Rove Will Not Be Charged In CIA Leak Case, Lawyer Says

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove learned about the special prosecutor's decision while on a plane Monday.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove learned about the special prosecutor's decision while on a plane Monday. (By Gerald Herbert -- Associated Press)

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By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove will not be indicted in the CIA leak investigation, his attorney announced yesterday, a decision that signals that a special prosecutor's probe is unlikely to threaten any other Bush administration officials.

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald told Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, in a short letter delivered Monday afternoon that he "does not anticipate seeking charges" against Rove in the case, Luskin said. Rove was told about 4 p.m. while aboard a Southwest Airlines flight en route to a campaign speech in New Hampshire, but he waited until early yesterday morning to publicly reveal the news.

The announcement ends months of speculation about Rove's legal future and frees the architect of President Bush's presidential victories to resume his central White House role without the threat of criminal charges hanging over him. Rove, who spent countless hours preparing for five grand jury appearances in the case and sharpening his defense, was "delighted, obviously," Luskin said. "We've always said he did everything he could to cooperate" with the prosecutor, he added.

"It's a chapter that has ended," Bush told reporters during his trip back from Iraq. The president said he thinks Fitzgerald "has conducted his investigation in a dignified way."

With Rove's situation resolved, the broader leak investigation is probably over, according to a source briefed on the status of the case. Fitzgerald does not appear to be pursuing criminal charges against former State Department official Richard L. Armitage, who is believed to have discussed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame with at least one reporter, according to the source.

"I'm not worried about my situation," Armitage said last night on the Charlie Rose television show.

A source briefed on the case said that the activities of Vice President Cheney and his aides were a key focus of the investigation, and that Cheney was not considered a target or primary subject of the investigation and is not likely to become one. There are no other outstanding issues to be investigated, the source said, though new ones could emerge as Fitzgerald continues to prosecute I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, on charges of lying to investigators and a grand jury.

Rove does not emerge from the investigation unscathed, however. His credibility took a hit inside and outside the White House when he allowed then-Bush spokesman Scott McClellan to tell reporters that he had no role in the unmasking of Plame, the CIA officer at the center of the leak scandal. The investigation has shown that, in a one-week period in 2003, Rove spoke to two reporters about Plame and her CIA role, then reported back to other senior White House officials, according information publicly released by Fitzgerald and by sources familiar with the case.

The episode left McClellan and a few other White House aides upset that they were initially misled by Rove, according to several administration sources. Other White House officials said the case seemed to distract Rove at times and compounded Bush's political problems since his 2004 reelection victory.

An indictment would have been devastating, both politically and practically, for the White House. Rove is intimately involved in efforts to retain GOP majorities in the House and the Senate and to revive the Bush presidency.

Instead, Republicans cheered yesterday's news and charged Democrats with smearing Rove's name by suggesting that he was guilty of lying over the past few months.

"Even when it's against the interests of what is in our nation's interest, you're seeing Democrats prejudging for political purposes," Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said on MSNBC. "It was wrong when they did it to Karl Rove."


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