Congressional Democrats plan to continue pressing the White House for an independent investigation into how an undercover CIA officer's identity was revealed, and will hold closed-door talks with the officer's husband to further their efforts.
Democratic leaders condemned the disclosure of the name of the CIA officer, who is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent critic of Bush's Iraq policy.
Wilson himself plans to talk to the House Democrats in their weekly caucus meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday, and has asked to speak to reporters as well afterward, Democratic officials said.
Wilson has blamed the White House political operation and presidential adviser Karl Rove for his wife's name being made public. While he doesn't think Rove himself leaked the name, "I thought that it came from the White House, and Karl Rove was the personification of the White House political operation," Wilson said Monday.
Democrats said the leaker could have endangered several lives, and that a special investigator is the only way to ferret out the problem.
"Those who revealed the name of the CIA officer have neither an appreciation of, nor a respect for, the dangerous circumstances in which clandestine officers often live and work," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said.
Some Republicans said the Democrats were just playing politics.
"Surprise, surprise, they are calling for a special counsel. My goodness," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "It must be in their political handbook, their campaign handbook."
The Justice Department is trying to find out who leaked the name of the CIA operative, possibly in an attempt to punish Wilson, who had accused the administration of manipulating intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq.
Democrats want Attorney General John Ashcroft to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor, saying Ashcroft is too close to the White House to be objective.
Republicans expressed confidence in the Justice Department's investigation.
"The FBI will be doing the legwork and as a result I think we will find out what happened here and, clearly, if the allegations are correct, the crime has occurred, then it should be prosecuted," said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.
Ashcroft has not ruled out appointing a special counsel, a senior law enforcement official said.
DeLay said a special counsel makes no sense.
"You have special counsels if you think the administration is trying to cover up or obstruct justice or is not interested in this issue," DeLay said. "It is quite obvious to me that the White House and the administration are very upset about this issue."
Democrats said the GOP would be acting differently if there was a Democrat like former President Clinton in the White House.
"Republicans would asserting that the Clinton administration had no concern for the security of our nation and the safety of our security personnel," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Instead, "there are no hearings scheduled, no subpoenas on the street, no Republicans asserting that this is a serious issue."