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

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Print Story: White House Fears Indictment for Libby on Yahoo! News

By PETE YOST and JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writers

Working against the clock, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald weighed criminal charges against top presidential aides at the end of a two-year investigation that put the White House in a state of high suspense Thursday night.

Fitzgerald raced against a Friday expiration of the grand jury that has been investigating the exposure of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. Speculation flew across Washington about who would be indicted, or whether Fitzgerald would even bring criminal charges.

White House colleagues feared Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, would be indicted Friday for at least false statements but held out hope that presidential political adviser Karl Rove might escape criminal charges for the time being.

A person outside the legal profession familiar with recent developments in the case said Thursday night that Rove's team does not believe he is out of legal jeopardy yet but likely would be spared bad news Friday when the White House fears the first indictments will be issued.

Fitzgerald signaled Thursday he might keep Rove under continuing investigation, sparing him from immediate charges, the person said, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the grand jury probe.

Both Rove and Libby put in their normal long work day at the White House on Thursday.

The prospect of indictments added to the woes of an administration already facing serious political problems.

On a day when the White House dealt with the withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, Rove attended the daily meeting of the senior staff and met with President Bush late in the evening. Libby was said to have passed up the staff meeting to attend a security briefing.

Two blocks from the White House, Fitzgerald was at work in his Washington office, considering his next moves in the investigation.

In addition to false statements, prosecutors have also considered other charges such as mishandling classified information, obstruction of justice or illegally disclosing the identity of a covert intelligence agent.

When the investigation began two years ago, a White House spokesman checked with Rove and Libby, then assured the public that neither was involved in leaking Plame's identity.

In the past several weeks, Libby has acknowledged that he spoke to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, and the newspaper has reported that their talks were about Plame's CIA status.

Rove's legal problems stem in part from the fact that he failed to tell prosecutors about a conversation in which he told Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper that Plame worked for the CIA. The president's top political adviser says the conversation slipped his mind.

Fitzgerald's office found out about the Rove-Cooper contact last year when Rove's lawyer discovered an e-mail that the prosecutor had not previously requested. The e-mail memorialized the Rove-Cooper phone call.

As late as this week, Fitzgerald was still hunting for witnesses who could undercut Rove's assertion that he had forgotten about the conversation.

Rove's legal team is making contingency plans and consulting with former Justice Department official Mark Corallo about what defenses could be mounted in court and in public.

Fitzgerald met with Rove attorney Robert Luskin at a private law firm office Tuesday, heightening White House fears for Rove's future.

According to Cooper's testimony, Rove told him of Plame's CIA status in a conversation about Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson on July 11, 2003. That conversation came five days after Wilson had accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Columnist Robert Novak revealed Plame's name and her CIA status on July 14, five days after talking to Rove and eight days after Wilson made his claim about Iraq intelligence.

The backdrop for Fitzgerald's investigation is a set of forged documents that said Iraq was acquiring uranium yellowcake from the African nation of Niger.

On Thursday, the White House disputed an Italian news report relating to those forgeries.

The news reports and speculation on Internet blogs is that National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley may have received bogus information three years ago from an Italian intelligence chief about Iraq's nuclear ambitions.

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said Hadley met briefly on Sept. 9, 2002, with Nicolo Pollari, the head of Italian military intelligence, but the subject of Iraq's supposed uranium yellowcake purchase from Niger is not believed to have come up.

The meeting occurred a month before documents, later determined to be forgeries, surfaced in Italy claiming to show Saddam Hussein's regime had an agreement to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger. Plame's husband went to the country on the CIA's behalf to check into the claim and reported he could not substantiate it.

The Hadley-Pollari meeting was a "courtesy call" that lasted fewer than 15 minutes and "no one present has any recollection of yellowcake being discussed or documents being provided," Jones said.

Hadley would later approve using similar information about the alleged uranium purchase in President Bush's key speech that made the case for going to war, even though the CIA had reservations about its accuracy. Hadley later apologized when it was learned the Italian documents were fakes.

Italian press accounts have raised questions about whether Pollari's agency was involved with the fake documents and he is scheduled to testify before a parliamentary investigation next week. The Italian government, however, denies any involvement with the bogus documents.

