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Grand jury indicts Libby in CIA leak case
From staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON — In a deep legal blow to an embattled White House, Vice President Cheney's top aide was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury in the long-running CIA leak case.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted on five felony counts. He is using crutches because of a broken foot.
Win McNamee, AFP/Getty Images
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, was indicted Friday on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements.
His indictment came nearly two years after Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald began investigating whether Bush administration officials broke the law when they told reporters that Valerie Plame was a CIA employee. (Related: Libby indictment document (.pdf file) | Profile of Libby)
Libby submitted a resignation for his position shortly after the indictment was announced. It was accepted by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Libby left the White House, according to reports.
The indictment accuses Libby of lying to a grand jury about how and when he learned about Plame's identity in 2003 and then told reporters about it. The information was classified. It does not charge Libby with actually leaking the information.
If convicted on all five counts, Libby could face up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.
"When citizens testify before grand juries, they are required to tell the truth. Without the truth, our criminal justice system cannot serve our nation or its citizens," Fitzpatrick said in a statement released by his office Friday.
He said the indictment "alleges that the efforts of the grand jury to investigate such a leak were obstructed when Mr. Libby lied about how and when he learned, and subsequently disclosed information" about Plame.
Fitzgerald has scheduled a news conference for 2:15 p.m. ET. The grand jury is scheduled to end its two-year term today, but Fitzgerald could seek an extension.
CIA LEAK TIMELINE
February 2002: The Bush administration asks former ambassador Joseph Wilson to travel to Niger to check a report that Niger sold yellowcake uranium to Iraq in the late 1990s for use in nuclear weapons.
Jan. 28, 2003: President Bush states that Britain learned that Iraq "recently sought significant aquantities of uranium from Africa.'' He omits that U.S. agencies questioned the validity of that intelligence.
July 6: In a New York Times op-ed piece, Wilson writes that he could not verify Niger's sale of uranium yellowcake.
July 14: Columnist Robert Novak identifies Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as "a (CIA) operative on weapons of mass destruction.'' Novak cites "two senior administration officials'' as his sources.
July 17: Matthew Cooper writes on Time.com that government officials told him Wilson's wife is a CIA official monitoring WMD.
Dec. 30: U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald is named special counsel to investigate whether a crime was committed in the leak of Plame's name.
May 21, 2004: A grand jury subpoenas Cooper and Time, seeking testimony and documents. Time says it will fight subpoena.
Aug. 9: U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan finds Cooper and Time in contempt of court. Time appeals.
Aug. 12, 14: The grand jury subpoenas New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who gathered material for a story but never wrote one.
Aug. 24: Cooper agrees to give a deposition after Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, personally releases Cooper from a promise of confidentiality.
Sept. 13: The grand jury issues a further subpoena to Cooper seeking more information.
Oct. 7: Miller held in contempt.
Oct. 13: Cooper and Time held in contempt.
Feb. 15, 2005: Appeals court rules against Miller and Cooper. Both Time and The New York Times appeal to the Supreme Court.
June 27: The Supreme Court refuses to intervene.
July 1: Time agrees to comply with a court order to turn over Cooper's notes, e-mail and other documents. Cooper and Miller refuse to divulge sources.
July 6: Hogan sends Miller to jail for refusing to divulge her source. Cooper agrees to name his source after receiving permission from the source to do so.
July 15: Presidential aide Karl Rove testifies that he first learned Plame's identity from journalists, then informally discussed the information, without using her name, with Cooper.
Sept. 29 :Miller is released from jail after agreeing to testify. She says that her source has "voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality.'' She testifies the next day.
Oct. 6: Rove agrees to testify again before the grand jury.
Oct. 11: Miller testifies again and turns over notes of a previously undisclosed phone conversation with Libby.
Oct. 13: Hogan lifts the contempt order against Miller.
Oct. 14: Rove testifies again.
