Friday, October 07, 2005

Rove to testify again in CIA leak probe


Top Bush aide to testify again in CIA leak probe

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a surprise move, President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, plans to give last-minute testimony to a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity, lawyers said on Thursday.

Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has yet to indicate whether or not he intends to bring indictments, but legal sources close to the investigation said he could signal his intentions within days. Fitzgerald has given no guarantees to Rove he will not be indicted.

Officials declined to disclose when Rove would appear, but the grand jury is expected to meet on Friday and again next week. Rove has appeared before the grand jury at least three previous times.

Legal sources said Fitzgerald may also call New York Times reporter Judith Miller to appear again before the grand jury to answer additional questions about her conversations with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Fitzgerald is expected this month to wrap up his nearly 2-year-old investigation into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity and whether any laws were violated in the process.

The outcome could shake up an administration reeling from criticism over its response to Hurricane Katrina and the indictment of House of Representatives Republican leader Tom DeLay of Texas on charges related to campaign financing.

The White House had long maintained Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the leak, but reporters have since named them as sources.


Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said his client had not received a "target letter" indicating he was likely to face indictment.

In discussions last week, Luskin said, "Fitzgerald did not indicate that Rove was a target; he did state that he has not made a decision about whether or not to charge."

"Since Karl began cooperating with the investigation, he has never sought any promises or assurances as a precondition for his testimony," Luskin added.

First Amendment attorney Chip Babcock said he was surprised by the decision to bring Rove back before the grand jury so late in the process. The grand jury hearing the case is scheduled to expire on October 28.

"There has been a lot of testimony developed since he last testified, including Judith Miller. It may mean they want to ask him questions in light of what they've uncovered and see whether they can lock him in," said Babcock, a partner at Jackson Walker LLP. "You never know whose inconsistencies they're focused on."

Luskin said Rove offered in July to provide additional testimony after the grand jury heard from Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. Cooper said Rove was the first person to tell him about Plame.

"We offered to make Mr. Rove available at a time and place of Mr. Fitzgerald's choosing should he wish Rove's further cooperation. He indicated to me last week that he wished to take me up on that offer," Luskin said.

But Luskin added: "I am not commenting in any fashion on when or what form that cooperation might take."

Fitzgerald's office declined to comment.

Plame's diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, has accused the administration of leaking her name, which damaged her ability to work undercover, to get back at him for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy.

Miller testified to the grand jury last Friday about the conversations she had with Libby regarding Wilson's wife. Legal sources said Libby did not identify Plame by name.

A legal source close to the matter said Miller had yet to be asked to reappear for further questioning.

"He (Fitzgerald) is evaluating her testimony," the legal source said. "It could happen at some point."

In exchange for Miller's testimony, Fitzgerald agreed to limit the scope of questioning to her conversations with Libby. If Miller is called back, the legal source said, "It would not be about Rove."

After initially promising to fire anyone found to have leaked information in the case, Bush in July offered a more qualified pledge: "If someone committed a crime they will no longer work in my administration."