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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

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

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A sigh of relief at the White House today. Karl Rove will not face indictment by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. That news, which came in a letter to Rove's attorney, frees the president's adviser to focus on politics and his goal of helping the GOP keep its congressional majority in the upcoming election.

NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

LARRY ABRAMSON reporting:

All we know is that Fitzgerald will not level charges against Rove. The Special Counsel's office will not explain why former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby will go on trial early next year and Rove will not. But the indictment against Libby accuses him of deliberating lying to the grand jury about his involvement in efforts to leak the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Karl Rove, by contrast, may have only neglected to tell the grand jury that he talked about the matter with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McBride -

Mr. ANDREW McBRIDE (Former Federal Prosecutor): It is always more difficult to prove a case of perjury, obstruction of justice based on a fact omitted rather than based on, in the Libby case, a story told where facts can be held up to it to show that it's affirmatively false.

ABRAMSON: McBride says it also helped that Rove returned to the grand jury to correct his earlier omission and had a total of five appearances to set the record straight.

Or, here's another perspective. Karl Rove never did anything wrong. That's the rule of his lawyer, Robert Luskin, who said in a written statement, "We believe that the Special Counsel's decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct."

There is, however, no chance that a Washington scandal this juicy will be allowed to die quietly. Howard Dean, head of the Democratic National Committee, said on NBC's Today Show the announcement does not exonerate Rove.

Mr. HOWARD DEAN (Democratic National Committee): He doesn't belong in the White House. If the president valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove, Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago. So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but it's not very good news for America.

ABRAMSON: It will now be a little harder for Democrats to keep this issue alive going into the mid-term elections. Driving the Republican strategy in the context will be the indictment-free Karl Rove. Rove was about to speak at a Republican fundraiser when he learned of Fitzgerald's decision yesterday. Without mentioning Plamegate, Rove sank his teeth into the Democrats with an attack on Senator John Kerry and Congressman John Murtha for supporting troop pullouts from Iraq.

Mr. KARL ROVE (White House Deputy Chief of Staff): And when it gets difficult, they fall back on that party's old pattern of cutting and running. They are wrong, and profoundly wrong, in their approach.

(Soundbite of scattered applause)

ABRAMSON: With or without Karl Rove, the legal story chugs along. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald still faces the trial of Scooter Libby next year and Fitzgerald did not say he was ending his investigation.

There are many open questions he could explore, such as who revealed Plame's identity to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward before it appeared in print. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer says Fitzgerald should answer that and other questions.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): I am renewing my call on Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald to issue a report detailing his findings and explaining his charging decisions.

ABRAMSON: The old independent counsel law required that sort of accounting, leading to Ken Starr's classic narrative of Bill Clinton's indiscretions. Legal analysts say Fitzgerald, who's appointed by the Justice Department, gets to decide on his own whether to tell the full story of the CIA leak.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

NORRIS: Coverage of the CIA leak case continues online, where you can follow a timeline of major developments and read a profile of Karl Rove. That's all at our web site, NPR.org.

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