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.

Top News Article |

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney's former aide, Lewis Libby, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges stemming from the CIA leak probe, setting the stage for a politically damaging trial that could put a spotlight on the White House's use of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

"With respect, your honor, I plead not guilty," Libby told federal Judge Reggie Walton after asked how he would plead on the charges during a 10 minute arraignment.

Walton set a full status hearing in the case for February 3.

Cheney and other top White House officials could be called to testify at a trial and Libby faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Libby resigned last week as Cheney's longtime chief of staff after he was indicted on five counts of obstructing justice, perjury and lying in the two-year investigation into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Plame's identity was leaked to the media in July 2003 after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify the war in Iraq.

Before any trial, Libby could still try to cut a deal with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald on lesser charges, lawyers involved in the case said.

President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not indicted last Friday along with Libby. But lawyers involved in the case said Rove remained under investigation and may still be charged in the case. Fitzgerald is expected to inform Rove of his decision in coming weeks.

Libby's indictment was a damaging blow to the White House, which was already reeling from the mounting U.S. death toll from the Iraq war, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina and the withdrawal of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers under fire from Bush's conservative power base.

Hours before his arraignment, Libby brought in prominent criminal defense lawyer, Theodore Wells, according to court documents.

Wells, who is known for his trial work, has defended former Agriculture Secretary Michael Espy, former Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, former Sen. Robert Torricelli and financier Michael Milken. He also brought in Washington lawyer William Jeffress, who is also known for white-collar criminal defense work.

Libby walked into the courthouse near the U.S. Capitol using crutches because of a foot injury.

(Additional reporting by James Vicini)

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

'Wash Post': With Press Spokesman in Untenable Spot, Rove May Have to Go

By E&P Staff

Published: November 03, 2005 7:30 AM ET

NEW YORKA front-page article in the Washington Post today reveals that top White House aides believe Karl Rove must exit the administration, partly because he has made Press Secretary Scott McClellan's job untenable.

The story by Jim VandeHei and Carol Leonnig suggests other problems for Rove, including signs that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald may be about to indict him, and the belief among many Republicans that Rove, at the minimum, misled the president and the public on his role in the CIA leak case.

But the article also focuses on the McClellan angle.

"A swift resolution is needed in part to ease staff tension, a number of people inside and out of the White House said," according to the article. "Many mid-level staffers inside have expressed frustration that press secretary Scott McClellan's credibility was undermined by Rove, who told the spokesman that he was not involved in the leak, according to people familiar with the case.

"Some aides said Rove told Bush the same thing, though little is known about the precise nature of the president's conversations with his closest political adviser.

"McClellan relayed Rove's denial to reporters from the White House lectern in 2003, and he has not yet offered a public explanation for his inaccurate statements. 'That is affecting everybody,' said a Republican who has discussed the issue with the White House. 'Scott personally is really beaten down by this. Everybody I talked to talks about this'."

United Press International - NewsTrack - Karl Rove still in jeopardy over CIA leak

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- The political and legal future of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is in question over his role in the disclosure of an undercover CIA agent.

While Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has formally charged a member of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff, sources told The Washington Post Fitzgerald is also considering charging Rove with making false statements in the course of the 22-month probe.

Fitzgerald has already documented Rove played a central role in discussions with journalists about agent Valerie Plame, which Rove and White officials had repeatedly denied.

On the political front, White House strategists are discussing how viable it is to keep him.

"Karl does not have any real enemies in the White House, but there are a lot of people in the White House wondering how they can put this behind them if the cloud remains over Karl," one strategist told the newspaper.

The report said a large number of administration officials are concerned Rove could detract from President Bush's efforts to have a "fresh start" in 2006 with as little interference from the scandal as possible.

Press Secretary on Trial in the Briefing Room - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 - It is I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, who is under indictment in the C.I.A. leak case. And it is Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser, who remains under investigation. But it is Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, whose credibility is already on trial amid the rough justice of the briefing room.

More than two years ago, Mr. McClellan did what press secretaries are paid to do: He vigorously defended the president's men - specifically, Mr. Libby, Mr. Rove and Elliott Abrams, a national security aide who was never implicated in the case - against speculation that they had a hand in the disclosure of the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency officer.