Rove, Libby Assemble Team to Handle Possible CIA Leak Indictments

By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 28, 2005; A04

The White House, district court officials and two possible targets of the CIA leak investigation were making preparations yesterday for the possible announcement of indictments by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald today, according to several sources familiar with the investigation.

Two sources said I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, was shopping for a white-collar criminal lawyer and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove began assembling a public relations team in the event they are indicted.

At the White House, aides scrambled to put the finishing touches on a political strategy to respond to the fallout from any criminal charges, including the likelihood of staff changes. A Republican consultant with close White House ties said Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. had canceled at least two trips in the past week and had met with Bush over the weekend to focus on how to react to the grand jury's decisions.

"These will be very, very dark days for the White House," the consultant quoted Card as saying.

At the U.S. District courthouse on Constitution Avenue, where Fitzgerald will meet with the grand jury for what is expected to be the final time, there was a rush of activity. Court staff made preparations to quickly produce scores of copies of documents for waiting reporters.

Still, the penultimate day of the 22-month probe ended with the same mystery that has kept much of Washington, including some of the possible targets and lawyers in the case, on edge about Fitzgerald's plans.

The special counsel set out in late 2003 to investigate whether anyone in the Bush administration illegally disclosed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame as part of an effort to discredit her husband, outspoken Iraq war critic and former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

But officials close to Rove and Libby said the two high-level aides seem more concerned about being charged with making false statements to the grand jury, an area in which Fitzgerald has shown great interest as the case comes to a close. People close to Rove said the senior Bush strategist and his legal team have worked assiduously in the past week to convince Fitzgerald that Rove did not mislead the grand jury.

Fitzgerald has a number of legal options. They range from concluding that no one broke the law, to charging a number of government officials with a conspiracy to unmask Plame or obstruct justice during the investigation. But it was hard to find anyone involved in the case yesterday who believed Fitzgerald will not indict someone today.

It was unclear yesterday whether Fitzgerald had issued formal letters notifying anyone that he or she was a target of the investigation. However, that step might not be necessary for Libby or Rove, who previously have been warned verbally that they face possible legal jeopardy.

Though there was considerable speculation among lawyers for witnesses in the case that Fitzgerald could choose to empanel a new grand jury and extend his investigation, two legal sources said he has indicated he does not plan to take that route and will wrap up the case today.

Anticipating the worst, White House aides juggled two of the most damaging events of the Bush presidency yesterday: the withdrawal of Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court and the conclusion of the leak probe. Two top aides said they were given no indication by Bush, Cheney, Rove or Libby about charges, complicating efforts to firm up a political plan. The White House, one aide said, is "ready for anything."

The consultant who spoke with Card said Bush should bring in several people of stature to replace weary veteran staffers who work there now -- even if Rove survives. Rove himself was making contingency plans, which included having allies begin to assemble a legal and political team in case he is indicted.

Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, would be part of the public relations defense team, according to a person familiar with the plan. Corallo is no stranger to high-profile defenses. He was spokesman for former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who was forced to step aside as the incoming speaker of the House in 1998 after admitting an extramarital affair.

Two sources said Libby was searching for a criminal defense attorney, an effort that could be nothing more than a precaution or preparations for what might lie ahead, according to one person close to him. His current lawyer, Joseph A. Tate, specializes in intellectual property, criminal and antitrust law, according to a national legal directory.

Both Libby and Rove attended regular White House strategy sessions yesterday, betraying no sense of whether they anticipate charges.

Even if the outcome is not as bad as some expect, two administration aides said they are prepared for months of attacks over the leak of Plame's name and the broader justification for the Iraq war.

Rove has told friends he is most concerned about being charged with providing false statements because he did not initially tell the grand jury about a conversation he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about Plame and her CIA employment before her identity was publicly disclosed.

Libby, who has emerged as a main focus of the investigation, also faces possible legal exposure for providing false statements, according to lawyers in the case.

