It was two years ago today that columnist Robert Novak outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative. For the last eight months, ambassador Joe Wilson has let the legal process play out, and waited while the grand jury did its work. But now, as the investigation heats up and gets closer to the White House, and as fingers point directly at Karl Rove, Wilson is ready to talk. “Today” national correspondent Jamie Gangel sat down for an exclusive interview with him. She asked Wilson whether he feels Karl Rove should be fired, and about his wife, who’s now back at the CIA, but Wilson started the interview by accusing the White House of a conspiracy. Here is Jamie Gangel's report.
Former ambassador Joe Wilson is on the attack:
Joe Wilson: What this thing has been for the past two years has been a cover-up, a cover-up of the web of lies that underpin the justification for going to war in Iraq. And to a certain extent, this cover-up is becoming unraveled. That's why you see the White House stonewalling.
And he is angry with the man he believes is behind that cover-up, the president’s top adviser, Karl Rove:
Jamie Gangel: It's now public that President Bush's top adviser, Karl Rove, did talk to at least one reporter about your wife. But Rove insists he never used her name and that he did not know that she was undercover. That he did not knowingly give her up.
Wilson: My wife's name is Wilson. It is Mrs. Joseph Wilson. It is Valerie Wilson. And he named her. He identified her. So that argument I don't believe stands the test of — stands the smell test.
Gangel: He says he also did not know that she was an undercover operative.
Wilson: I have no way of knowing. I've never spoken to Karl Rove. What I do know is that — Mr. Rove was talking to the press. And he was saying things like my wife is fair game. That is an outrage. It is abuse of power.
Gangel: What do you think of Karl Rove?
Wilson: Oh, I think he's — I'm really very saddened by all of this.
Gangel: What does your wife think of Karl Rove?
Wilson: She doesn't think very much of him either. I can assure you of that.
Throughout this ordeal, Valerie Plame Wilson has turned down all interview requests, and after a year’s leave of absence is back working at the CIA. Up until recently, a tongue-in-cheek photo in Vanity Fair was the only well-known image of her. But now the Wilsons have gone public, and new photos show what the former undercover spy looks like.
Gangel: What does she think of all this week?
Wilson: Well, you know, fortunately we have 5-year-old twins, and they occupy most of our free time. She's obviously nonplussed at this unwanted attention brought again on our family. But she's tough. You don't do the job that she has done for this country for 20 years without being mentally strong.
Gangel: Your critics have said that this is partisan on your part, that you are part of a Democratic attempt to discredit Iraq policy.
Wilson: That's simply not true.
Gangel: You are a Democrat?
Wilson: I exercise my rights as a citizen of this country to participate in the selection of my leaders. And I'm proud to do so. I did so in the election in 2000 by contributing not just to Al Gore's campaign but also to the Bush-Cheney campaign.
Gangel: Do you and your wife believe the perpetrators of this will ever be punished?
Wilson: We have great confidence in the institutions that have made our country great for 229 years. We would not have served our country for a collective 43 years if we did not believe in it. And yes, we do have — we do have confidence that justice will be done.
Gangel: Bottom line. What do you think the White House should do now?
Wilson: Well, I think the president should call in his senior advisers and say enough is enough. I want you to step forward and cooperate.
Gangel: Do you think even though what Karl Rove did may not have broken a law — do you think from what you know he should be fired?
Wilson: Absolutely. Absolutely. The president said in — in the middle of 2004 that he would fire anybody who was caught leaking in this matter. Karl Rove has now been caught. The president has said repeatedly, I am a man of my word. The president really should stand up and prove to the American people that his word is his bond and fire Karl Rove.
“Today” asked the White House if they wanted to respond to Wilson, but they said they stand with their “no comment” while this is under investigation.
The question now is what are the chances that Karl Rove will be fired, or resign. I think at this point no one knows, but Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank said this: "Washington is Karl Rove's world, we just live in it!" A lot of people in this town think that sums it up.