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Rove wont face indictment in cia leak case { June 13 2006 }

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   http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/13/washington/13cnd-leak.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/13/washington/13cnd-leak.html

June 13, 2006
Rove Won't Face Indictment in C.I.A. Leak Case
By DAVID JOHNSTON and JIM RUTENBERG

WASHINGTON, June 13 The decision by a special prosecutor not to bring charges against Karl Rove in the C.I.A. leak case followed months of intense, behind-the-scenes maneuvering between the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, and Mr. Rove's lawyer, according to lawyers in the case.

The move, made public by Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, early today, brought a surprise ending to the investigation of Mr. Rove, President Bush's senior adviser, who at one point last fall seemed to be close to facing possible perjury charges for lapses in his early testimony about a conversation with a Time magazine reporter.

Mr. Fitzgerald's decision left I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, alone among current and former White House officials still facing legal jeopardy in the three-year-old C.I.A. leak case.

Mr. Fitzgerald announced in a letter to Mr. Luskin on Monday that he would not indict Mr. Rove, who had testified on five occasions to a federal grand jury about his involvement in the disclosure of an intelligence officer's identity.

After months in which the case has proven a major distraction to the White House, the decision frees Mr. Rove in his role as President Bush's top strategist during crucial, midterm elections this year. Mr. Luskin declined to address the legal issues surrounding the case, but added, "We believe that the special counsel's decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct."

A spokesman for Mr. Rove's legal team, Mark Corallo, said that Mr. Rove had made no deals to cooperate with the prosecution in any way, and that the decision was purely based on Mr. Fitzgerald's own findings. Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, had no comment.

Mr. Fitzgerald's decision is not expected to have a direct legal impact on the case against Mr. Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. But it does free Mr. Fitzgerald to focus exclusively on preparations for that trial, which is scheduled to begin in January and continues to hold the potential for embarrassment to the White House.

In a series of court filings in that case, Mr. Fitzgerald has already indicated that he may call Mr. Cheney as a witness, an unsettling prospect that could expose Mr. Cheney to the uncertainties of being questioned in a criminal trial. The decision to decline a prosecution in Mr. Rove's case effectively ends the active investigative phase of Mr. Fitzgerald's inquiry because Mr. Rove was the only person known to still be under active scrutiny.

That leaves some important unanswered questions as the inquiry comes to a close. Among them is the identity of who in the government first told the columnist Robert D. Novak about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the case in the days before his July 14, 2003 column in which he disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson.

Ms. Wilson is married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, the former ambassador who wrote in an Op-Ed column in The New York Times on July 6, 2003 that White House officials, including Mr. Bush, had exaggerated assertions that Iraq had sought to purchase nuclear fuel from Africa. Mr. Wilson said his conclusions were based on a trip he had made in early 2002 to Niger, a fact-finding mission that he said had been "instigated" by Mr. Cheney's office.

It is now known that the column upset Mr. Cheney and that within his office it was viewed as an attack on the Vice President's credibility, according to legal briefs filed in the Libby case by Mr. Fitzgerald.

Officials at the White House were careful today not to celebrate too joyously over the news for Mr. Rove. But they were clearly buoyed by what they termed the closing of at least one uncomfortable chapter in the leak case.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One on his way back from Baghdad, Mr. Bush told reporters: "It's a chapter that has ended. Fitzgerald is a very thorough person. I think he's conducted his investigation in a dignified way. And he's ended his investigation."

But Mr. Bush cautioned: "There's still a trial to be had. And those of us involved in the White House are going to be very mindful of not commenting on this issue."

Mr. Fitzgerald's decision against prosecuting Mr. Rove came after months of private discussions between him and Mr. Luskin, beginning last fall, even before Mr. Libby was indicted.

While in public Mr. Rove showed little evidence of concern about his plight, lawyers in the case said that Mr. Luskin was waging a fierce battle behind the scenes to stave off the prosecution. The lawyers said the prosecutor seemed at times to be at the brink of bringing charges against Mr. Rove over his failure to volunteer early in the inquiry a conversation about Ms. Wilson with the Time magazine reporter, Matt Cooper.

Mr. Rove had testified that he had initially forgotten about that conversation, and that his memory had only been jogged after his lawyers found an e-mail from Mr. Rove to Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser now the chief security adviser referring to a conversation with Mr. Cooper. Mr. Rove had essentially argued that it would have been legal suicide to knowingly lie to a grand jury about a conversation with a reporter.

That argument seems to have been crucial in staving off an indictment. Mr. Fitzgerald, according to several lawyers in the case, believed at least initially that Mr. Rove's effort to find the e-mail meant that he must have already known of its existence. But Mr. Luskin offered an alternative account, at one point switching from his role as a lawyer, offering himself as a witness.

Last fall, Mr. Luskin provided a sworn deposition to Mr. Fitzgerald saying that had been told by Viveca Novak, a friend at Time magazine who is not related to the columnist Robert Novak, that Mr. Rove may have talked to Mr. Cooper. That provided Mr. Luskin with a reason to search for any record of such a conversation.

Mr. Rove himself was said by associates to be ebullient today. Mr. Rove declined comment, but the White House did tip photographers that he would be walking from the White House to the Old Executive Office Building, providing imagery of Mr. Rove, all smiles..

The leak investigation, several associates said, had been a heavy burden for him and his wife and son, whose home was frequently visited by scrums of reporters and cameramen on indictment watches. Officials said Mr. Rove had remained focused on his work throughout, but he was also said to have often seemed less jovial, and less inclined to engage in his usual practical jokes.

Associates said Mr. Rove had seemed to loosen up some in recent weeks, apparently as he and his lawyer grew more confident that no indictment would come even as the liberal blogosphere and some commentators predicted an imminent indictment, based in part on a recent report on Truthout.org.

Truthout.org said today in a posting that it still believed its initial report that there was a sealed indictment against Mr. Rove was accurate, but that he was cooperating with the prosecution.

Elsewhere, liberal blogs were filled with disappointment, disbelief and anger and occasional postings from conservatives seeking apologies after the news broke today.

In a statement, a lawyer for the Wilsons, Christopher Wolf, indicated that the couple was considering taking civil action against Mr. Rove.

"The day still may come when Mr. Rove and others are called to account in a court of law for their attacks on the Wilsons," Mr. Wolf said. Mr. Wilson said in 2003 that he wanted to see Mr. Rove "frog-marched" out of the White House.

Tom Rath, chairman of the state Republican Party in New Hampshire, said he was relieved Mr. Rove could concentrate on winning the midterm elections without the taint of scandal. "It was like being on the disabled list; you see him in a uniform every day but you can't have him on the mound," Mr. Rath said of Mr. Rove's previous legal limbo. "Now he's back on the mound."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


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Libby scapegoated to protect karl rove { January 24 2007 }
Libby trial delayed right after 2006 elections { February 4 2006 }
Matthew cooper testify after rove lawyers maneuvering { July 7 2005 }
Mcclellan cant clear cheney in cia leak case { June 20 2008 }
Memo central to leak delivered to powell { July 21 2005 }
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Novak points to cia { October 1 2003 }
Novak pokes fun at cia leak
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Pat buchanan says neocons behind whole thing { July 15 2005 }
Powell gives testimony to grand jury
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Prosecutor investigating coverup of leak { July 27 2005 }
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