Results expected in CIA leak probe

Administration figures may face charges

October 28, 2005|By RICHARD B. SCHMITT | RICHARD B. SCHMITT,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The federal grand jury investigating the CIA leak case prepared for a final day of deliberations as a special prosecutor huddled with his legal team about whether to seek indictments against administration figures for leaking the name of a covert operative.

Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald was expected to announce today the results of his 22-month investigation, and there were growing expectations that one or more administration figures would be charged with wrongdoing. The grand jury was expected to meet in the morning, with an announcement by Fitzgerald expected about midday.

The New York Times reported in today's editions -- citing unnamed sources -- that associates of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, expect an indictment today charging him with making false statements to the grand jury in the CIA leak inquiry.

Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, will not be charged today but would remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case told the Times. As a result, they said, the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, was likely to extend the term of the grand jury beyond the scheduled expiration today, the newspaper reported.

But a flurry of behind-the-scenes discussions late last night left open the possibility of last-minute surprises.

Other than being spotted getting a shoeshine at a barber shop near his Washington offices, Fitzgerald made no other public appearances.

People close to the investigation said that as of late yesterday afternoon, Rove had received no notice that he was going to be indicted in the case. Some observers took that as a sign that the longtime Bush strategist might emerge from the investigation without being charged.

But others said Fitzgerald might be waiting until this morning to alert those being charged to reduce the chances of last-minute leaks about his intentions.

Robert Luskin, Rove's lawyer, declined to comment. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, didn't respond to multiple messages.

A spokesman for Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

Fitzgerald has grilled both men repeatedly about conversations they had with journalists in the summer of 2003 before the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame surfaced in the press. It is a felony under some circumstances to disclose the identity of a covert agent.

Fitzgerald is investigating whether Plame was "outed" as part of an effort to discredit her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who had accused the administration of twisting the intelligence it used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Fitzgerald is also said to be concerned about disparities between some of the testimony of Rove and Libby, and that of some journalists the men spoke with. That could lead to perjury or obstruction of justice charges.

Despite speculation about indictments, some lawyers involved in the case said Fitzgerald faces a difficult balancing test in deciding whether to bring charges.

Any case against Libby, for example, could turn largely on the testimony of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who recently told Fitzgerald about three conversations she had with Libby in the days before Plame was identified publicly.

But Miller has said she cannot recall key portions of their conversations, including whether Libby identified Plame to her by name. Miller's editors at the Times have recently questioned her truthfulness in reporting to them conversations she had with sources in the leak case. Those concerns could be used to attack her credibility as a witness for the government if Libby were tried.

Indictments would be a major blow to the Bush administration, which is suffering from a long list of woes, including casualties in Iraq and the bungled nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court.

Richard B. Schmitt writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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