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

Thursday, November 03, 2005 / US / CIA leak - Libby case leaves Rove in legal limbo

>By Caroline Daniel in Washington
>Published: November 3 2005 21:51 | Last updated: November 3 2005 23:04
Karl Rove, the president’s chief political strategist, may have felt relief last week when he avoided an indictment from Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, and instead had a walk-on role under the legal pseudonym “Official A” in the indictment of his colleague, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

But Mr Fitzgerald’s record as attorney in Chicago – when he has cited “Official A” in other court filings – is ominous. Official As usually get indicted.

Mr Rove’s role in the CIA leak case emerged obliquely in last week’s indictment of Mr Libby, chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, who appeared in court on Thursday.

The filing says Mr Libby “spoke to a senior official in the White House (Official A) who advised Libby of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson’s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson’s trip [to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa].”

Although the use of unidentified officials is common in prosecutions, no other White House official in the probe was singled out through this anonymous term. Mr Fitzgerald has side-stepped questions about Mr Rove, but his investigation into the CIA leak is not over. “I’m not going to comment on anyone named, because we either charge someone or we don’t talk about them,” he said last week.

A former federal prosecutor said: “That suggests that A was within the scope of the investigation and that the grand jury found probable cause to believe the official did what the indictment says. Whether that official will be indicted, there is no way to tell. One reason not to identify them is that you do not wish to injure his reputation when there is little chance of indictment, or you want to disguise the progress of your investigation.”

Mr Fitzgerald’s record points to the latter. The best example concerns George Ryan, the former governor of Illinois. In May 2002 an indictment referred to a mysterious “Official A”, charged with authorising kickbacks in return for a share. Mr Ryan denied he was the official. “I don’t believe I am. I sure as hell don’t think I am.” Fast- forward three years and Mr Ryan has been not only unmasked as Official A but in September went on trial on 22 counts of corruption.

Another complaint, in October 2004, referred to “Water Department Official A”, who ran a hired truck kickback scheme, a scandal that rocked Chicago. The man was later identified as Donald Tomczak. In July he pleaded guilty to accepting $400,000 in cash.

Even without indictments, speculation about being “Official A” can damage a political reputation.

Until Mr Fitzgerald completes his inquiry, Mr Rove will remain in uneasy legal limbo. He has already faced calls to resign or apologise.

Last weekend Trent Lott was one of the first Republican senators to ask whether Mr Rove could remain in his post under the current ­circumstances.


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