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Gergen: 'There's a lot more to know' in CIA leak case

Story Highlights

• President Bush says he's "sad" about conviction in CIA leak trial
• Ex-adviser to presidents wonders why I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby didn't take the stand
• David Gergen says the trial has damaged GOP prospects for 2008 elections
• Libby, ex-vice presidential aide, found guilty of perjury in probe of CIA leak
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A top White House aide from past administrations speculates that some of the facts in the CIA leak case may never come to light, even with the conclusion of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's perjury trial.

"What I do think is clear is that there's a lot more to know," White House veteran David Gergen said Tuesday. "And there had to be a reason why the defense attorney did not put Scooter Libby and the vice president on the stand."

Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted Tuesday of lying and obstructing an investigation into the Bush administration's actions leading into the Iraq war. (Full story)

"Perhaps [defense attorney] Ted Wells never even knew why Scooter Libby didn't want to go on the stand. But clearly, there's something behind this case," Gergen, a former adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, told CNN's "Larry King Live."

"Why would Scooter Libby lie, as the jury determined? Why would he not take the stand? Why would the vice president not take the stand? There's clearly something they do not wish to discuss. And I don't know what that is."

Appearing with Gergen, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, "It will be interesting to see if the White House can sustain not talking about this through the appeals process."

Libby's attorneys have vowed to seek a new trial, or, failing that, to appeal the jury's verdict.

"I would be advising the White House to get out there and find some way to talk about this in enough detail to answer some of those questions that David brings up that are still hanging out there," added McClellan, a former spokesman for the Bush administration.

Gergen also said he expected political fallout from the verdict.

"This is an administration that has been mostly free of scandal over the last six years and now they have the taint that they cannot erase," he said. "It has damaged this White House, and I think it's damaged the Republican prospects for 2008 in taking the White House and keeping it."

Asked Wednesday whether the conviction broke his promise to bring honor back to the White House, President Bush declined to answer.

"This is an ongoing legal matter. ... At this time it's inappropriate for me or the administration to be issuing comments on this serious matter," Bush said in an interview with CNN en Espaņol. (Watch Bush express sadness over the verdict Video)

Bush said he was "sad" about Libby's conviction, but he said the jury's decision must be respected.

"I was sad for a man who had worked in my administration and particularly sad for his family," Bush said.

The president and other members of his administration had vowed that anyone found to be involved in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame would no longer work in the White House.

Case began with leak of CIA operative's identity

Federal officials began an investigation in December 2003 into how Plame's identity was divulged to reporters in the weeks before Robert Novak named her in a July 14, 2003, column. Libby was not charged with the leak itself.

Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, questioned part of the administration's basis for invading Iraq in a July 6, 2003, op-ed piece for The New York Times.

Prosecutors argued Libby lied about how he learned of Plame's CIA role to protect his job. Her role, they said, was deliberately released in retribution for her husband's report.

Libby's attorneys contended their client suffered from a poor memory. They argued that Libby's overwhelming workload, including urgent national security matters, could have caused discrepancies in what he told investigators.

Libby initially told investigators he learned about Plame from NBC's Tim Russert. He later said he got the information from Cheney a month before a phone conversation with Russert but forgot about it. Russert testified that the two didn't discuss Plame in that conversation.

Wilson says 'explanation' owed

Wilson, like Gergen and McClellan, said Tuesday he believed there was information that had not come out in Libby's trial.

"I think, frankly, now that the trial is over, the president and the vice president owe the American people an explanation of what they knew and what they did or what they didn't do," Wilson told King. (Watch Wilson say Bush and Cheney should tell all Video)

"I think the vice president has been hiding behind an ongoing trial and an ongoing investigation for long enough," Wilson said. "I think until such time as he comes out and speaks and sets the record straight, there is still going to be this cloud over him."

In a written statement, Cheney said he was "disappointed with the verdict."

"I am saddened for Scooter and his family. As I have said before, Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service," said Cheney, adding he would have no further comment until the legal proceedings' conclusion.

White House spokesman Tony Snow denied Wednesday that the Libby case had tainted Cheney in any way, as some White House critics have suggested.

"The vice president remains a trusted aide. The vice president is somebody on whose counsel the president depends," Snow said. "Any idea that the vice president has been in some way diminished, no."

Wilson and Plame have filed a lawsuit against Libby, Cheney, Bush political adviser Karl Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Wilson told reporters in a teleconference call Tuesday that the verdict won't stop that legal action.

Libby, 56, faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. A hearing on a presentencing report is scheduled for June 5.


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I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby leaves a Washington courthouse Tuesday after being convicted in the CIA leak case.

LIBBY VERDICT

The jury's verdict in the case against I. Lewis "Scooter " Libby:

Guilty: Obstruction of justice for intentionally deceiving a grand jury investigating the exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.

Guilty: Making a false statement for lying to FBI agents about a conversation with NBC newsman Tim Russert.

Guilty: Perjury for lying in court about his conversation with Russert.

Guilty: Perjury for lying in court about conversations with other reporters.

Not guilty: Making a false statement regarding a conversation he had with former Time magazine writer Matt Cooper.

SPECIAL REPORT

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