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Source: Prosecutor to Seek Libby Indictment

Friday 28 October 2005

Rove will not be indicted Friday, sources say.

Washington - Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe, plans to seek an indictment against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, a lawyer involved in the case told CNN Friday.

The attorney said that Fitzgerald believes Libby misled investigators.

Indictments in the case would cap off a nearly two-year investigation into the public unmasking of an undercover CIA operative. Fitzgerald has scheduled a 2 p.m. ET news conference.

The New York Times reported on Friday that lawyers in the case said Libby will be charged with making false statements to a federal grand jury.

President Bush's top political strategist Karl Rove will not be indicted Friday by a federal grand jury investigating the leak, sources close to the investigation tell CNN. But, the sources said, Rove is not out of legal jeopardy as the matter is still under investigation.

Two lawyers involved in the case have told CNN that Fitzgerald is focusing on whether Rove committed perjury. Rove testified four times in front of the grand jury.

Impact of Indictments

David Gergen, a former adviser to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, told CNN's "Larry King Live" that indictments in the case could have an enormous impact on the Iraq war.

"Because if there are indictments, it will not only be people close to the president, the vice president of the United States, but they will raise questions about whether criminal acts were perpetrated to help get the country into war."

As Rove departed his home in Washington Friday morning, he told reporters, "I am going to have a great Friday and a fantastic weekend and hope you do too."

Rove is talking to former Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo, who may help him out with public relations, sources close to Rove told CNN.

Any indictments against Rove or Libby would be politically damaging to the White House at a time when Bush's approval ratings already are at a low ebb.

This week alone the president's embattled Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, withdrew, and the number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq war surpassed 2,000.

Criminal charges could force Rove or Libby to step down from their posts - particularly because of Bush's vow at the beginning of the investigation to fire anyone on his staff who was involved.

He appeared to set a higher standard in July, saying, "If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

The event that triggered the legal and political quagmire that has put the White House on edge was a syndicated newspaper column by Robert Novak, published on July 14, 2003, about Joe Wilson.

A week earlier, Wilson, a retired U.S. diplomat, publicly claimed that Bush administration officials, intent on building a case to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, hyped unsupported claims that Hussein sought to buy uranium for nuclear weapons in Niger.

Novak, who also is a CNN contributor, was writing about the CIA's decision to send Wilson to the African nation in February 2002 to investigate the claims, which later wound up in Bush's 2003 State of Union address.

About midway through his column, Novak noted that Wilson "never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."

An angry Wilson accused administration officials of deliberately leaking his wife's identity as a CIA operative - thus ending her career as an undercover agent - to retaliate against him for going public with his criticism.

Both Rove and Libby have denied leaking Plame's name.

Deliberately disclosing the identity of a CIA operative can be a crime, and Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was named in September 2003 as a special prosecutor to investigate after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recused his office to avoid any conflict of interest.

Reporters Subpoenaed

Trying to pin down the details of discussions between administration officials and reporters about Plame, Fitzgerald subpoenaed Washington journalists.

Two of them - Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine - sought a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court to protect their confidential sources but the court refused to take up the cases.

Facing jail for contempt of court, Cooper testified after accepting a waiver of his confidentiality pledge from a source - who turned out to be Rove.

Cooper later disclosed that Rove told him in July 2003 that Plame was a CIA agent involved in weapons of mass destruction issues, although Rove never used her name and never indicated she had covert status.

Cooper said he later asked Libby "if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger," and Libby said he had, which Cooper said he took as confirmation of Rove's information.

Miller went to jail for 85 days but was released after her source - Libby - assured her that he had no objections to her testifying.

Dick Cheney's name surfaced in the case earlier this week. The New York Times reported that notes of a conversation indicated Cheney gave Plame's name to Libby - which appears to contradict Libby's grand jury testimony that he first heard Plame's name from reporters.

Cheney's office had no comment, and the White House would neither confirm nor deny the Times report.



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