Rove Testifies 5th Time On Leak
Thursday, April 27, 2006
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove sought to convince a federal grand jury yesterday that he did not provide false statements in the CIA leak case, testifying for more than three hours before leaving a federal courthouse unsure whether he would be indicted, according to a source close to the presidential aide.
In his fifth appearance before the grand jury, Rove spent considerable time arguing that it would have been foolish for him to knowingly mislead investigators about his role in the disclosure of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media, the source said. His grand jury appearance, which was kept secret even from Rove's closest White House colleagues until shortly before he went to court yesterday, suggests that prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald remains keenly interested in Rove's role in the case.
Rove for the first time partly waived his attorney-client privilege to detail conversations he had with his attorney, Robert Luskin, about the leak and his knowledge of it, the source said.
Rove's testimony focused almost exclusively on his conversation about Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in 2003 and whether the top aide later tried to conceal it, the source said. Rove testified, in essence, that "it would have been a suicide mission" to "deliberately lie" about his conversation with Cooper because he knew beforehand that it eventually would be revealed, the source said. Lawyers involved in the case said yesterday that they expect a decision on Rove's fate soon.
The source's account could not be corroborated by the prosecutor's office, which has declined to discuss the case.
Luskin said in a statement that the top Bush strategist testified "voluntarily and unconditionally" at Fitzgerald's behest.
"In connection with this appearance, the special counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target of the investigation," Luskin said in a statement. "Mr. Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges." Regarding Rove's testimony, Luskin said that it centered on information that has surfaced since he last testified, in October 2005. A spokesman for Fitzgerald declined to comment on the case.
The leak investigation, which led to the indictment last year of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, began after administration officials were accused of disclosing Plame's identity as part of a broader White House effort to discredit critics of the administration's justification for the Iraq war.
Specifically, Fitzgerald began investigating in late 2003 whether administration officials illegally disclosed Plame's post at the CIA to discredit allegations made by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. In the summer of 2003, Wilson publicly charged that President Bush had twisted intelligence about Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons material to justify the invasion.
The disclosure of Plame's name was used to argue that because she had helped set up a trip Wilson took to Niger to investigate Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear material, that mission was little more than a boondoggle.
Fitzgerald has not charged anyone with the original crime. But in October 2005, a grand jury indicted Libby on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing justice in the course of the investigation. Libby's trial is scheduled to begin early next year. He has denied the charges, and his lawyers say that he is guilty of nothing more than a faulty memory and that he is the victim of an overzealous prosecutor.
The Libby case has served as a constant distraction for the White House and comes at a politically turbulent time for the president. A court filing by Fitzgerald earlier this month, for instance, provided the new and politically damaging revelation that Bush had authorized Libby to disclose previously classified information about Iraq's weapons programs. The president did not authorize Libby to leak information about Plame, however, according to Libby's legal team.