Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby Indicted, Rove Remains In Jeopardy

From The Washington Post:

Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted today by a federal grand jury after a nearly two-year investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity.

Capping a week of political turmoil in Washington, Libby promptly resigned and left the White House. He expressed confidence that eventually he would be "totally exonerated," and both Cheney and President Bush praised his talent and dedication. "Obviously, today is a sad day for me and my family," Libby said in a statement.

The grand jury did not return an indictment against another top administration official who was caught up in the probe: Karl Rove, President Bush's top political strategist. But the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, said the investigation is "not over" and that another grand jury would be kept open in case prosecutors decide to press other charges.

Libby, 55, was indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The five-count indictment charges that he lied to FBI agents and to the federal grand jury about how and when he learned classified information about the employment of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, and disclosed that information to three journalists. If convicted on all counts, Libby faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.

In brief remarks before flying to Camp David for the weekend, Bush said he had accepted the resignation and praised Libby as an aide who "worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country." He called the investigation "serious" and said the process now moves to a new phase, leading to a trial.

"While we are all saddened by today's news, we remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country," Bush said. "I got a job to do, and so do the people who work in the White House." He did not take any questions from reporters.

Cheney said in a statement that he accepted Libby's resignation "with deep regret." He called his aide "one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known." Cheney added that "it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the charges or on any facts relating to the proceeding."

The indictment was handed up today as the grand jury's term expired. Although no indictment was announced for Rove, 54, the White House deputy chief of staff, today's proceedings did not remove him from legal jeopardy, since the investigation is continuing.

An attorney for Rove, Robert Luskin, said in a statement this morning, "The Special Counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he has made no decision about whether or not to bring charges and that Mr. Rove's status has not changed. Mr. Rove will continue to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel's efforts to complete the investigation. We are confident that when the Special Counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong."

Rove provided new information to Fitzgerald during eleventh-hour negotiations that "gave Fitzgerald pause" about charging Bush's senior strategist, said a source close to Rove. "The prosecutor has to resolve those issues before he decides what to do."

"We're not quite done," Fitzgerald said in an hour-long news conference this afternoon. But he refused to comment on whether anyone beside Libby would be charged in the case or whether additional charges against Libby would be sought.

"I will not end the investigation until I can look anyone in the eye and tell them we have carried out our responsibility sufficiently," Fitzgerald said.

Asked about what a reporter described as "Republican talking points" minimizing the significance of today's charges, the prosecutor said lying under oath "is a very, very serious matter" and a "serious breach of the public trust."

He said, "We didn't get the straight story, and we had to take action."

The White House is spinning this as a partial victory since Rove wasn't indicted. I've heard Pete Williams from NBC, Jeffrey Toobin from CNN, and a few other talking heads make similar points that Rove will probably avoid indictment.

Yet the Washington Post story above seems to make clear that Rove isn't out of ythe woods yet and Rawstory has this tidbit:

Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove was the mysterious 'Official A' named in the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, lawyers close to the case have told RAW STORY.

Friday's indictment identified "Official A" as a "senior official in the White House who advised Libby on July 10 or 11 of 2003" about a conversation with conservative columnist Robert Novak about an upcoming column where Plame would be identified as a CIA employee. Novak's column ran Jul. 14, 2003.

Rove is expected to be identified in several newspapers Saturday. The Associated Press is also close to naming Rove as 'Official A.'

Rove's role in the case remains unclear. Those familiar with the investigation say that Rove remains in legal limbo and that Fitzgerald has not finished his inquiry into Bush's chief advisor's role.

Rove may be called on to testify against Libby in the latter's trial.

“This investigation is not yet over,” one of the lawyers in the case said. “You must keep in mind that people like Mr. Rove are still under investigation.”

Is Fitzgerald squeezing Libby to nail Rove? Is Fitzgerald squeezing Libby to nail Cheney? Is Libby the only one going down?

David Gergen just said on the 7:00 PM edition of Hardball that it is too early to tell whether Rove will escape indictment but if the Washington Post is right about Rove coming up with 11th hour testimony that gave Fitzgerald pause on indicting him, then Rove still remains in serious legal jeopardy.

We'll see. This may just be the first act in a legal drama that embroils Karl Rove and/or Dick Cheney or it may be a one-act play with Scooter taking the fall.

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