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

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sources: Rove Won't Be Indicted Today - Yahoo! News

By JOHN SOLOMON and PETE YOST, Associated Press Writers

Karl Rove escaped indictment in the CIA leak case Friday but remained under investigation as the embattled White House braced for charges against Vice President Dick Cheney's top adviser.

Trying to put a brave face on one of the darkest days of his presidency, Bush traveled to Norfolk, Va., to deliver a speech on terrorism. "Thanks for the chance to get out of Washington," he said.

Rove's lawyer said he was told by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's office that investigators had "made no decision about whether or not to bring charges" and would continue their probe into Rove's conduct. Rove is deputy White House chief of staff and Bush's closest adviser.

The news was far less favorable for Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. White House colleagues expected an indictment charging Libby with false statements in the probe.

Fitzgerald scheduled a 2 p.m. EDT news conference in Washington. His office planned to release documents in the case two hours before his appearance.

Some lawyers have raised the specter of broader conspiracy charges. Any trial would shine a spotlight on the secret deliberations of Bush and his team as they built the case for war against Iraq.

Bush ordered U.S. troops to war in March 2003, saying Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program posed a grave and immediate threat to the United States. No such weapons were found. The U.S. military death toll climbed past 2,000 this week.

Fitzgerald and his investigators have been trying to determine whether Rove, Libby or any other administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame or lied about their involvement to investigators. Her husband is diplomat Joseph Wilson, an opponent of the Iraq war who challenged Bush's assertion that Saddam was trying to secure nuclear materials.

The lack of an indictment against Rove is a mixed outcome for the administration. It keeps in place the president's top adviser, the architect of his political machine whose fingerprints can be found on virtually every policy that emerges from the White House.

But leaving Rove in legal jeopardy keeps Bush and his team working on problems like the Iraq war, a Supreme Court vacancy and slumping poll ratings beneath a dark cloud of uncertainty.

Libby is considered Cheney's alter ego, a chief architect of the war with Iraq. Any trial of Libby would give the public a rare glimpse into Cheney's influential role in the West Wing and his behind-the-scenes lobbying for war.

Though he has worked in relative obscurity, Libby is one of the administration's influential advisers because of his proximity to Cheney, one of the most powerful vice presidents in history.

Rove, who testified four times before the CIA leaks grand jury, has stepped back from some of his political duties such as speaking at fundraisers but is said to be otherwise immersed in his sweeping portfolio as deputy White House chief of staff.

After weeks of hand-wringing about possible indictments in the investigation, Before he left for the speech on terrorism in Norfolk, the president chatted with Cheney and Rove in the Oval Office along with smiling aides.

Cheney traveled to Georgia to speak at a luncheon for a former congressman and to address the troops at Robins Air Force Base.

"If the special prosecutor has any announcement to make then I think you could expect that we'll have more to say after that," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said, "Mr. Rove will continue to cooperate fully with the special counsel's efforts to complete the investigation. We are confident that when the special counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong."

Rove's legal problems stem in part from the fact that he failed initially to disclose to prosecutors a conversation in which he told Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper that Plame worked for the CIA. Rove says the conversation slipped his mind.

Senior Republicans inside and outside the White House have wondered whether the case has been a distraction for Rove. They point to the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, which was derailed by conservative activists, many of them allies of Rove. He helped build Bush's political career on the strength of ties to the religious conservative movement.

Both charming and sharp-tongued, Rove is well liked by his colleagues and respected by his opponents, a take-no-prisoners political operative who is steadfastly loyal to his boss and relentlessly partisan in his approach. He didn't graduate from college, but is one of the most well-read White House advisers. He spent most of his career in Texas, but quickly established himself as a Washington insider.

White House credibility has been on the line from the start. Spokesman Scott McClellan, after checking with Rove and Libby, assured reporters that neither man was involved in the leak. Months later, reports surfaced that suggested they were involved.

On July 7, the president told reporters that if anyone in his administration committed a crime in connection with the leak, that person "will no longer work in my administration." Weeks later, he backpedaled from that assertion.

Columnist Robert Novak revealed Plame's name and her CIA status on July 14, 2003. That was five days after Novak talked to Rove and eight days after Plame's husband, former ambassador Wilson, published an opinion article in the Times accusing the Bush administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq.

Wilson has accused the White House of revealing his wife's identify to undercut his allegations against Bush.


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