It looks like he was prepared for this charge, as the AP's Martin Crutsinger reports:
O'Neill said, "The truth is, I didn't take any documents at all."So I guess this means the administration's supporters will have to return to their old line of attack -- he's a disgruntled employee who was fired.
Interviewed on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday, O'Neill said he had asked the Treasury Department's chief legal counsel "to have the documents that are OK for me to have" for use in the book entitled, "The Price of Loyalty."
Asked if he thought the internal Treasury probe was a get-even move by the administration, O'Neill replied, "I don't think so. If I were secretary of the treasury and these circumstances occurred, I would have asked the inspector general to look into it." But O'Neill also said he thinks the questions could have been more readily answered if top Treasury officials had talked to the agency's legal counsel.
"I'm surprised that he didn't call the chief legal counsel," O'Neill said of his successor, Treasury Secretary John Snow.
O'Neill said a cover page for the documents might have suggested they were classified material but said that the legal counsel's office "sent me a couple CDs, which I never opened." He said he gave them to former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind, the book's author.
"I don't think there is anything that is classified in those 19,000 documents," O'Neill said Tuesday, predicting the Treasury investigation would show that the Treasury employees who collected the materials for him had followed the law.
Of course, he was disgruntled because he thought the second round of tax cuts were wrong and motivated by politics rather than economics. That's a pretty important concern of a Treasury Secretary, eh?
Update: I just watched Ed Gillespie, Chair of the RNC, appear with Terry McAuliffe, chair of the DNC, on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. The high profile of these individuals suggests that this is a big story.
Blitzer asked Gillespie why it took almost 3 months for the government to launch an investigation of the leaked CIA agent's name, but only 1 day to open an investigation of O'Neill. He also said this seemed to be pretty important. O'Neill served in 3 Republican administrations and is a friend of the Vice President.
The RNC's Gillespie said that the Treasury Department Inspector General made the call and he is a career bureaucrat operating non-politically. Plus, the White House did not make the call on the investigation of the CIA agent leak. Gillespie more-or-less repeated the new frame, that O'Neill was a disgruntled former employee. Some Republicans are now claiming he was bad at his job.
We know, by the way, that the CIA wanted an investigation of its leak many weeks before one was actually launched. Supposedly, however, the call was made by a career bureaucrat as well.