Plame Leak Probe Results Expected

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Officials at the White House are awaiting the results of a two-year investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the leaking of the identity of an undercover CIA officer. The grand jury's term expires on Friday, but could be extended at Fitzgerald's request.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

President Bush is expected today to name his nominee to succeed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve. A White House announcement is planned early this afternoon. The news comes as officials at the White House are awaiting the results of a two-year investigation into the leaking of the identity of an undercover CIA officer.

NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea joins me now. Good morning.

DON GONYEA reporting:

Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So what are you hearing about this announcement, and what can you tell us about the timing?

GONYEA: Well, it's coming early. We hadn't expected it until sometime in November, so perhaps this is an effort to regain control of the agenda by the White House amid all the controversy of this week or to distract. It is a pick that will be very closely scrutinized. Alan Greenspan--his term expires at the end of January. Some potential candidates' names often come up as to who will replace him. There's Glenn Hubbard, who's a past economic adviser to the president. Harvard economist Martin Feldstein is mentioned, and Fed Governor, now White House economic adviser Ben Bernanke. All of those names on the list will know in just over an hour from now.

MONTAGNE: Well, with the White House turning the subject to the--or turning the attention to the subject of somebody who will succeed Alan Greenspan, it does that at a time, as we said, that it's waiting the results of an inquiry into the leak of a CIA officer's identity. Where does that investigation stand as of this morning?

GONYEA: Well, the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has been quite good at keeping secrets. And as of the end of last week, there were many reports citing sources close to the inquiry, saying that he simply hasn't made up his mind yet about who might be charged and even as to whether or not he will bring any criminal charges. The names most frequently mentioned as possible targets of the investigation are Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby. He's Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. All of this, of course, stems from that leak of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. She is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He, back in the summer of '03, accused the White House very publicly in The New York Times of distorting and twisting facts regarding Iraqi weapons to beef up the argument for war. If Fitzgerald does bring charges, they could be connected to that original leak, or they could involve obstruction or perjury or something of that nature. But the grand jury expires Friday, so we expect something by then.

MONTAGNE: If it were to come to pass that White House officials are indicted, will they be forced to step down?

GONYEA: We don't know yet. It seems that, for political reasons, they would have to. Remember, this is a case dealing with how classified information was handled. Now having said that, the White House position on this very question has evolved over the past couple of years. Initially the press secretary said if anyone in the administration is involved in the leak, they would no longer be part of the administration; that from Scott McClellan. Then earlier this year, the president said if anyone committed a crime, they would be gone, seeming to raise the bar a bit. Then just last week, Mr. Bush declined to say when he was asked very directly if he expected anyone indicted to resign. He wouldn't comment except to say that he doesn't want to prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

MONTAGNE: Well, Don, just briefly, this investigation is coming close--is coming to a close, rather, just as President Bush is encountering a host of political difficulties, including his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Is the White House feeling under siege these days?

GONYEA: There is tension evident in the press secretary's daily briefings and the building. The president last week tried to downplay it all by calling it background noise and background chatter, but you can feel the tension.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much. That's NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

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