Rove Returns for More Testimony in CIA Leak Probe
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The chief strategist for President Bush is testifying before a grand jury. Karl Rove is among the president's closest advisers. An insider newsletter here in Washington sometimes calls him `the smartest man in politics.' Lately that newsletter and many other publications have focused on Rove's involvement in the investigation of a leak of classified information. A prosecutor wants to know who revealed the name of a CIA officer in 2003. And now Rove is testifying for the fourth time. NPR's Don Gonyea this morning.
DON GONYEA reporting:
Karl Rove's longtime role as the president's chief political adviser and his position in the White House mean this investigation has reached the top tier of the administration. Because special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has not revealed what evidence he has or whom he is pursuing, it's not known what kind of charges he may be contemplating or who may be his targets, if indeed there are to be any charges at all. Still, the fact is that Karl Rove, the man George W. Bush has called the architect of his election and re-election as president, is apparently the final witness in this long investigation and that has prompted speculation about Rove's future in the White House.
Rove's involvement in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity has been a shifting story over the past two years. Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was sent to Africa by the CIA in 2002 to see whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium for weapons of mass destruction. Wilson found no evidence to support that claim, which President Bush nonetheless repeated in his State of the Union speech in 2003. Wilson then publicly disputed the case the president and others were making for invading Iraq and, Wilson says, his wife's identity was leaked by the White House in retaliation.
Wilson pointed to Rove, prompting White House press secretary Scott McClellan to tell reporters he had talked to Rove and that Rove had no role in the leak. This is from the fall of 2003.
(Soundbite of audio from 2003)
Mr. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Press Secretary): Let me make it very clear, as I said previously, he was not involved and that allegation is not true in terms of leaking classified information, nor would he condone it.
GONYEA: McClellan also said that if anyone were found to be involved in the leak, they would no longer be in the administration. More recently, though, the president seemed to soften that standard, saying someone would be fired if convicted of a crime. For most of 2004, the case seemed to fade from public view. It heated up again this year when reporters who'd been told about Valerie Plame's CIA status refused to say who told them. They were threatened with jail by the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. One reporter, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, agreed to testify in July after his source, who turned out to be Karl Rove, released him from a promise of confidentiality. Another, Judith Miller of The New York Times, was incarcerated for 85 days before finally testifying, after, she said, her source released her from a pledge to protect his identity. That source was the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Analysts say the fact that Rove is being asked to testify yet again could mean that the prosecutor is looking for discrepancies or inconsistencies in his testimony. Rove takes the oath today with no assurance that his testimony won't be used against him if he is charged. For most of this year, the White House has refused to answer questions about the case. Here's President Bush doing an interview this week with Matt Lauer of NBC's "Today" show.
(Soundbite of "Today" show)
Mr. MATT LAUER: Does it worry you that they seem to have such an interest in Mr. Rove?
President GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm not going to talk about the case. I've been asked this a lot. My answer's consistent. And the special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation. He's doing it in a very dignified way, by the way. And we'll see what he says.
GONYEA: The grand jury is impaneled until October 28th. It's expected that as early as next week Patrick Fitzgerald could bring indictments for revealing Plame's identity or for perjury or obstructing justice if witnesses have tried to conceal their true roles. He could also indict for engaging in a conspiracy to commit a crime or obstruct justice. Or the special prosecutor may conclude that no crime has been committed. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.
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