back to top

Republican Senators Flip-Flop On Leak Investigations

31 GOP Senators signed a letter calling for the White House to appoint an independent counsel on leaks. They didn't feel this way during the Valerie Plame affair, and in fact defended Karl Rove for his role in the episode.

Posted on

Senator Lindsey Graham and 30 other Republican senators signed a letter today calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate what they dubbed an "avalanche" of leaks from the White House.

But least five of the GOP Senators who signed the letter didn't always feel so strongly about getting a special prosecutor to investigate leaks, while strongly objecting to assuming leakers were guilty before an investigation was complete.

A review of past statements from the senators who signed the letter reveals several flip flops and inconsistent viewpoints.

In a 2003 interview with CNN, Senator Mitch McConnell said that a special prosecutor wasn't necessary in the Valerie Plame case because "you're most likely to get an unbiased investigation by career public integrity people than you are by some special counsel."

In another interview from that year, McConnell asserted that "the career professionals down at the Justice Department who are incorruptible and not subject to being manipulated by either side," should be in charge.

Senators Saxby Chambliss and John Cornyn — who also signed the letter — strongly resisted the notion of appointing a special prosecutor during the Plame affair, with Cornyn calling it a "lousy idea."

Over the past three weeks, that's exactly what the Obama administration has done in the two leak investigations, appointing two career federal prosecutors from the Department of Justice to oversee the investigations.

In the letter, the GOP senators also preemptively pointed the finger at Tom Donilon, President Obama's national security advisor, citing a New York Times book review that suggests he was a key source in the recent David Sanger book.

However, the letter's author, Lindsey Graham, strongly objected to the speculation that Karl Rove was behind the Plame leaks, telling CBS in 2005 that "there's no evidence that Karl Rove" leaked the CIA's operative name.

John McCain — another signatory to the letter who has led the charge on the Hill to pursue a leak investigation, calling for a non-binding resolution to appoint a special prosecutor — defended Rove as well, telling MSNBC at the time that "Karl Rove has stated that he did not do anything wrong...I take him at his word.”

Democrats charge that the GOP senators have opened themselves to charges of hypocrisy in investigation that is increasingly taking on partisan tones: the letter today noted that both Joe Biden and Obama had previously called for a special counsel to investigate the Valerie Plame case, using the president and vice president's previous statements as examples to establish "precedent of asking for a neutral investigation."

Contact Michael Hastings at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.