Libby could face charges if the grand jury agrees there is probable cause he intentionally gave shifting accounts of how he learned about Plame or the details of his conversations with reporters about Plame. Libby, a major administration supporter of the war with Iraq, has testified that he believed he learned about Plame from reporters, and named Tim Russert of NBC as a person who mentioned Plame to him, according to a source familiar with his account.

Russert has said in a public statement that he did not name Plame to anyone. Also, as the New York Times reported this week, Libby's notes of a June 12 meeting with Cheney indicate that he learned of Plame's name and role in the CIA from Cheney.

Libby has testified that he did not identify Plame by name to reporters or discuss her covert status with them. But New York Times reporter Judith Miller has testified that she believed she first learned of Plame's CIA job from Libby, when the two spoke on June 23, 2003. Miller said she and Libby discussed Plame again in a meeting on July 8, 2003, and in a phone conversation a few days later, on July 12.

Staff writer Jeffrey Birnbaum contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Aide to Cheney Appears Likely to Be Indicted; Rove Under Scrutiny - New York Times

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, will not be charged on Friday, but will 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 intends 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 an undercover 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 persuaded 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. 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.

White House Wait for Fitzerald's Next Move - Yahoo! News

By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald huddled with his legal team Thursday as two key White House aides awaited their fate in the CIA leak probe.

A spokesman for the prosecutor said there would be no public announcements Thursday. The term of the grand jury that could bring indictments expires Friday.

The White House braced for the possibility that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, could become a criminal defendant by week's end. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, remained in jeopardy of being charged with false statements.

Libby and Rove arrived for work at the White House Thursday as usual. Rove attended the daily meeting of the senior staff, but Libby did not and was said to be in a security briefing. Libby misses senior staff about half the time because of intelligence briefings and other issues on Cheney's schedule, an official said.

Separately, Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, said there would be no announcements in the probe on Thursday.

Rove's legal team made contingency plans, consulting with former Justice Department official Mark Corallo about what defenses could be mounted in court and in public.

Fitzgerald met with Rove attorney Robert Luskin at a private law firm office Tuesday, heightening White House fears for Rove's future.

In 2003, eight days after former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat, columnist Robert Novak disclosed the identity of Wilson's wife, covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

After checking with Rove and Libby, the White House categorically denied that either aide was involved in leaking Plame's identity.

Fitzgerald was appointed nearly two years ago to determine whether any presidential aides violated a federal law that prohibits the intentional unmasking of an undercover CIA officer.

The prosecutor also has discussed other charges with defense lawyers in recent weeks, including false statements, obstruction of justice and mishandling of classified information.

The grand jury's term expires on Friday, and the panel met with Fitzgerald's team for about three hours Wednesday before adjourning for the day.

The administrative assistant to Thomas Hogan, chief judge of U.S. District Court in the nation's capital, disclosed that Hogan met with Fitzgerald. The assistant, Sheldon Snook, declined to say what was discussed.

Prosecutors wrapping up a criminal investigation can meet with the chief judge to request that a new grand jury be impaneled or simply to inform of impending indictments. Grand juries also can be extended, although the one investigating the Plame leak is two years old.

Beyond Libby and Rove, Fitzgerald also has interviewed officials at the State Department and CIA about their conversations with the White House and their access to information about Plame and a trip her husband took for the CIA to check on pre-Iraq war intelligence.

The public appeared divided about the controversy. A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll taken over the weekend found 39 percent of Americans believe the leak of Plame's name was illegal, another 39 percent believed it was unethical but not illegal and the remainder saw nothing wrong or were not sure.

During the investigation, prosecutors forced testimony from journalists about confidential sources. They assembled evidence that Rove talked about Wilson's wife with columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper before both reporters wrote stories outing Plame. And the prosecutors gathered evidence that Libby gave information about Wilson's wife to Cooper and on three occasions to New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

When Novak disclosed Plame's name, the columnist said he had two senior administration officials for sources. Rove is said to be one of the sources, but the other isn't publicly known.

As the White House's original denials collapsed, administration defenders said that the source of any information Rove and Libby may have passed on about Plame came from reporters and not from classified sources.

