Rove to Testify Again in Grand Jury's CIA Leak Probe
Friday, October 7, 2005
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove will again testify to a grand jury that is in the final stages of investigating whether senior Bush administration officials illegally leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media more than two years ago, a source familiar with the arrangement said yesterday.
Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald contacted Rove last week to seek his fourth appearance before the grand jury -- but warned Rove's lawyer that he could not assure that Rove would not be indicted, according to the source. Rove could appear as early as today, when the grand jury is next scheduled to meet.
Fitzgerald's request -- which comes just weeks before the grand jury term is set to expire on Oct. 28 -- suggests that new information has come to light in other witness testimony, or other questions remain that Rove needs to address, according to lawyers who have been involved in the case.
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said in an interview yesterday that Rove has not been notified that he is a target of the investigation, and does not fear testifying despite Fitzgerald's warning. Luskin declined to say whether he knows the topics Fitzgerald wants to question Rove about.
"Mr. Fitzgerald has affirmed to me that he has made no charging decisions, that he believes Karl continues to cooperate fully with the investigation, but beyond that, I don't want to comment at all about any communications with Mr. Fitzgerald's office," Luskin said.
A source close to Rove said Bush's chief political adviser and his legal team are now genuinely concerned he could face charges. But, the source said, his lawyers are hoping that Fitzgerald's warning of the chance of indictment is simply the move of a conservative, by-the-book prosecutor wrapping up a high-profile investigation. Prosecutorial guidelines require prosecutors to warn witnesses before they appear before a grand jury if there is a chance they could face criminal charges.
For the past 22 months, Fitzgerald has been investigating whether any Bush administration officials knowingly revealed Plame's identity in July 2003 as retaliation for public criticism by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, of the government's case for war in Iraq.
On July 6, Wilson contended in an opinion piece that administration claims that Iraq was trying to obtain nuclear materials in Niger were false. Wilson had been sent to the African nation by the CIA to investigate the claims. Eight days later, on July 14, Plame's name and CIA employment appeared in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak.
Rove has testified that he talked with two reporters about Plame in that time period, but only referred to her as Wilson's wife and never supplied information about her status as an undercover CIA operative. Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, also testified that he discussed Plame with at least two reporters but said that he, too, never mentioned her name or her covert status, according to lawyers in the case.
The news of Rove's upcoming testimony comes at one of the more difficult moments of the Bush presidency. In recent months, Bush has faced steady criticism for his handling of Iraq, gas prices and Hurricane Katrina. Most recently, a number of prominent conservatives who have backed Bush since 2000 have been sharply critical of his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said the White House would not comment on the probe.
"That's an ongoing investigation . . . and the president directed that we cooperate fully with that investigation," he said. "As part of cooperating fully, that means not commenting on it from here."