Bush interviewed in CIA leak probe
President joined by Jim Sharp, his personal attorney
From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush was interviewed Thursday morning by a special prosecutor investigating whether anyone in the administration disclosed the classified identity of a CIA officer, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters.
This is the first time Bush has been questioned in a criminal investigation involving his administration.
Bush was not under oath for the interview, which took place in the Oval Office for about an hour and 10 minutes and was conducted by Patrick Fitzgerald and "members of his team," according to the White House.
The president was joined by Jim Sharp, a personal attorney whom he retained for this case.
The White House would not say when the president hired Sharp, saying only that it was "recently."
Prosecutors are investigating whether federal law was violated in leaking the name of an undercover CIA operative to syndicated columnist and CNN contributor Robert Novak, who published her name in a 2003 column.
Novak attributed the information to administration sources, but he has refused to identify who told him the name, insisting his sources must remain confidential.
The operative is the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused Bush of making unfounded claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs in the 2003 State of the Union address in the run-up to war in Iraq.
Wilson visited Niger in early 2002 on behalf of the CIA to investigate a British report alleging that Iraq attempted to buy yellowcake -- uranium ore -- from Niger to develop nuclear weapons.
Wilson reported finding no evidence to support the allegation months before Bush made the speech.
Wilson has said he believes the White House leaked his wife's name in retaliation for his criticism of the administration.
"The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation," McClellan said.
"He was pleased to do his part to help the investigation move forward. No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the president of the United States and he has said on more than one occasion that if anyone inside or outside the government has information to help get to the bottom of this, they should help."
McClellan deferred to the investigators all questions about the substance of the questioning or whether Bush was explicitly told he was not the target of the probe.
He said that after the interview, the the president told him he was "glad to do it."
A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee took a dimmer view of the administration's cooperation with the probe.
"White House claims that they are fully cooperating with this investigation seem at odds with the president feeling the need to hire a private lawyer," said spokesman Jano Cabrera.
"Whether his private lawyer was by his side or not, we hope that Bush remembered today how his father felt about those who would expose the names of our intelligence agents -- namely that those would do so were the most insidious of traitors."
Cabrera was referring a comment made once by the first President Bush who criticized people who identify intelligence agents.
Vice President Dick Cheney was interviewed by investigators earlier this month.
Several members of the president's staff have appeared before the grand jury on this matter.