But in the past two weeks, that assertion has been undercut with the revelation that Libby got information from Cheney before the aide met with reporters, and that Rove may have gotten information from Libby.

Prosecutors have zeroed in on inconsistencies. Rove and Cooper differed over the original reason for their contact. Prosecutors have raised concern that Rove at first testified only about his contact with Novak without acknowledging the Cooper discussion.

After Rove's attorney located an e-mail referring to that conversation, Rove volunteered to return to the grand jury and discuss his conversation with Cooper.

Leak case announcement seen Friday - Yahoo! News

By Adam Entous

With the fate of at least two top White House advisers in the balance, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald conferred on Thursday with his legal team a day before he was expected to announce his decision on charges over the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Expected indictments in the case could trigger an immediate shake-up at the White House, already on the defensive over plummeting poll figures, soaring gas prices, opposition to the Iraq war and the withdrawal of President George W. Bush's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Harriet Miers.

Fitzgerald has zeroed in on Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser. Other current and former administration officials may also face charges.

Plame's identity was leaked to the media after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to support action against Iraq. Wilson said it was done deliberately to erode his credibility.

White House officials were anxiously awaiting the outcome of Fitzgerald's investigation, since any indicted officials were expected to resign immediately. Bush was then likely to make a public statement.

Asked to describe Bush's mood, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "The president is continuing to focus on the work we've got to get done."

Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, said no announcements were expected on Thursday, leaving any legal action for Friday, when the grand jury hearing the case is scheduled to meet for the last time. Fitzgerald appeared unlikely to seek an extension.

Fitzgerald spent the day in Washington with his deputies as he prepared to wrap up the two-year leak investigation. The prosecutor, who has joked about not looking good in photos, took a break to visit a nearby barber shop, where he got a shoe shine.


On Wednesday, he met for three hours with the grand jury, and spent 45 minutes behind closed doors with the chief U.S. district judge, Thomas Hogan.

In a last-minute flurry of interviews, FBI agents this week canvassed Plame's neighborhood to see if anyone knew about her covert work for the spy agency before she was exposed in a July 2003 newspaper column by Robert Novak.

Fitzgerald met with Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, and prosecutors conducted an 11th-hour interview with Adam Levine, a former official in the White House press office, about his conversations with Rove.

In advance of any possible indictment against Rove, his legal team consulted with former Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo on legal and public relations strategy, a source close to the matter said.

The White House initially denied that Libby and Rove had anything to do with the leak, but reporters have singled them out as sources in grand jury testimony.

Fitzgerald could charge administration officials with knowingly revealing Plame's identity, as well as bring charges for easier-to-prove crimes such as making false statements, perjury, obstruction of justice and disclosing classified information, lawyers involved in the case said.

Legal sources said Rove could face perjury charges for initially not telling the grand jury he talked to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Plame.

Libby was open to false statement and obstruction charges because of contradictions between his testimony and that of Miller and other journalists, the lawyers said.

Leak case announcement seen Friday - Yahoo! News

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald does not plan to act in the CIA leak case on Thursday, a spokesman said, setting the stage for the prosecutor to make a last-minute announcement on indictments before the grand jury expires on Friday.

"There are no announcements expected today," said Randall Samborn, Fitzgerald's spokesman.

Fitzgerald has zeroed in on Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser. Both have been advised that they could face charges over the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, lawyers in the case said.

Other current and former administration officials may also be charges, the lawyers said.

New York Daily News - World & National Report - Buzz about a Karl plea as probers close in


WASHINGTON - Jittery Bush aides gnawed their nails yesterday as a special prosecutor zeroed in on White House political guru Karl Rove's role in blowing a CIA agent's cover.
In the closing hours of the grand jury probe, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald paid a visit yesterday to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, prompting speculation that a plea bargain could be in the works for the deputy White House chief of staff.

It was the latest of several one-on-one meetings between Fitzgerald and Luskin, the Daily News has learned.

Investigators also turned up at the White House for yet another round of questions for Rove's subordinates.

A secret meeting Fitzgerald held yesterday with Judge Thomas Hogan, who presides over the case, suggests a grand jury extension also could be under consideration, according to legal sources.

