Friday, October 28, 2005

Top Cheney Aide To Be Indicted

CBS/AP) Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, will be indicted Friday in the CIA leak investigation for making false statements to a grand jury, CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger has learned from sources close to the case.

Presidential confidant Karl Rove will likely escape charges for the time being but will remain under investigation by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald has scheduled a news conference regarding the case for 2 p.m. EDT. CBSNews.Com will provide a live Webcast of the event.

Rove and Libby both arrived for work at the White House early Friday. As he left his house, Rove said, "I'm going to have a great Friday and a fantastic weekend," and he wished reporters the same.

On Thursday, Rove attended the daily meeting of the senior staff and met with the president late in the evening, at the end of a day in which the White House dealt with the withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Libby was said to have passed up the staff meeting to attend a security briefing.

In Fitzgerald, the Justice Department named a prosecutor with a reputation for thoroughness, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Plante. In a town where leak investigations usually go nowhere, Fitzgerald called White House officials and reporters before his grand jury. Most cooperated. Judith Miller of the New York Times went to jail for almost three months, but then testified.

Possible charges are obstruction of justice or perjury, along with possible violations of a law barring disclosure of the identity of a covert intelligence agent.

Some lawyers have raised the specter of broader conspiracy charges as well.

When the investigation began two years ago, a White House spokesman checked with Rove and Libby, then assured the public that neither was involved in the exposure of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

In the past month, it was revealed that Libby spoke to Miller, who says their conversations included Plame's CIA status.

Rove's legal problems stem in part from the fact that he failed initially to disclose to prosecutors a conversation in which he told Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper that Plame worked for the CIA. The president's top political adviser says the conversation slipped his mind.

If the investigation into Rove continues, that is bad news for this White House because it means the president will have that much more trouble with this irritant in the background, shaking it off as part of his host of political troubles, Plante reports.

Columnist Robert Novak revealed Plame's name and her CIA status on July 14, 2003. That was five days after Novak talked to Rove and eight days after Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, published an opinion article in the Times accusing the Bush administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq.

Wilson and his supporters have charged the leak of Plame's name, which ended her ability to work undercover for the CIA, was designed to discredit him and punish him for his criticism and intimidate others inside the government critical of Bush's Iraq policies.

Also in the backdrop of Fitzgerald's investigation is a set of forged documents that stated Iraq was acquiring uranium yellowcake from the African nation of Niger. Wilson had been sent by the CIA to Africa to investigate such reports, later used by Bush to help justify the war in Iraq.

On Thursday, the White House disputed an Italian news report relating to those forgeries, which the FBI is continuing to investigate.

The news report and speculation on Internet blogs have said that National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley may have received bogus information three years ago from an Italian intelligence chief about Iraq's nuclear ambitions.

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said Hadley met briefly on Sept. 9, 2002, with Nicolo Pollari, the head of Italian military intelligence, but the subject of Iraq's supposed uranium deal with Niger is not believed to have come up.

The meeting occurred a month before documents, later determined to be forgeries, surfaced in Italy claiming to show Saddam Hussein's regime had an agreement to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger. After his trip to Niger, Wilson reported he could not substantiate any uranium sales to Iraq.

The Hadley-Pollari meeting was a courtesy call that lasted fewer than 15 minutes and "no one present has any recollection of yellowcake being discussed or documents being provided," Jones said.


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