Oct. 16: Miller writes in a newspaper article about her testimony that she can't recall who told her Plame's name
Oct. 28: Libby is indicted on five felony counts.
Karl Rove, a key adviser to President Bush who also was a focus of the investigation, was not indicted Friday. But Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said Friday morning that an investigation is continuing.
"There's no change in Karl's standing. Fitzgerald has made no decision on whether to charge Karl with anything. Karl will continue to fully cooperate with the investigation and we are quite confident (Fitzgerald) will reach the right decision when he's done," Luskin said.
The "right decision," Luskin said, would be that Rove committed no crime.
Columnist Robert Novak revealed Plame's name and her CIA status on July 14, 2003. That was five days after Novak talked to Rove and eight days after Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, published an opinion article in The New York Times accusing the Bush administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq.
The indictment alleges that Libby began digging for details about Joseph Wilson well before the Times piece was published. Libby made his first inquiries about Wilson's travel to Niger in late May 2003 — a trip the government sent him on in early 2002 to check on reports that Saddam was trying to buy uranium — and by June 11 Libby was informed by a CIA official that Wilson's wife worked for the agency and might have sent Wilson on the trip.
On June 12, 2003, the indictment alleges, Libby heard directly from Cheney that Plame worked for the spy agency.
"Libby was advised by the vice president of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA in the counterproliferation division. Libby understood that the vice president had learned this information from the CIA," Fitzgerald said in a news release.
A short time later, Libby began reaching out to reporters, starting with the Times"Judith Miller on June 23.
Libby is considered Cheney's alter ego, a staunch conservative who pushed for war with Iraq. Any trial of Libby would be likely to shine a spotlight on Cheney and the vice president's role in building a case for war against Iraq.
Bush ordered U.S. troops to war in March 2003, saying Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program posed a grave and immediate threat to the United States. No such weapons were found. The U.S. military death toll climbed past 2,000 this week.
Though he has worked in relative obscurity, Libby is one of the most influential advisers in the West Wing because of his proximity to Cheney, one of the most powerful vice presidents in the nation's history.
Earlier Friday at the White House, Cheney arrived at 6:25 a.m., more than an hour earlier than usual. Libby was seen leaving home about 6:15 a.m., his normal commuting time. There was no sign of Rove outside his home early Friday.
Rove attended the daily meeting of the senior staff and met with the president late in the evening, at the end of a day in which the White House dealt with the withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Libby was said to have passed up the staff meeting to attend a security briefing. (Video: White House waits for news)
Elsewhere, the White House tried to keep up an appearance of normalcy. President Bush gave a speech Friday morning in Norfolk, Va. on the war on terror. "Thanks for the chance to get out of Washington," he told the audience.
The lack of an indictment against Rove is a mixed outcome for the administration. It keeps in place the president's top adviser, the architect of his political machine whose fingerprints can be found on virtually every policy that emerges from the White House.
But leaving Rove in legal jeopardy keeps Bush and his team working on problems like the Iraq war, a Supreme Court vacancy and slumping poll ratings beneath a dark cloud of uncertainty.
Rove, who testified four times before the grand jury, has stepped back from some of his political duties but is said to be otherwise immersed in his sweeping portfolio as deputy White House chief of staff.
Senior Republicans inside and outside the White House have wondered whether the case has been a distraction for Rove. They point to the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, which was derailed by conservative activists, many of them allies of Rove. He helped build Bush's political career on the strength of ties to the religious conservative movement.
Democratic reaction to the indictment came quickly. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Friday, "The prosecutor has performed his job in pursuing this case vigorously and fairly. However the charges really beg the larger question — what did the president and vice president know about these and related matters, and when did they know it?"
The Democratic National Committee urged Bush to delay his weekend trip to the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., and confront the case.
Contributing: USA TODAY's Judy Keen, Mark Memmott and Kathy Kiely, USATODAY.com's Randy Lilleston and The Associated Press.