As the investigation moved toward its high-stakes finale, Rove has exhibited several mood swings.

Two weeks ago, at a political event in Texas, Rove brushed aside concerns from anxious pals. "He said he was fine and he said it with gusto," one of the well-wishers recalled.

A week later, however, Rove seemed down and distracted to some of his White House colleagues. More recently, however, he was in better spirits, dashing off business-as-usual handwritten notes to acquaintances that made no mention of his travails.

"He remains upbeat and optimistic," according to an associate. "He's convinced in his own mind that he's done his best to assist the investigation at every stage."

The News learned that Rove's lawyers hope to persuade Fitzgerald that inconsistencies in his grand jury testimony were because of poor recollections, not attempts at obstruction.

Meanwhile, FBI agents quizzed outed CIA agent Valerie Plame's neighbors, who told them they did not know she was a CIA employee before her cover was blown.

At the U.S. courthouse, the grand jury heard evidence for three hours, but Fitzgerald did not make any announcements about indictments related to his two-year probe. Fitzgerald emerged an hour after adjourning the panel and offered no comment.

While White House staffers were tense, Fitzgerald's team relaxed from their stoic, all-business demeanor. The cheery prosecutors shared an elevator ride with a News reporter and cracked up over a private joke

Grand Jurors Hear Counsel on Leak Case - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 - The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak inquiry met for more than three hours with the federal grand jury on Wednesday and later talked privately with the district judge in the case as the White House waited out another day in the expectation of possible indictments.

After the grand jury session, the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, discussed the case for about 45 minutes in the chambers of Judge Thomas F. Hogan, the chief judge of the district court who has presided over the leak case, said the judge's administrative assistant, Sheldon L. Snook.

The grand jury deliberations and the special prosecutor's meeting with the judge ratcheted up fears among officials that Mr. Fitzgerald might have obtained an indictment from the grand jury, and was requesting that it be sealed. He could also seek an extension of the grand jury's term, which expires on Friday. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, would not comment on the case.

Mr. Fitzgerald, his deputies and the grand jurors arrived at the federal courthouse shortly after 9 a.m. The grand jurors were seen leaving around noon when Mr. Fitzgerald went to Judge Hogan's chambers.

Although lawyers in the case said that they expected that Mr. Fitzgerald would announce a decision on charges by Friday, his continuing deliberations chafed the already raw nerves at the White House and raised the possibility that he might need more time to complete his inquiry.

Mr. Fitzgerald has focused on Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr., who is Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Both have been advised that they could be charged with wrongdoing, possibly for false statements to the grand jury about their conversations with reporters.

Other possibilities are obstruction of justice or perjury charges, and possible violations of the statute that makes it a crime to disclose the identity of a covert intelligence agent.

Some lawyers have suggested that Mr. Fitzgerald may also have investigated possible conspiracy charges or violations of an espionage law that makes it illegal to communicate classified information to people not authorized to receive it.

Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby came to work at the White House as usual on Wednesday morning. .Whether anyone else is at risk of criminal prosecution remains unknown. The C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, was identified in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist, and if a government official was Mr. Novak's main source, that official could be charged with violating a law making it illegal to divulge the identity of a covert officer like Ms. Wilson.

A series of interviews by F.B.I. agents on Monday revived the possibility that Mr. Fitzgerald might be considering such a charge. Several neighbors of Ms. Wilson and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, were asked whether they knew that Ms. Wilson, also known by her unmarried name, Valerie Plame, had covert status.

Several neighbors, some who have known her for years, said they did not know before Mr. Novak's column that she worked for the C.I.A.

"They said they were basically tying up loose ends," David Tillotson, a next-door neighbor for seven years, said of his interview by two agents. "They wanted to ask neighbors how well they knew the Wilsons and whether they knew what Valerie did."

Mr. Tillotson said he and his wife, Victoria, thought Ms. Wilson was a business consultant and had no idea she worked for the C.I.A.

In an apparent effort to draw attention away from the investigation - or at least to occupy himself as he and everyone else in the White House endured the torture of another day's wait - Mr. Bush kept to a busy schedule of meetings and appearances. He met with his ambassador to Iraq, gave a speech on the economy, sat down with the prime minister of Macedonia and invited Ghana's president in for a quick chat.

