Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) said yesterday that he expects White House officials will step down if they are indicted this week but stressed that speculation should cease until special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald announces the results of his investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Asked yesterday about two figures who are considered central to Fitzgerald's inquiry -- Karl Rove, White House deputy chief of staff, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff -- Allen said, "I think they will step down if they're indicted." But, he added during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," "Let's see what happens rather than get into all this speculation and so forth."
The investigation was triggered by a Robert D. Novak syndicated column on July 14, 2003, in which he identified Plame's CIA employment and linked her to her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson at that time was a vocal critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy who had been sent by the CIA to Niger in 2002 to check on allegations that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been seeking to buy uranium.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), appearing on the same program, said people should wait, but if there were an indictment, she hoped it would be for "a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime."
Hutchison described someone being tripped up "because they said something in the first grand jury and then maybe they found new information or they forgot something, and they tried to correct that in a second grand jury."
Rove, who recently appeared for the fourth time before the grand jury, is said to have been asked to explain new information about a conversation he had in July 2003 about Plame with Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had pushed for a special counsel, praised Fitzgerald as a nonpolitical prosecutor and said on the NBC program, "I am willing to accept to accept his decision, and I have no idea what it will be."
When Fitzgerald was appointed special counsel on Dec. 30, 2003, he took over an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of Plame's identity as a covert CIA officer. In February 2004, Fitzgerald asked for and received expanded authority from Justice to investigate crimes associated with his inquiry including perjury and obstruction of justice, according to a Justice letter disclosed Friday on Fitzgerald's Web site.
Former attorney general Richard Thornburgh, who once served as head of Justice's criminal division, said that he considered opening of the Fitzgerald Web site as "an ominous development" for those under investigation. "You don't open up a Web site if you're ready to shut down an investigation," he said on CNN's "Late Edition."
He also challenged the idea that an indictment for less than the original crime was not important. "If there is false testimony given or there's an attempt to corrupt any of the witnesses or evidence that is presented to the grand jury, that's a very serious offense because it undermines the integrity of the whole rule of law and investigatory process."