|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Bush calls DeLay innocent, stands by Cheney and Rove
- Jim VandeHei, Washington Post
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Washington -- President Bush said Wednesday that he is confident that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is innocent of money-laundering charges, and he offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations or by rumors of fading clout inside the White House.
In an interview with Fox News, Bush said he hopes DeLay, a fellow Texas Republican, will be cleared of charges that he illegally steered corporate money into campaigns for the Texas Legislature and will reclaim his powerful leadership position in Congress.
"I hope that he will, 'cause I like him, and plus, when he's over there, we get our votes through the House," Bush told Fox News' Brit Hume.
DeLay was forced to step down as majority leader after he was indicted in the fundraising case, and he is seeking a quick trial in hopes of returning to power early next year.
Bush has refused to speak about the CIA leak investigation or the impending trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former vice presidential chief of staff who was indicted in the case. But he said he believes that DeLay is not guilty -- weeks before his trial is expected to begin. It is highly unusual for a president to express an opinion about a pending legal case.
In the wide-ranging interview, Bush defended the Republican Party against charges of pervasive unethical behavior after the resignation of Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Del Mar (San Diego County), for taking bribes, and the unfolding money-for-favors scandal centered on former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
"Well, first of all, I feel Duke Cunningham was wrong and should be punished for what he did," Bush said. "And I think that anybody who does what he did should be punished, Republican or Democrat. Secondly, the Abramoff -- I'm not, frankly, all that familiar with a lot that's going on over at Capitol Hill, but it seems like to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties."
According to campaign finance reports, Abramoff and his clients contributed substantially more money to Republicans than to Democrats.
Bush also defended three of the most powerful men in the White House, all of whom have been the subject of speculation that they are losing clout with the president: Vice President Dick Cheney, senior adviser Karl Rove and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Bush said his relationship with Cheney is better than ever, despite Libby's recent indictment and criticism of the Iraq and terrorism policies that were championed by the vice president.
"The truth of the matter is that our relationship hasn't changed hardly at all," Bush said. "I'd say the relationship -- it's only gotten better. We didn't know each other that well when we first came to Washington, D.C., and my respect for him has grown immensely."
The same goes for Rove, Bush said. Rove remains under investigation in the CIA leak case, and some aides have complained that he lied to the president and White House spokesman Scott McClellan about his role.
"We're still as close as we've ever been," Bush said. "You know, when we look back at the presidency and my time in politics, no question that Karl had a lot to do with me getting here, and I value his friendship. We're very close."
Bush dismissed rumors that Rumsfeld will leave his post early next year. Asked if Rumsfeld will stay through the second term, Bush said: "Well, end of my term is a long time, but I tell you, he's done a heck of a good job, and I have no intention of changing him."
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