"We've got a lot of work to do, and so we don't have a lot of time to sit back and think about those things," Scott McClellan, Mr. Bush's press secretary, said when asked about the distraction of the investigation.

Republicans outside the administration said the White House had taken on a bunker mentality, ignoring or dismissing advice on how to deal with fallout from the case and get the administration back on track.

The uncertainty over Mr. Rove's fate in particular left many Republicans guessing at how the White House might proceed once Mr. Fitzgerald's decision became public.

Democrats for their part pressed ahead with their strategy of asserting that the leak case was part of a broader pattern of dishonesty by the administration that had led the nation into war on false pretenses.

In a speech at Georgetown University, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee last year, said attacks by the administration on the Wilsons were part of the White House's effort to justify the war even after the intelligence used to portray Saddam Hussein's weapons programs as a threat was proved wrong.

"We don't know yet whether this will prove to be an indictable offense in a court of law, but for it, and for misleading the nation into war, they will be indicted in the high court of history," Mr. Kerry said.

It was not publicly known what Mr. Fitzgerald discussed with the grand jurors. But at this point in the investigation, lawyers in the case said, he was almost certainly addressing them on the subject of indictments.

Federal grand juries, made up of 23 people, meet in secret. Former prosecutors said that the process of presenting possible charges to a grand jury followed a pattern in which grand jurors, without the prosecution team present, voted on whether to return an indictment. A simple majority is required for an indictment.

In some instances, a prosecutor may present the panel with a list of charges and ask for a vote. Or, a prosecutor may engage in sometimes lengthy and detailed discussions with grand jurors about evidence and witnesses and even take straw polls on charges in the case.

In cases like this one, in which central charges are believed to focus on whether false statements were made by witnesses in their grand jury testimony, a prosecutor may sound out the grand jurors on whether they feel they were deceived. If grand jurors seem to resist the assertion that they were misled, a prosecutor may take it as a sign that a jury might be similarly hard to convince.

Former colleagues said Mr. Fitzgerald in the past has displayed a patient and cordial manner that grand jurors appreciated. "He was professional and straightforward," said Joshua G. Berman, a former assistant United States attorney in New York who worked closely with him. "He was meticulous and methodical, and that made it very easy for grand jurors to follow what he was saying."

Scott Shane contributed reporting for this article.

Rove Aide's Name Appears in Two Washington Inquiries - New York Times

Published: October 27, 2005
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 - At the nexus of two high-profile investigations roiling the nation's capital is an unlikely - and largely anonymous - figure known for fiercely safeguarding her bosses.

Susan B. Ralston, 38, has worked as an assistant and side-by-side adviser to Karl Rove since 2001, helping manage his e-mail, meetings and phone calls from her perch near his office in the West Wing. That has made her an important witness in the C.I.A. leak investigation, as the special prosecutor has sought to determine whether Mr. Rove misled investigators about his contacts with reporters about Valerie Wilson, the undercover operative whose identity was made public in 2003.

Ms. Ralston is also entangled in another political scandal: the case of Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist, who employed her in the same frontline capacity during a stretch of time that is now under criminal investigation.

Ms. Ralston is not considered a suspect in either case, and several close colleagues say it is by sheer accident that she has been swept up in both investigations. Lawyers involved with the two cases say no other person besides Ms. Ralston has played a pivotal role in each one. She has appeared at critical junctures in both: it was Ms. Ralston who patched through a phone call from Matt Cooper, the reporter for Time magazine, to Mr. Rove on the day in July 2003 that they discussed Mrs. Wilson, then known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. And Ms. Ralston, while in Mr. Abramoff's employ, drafted a memorandum about his suites at local arenas, which he used to entertain clients and public officials who have since gotten in trouble for accepting his favors.

Ms. Ralston has been interviewed by investigators in the Abramoff case, which is examining Mr. Abramoff's work on behalf of Indian tribes and other lobbying interests, as well as his complicated financial arrangements. She worked for him, first at the firm Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds and then at the firm Greenberg Traurig, before she moved to the White House early in President Bush's first term.

