Cheney's Role in CIA Leak Case Investigated

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A federal grand jury could return indictments against top White House officials as a result of an investigation into leaks that exposed the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame. As speculation mounts, the role of Vice President Dick Cheney takes on new significance.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name is expected to wrap up this week. The term of the grand jury looking into the case expires this Friday. That means special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald could announce any day now that he'll seek indictments against top White House officials. Most of the focus has been on presidential political adviser Karl Rove and on vice presidential chief of staff Lewis Libby. Each of them talked to reporters about Valerie Plame. There's also a report in today's New York Times that says it was Vice President Cheney who first told Libby about Valerie Plame. Joining us now from the White House is NPR's Don Gonyea.

And, Don, first, this New York Times report--let's talk about that. It focuses on a meeting between Lewis Libby and Vice President Cheney June 12th of 2003.

DON GONYEA reporting:

That's right. And it does a couple of things. First, The Times story contradicts testimony that Lewis Libby--he's also known as Scooter Libby--gave before the grand jury about how he first heard about Valerie Plame. The Times says that Libby told the grand jury that he learned about Plame and the fact that she's married to Ambassador Joseph Wilson from reporters he had spoken with. It cites Libby's own notes and indicates that it was actually Vice President Cheney who had given that information to Libby. So certainly there are potential legal ramifications for Lewis Libby if special prosecutor Fitzgerald determines that he lied to the grand jury. And the other thing this revelation does is it puts more of a focus on Vice President Cheney himself and raises questions about his level of involvement.

BLOCK: Well, does this meeting and what apparently came out in it match up with what Vice President Cheney has said?

GONYEA: Dick Cheney has been interviewed by the special prosecutor, but it was not grand jury testimony, and it's not clear if he was under oath or not. The vice president's spokesman won't say, and--here's the most important part--we don't know what he said in that interview. The vice president has, though, said publicly two years ago on television that he doesn't know Joe Wilson. And today's Times piece does show that he did have conversations about Wilson well before he answered that question that day. Also, Melissa, it's not illegal for Cheney and Libby, each having security clearances, to be discussing a CIA agent. The problem is that her name got out to the media, and it's important to know that the discussion between Libby and the vice president about her took place a month before her name did get out.

BLOCK: Don, this special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, is known for keeping his cards very close to the vest. Any sense of what the focus would be now in the final days of this grand jury?

GONYEA: You know, we really don't know. There is a sense that indictments could be coming, perhaps naming Libby, perhaps naming Karl Rove, but again we really don't know. Only Patrick Fitzgerald knows at this point what's on the table, what the grand jury testimony and what other evidence shows. He could also, though, focus not on that original leak, but on perjury or obstruction or conspiracy to obstruct the investigation. We should know by Friday.

BLOCK: This is a difficult time for the White House, Don, not just the possibility of these indictments but also a White House that's struggling to win conservative support for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.

GONYEA: That's right. They continue to stand by the Harriet Miers nomination, rejecting calls and what we're hearing are predictions by conservatives that her nomination will eventually be withdrawn. It is interesting that this story is coming at the same time that the leak investigation is coming to a head. And some say that Karl Rove has been distracted by that investigation. He's had to testify; he's testified four times. And that has meant that he wasn't perhaps as hands-on on this one in terms of making sure the nomination went smoothly, working all of the angles that he usually works; hence all the trouble that the Miers nomination has had.

BLOCK: NPR's Don Gonyea at the White House. Don, thanks very much.

GONYEA: You're welcome.

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