"They're good individuals, they're important members of our White House team, and that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved," Mr. McClellan said at his televised briefing on Oct. 7, 2003, one of several instances in which he denied that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were responsible for the leak.

As events have unfolded and the grand jury has heard testimony that both Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove had conversations with journalists that touched on the identity of the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, Mr. McClellan's reputation has been left dangling in the glare of the television lights.

Though Mr. Libby has not been convicted of charges that he lied in the investigation and was not accused of leaking the agent's identity, and Mr. Rove has not been charged with any wrongdoing, Mr. McClellan's broad assurance that they were "not involved" now seems, based on what is known publicly about the case, to have been misleading if not downright false.

Under a barrage of sometimes angry questions from a press corps that feels it was lied to, he has been unwilling or unable to acknowledge that his previous statements are, to use a phrase famously invoked by a predecessor, inoperative. Yet he has offered no defense of them either, and has instead appealed to the better instincts of his journalistic inquisitors, a risky strategy in the midst of a criminal inquiry that has reached into the top ranks of the White House, but perhaps the only one available to him.

"I'm very confident in the relationship that we have in this room, and the trust that has been established between us," he said at his daily briefing on Monday, in response to questions from David Gregory of NBC News about whether his credibility with reporters and the public was in doubt.

Mr. McClellan said he was constrained from responding more fully because the investigation continues and because Mr. Libby now faces trial, and that "it's not a question of whether or not I'd like to talk more about this."

The outlines of his most logical defense - that he was misled by Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove and was relying on their assurances in stating that they had not been involved - seem clear. But whether he can keep the problem from dogging him and the White House in the meantime remains less clear.

It is possible that any statements made by Mr. Libby to Mr. McClellan asserting that he was not involved would be of interest to the special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who accused Mr. Libby of a pattern of obscuring his role in the matter. Mr. Fitzgerald could also be interested in any similar statements made by Mr. Rove to Mr. McClellan.

Mr. McClellan has been criticized by Democrats as a mouthpiece for an administration that fails to level with the American public, and a number of his other statements regarding the leak investigation have come under scrutiny.

"If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration," he said on Sept. 29, 2003, speaking of how Mr. Bush would deal with any official found to have played a role in leaking classified information - a definition that some Democrats say could now be applied to Mr. Rove.

"Is redemption available to everyone in Washington today? Absolutely yes," said Joe Lockhart, who was President Bill Clinton's spokesman during much of the Monica Lewinsky affair. "It's that kind of town. But any press secretary caught in this particular bind needs to find a way to demonstrate that they can simultaneously serve both masters, the press and the president. Scott McClellan can do it, but it's hard."

Among other things, for Mr. McClellan to state openly that he was misled would put him publicly at odds with Mr. Rove, whose power in the White House and the Republican Party remains immense, not to mention Mr. Libby, who was Mr. Cheney's alter ego until resigning after his indictment on Friday.

Mr. McClellan's plight is illustrative of a broader issue that has left the entire White House off balance as the leak investigation has progressed. The case is almost never discussed openly among senior officials. Those who have been questioned by the prosecutor have apparently not shared their testimony with others, leaving senior officials guessing at where the case is heading.

It is unclear to anyone except Mr. Bush's very inner circle, if to them, how much the president knows about the investigation, what he was told by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby and what role Mr. Cheney played in the events.

Mr. McClellan took over as press secretary from Ari Fleischer on July 15, 2003, the day after Ms. Wilson's identity was disclosed by the syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak. A member of a prominent Texas political family, he was viewed by many reporters when he took the job as genial and straightforward but difficult to knock off the White House's talking points.

Although many White House reporters have grown increasingly frustrated with what they consider the lack of hard information that Mr. McClellan is willing to provide at briefings, there is little personal animus toward him. Mr. Gregory of NBC, one of his most dogged tormentors when the cameras are on, said on CNBC's "Hardball" on Monday night that Mr. McClellan still had a "sterling" reputation.

Top Bush aide to appear in court in CIA leak case - Yahoo! News

Indicted White House aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby appears in court for the first time in the CIA leak case that will effectively put aspects of the US drive to war with Iraq on trial.

Libby, who quit as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff when he was charged last week by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, is due at an arraignment hearing before Judge Reggie Walton in Washington at 10:30 a.m. (1530 GMT).

He faces one count of obstruction of justice, two of perjury and two of making false statements but has denied all wrongdoing, and is expected to enter a not guilty plea.