Ms. Ralston has also testified at least twice before the grand jury in the leak case.

She did not return a call to her White House office on Wednesday. Her lawyer, however, made available a friend who was able to verify details about her life and who, like her other colleagues, portrayed her as an up-close and innocent witness to both sets of events.

"Susan is sharp as a tack and straight as an arrow, and so that's all hopefully going to pay off now," said her friend, a Republican lobbyist who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case as well as Ms. Ralston's position.

Although published reports suggest that Mr. Abramoff sought to place Ms. Ralston with Mr. Rove after the 2000 election to gain easy access to him, her colleagues said that was not the case.

"Karl was looking for the most competent person around and stole her," said Grover Norquist, the Republican activist who heads the group Americans for Tax Reform and is an ally of both Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Rove.

Though colleagues described her as ambitious within the Republican Party, Ms. Ralston maintains a low external profile that has made her invaluable to Mr. Rove, who was quoted in The National Journal describing her as "a remarkably gifted leader" who was "playing a vital role."

"She's very careful about Karl and pretty guarded," said a Bush associate who is friends with Ms. Ralston, speaking on condition of anonymity because the White House is sensitive to even benign comments related to both the C.I.A. leak and Abramoff investigations.

In fact, she rebuffed Mr. Abramoff at least once in writing, after he sought her help in getting Mr. Rove to call the Interior Department on behalf of one of his clients.

"I don't want to bother you guys with a meeting request, so I was hoping you could pass on to Karl that Interior is about to approve a gaming compact and land in trust for a tribe which is an anathema to all our supporters down there," Mr. Abramoff wrote to Ms. Ralston in a February 2003 e-mail message first published by Time magazine.

Ms. Ralston replied, "Karl and others are aware, but the WH is not going to get involved."

Ms. Ralston's portfolio expanded at the White House this year, accompanied by an elevated job title and a significant raise. In 2003, she held the position of executive assistant to the senior adviser and earned $64,700, which was bumped to $67,600 in 2004. This year, as Mr. Rove took on new duties as the deputy chief of staff, Ms. Ralston was promoted to special assistant to the president and assistant to the senior adviser, earning $92,100.

Now, people familiar with Ms. Ralston's work said, she functions as Mr. Rove's own chief of staff, coordinating the five groups within the West Wing that he oversees

Grand Jury Hears Summary of Case On CIA Leak Probe

Decision on Charges May Come Friday

By Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 27, 2005; A01

The prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation presented a summary of his case to a federal grand jury yesterday and is expected to announce a final decision on charges in the two-year-long probe tomorrow, according to people familiar with the case.

Even as Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald wrapped up his case, the legal team of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has been engaged in a furious effort to convince the prosecutor that Rove did not commit perjury during the course of the investigation, according to people close to the aide. The sources, who indicated that the effort intensified in recent weeks, said Rove still did not know last night whether he would be indicted.

Fitzgerald is completing his probe of whether senior administration officials broke the law by disclosing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media in the summer of 2003 to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, an administration critic. The grand jury's term will expire Friday.

But after grand jurors left the federal courthouse before noon yesterday, it was unclear whether Fitzgerald had spelled out the criminal charges he might ask them to consider, or whether he had asked them to vote on any proposed indictments. Fitzgerald's legal team did not present the results of a grand jury vote to the court yesterday, which he is required to do within days of such a vote.

Yesterday's three-hour grand jury session came after agents and prosecutors this week conducted last-minute interviews with Adam Levine, a member of the White House communications team at the time of the leak, about his conversations with Rove, and with Plame's neighbors in the District.

Should he need more time to finish the investigation, Fitzgerald could seek to empanel a new group of grand jurors to consider the case. But sources familiar with the prosecutor's work said he has indicated he is eager to avoid that route. The term of the current grand jury has been extended once and cannot be lengthened again, according to federal rules.

The down-to-the-wire moves in Fitzgerald's investigation have made for a harrowing week at the White House, where officials are girding for at least one senior administration official to be indicted, according to aides.

