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

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Prosecutor Meets With Chief Judge - October 26, 2005 - The New York Sun - NY Newspaper

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 26, 2005

WASHINGTON—The federal prosecutor investigating the alleged involvement of White House officials in the leak of a CIA operative's identity spent most of the lunch hour today meeting with the chief judge of the federal district court in the nation's capital, Judge Thomas Hogan.

As reporters massed outside an elevator lobby leading to the grand jury rooms, the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, apparently slipped out a back exit to conduct the noontime meeting with Judge Hogan.

Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment as he and a colleague emerged from the judge's chambers just before 1 p.m.

The prosecutor's visit to the chief judge could signal that Mr. Fitzgerald is seeking to extend the term of the grand jury that has been investigating the leak. Judge Hogan would need to approve any extension to the grand jury's term, which was set to expire on Friday.

Prosecutors involved in the politically-sensitive probe met with grand jurors for about three hours this morning, before wrapping up business at the courthouse for the day.

There were also other reasons to expect that the investigation, once believed to be concluding this week, may continue.

On Monday, FBI agents conducted interviews with people who live near the home of the CIA operative whose identity was disclosed, Valerie Plame. The questioning, which concerned the key issue of whether Ms. Plame's employment at the CIA was known outside the agency, struck some observers as unusual at such a late stage in the 22-month-long investigation.

There were also reports that investigators were conducting new interviews with associates of President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove. Mr. Rove and the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, are thought to be in serious legal jeopardy in the inquiry.

It was not clear why Mr. Fitzgerald chose to use a back stairway or elevator to reach his session with the chief judge, but if he took the usual route he would likely have been followed by a parade of journalists who gathered at the courthouse to await predicted indictments in the case.

Reporters expressed bewilderment as Mr. Fitzgerald returned to the grand jury area without ever having appeared to have left.

In addition to the grand juries, Judge Hogan also oversees most of the practical aspects of running the courthouse. It is possible that Mr. Fitzgerald's visit was to discuss how court personnel would cope with the indictment and arraignment of high-profile White House officials.

A former prosecutor who worked with Mr. Fitzgerald in New York said it was impossible to say for certain what the meeting was about.

"If he wanted to extend the grand jury, he'd have to ask the chief judge," the ex-prosecutor, Joshua Berman, said. "It's obviously a process that Pat is familiar with."

Mr. Berman said it was also possible that the session was to discuss the logistics of dealing with imminent indictments. "He could just be meeting with the chief judge to discuss the various parameters of what will happen tomorrow," the former prosecutor said.


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