Rove to testify again on leak

Grand jury could still indict Bush adviser in disclosure of CIA agent's identity


WASHINGTON -- Presidential adviser Karl Rove has agreed to give last-minute testimony to a grand jury in the continuing investigation into the leak of a covert CIA agent's identity.

It is unclear why Rove has been asked to make another trip - his fourth - to the grand jury investigating who divulged the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

It is a felony to knowingly leak the name of a covert CIA official, and the case involves some of the most powerful officials in the White House and some of the country's most prominent journalists.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said that he told prosecutors in July - at the moment Time magazine's Matt Cooper told the grand jury about his conversations with Rove - that Rove would be willing to cooperate in any way with the investigation.

After New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified before the grand jury last week, Luskin said, "I was advised ... that [prosecutors] might like his further cooperation, and the prosecutor affirmed that he has made no decision on whether to charge Karl."

He declined to comment when asked whether there was increased likelihood that his client would face charges.

Luskin said Rove has not received a "target letter," notification customarily sent to grand jury witnesses about to be indicted.

The last-minute testimony from Rove adds to a growing list of woes for the White House, and it coincides with a period in which Rove has been much less visible.

He is away on a family trip, Luskin said yesterday.

Rove's appearance before the grand jury would occur as the panel nears the end of its term under the guidance of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Among other avenues, Fitzgerald has been investigating whether White House officials, including Rove and I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, were entirely forthcoming with investigators about their knowledge of Plame and how her name became public.

Plame is married to former envoy Joseph C. Wilson IV, who wrote an op-ed article for The New York Times criticizing the administration's use of intelligence in justifying the war with Iraq. On July 14, 2003, eight days after Wilson's article appeared, Robert Novak identified Plame by name and occupation in a syndicated column that attacked Wilson.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald in Chicago, said the prosecutor and his office would have no comment.

In Washington, talk of imminent indictments - of Rove alone or with others as part of a conspiracy - was overheard in the corridors of the FBI, Justice Department and White House, according to several officials. One Bush administration official who was in a meeting with Rove this week said he seemed "his usual self."

"He didn't seem worried," said the administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she would get fired if she were attached to stories about the case. "He seemed fine."

Grover Norquist, a conservative activist close to the White House, said Rove has been "on top of things as much as ever."

In addition, Rove has been active in courting evangelicals as the White House tries to line up support for the nomination of Bush's counsel, Harriet E. Miers, to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Rove has been at Bush's side since the president resumed his political career in the early 1990s and won election as governor of Texas in 1994.

The president relies on no one as much as Rove for political advice and to keep him in touch with the conservative Republican activists who form the foundation of his political support.

At the Justice Department, officials said the wall between their prosecutors and Fitzgerald has kept even the slightest details about the investigation compartmentalized.

But in recent days, speculation at the department has grown regarding Fitzgerald's plans as the probe appears to be drawing to a conclusion. There have been indications that the prosecutor plans to initiate some proceedings soon.

Yesterday, that speculation increased significantly with reports of Rove's reappearance before the grand jury, which one Justice Department official said was clearly an ominous sign for Rove and the White House.

"Certainly, it's not particularly good," said the Justice Department official. "What, exactly, the significance is, I can't say. But it can't be good."

Tom Hamburger, Peter Wallsten and Josh Meyer write for the Los Angeles Times.

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