As well as the matter of pleas, an arraignment case gives a judge the chance to set bail conditions and to set the date for future hearings.

Fitzgerald laid the charges as part of a probe into which Bush administration officials leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, who's husband, ex diplomat Joseph Wilson, was a vocal critic of the Iraq war.

The affair rocked President George W. Bush's administration, at a time when the White House was taking political fire on multiple fronts over the war in Iraq, the Hurricane Katrina debacle, and rising gasoline prices.

Bush's top political advisor Karl Rove was not charged, but has been told he is still under investigation in the affair, which has exposed the US rationale for the war to new scrutiny.

Some observers feel that Libby may eventually enter a plea bargain deal with prosecutors, since any trial could be politically embarrassing for Bush, and see top White House figures like Cheney forced to take the witness stand.

Bush's National Security advisor Stephen Hadley Wednesday described Libby, one of the most trusted men in the Bush White House, who also served as assistant to the president, as a "fine person."

"He served the president and the vice president well. There is now an indictment. And he is entitled to the benefit of the presumption of innocence," Hadley said.

"I worked with Scooter very closely. I will miss him as a colleague and as a friend."

The White House has tried to reset the political agenda after last Friday's indictment, and on Monday hoped the nomination of Bush's latest Supreme Court pick Samuel Alito would cover the fallout from the CIA case.

But Democrats sprung a trap on Tuesday and sent the Senate into a closed door session to discuss Republican stalling over a committee probe into intelligence used by the White House to justify the war.

Libby's appearance on Thursday is likely to spark a media frenzy -- and more unflattering headlines for the White House, as Bush tries to bounce back from the worst opinion poll ratings of his five-year presidency.

Judge Walton, ironically, was nominated to the US District Court in Washington DC by Bush himself, in 2001, after serving his father, the first president George Bush, as senior White House advisor on crime.

Wilson, a former US ambassador to Gabon and national security council expert on Africa, was sent to Niger in February 2002 to investigate claims Iraq tried to buy 'yellow cake' uranium for nuclear bombs.

He said the mission grew out of doubts expressed by Vice President Dick Cheney's office in CIA intelligence on the alleged shipments, which, if proven, would have been powerful evidence against Iraq.

Wilson concluded it was highly doubtful such transfers took place. But the claim still found its way into Bush's annual State of the Union address in January 2003.

Rove's Future Role Is Debated

White House May Seek Fresh Start In Wake of Leak

By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 3, 2005; A01

Top White House aides are privately discussing the future of Karl Rove, with some expressing doubt that President Bush can move beyond the damaging CIA leak case as long as his closest political strategist remains in the administration.

If Rove stays, which colleagues say remains his intention, he may at a minimum have to issue a formal apology for misleading colleagues and the public about his role in conversations that led to the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to senior Republican sources familiar with White House deliberations.

While Rove faces doubts about his White House status, there are new indications that he remains in legal jeopardy from Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's criminal investigation of the Plame leak. The prosecutor spoke this week with an attorney for Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about his client's conversations with Rove before and after Plame's identity became publicly known because of anonymous disclosures by White House officials, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.

Fitzgerald is considering charging Rove with making false statements in the course of the 22-month probe, and sources close to Rove -- who holds the titles of senior adviser and White House deputy chief of staff -- said they expect to know within weeks whether the most powerful aide in the White House will be accused of a crime.

But some top Republicans said yesterday that Rove's problems may not end there. Bush's top advisers are considering whether it is tenable for Rove to remain on the staff, given that Fitzgerald has already documented something that Rove and White House official spokesmen once emphatically denied -- that he played a central role in discussions with journalists about Plame's role at the CIA and her marriage to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a critic of the Iraq war.

"Karl does not have any real enemies in the White House, but there are a lot of people in the White House wondering how they can put this behind them if the cloud remains over Karl," said a GOP strategist who has discussed the issue with top White House officials. "You can not have that [fresh] start as long as Karl is there."

A swift resolution is needed in part to ease staff tension, a number of people inside and out of the White House said. Many mid-level staffers inside have expressed frustration that press secretary Scott McClellan's credibility was undermined by Rove, who told the spokesman that he was not involved in the leak, according to people familiar with the case.

Some aides said Rove told Bush the same thing, though little is known about the precise nature of the president's conversations with his closest political adviser.

