News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Top Rove Aide Reportedly Testified in Leak Case

By Richard B. Schmitt
Times Staff Writer

August 3, 2005

WASHINGTON — A top assistant to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove appeared last week before the federal grand jury investigating possible criminal wrongdoing by the Bush administration in the exposing of a CIA operative, a person familiar with the case said Tuesday.

The interest in Susan Ralston, Rove's longtime executive assistant, was unclear. But it comes as special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has been focusing on differences in witness statements made to federal agents and the grand jury investigating who revealed the identity of Valerie Plame.

Ralston's appearance Friday followed grand jury testimony last month by Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who recounted a conversation he had had with Rove in July 2003 in which Rove alluded to Plame without mentioning her by name. Cooper and columnist Robert Novak subsequently wrote stories identifying Plame after talking with administration officials.

It can be a violation of federal law to disclose the name of a covert CIA agent. Some people close to the case believe that Fitzgerald has begun focusing on whether other laws may have been broken, such as perjury, obstruction of justice or making "misstatements" to investigators.

Cooper's version of his conversation with Rove differed somewhat from the version that Rove offered investigators. Some people close to the case said that Fitzgerald was apparently seeking to resolve the differences.

But a person familiar with Cooper's testimony said that Ralston's name did not come up during the reporter's grand jury appearance. That indicates that Fitzgerald may be interested in her testimony for other reasons.

Ralston could not be reached for comment.

The prosecutor said earlier in court papers that his investigation was essentially complete as of October except for the testimony of Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Miller was jailed four weeks ago for refusing to cooperate, and remains incarcerated.

ABC News, which first disclosed Ralston's grand jury appearance, also reported that former Rove aide Israel "Izzy" Hernandez appeared before the grand jury Friday.

Hernandez is a longtime Bush aide who once worked as a travel assistant for him during Bush's run for governor of Texas in 1994. More recently, he was a deputy to Rove until being nominated this year to be an assistant secretary of Commerce.

A Commerce Department spokeswoman declined comment.

Fitzgerald, who has led the probe since December 2003, has not indicated when he intends to complete the investigation. The grand jury is set to expire in October, although it could be renewed.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, declined comment about Ralston's grand jury appearance. But he has said repeatedly that Rove has been assured he is not a target of the investigation, and that investigators have never challenged the veracity of any statements Rove has made to them over the course of the probe.

On Monday, President Bush said he had "complete confidence" in Rove, in his strongest defense yet of his longtime aide.


Post a Comment

<< Home