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Buzz about a Karl plea as probers close in


Buzz about a Karl plea
as probers close in
BY THOMAS M. DeFRANK, KENNETH R. BAZINET and JAMES GORDON MEEK
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON - Jittery Bush aides gnawed their nails yesterday as a special prosecutor zeroed in on White House political guru Karl Rove's role in blowing a CIA agent's cover.
In the closing hours of the grand jury probe, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald paid a visit yesterday to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, prompting speculation that a plea bargain could be in the works for the deputy White House chief of staff.

It was the latest of several one-on-one meetings between Fitzgerald and Luskin, the Daily News has learned.

Investigators also turned up at the White House for yet another round of questions for Rove's subordinates.

A secret meeting Fitzgerald held yesterday with Judge Thomas Hogan, who presides over the case, suggests a grand jury extension also could be under consideration, according to legal sources.

As the investigation moved toward its high-stakes finale, Rove has exhibited several mood swings.

Two weeks ago, at a political event in Texas, Rove brushed aside concerns from anxious pals. "He said he was fine and he said it with gusto," one of the well-wishers recalled.

A week later, however, Rove seemed down and distracted to some of his White House colleagues. More recently, however, he was in better spirits, dashing off business-as-usual handwritten notes to acquaintances that made no mention of his travails.

"He remains upbeat and optimistic," according to an associate. "He's convinced in his own mind that he's done his best to assist the investigation at every stage."

The News learned that Rove's lawyers hope to persuade Fitzgerald that inconsistencies in his grand jury testimony were because of poor recollections, not attempts at obstruction.

Meanwhile, FBI agents quizzed outed CIA agent Valerie Plame's neighbors, who told them they did not know she was a CIA employee before her cover was blown.

At the U.S. courthouse, the grand jury heard evidence for three hours, but Fitzgerald did not make any announcements about indictments related to his two-year probe. Fitzgerald emerged an hour after adjourning the panel and offered no comment.

While White House staffers were tense, Fitzgerald's team relaxed from their stoic, all-business demeanor. The cheery prosecutors shared an elevator ride with a News reporter and cracked up over a private joke.

Originally published on October 27, 2005

LINK TO ORIGINAL

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