Friday, April 28, 2006

Prosecutor Weighs Charges Against Rove in Leak Case

The New York Times
Prosecutor Weighs Charges Against Rove in Leak Case

WASHINGTON, April 27 — Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case, is expected to decide in the next two to three weeks whether to bring perjury charges against Karl Rove, the powerful adviser to President Bush, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday.

With the completion of Mr. Rove's fifth appearance before the grand jury on Wednesday, Mr. Fitzgerald is now believed to have assembled all of the facts necessary to determine whether to seek an indictment of Mr. Rove or drop the case.

Lawyers in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald would spend the coming days reviewing the transcript of Mr. Rove's three hours of testimony on Wednesday and weigh it against his previous statements to the grand jury as well as the testimony of others, including a sworn statement that Mr. Rove's lawyer gave to the prosecutor earlier this year. The lawyers were granted anonymity so they could speak about the internal legal deliberations in Mr. Rove's case.

A lawyer with knowledge of the case said that Mr. Rove had known for more than a month that he was likely to make another appearance before the grand jury, and that he had known since last fall that he would be subject to further questions from Mr. Fitzgerald before the prosecutor completed his inquiry.

Mr. Rove was relieved of his day-to-day domestic policy duties at the White House in a staff shake-up last week, but White House officials say the change was unrelated to his legal complications.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, declined to comment.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Mr. Rove, said Mr. Rove would be cleared. "We're confident at the end of this that Mr. Fitzgerald is going to find that Karl has been totally truthful and not only has done nothing wrong but has done everything right," Mr. Corallo said.

Mr. Fitzgerald must specifically decide whether Mr. Rove misled the grand jury in testimony he gave in 2004 about his conversations with reporters about Valerie Wilson, the intelligence officer at the heart of the C.I.A. leak case.

In his February 2004 testimony, Mr. Rove acknowledged talking to the columnist Robert D. Novak about Ms. Wilson, but he did not tell the grand jury about a second conversation he had about her with Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter. Mr. Novak revealed her name and C.I.A. employment in a column on July 14, 2003.

Critics of the Bush administration have asserted that the revelation was retaliation against her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration of twisting some of the intelligence used to justify going to war with Iraq.

Mr. Rove later voluntarily told the grand jury about the conversation with Mr. Cooper, and said that he had forgotten about it in the rush of his daily business. But Mr. Fitzgerald has long been skeptical of Mr. Rove's account of his forgetfulness, lawyers in the case say. On Wednesday Mr. Fitzgerald questioned Mr. Rove about how he came to remember his conversation with Mr. Cooper.

Robert D. Luskin, Mr. Rove's lawyer, issued a statement on Wednesday declaring that Mr. Rove had testified "voluntarily and unconditionally" about a matter that had arisen since Mr. Rove's last grand jury appearance, in October 2005. Mr. Luskin was evidently referring to the testimony of Viveca Novak, a former reporter at Time magazine, who has said that she told Mr. Rove's lawyer in early 2004 that she believed that Mr. Rove had been a source for Mr. Cooper.

Mr. Rove admitted from the outset to investigators that he spoke to Mr. Novak on July 9, 2003, about Ms. Wilson. It was in that conversation that Mr. Rove first learned the name of Ms. Wilson from Mr. Novak, lawyers in the case said.

Mr. Rove's conversation with Mr. Cooper occurred two days later. In that conversation, Mr. Rove did not mention Ms. Wilson's name, but, Mr. Cooper said, Mr. Rove did say that she worked at the C.I.A.

Mr. Fitzgerald did not learn of Mr. Rove's conversation with Mr. Cooper until long after the investigation had begun, when a search of Mr. Rove's e-mail messages uncovered one that he had sent to Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, about the Cooper conversation.

It is still not publicly known why Mr. Rove's e-mail message to Mr. Hadley was not turned over earlier, but a lawyer in the case said White House documents were collected in response to several separate requests that may not have covered certain time periods or all relevant officials. Mr. Rove had no role in the search for documents, which was carried out by an administrative office in the White House.

Also on Thursday, a federal judge refused to dismiss charges against I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges in the leak case last year.

The judge, Reggie B. Walton of Federal District Court, turned down a motion by lawyers for Mr. Libby who challenged Mr. Fitzgerald's authority to handle the case.