ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, was indicted today on five counts of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements in the investigation into the leak of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Libby is the first person formally charged in the nearly two-year investigation. Libby submitted his resignation to the White House and left just before special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald announced the charges. If convicted, he could face 30 years in prison.
Karl Rove, President Bush's closest adviser and the deputy White House chief of staff, was not indicted, but Rove's attorney confirmed that he remains under investigation. President Bush spoke briefly on the South Lawn of the White House just minutes ago before leaving for Camp David for the weekend.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Today I accepted the resignation of Scooter Libby. Scooter's worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country. He served the vice president and me through extraordinary times in our nation's history. Special counsel Fitzgerald's investigation and ongoing legal proceedings are serious and now the proceedings--the process moves into a new phase.
BLOCK: The president vowed that the White House would not be distracted from its other work.
Pres. BUSH: In our system each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial. While we're all saddened by today's news, we remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country. I've got a job to do and so do the people that work in the White House.
BLOCK: That's President Bush at the White House. Shortly we'll talk with two legal experts, both of them former prosecutors, to examine the charges against Mr. Libby as well as the ongoing investigation. The whole inquiry has offered a window into how the Bush White House made its case for the war in Iraq and how it responded to critics. Here's NPR White House correspondent David Greene.
DAVID GREENE reporting:
At the White House and throughout Washington, officials were bracing for special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to bring his investigation to some kind of conclusion. And if the indictment wasn't bad enough, the prosecutor, who's conducted his inquiry under tight secrecy, said today he is not done.
Mr. PATRICK FITZGERALD (Special Prosecutor): I will not end the investigation until I can look anyone in the eye and tell them that we have carried out our responsibility sufficiently to be sure that we've done what we could to make intelligent decisions about when to end the investigation. We hope to do that as soon as possible. I just hope that people will take a deep breath and just allow us to continue to do what we have to do.
GREENE: That means the White House will likely remain in its state of uncertainty. In particular, President Bush's political mentor and close adviser Karl Rove is still in legal limbo. A person close to Rove said he's aware Fitzgerald is still investigating his actions and plans to cooperate.
Fitzgerald's investigation focused on events in the spring and summer of 2003 after the war in Iraq had begun. Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote in The New York Times that the White House twisted intelligence to justify the war. Within weeks of his accusation his wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a covert CIA operative. Fitzgerald began his probe focusing on whether White House aides had blown Plame's cover in retaliation for Wilson's criticism. He was, at first, pursuing a federal law that prohibits officials from intentionally exposing covert agents, but today Fitzgerald didn't indict anyone on that charge. Instead, he accused the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, of lying.
Mr. FITZGERALD: At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail-end of a chain of phone calls passing on from one reporter what he heard from another was not true. It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards under oath and repeatedly.
GREENE: Fitzgerald charged Libby with two counts of perjury, two counts of false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. In a nine-page memo released along with the written indictments, Fitzgerald described conversations Libby had in 2003 with reporters. According to Fitzgerald, Libby claimed that he learned from reporters that Plame worked for the CIA when, in fact, he was well-aware she worked at the agency when he had those conversations.
Fitzgerald also offered a rare window inside a White House that was trying to explain a war the president launched. Fitzgerald said one person who told Libby that Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency was his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been an aggressive advocate of going to war in Iraq. Fitzgerald was asked how he would respond to potential criticism that his indictments are a partisan attack on the White House.
Mr. FITZGERALD: Wednesday I read that I was a Republican hack, another day I read I was a Democratic hack and the only thing I did between those two nights was sleep.
GREENE: The indictments, though, sting the White House at a time when Mr. Bush's approval ratings have fallen to the lowest of his presidency. And he has had other political troubles, including criticism of the response to hurricane damage, lasting discontent with the war in Iraq and just yesterday the botched nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court.
Shortly after Fitzgerald's indictments became public, White House spokesman Scott McClellan abruptly announced Libby's resignation. Cheney released a statement calling Libby `one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known.' Libby said in a statement through his attorney that he's confident he'll be found innocent on all charges. They are charges which, if proven, might say something about White House scandals past, that the real damage comes with the cover-up. David Greene, NPR News, the White House.
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