Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, testified yesterday before a federal grand jury investigating whether administration officials last year illegally disclosed the identity of covert CIA employee Valerie Plame.
Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said Rove testified for about two hours and had "made himself available previously" in the investigation. Luskin said special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has assured Rove that he is not a target of the probe.
Fitzgerald has been trying to determine whether a government employee violated the law by disclosing Plame's name to the news media. Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a critic of the Bush administration, was sent by the CIA in 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium in the African nation of Niger, and he reported that he found no proof.
Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak reported on July 14, 2003, that two administration officials told him that Plame had suggested Wilson for the Niger trip. Fitzgerald's 10-month investigation has recently focused on reporters. Three sources involved in the probe said yesterday that the prosecutor is struggling with what one called an "echo chamber" effect in seeking the information's origin.
Fitzgerald has questioned four reporters about their conversations with I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, and is seeking to question a fifth, New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Fitzgerald has been told by reporters that either the subject of Wilson's wife did not come up in their phone conversations with Libby or it was introduced by the reporters. The reporters are from Time magazine, The Washington Post and NBC.
During a July 12, 2003, conversation, according to a source involved in the investigation, Time reporter Matthew Cooper told Libby that he had been informed by other reporters that Wilson's wife was a CIA employee. Libby, the source said, replied that he had heard the same thing, also from the press corps.
Cooper's lawyer, Floyd Abrams, declined to comment on his client's conversation with Libby. On Wednesday, Cooper was found in contempt of court for refusing to testify about conversations he had with people other than Libby about Wilson's wife.
NBC officials have said that "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert neither offered nor received information about Wilson's wife in a phone conversation with Libby. Washington Post reporters Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler have testified that the work of Wilson's wife did not come up in conversations with Libby. Novak has declined to say whether he has been subpoenaed.