(Reuters)Lawyers see charges this week in CIA-leak caseSun Oct 23, 2005 23:3126.96.36.199
Lawyers see charges this week in CIA-leak case
By Adam Entous | October 23, 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald appears to be laying the groundwork for indictments this week over the outing of a covert CIA operative, including possible charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, lawyers and other sources involved in case said on Sunday.
In a preview of how Republicans would counter charges against top administration officials by Fitzgerald, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas brushed aside an indictment for perjury -- rather than for the underlying crime of outing a covert operative -- as a "technicality."
Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" she suggested Fitzgerald may merely be trying to show that "two years' of investigation was not a waste of time and dollars."
Fitzgerald's investigation has focused largely on Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser, and Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and their conversations about CIA operative Valerie Plame with reporters in June and July of 2003.
Fitzgerald is expected to give final notice to officials facing charges as early as Monday and may convene the grand jury on Tuesday, a day earlier than usual, to deliver a summary of the case and ask for approval of the possible indictments, legal sources said. The grand jury is to expire on Friday unless Fitzgerald extends it.
Fitzgerald could still determine that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges, but the lawyers said that appeared increasingly unlikely.
The White House initially denied that Rove and Libby were involved in any way in the leak.
Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia joined Democrats in saying that Rove and Libby should step down if indicted. "I think they will step down if they're indicted ... I do think that's appropriate," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to testify about her conversations with Libby, is also facing calls from colleagues to leave the newspaper because of her involvement in the case.
Plame's identity was leaked to the media after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, challenged the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Asked whether he was taking part in a final round of discussions with the prosecutor's office, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said: "I'm just not going to comment on any possible interactions with Fitzgerald."
Lawyers involved in the case said Fitzgerald has been focusing on whether Rove, Libby and others may have tried to conceal their involvement from investigators.
While Fitzgerald could still charge administration officials with knowingly revealing Plame's identity, the lawyers said he appeared more likely to seek charges for easier-to-prove crimes such as making false statements, obstruction of justice and disclosing classified information. Fitzgerald could also bring a broad conspiracy charge.
Fitzgerald has sent several signals in recent days that he is likely to bring indictments in the case, lawyers say.
One of the first postings on a new official Web site for the investigation was a February 6, 2004, letter giving Fitzgerald explicit authority to investigate and prosecute "federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, your investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses." The Web site was available at www.usdoj.gov/usao/iln/osc .
Indictments against top officials would be a severe blow to an administration already at a low point in public opinion, and would put a spotlight on aggressive tactics used by the White House to counter critics of its Iraq policy.
Legal sources said Rove could be in legal jeopardy for initially not telling the grand jury he talked to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Plame.
Libby could be open to false statement and obstruction charges because of contradictions between his testimony and that of Miller and other journalists.
Miller has also come under increasingly sharp criticism by editors and reporters in the pages of her own newspaper over her conduct. Times Ombudsman Byron Calame wrote Sunday: "the problems facing her inside and outside the newsroom will make it difficult for her to return to the paper as a reporter."
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