SHOW: PAULA ZAHN NOW 20:00
HEADLINE: Interviews With Senator Tom Daschle, Senator Mitch McConnell; Media Providing Accurate Picture of Iraq?
GUESTS: Mitch McConnell, Tom Daschle, John Leo, Michael Wolff, Robert Shaw, Drew Pinsky, Lloyd Grove, Justin Webb
BYLINE: Jeffrey Toobin, Joe Klein, Paula Zahn
Calls have begun from Democrats for a special counsel investigation into who blew the cover of a CIA operative. Do infertile couples who turn to science for the chance at parenthood put the health of their babies at risk? Is the media dwelling on the negative and distorting the reality of what's going on in Iraq?
ZAHN: Now the view from the other side of the aisle.
Joining us from Washington tonight is Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.
Welcome to you as well, Senator McConnell.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Good evening, Paula.
ZAHN: First of all, Senator, do you think CIA operative Valerie Plame was outed on purpose?
MCCONNELL: That's why we're having an investigation.
I did listen with interest to Tom Daschle's call for an independent counsel. I do remember that he, along with all the rest of us, let the independent statue statute expire back in 1999, because we thought it had not worked properly. And they now seem to be reversing themselves, since there's a Republican in the White House instead of a Democrat.
The important thing to remember here is that career Justice Department employees, not political appointees, are carrying out this investigation. I think you can make a very strong argument, Paula, that you're most likely to get an unbiased investigation by career public integrity people than you are by some special counsel appointed. So let's let the process go forward.
These career employees are going to pursue this investigation. The president has said, the leaders -- the president's press secretary has said, everybody has said, have the investigation, cooperate with the investigation. The White House counsel said to everyone at the White House, cooperate with the investigation. Nobody's trying to cover up anything. And I think this is the best way to pursue the investigation in a fair and unbiased way.
ZAHN: Senator McConnell, I know you say you don't know whether Ms. Plame was outed on purpose, but do you think it is a coincidence that, according to "The Washington Post," at least six journalists were leaked the same information, not only about her identity, but about what she did at the CIA?
MCCONNELL: That's exactly the kind of evidence these career professionals ought to look at in pursuing their investigation.
Obviously, there are enough allegations here to warrant the investigation. That's why the investigation is going forward. And it's going forward with incorruptible career professionals at the Justice Department, who are not going to be influenced by Tom Daschle or John Ashcroft. And I think we can have great confidence that they'll do this job in exactly the right way.
ZAHN: Do you think the CIA has been compromised by the release of this information?
MCCONNELL: I think we need to have the investigation.
I think it's noteworthy that the Democrats today, Paula, were offering an amendment calling for a special counsel on a bill pending on the floor about the District of Columbia. The timing ought to raise some suspicion that this is all about presidential politics. It's a lot better for this investigation to be handled by the career professionals. They're not in it for any political gain.
The investigation is under way. The president has said to everyone in the White House, you must cooperate. I think it's being handled in exactly the right way and we ought to let the investigation go forward.
ZAHN: But in all due respect to what you're saying, sir, you still didn't answer the question. Are you at all troubled by the fact that this operative's name is now public? Does it compromise national security in any way, now that the CIA has been penetrated in some way?
MCCONNELL: Well, everyone is troubled. That's why there's an investigation under way.
Clearly, the allegations raise enough suspicion that it warrants an investigation. But the reason we have investigations is to find out what happened. And I think we ought to take a deep breath and let the professional career people pursue this investigation, because they're incorruptible. They are not going to be influenced by either side. And they'll get to the bottom of it, if it's possible to get to the bottom of it.
ZAHN: Well, let me ask you this. Senator -- excuse -- the first President Bush, President Bush Sr., at a time when a building was named in his honor at Langley basically said, if the methods and practices of the CIA are compromised in any way, that would almost amount to a traitorous act. Do you see it that way?
MCCONNELL: Well, we certainly don't want any CIA agents compromised. And if the law does apply to this particular individual, and if they can find who did it, the full extent of the law ought to be brought down upon them. No one is suggesting here that this is not a potentially serious offense.
And if you can catch those who did it, they ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
ZAHN: What are the chances of that happening, based on what you know tonight, Senator McConnell?
MCCONNELL: I have a lot of confidence in the career professionals down at the Justice Department. I know that they are not involved in politics. And you can count on them to do the right thing for the country.
ZAHN: Senator McConnell, thank you for your perspective this evening. We appreciate it so much.
MCCONNELL: Thank you.