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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript

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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript
Monday, July 18, 2005


BROWN: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I'm Campbell Brown, sitting in for Chris Matthews.

Lawmakers on the Hill are lining up on either side of the CIA leak controversy and taking strong positions on the man at the eye of the storm, the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove.

Congressman Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, says criticism of Karl Rove is a personal attack and politically motivated. Congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat of Massachusetts, has made an official inquiry into whether the Constitution allows Congress to start impeachment proceedings against a high-ranking administration staffer like Karl Rove.

Welcome to both of you.


BROWN: So, Congressman Frank, impeachment proceedings? Are we not getting a little out in front of this story?

FRANK: No. It is not the impeachment now. By the way, during the Clinton impeachment, the Republicans kept saying, remember, impeachment does not mean the end of the process. It is the beginning.

But here's my problem. I must honestly say, I do not trust the president to do an independent investigation here. And that's where...


BROWN: It's not the president. There's a special prosecutor.

FRANK: Yes. But it is still also the president, because I don't think being convicted of a crime or to be the only-not being convicted of a crime or to be the only qualification for being deputy chief of staff.

Remember, one thing has happened to Karl Rove since he leaked the name

· or of the identity of the CIA agent, not the name, but the identity. He got promoted to deputy chief of staff. The president has said, for example, he doesn't know exactly what happened. Well, if somebody worked for me and was accused of what Karl Rove has clearly been accused of, I would know what happened, because I would ask him.

And the president's reluctance to in fact find out from Karl Rove what happened makes me think that we cannot rely on the president himself to do this. And so, yes, there is a prosecutor. But I don't think being convicted of a crime is the only issue that ought to decide whether or not you become the deputy chief of staff for the president.

BROWN: But is there any way at this point, based on what we know, to know if Karl Rove intentionally or knew she was a covert agent when he leaked this...


FRANK: Well, we certainly know that he gave the name to Matthew Cooper. Matthew Cooper said, Karl Rove un-he did it on-Matthew Cooper said double super secret background.

Well, frankly, if I have something that I'm not embarrassed about, I don't go to double super secret, fragilisticexpidoceous background. And he identified Joe Wilson's wife as a CIA agent to Matt Cooper for the purpose of discrediting her. It is not simply something that he blurted out one day. He was using the fact that she was a CIA operative in a negative way.

I-that is already admitted. And, by the way, it is admitted. And the president said, oh, if anybody leaked the name, leaked the identity, because the identity is the key thing, I wouldn't have him around. So, we already know that Karl Rove disclosed the identity of a CIA operative to a reporter for political purposes. That's pretty serious.

REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA: Campbell, you know, I sit here and listen to my good friend, very intelligent member of Congress, colleague Barney Frank talk about impeachment.

I wish that the Democrats would put some effort into Social Security reform, illegal immigration's reform, tax reform, or some of the other real issues that are out there.

BROWN: Right.

KINGSTON: Here's a case where Karl Rove has absolutely, for 18 months now, cooperated with the special investigator.

And I want to say this, that a special investigator, Mr. Fitzgerald, can be very, very, very-in fact, biased in the opposite direction, not only fair, but biased. Case in point, our former colleague, Bob Barr, as a U.S. attorney, actually prosecuted Republican Congressman Pat Swindall when he was a member of the House. So, Republicans can fairly prosecute and investigate other Republicans. It is absurd to say that they can't.


BROWN: Why did Karl Rove in 2003 tell Scott McClellan he didn't have anything to do with this?

KINGSTON: Well, he may have said that. I don't have any knowledge of an internal information. I want to say that...


BROWN: Scott McClellan went on television and told all of us that he went to Karl Rove and asked him. And Karl Rove told him he was not involved.

KINGSTON: Well, here is what we know.

We know that the conversation between Matt Cooper and Karl Rove was initiated by Cooper. It was on welfare reform. And there was an, oh, by the way, and, apparently, that Rove had heard...

BROWN: Matt Cooper says that is not true, by the way. He says it wasn't about welfare reform.

KINGSTON: Well, remember, Rove has signed a full disclosure and said to Cooper, say everything that you know. I'm not going to hold you on this double secret standard, everything you can.

And what do we know about Wilson? We know Wilson said that the vice president sent him. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee said, that's not true. We know that Wilson said his wife had nothing to do with it. Again, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee said that is not true.

BROWN: Right.

KINGSTON: And then he said that it proved that there was no connection between Iraq and Niger when it comes to uranium. And we know that that was not true. And so, we have a very...


BROWN: But why-is it not-I mean, if this were the Clinton administration, would you not be outraged at the-at just what I'm talking about?


BROWN: We've gone through the Wilson issues prior to this. But this question of having the White House come out and publicly say in 2003, our guys were not involved in this. Now we know that is not the case.

KINGSTON: I think what the president has said-and he said it clearly. And he has said it in the past. But I think what he was saying today was sort of cleaning it up a little bit, saying that, if somebody has broken the law, they're going to be out of here.

And, you know, what I don't understand, people who did not support George Bush seem to be the ones most disappointed that he may be modifying -- which I don't think he is-but he may be modifying a statement of management principle that he had put out there on the public record.


BROWN: Modifying a management principle?

FRANK: I'm frustrated, because I've run out of fingers. I was trying to keep track of the number of diversions that Jack was trying to throw into here, Social Security and this one and that one.


BROWN: Well, OK. Let me give you this. Shouldn't Democrats be focused on something? I mean, that's a fair point.

FRANK: Yes. And you know what?


BROWN: Should Democrats really be pursuing on impeachment proceedings on this...


FRANK: Yes. No, I think we can do both.

The fact is, look, I have to say, did you invite me to do a show on Social Security? I'll make you a deal, Campbell.


FRANK: Invite me to do a show on Social Security. I would love to do it. But you haven't asked me.


FRANK: Excuse me, Jack. I didn't interrupt you.

I would love to say, put the money back. Stop taking money out of Social Security and put the money back and then there would be no need to cut it. I would be glad to talk about other issues as well. But you asked me to come and talk about this one. And the fact is, what Jack is doing, first of all, he say the president cleaned up his language. There, the president changed what he said.

He said he would fire Karl Rove or anybody who leaked. He found out that he leaked, so now he has got to change that. Karl Rove clearly disclosed the identity of a CIA agent for political purposes. Whether or not Joe Wilson was right or wrong about Niger is not the issue. The issue is the tactic of this right-wing political hit man, who became the deputy chief of staff of the White House, exercising great public power now, in addition to political strategy, using the identity of a CIA agent with a reporter who wasn't authorized to know that for political purposes.


BROWN: OK, 15 seconds.

KINGSTON: OK, let me say this.

The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, it's very clear that you have to knowingly and maliciously disclose the identification of a covert agent. Karl Rove did not do that. He did not jeopardize the mission. And what is interesting is that Barney wants to move this into the realm of politics, not national security. If this was a national security issue, it would be nonpartisan. This is a political issue.

BROWN: Well, didn't we learn in the last campaign that they're both intertwined to no end?

FRANK: We're talking about the electoral process. We're talking about the electoral process. And I get-I'm not-Karl Rove clearly did it maliciously. How knowing, I guess I'm ready-that is an open question.

KINGSTON: He did not do it maliciously, Barney. How can you say that?


BROWN: All right.

FRANK: Because he did it to discredit the guy.

KINGSTON: And he did not break the law. Real important.


BROWN: To be continued.

Thanks to both of you very much, Congressman Barney Frank and Congressman Jack Kingston. Appreciate it.


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