In a memo sent to all White House aides on Friday, the counsel’s office said it will hold briefings next week on ethics, with a particular focus on the rules governing the handling of classified information. Attendance is mandatory for anyone holding any level of security clearance.
“There will be no exceptions,” the memo said. The week after, the counsel’s office is holding sessions on general ethical conduct for the rest of the staff.
“The president has made clear his expectation that each member of his Executive Office of the President (EOP) Staff adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of all rules governing ethical conduct for EOP Staff,” the memo said.
After a two-year investigation, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was indicted last week, charged with lying to investigators and the grand jury about leaking the CIA status of Valerie Plame, who was a covert officer.
Plame’s CIA status was exposed in July 2003 after her husband, former US ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the administration of twisting intelligence before the war to exaggerate the Iraqi threat from weapons of mass destruction.
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is said to be still considering whether Karl Rove, Bush’s top political adviser, illegally misled investigators. Libby has resigned and Rove remains on the job.
The case has had some Republicans inside and outside the White House grumbling that Bush needs to take more aggressive steps to confront the fallout, which has included a drop in the American public’s confidence in the president’s credibility.