Most concern is focused on Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Both had testified that they talked with reporters about Plame in the summer of 2003, according to lawyers familiar with their accounts, but both said they did not discuss her by name or disclose her covert status.

Yesterday was another surreal day at the White House, according to aides, with staff members wondering about who might be indicted. Rove and Libby continued to sit in on high-level meetings.

"We certainly are following developments in the news, but everybody's got a lot of work to do," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

A new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll reminded the White House of the damage the CIA leak case has already inflicted: Eight in ten people surveyed said that aides had either broken the law or acted unethically.

As the rest of Washington waited, President Bush tried to shift national attention back to the economy. In a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, he touted the "resilient and strong" economy and asserted it showed that his "pro-growth policies have worked."

Fitzgerald's investigation has centered on whether administration officials knowingly revealed Plame's identity in July 2003 because of Wilson's public criticism.

On July 6, 2003, Wilson accused the administration in The Washington Post and the New York Times of using flawed intelligence to justify the war with Iraq, and said his CIA-sponsored mission to Niger concluded months earlier that there was little support for an intelligence report that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material there.

Eight days later, columnist Robert D. Novak revealed Plame's name and her status as a CIA operative, attributing the information to two anonymous senior administration officials.

People close to Rove said he fears a perjury charge because he did not initially tell the grand jury that he had spoken with Time reporter Matthew Cooper about Plame before her name was publicly disclosed. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to comment yesterday.

A lawyer other than Luskin who is familiar with Rove's legal strategy said the aide testified that he believed he was trading on publicly available information in discussing Plame with reporters.

In his fourth and final grand jury appearance, this lawyer said, Rove was asked why he did not mention his discussion of Plame with Cooper. Rove has told people he simply had forgotten the conversation.

Rove also testified that he may have learned about Plame from Libby, according to a person familiar with Rove's testimony. Some saw this as an effort to show Rove had no reason to believe the information about Plame was classified.

There were signs that Fitzgerald was still trying to piece together the Rove case as recently as Tuesday. Peter Zeidenberg, a Justice Department prosecutor working with Fitzgerald, called Levine that day to discuss a conversation Levine had with Rove on July 11, 2003, the day Rove spoke with Cooper, according to Daniel J. French, Levine's lawyer.

Levine, part of the White House communications team at the time of the leak, "was contacted as a witness," French said. Levine told Zeidenberg that he and Rove did not discuss Cooper in that conversation, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

As jurors left the courthouse yesterday, Fitzgerald exited the sealed grand jury room of the courthouse through a back elevator to avoid reporters waiting outside. He then met with Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan in Hogan's private chambers for about 45 minutes. Hogan confirmed the two had met yesterday, but declined to discuss the substance of their conversation.

One legal source said the two have met regularly to discuss practical matters about the case, which now include intense media interest and how to avoid improper leaks about secret grand jury matters.

The grand jury, a group of onetime strangers from across the District, has spent two days a week for nearly 24 months in the cloistered, guarded room on the third floor of the U.S. District Courthouse. They have sifted through the day planners of White House aides and listened intently as the prosecutor grilled West Wing officials and reporters who relied on them as confidential sources. They are paid $40 a day, plus $4 for transportation.

Now they might be called upon to make decisions that could deal a crippling blow to the Bush White House and put top administration officials on trial.

There were 23 members at the start, committed for 18 months. Their term was extended in May for six months. At least six original jurors have been excused because of hardships their service created. Some were replaced with alternates.

Like the jury's forewoman, the majority are African American women who appear to be middle-age or older. The jury includes at least two black men, two older white women and three white men. One trim, agile retiree with white hair often entered the grand jury room with his bicycle helmet in hand.

Lori Shaw, a criminal law professor at the University of Dayton and an expert on federal grand juries, said the amount of time this jury has put in likely means it is well-versed and invested in the case.

"You have to consider: They are not rookies at this anymore," Shaw said. "I have a feeling that by now this grand jury has a good idea of what crime, if any, occurred."

Staff writers Christopher Lee, Peter Baker and Howard Kurtz contributed to this report.

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