellan said that if he knew now what he knew then, he wouldn't have issued the reassurances to the press, and suggested that he believed that both he and the president were misled by advisers — indicating that while the president passed on bad information, he didn't do it knowingly.
King asked McClellan if he was lied to, and McClellan responded:
"Well, Larry, I said what I believed to be true at the time. It was also what the president believed to be true at the time based on assurances that we were both given. Knowing what I know today, I would have never said that back then."