Saturday, October 16, 2004

Karl Rove Testifies in Inquiry

The New York Times
October 16, 2004

Bush Aide Is Said to Have Testified in Inquiry

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 - President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, testified on Friday to a federal grand jury investigating whether it was anyone at the White House who had illegally disclosed the name of a C.I.A. undercover officer to a newspaper columnist, a lawyer for Mr. Rove said.

"He answered fully and truthfully every one of their questions," the lawyer, Robert Luskin, said.

Mr. Luskin added that Mr. Rove, who testified for more than two hours, did not seek to avoid answering any question on legal grounds.

A spokesman for the White House, Scott McClellan, said the testimony demonstrated that Mr. Rove was "doing his part to cooperate" in the inquiry, as Mr. Bush has repeatedly instructed his aides.

Democrats attacked the Bush administration. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, accused Mr. Rove and the White House of failing to tell the public all that they knew about the events surrounding the identification of the officer, Valerie Plame, in a syndicated column by Robert Novak on July 14, 2003.

"Karl Rove needs to come clean and tell us what he told the grand jury today," Mr. McAuliffe said.

Joe Lockhart, a senior adviser to Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, issued a statement calling on Mr. Rove and other aides to "come clean about their role in this insidious act."

Mr. Luskin said Mr. Rove was not discussing his testimony because prosecutors had asked him not to do so. In addition, Mr. Luskin said, Mr. Rove has been notified in writing that he is not a target of the inquiry.

A target, as the terminology is understood by most prosecutors, refers to someone who may be charged with a crime. In the inquiry into the unauthorized disclosure of Ms. Plame's name, the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has told most of the people who have testified that they are subjects of the investigation. That means that their activities are under scrutiny, but that they may have done nothing wrong.

"He has been cooperating fully from the beginning," Mr. Luskin said after the grand jury appearance.

Mr. Rove has previously testified to the grand jury, although multiple appearances do not necessarily signify that a witness is suspected of wrongdoing. He was also interviewed at least once by F.B.I. investigators, who last fall conducted a preliminary inquiry in the case.

Moreover, the prosecutor has interviewed high-ranking officials, among them Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzalez Jr.

Mr. Novak's column appeared a week after Ms. Plame's husband, the former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, wrote an Op-Ed article in The New York Times questioning the intelligence on which Mr. Bush asserted that Iraq had tried to buy uranium ore in Africa. In his column, Mr. Novak cited two unidentified senior administration officials as sources.

Mr. Wilson and some Democrats have suggested that Ms. Plame's name was disclosed to discredit him, possibly by linking him to employees of the Central Intelligence Agency who were thought to be skeptical about Iraq's weapons programs.

It was not entirely clear why the prosecutor sought Mr. Rove's testimony. Lawyers who represent people in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to be seeking additional testimony from White House officials whose actions had been cited by the reporters who had recently been subpoenaed and had agreed to answer the prosecutor's questions.

Mr. Fitzgerald has subpoenaed at least five reporters, and some like Tim Russert of NBC News and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post have cooperated. It is not publicly known whether Mr. Novak has been subpoenaed or whether he has cooperated with the investigation.

Two reporters who have refused to cooperate with the prosecutor have been held in contempt of court by a federal judge in the case. On Wednesday, Judge Thomas F. Hogan of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, held Matthew Cooper, a correspondent for Time Magazine, in contempt, threatening him with up to 18 months in jail for refusing to testify about his sources.

Mr. Cooper had previously agreed to speak with the prosecutor about his conversations with I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Mr. Cheney. A lawyer for Mr. Cooper, Floyd Abrams, said the agreement was based on Mr. Libby's explicit waiver of any confidentiality agreement he had with Mr. Cooper.

Mr. Abrams said that Mr. Cooper gave a deposition discussing his conversations with Mr. Libby but that Mr. Cooper did not talk about any matters related to any other official like Mr. Rove. Earlier, Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, was held in contempt by Judge Hogan for refusing to testify about her sources in the case. Mr. Abrams, who also represents Ms. Miller, said the two reporters had sought to consolidate their appeals.