NY Times
Aide to Cheney Appears Likely to Be Indicted; Rove Under Scr
Fri Oct 28, 2005 00:05

Aide to Cheney Appears Likely to Be Indicted; Rove Under Scrutiny
Published: October 28, 2005
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 - Associates of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, expected an indictment on Friday charging him with making false statements to the grand jury in the C.I.A. leak inquiry, lawyers in the case said Thursday.

Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, would not be charged on Friday, but would remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case said. As a result, they said, the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, was likely to extend the term of the federal grand jury beyond its scheduled expiration on Friday.

As rumors coursed through the capital, Mr. Fitzgerald gave no public signal of how he intended to proceed, further intensifying the anxiety that has gripped the White House and left partisans on both sides of the political aisle holding their breath.

Mr. Fitzgerald's preparations for a Friday announcement were shrouded in secrecy, but advanced amid a flurry of behind-the-scenes discussions that left open the possibility of last-minute surprises. As the clock ticked down on the grand jury, people involved in the case did not rule out the disclosure of previously unknown aspects of the case.

White House officials said their presumption was that Mr. Libby would resign if indicted, and he and Mr. Rove took steps to expand their legal teams in preparation for a possible court battle.

Among the many unresolved mysteries is whether anyone in addition to Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove might be charged and in particular whether Mr. Fitzgerald would name the source who first provided the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer to Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist. Mr. Novak identified the officer in a column published July 14, 2003.

The investigation seemed to be taking an unexpected path after nearly two years in which Mr. Fitzgerald brought more than a dozen current and former administration officials before the grand jury and interviewed Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney to determine how the identity of the officer, Valerie Plame Wilson, became public.

Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

Mr. Fitzgerald has examined whether the leak of Ms. Wilson's identity was part of an effort by the administration to respond to criticism of the White House by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat. After traveling to Africa in 2002 on a C.I.A.-sponsored mission to look into claims that Iraq had sought to acquire material there for its nuclear weapons program, Mr. Wilson wrote in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, that the White House had "twisted" the intelligence it used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

At the White House, the withdrawal of Harriet E. Miers as the president's nominee to the Supreme Court dominated the day. Still, officials waited anxiously for word about developments in the investigation, which has the potential to shape the remainder of Mr. Bush's second term.

Officials said that Mr. Bush, who traveled to Florida on Thursday to view the damage from Hurricane Wilma, would keep to his planned schedule on Friday, including a speech on terrorism in Norfolk, Va., if indictments were announced.

Administration officials said that the White House would seek to keep as low a profile as possible if indictments were issued; Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, did not schedule a briefing for Friday, and Mr. Bush plans to leave in the afternoon for a weekend at Camp David.

With so much about the outcome of the case still in doubt, political strategists in Washington spent the day gaming out the implications of different endings.

People in each political party said indictments of both Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove would be a major blow to the administration at a time when it is struggling across many fronts.

Should Mr. Rove eventually avoid indictment, the political implications would be less severe, they said. Mr. Rove is Mr. Bush's closest and most trusted adviser, and any charges would not only bring the case that much closer to the Oval Office, but also deprive the administration of its primary strategist and big-picture thinker at a time when it is struggling to get back on track.

Yet any indictment would leave the White House facing the prospect of a drawn-out legal proceeding that is likely to touch on what Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney knew about the effort to deal with Mr. Wilson's criticism, as well as keeping a spotlight on the shortcomings in administration prewar intelligence about Iraq's weapons.

Mr. Fitzgerald has been closely examining the truthfulness of accounts given by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby about their conversations with reporters about Ms. Wilson. As early as February 2004, two months after he was appointed, Mr. Fitzgerald obtained a specific written authorization from James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who appointed him, permitting him to investigate efforts to mislead the inquiry.

The prosecutor has inquired how Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove first learned that Ms. Wilson was employed at the C.I.A. and whether the discussions were part of a deliberate effort to undermine the credibility of her husband, according to lawyers in the case. The lawyers declined to be named, citing Mr. Fitzgerald's request not to discuss the case.

Allies of Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have hoped that Mr. Fitzgerald could be convinced that any misstatements were inadvertent and not intended to conceal their actions from prosecutors.

In addition, they have hoped that the prosecutor would conclude it would be difficult to convince a jury that Mr. Rove or Mr. Libby had a clear-cut motive to misinform the grand jury. Lawyers for the two men declined to comment on their legal status.

In Mr. Rove's case, the prosecutor appears to have focused on two conversations that Mr. Rove had with reporters. The first, on July 9, 2003, was with Mr. Novak. Mr. Rove told the grand jury that Mr. Novak mentioned Ms. Wilson and that was the first time he had heard Ms. Wilson's name.

Mr. Rove's second conversation took place on July 11, 2003, with Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine. Earlier this year, Mr. Cooper wrote that Mr. Rove did not name Ms. Wilson but told him that she worked at the C.I.A. and had been responsible for sending her husband to Africa.

In his first sessions with prosecutors, Mr. Rove did not disclose his phone conversation with Mr. Cooper, the lawyers said, though he disclosed from the start his conversation with Mr. Novak. The lawyers added that Mr. Rove did not recall the conversation with Mr. Cooper until the discovery of an e-mail note about the conversation that he had sent to Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser. But Mr. Fitzgerald has been skeptical about the omission, the lawyers said.

In Mr. Libby's case, Mr. Fitzgerald has focused on his statements about how he first learned of Ms. Wilson's identity. Early in the investigation, Mr. Libby turned over notes of a meeting with Mr. Cheney in June 2003 that indicated the vice president had told him about Ms. Wilson, the lawyers said.

But Mr. Libby told the grand jury that he learned of Ms. Wilson from reporters, lawyers involved in the case said. Reporters who are known to have talked to Mr. Libby have said that they did not provide him the name, could not recall what had been said or had discussed unrelated subjects.


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