McClellan relayed Rove's denial to reporters from the White House lectern in 2003, and he has not yet offered a public explanation for his inaccurate statements. "That is affecting everybody," said a Republican who has discussed the issue with the White House. "Scott personally is really beaten down by this. Everybody I talked to talks about this."

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, will be arraigned today on five counts, involving three felony charges, in the leak probe. Libby also told McClellan two years ago he was not involved, a denial that was also relayed to the public.

White House communications director Nicolle Wallace said that there have not been any White House meetings to discuss Rove's fate, and that the senior adviser is actively engaged and "doing an outstanding job." She said "there is no debate" over Rove's future.

Rove has long been regarded as the most influential and feared Bush aide and has enjoyed the fervent backing of the president and influential conservatives. Republicans with firsthand knowledge of the private talks about Rove's political problems said there have been informal discussions involving people inside and outside the White House, and that they reflected the views of a large number of administration officials who are concerned about Bush's efforts to start anew in 2006 with as little interference from the scandal as possible.

In U.S. District Court today, Libby is expected to plead not guilty to the five-count indictment that charges him with obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements.

Anticipating intense media interest, court officials arranged for the arraignment to be held in the oversized Ceremonial Courtroom, which can seat hundreds and is the largest courtroom in the federal courthouse here.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, randomly selected among the trial judges, will preside over Libby's case. The judge has recently overseen the civil lawsuit of former bioweapons scientist Stephen J. Hatfill against the Justice Department for linking him to the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Libby, whose friends have begun raising money for his legal defense fund, is expected to be represented in court by Joseph A. Tate, a partner in his former law firm. But intermediaries for Libby have in recent days contacted several law firms with extensive white-collar criminal defense experience about possibly representing Libby in the near future, according to legal sources.

Rove remains in legal limbo.

Fitzgerald made it clear to Rove's attorney in private conversations last week that his client remains under investigation. And he signaled the same in his indictment of Libby on Friday, in which he identified a senior White House official who had conversations related to the Plame leak as "Official A." White House colleagues say Rove is clearly "Official A," based on the detailed description.

That kind of pseudonym is often used by prosecutors to refer to an unindicted co-conspirator, or someone who faces the prospect of being charged. No other administration official is identified in this way in Fitzgerald's indictment.

Rove was interviewed by FBI agents in the fall of 2003. He subsequently testified four times before the grand jury, which legal experts say is an unusually large number of appearances given that he was told he was a subject of the investigation and his actions were being scrutinized as possible criminal violations.

Sources close to Rove say one pressing problem for him is that he initially did not tell investigators he had a conversation with Cooper, then he produced an e-mail to a colleague in which he reported he had spoken to Cooper. He told the grand jury he could recollect very little of the conversation other than a discussion of welfare, sources said.

According to sources who were made aware of the conservation, Fitzgerald has been speaking with Cooper's attorney, Richard Sauber, by telephone in the past three days. He is said to have posed several questions to clarify whether Cooper had other conversations with Rove before and after the crucial July 12, 2003, discussion during which Cooper said Rove told him that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.

The aim was apparently to discern how common conversations were between Rove and the reporter, then a newcomer to the White House beat. Sauber, reached at his office late yesterday, declined to comment on any conversations he had with the prosecutor's team.

Fitzgerald spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment.

Sources close to Rove said they do not believe the strategist is in the clear, but are confident the prosecutor will determine Rove did nothing illegal.

White House critics said Rove's continued presence would expose Bush as a hypocrite. They cite his campaign promise in 2000 to run an ethical government that asks "not only what is legal but what is right" and his 2004 pledge, later softened, to fire anyone involved in the CIA leak.

Political pressure is rising from the outside. A few conservatives have suggested it is time for Rove to go. William A. Niskanen, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute, told Reuters on Tuesday that Bush has to "sacrifice" some top aides starting with Rove, who he said has given good campaign advice but poor guidance on getting legislation passed.

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said on MSNBC's "Hardball" the same day, "The question is, should he be the deputy chief of staff for policy under the current circumstances?"

Democrats have been more blunt. "It is totally unacceptable that anyone involved in the unauthorized disclosure of the identity of a CIA officer, including your Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, should remain employed at the White House with a security clearance," Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) wrote Bush yesterday.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company