“I’m absolutely confident that the Justice Department can do a good job,” he said on a re-election fund-raising stop in Chicago.
“If somebody did leak classified information, I’d like to know it and we’ll take the appropriate action,” Bush said. “And this investigation is a good thing.”
Democratic leaders said Attorney General John Ashcroft was too close to the White House to conduct an impartial investigation. “We don’t have confidence in John Ashcroft … and we know without a doubt that somebody broke the federal law,” Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said, “If there ever was a case for the appointment of a special counsel, this is it.”
With pressure building, the Justice Department alerted the White House late Monday of the decision to move from a preliminary inquiry into a full investigation, a step rarely taken with complaints involving leaks of classified information.
The investigation is aimed at finding who leaked the name of the CIA operative, possibly in an attempt to punish the officer’s husband, who had accused the administration of manipulating intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq.
Most White House employees discovered the probe was under way when they turned on their computers and found an e-mail timed at 8:46 a.m. that said: PLEASE READ: Important Message From Counsel’s Office.
“You must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department’s investigation,” counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered. Officials indicated that would include telephone logs, e-mails, notes and other documents.
“I want to know the truth,” Bush said. Anyone with information, inside or outside the administration, should step forward, he said.