Fitzgerald won't charge Rove
June 13, 2006
Leak Counsel Won't Charge Rove, Lawyer Announces
By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, June 13 The prosecutor in the C.I.A.
leak case on Monday advised Karl Rove, the senior
White House adviser, that he would not be charged with
any wrongdoing, effectively ending the nearly
three-year criminal investigation that had at times
focused intensely on Mr. Rove.
The decision by the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald,
announced in a letter to Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D.
Luskin, lifted a pall that had hung over Mr. Rove who
testified on five occasions to a federal grand jury
about his involvement in the disclosure of an
intelligence officer's identity.
In a statement, Mr. Luskin said, "On June 12, 2006,
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us
that he does not anticipate seeking charges against
Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, said he
would not comment on Mr. Rove's status.
For months Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation appeared to
threaten Mr. Rove's standing as Mr. Bush's closest
political adviser as the prosecutor riveted his focus
on whether Mr. Rove tried to intentionally conceal a
conversation he had with a Time magazine reporter in
the week before the name of intelligence officer,
Valerie Plame Wilson, became public.
The decision not to pursue any charges removes a
potential political stumbling block for a White House
that is heading into a long and difficult election
season for Republicans in Congress.
Mr. Fitzgerald's decision should help the White House
in what has been an unsuccessful effort to put the
leak case behind it. Still ahead, however, is the
trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of
staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., on charges for perjury and
obstruction of justice, and the prospect that Mr.
Cheney could be called to testify in that case.
In his statement Mr. Luskin said he would not address
other legal questions surrounding Mr. Fitzgerald's
decision. He added, "In deference to the pending case,
we will not make any further public statements about
the subject matter of the investigation. We believe
that the Special Counsel's decision should put an end
to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct."
But it was evident that Mr. Fitzgerald's decision
followed an exhaustive inquiry into Mr. Rove's
activities that had brought the political strategist
dangerously close to possible charges. In October,
when Mr. Libby was indicted, people close to Mr. Rove
had suggested that his involvement in the case would
soon be over; speculation about Mr. Rove's legal
situation flared again in April when he made his fifth
appearance before the grand jury.
A series of meetings between Mr. Luskin and Mr.
Fitzgerald and his team proved pivotal in dissuading
the prosecutor from bringing charges. On one occasion
Mr. Luskin himself became a witness in the case,
giving sworn testimony that was beneficial to Mr.
As the case stands now, Mr. Fitzgerald has brought
only one indictment against Mr. Libby. The prosecutor
accused Mr. Libby of telling the grand jury that he
learned of Ms. Wilson from reporters, when in reality,
the prosecutor said he was told about her by Mr.
Cheney and others in the government. Mr. Libby has
pleaded not guilty in the case, which is scheduled to
begin trial early next year.
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 wrote that such claims
were "highly dubious."
He 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
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. In
his filings, Mr. Fitzgerald depicts Mr. Cheney as
actively engaged in an effort with Mr. Libby to rebut
Mr. Wilson's assertions.
After the Wilson column was published, Mr. Cheney
wrote notes on a copy asking whether Ms. Wilson played
a role in sending her husband to Africa and whether
the trip was a "junket." At the same time, Mr.
Fitzgerald has said, the vice president dispatched Mr.
Libby to challenge Mr. Wilson in conversations with
It was during that effort, Mr. Fitzgerald has alleged,
that Mr. Libby disclosed Ms. Wilson's employment at
the C.I.A. along with the possibility that it was she
who sent him to Niger.
In Mr. Rove's case, Mr. Fitzgerald centered his
inquiry on why Mr. Rove did not admit early in the
investigation that he had a conversation with Time
magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about Ms. Wilson and
whether Mr. Rove was forthcoming about the later
discovery of an internal e-mail message that confirmed
his conversation with Mr. Cooper, to whom Mr. Rove had
mentioned the existence of the C.I.A. officer.
Mr. Rove told the grand jury that he forgot the
conversation with Mr. Cooper and volunteered it to Mr.
Fitzgerald as soon as he recalled it, when his memory
was jogged by the e-mail to Stephen J. Hadley, then
deputy national security adviser, in which Mr. Rove
referred to his discussion with Mr. Cooper.
At the center of the inquiry involving Mr. Rove are
the circumstances surrounding a July 11, 2003,
telephone conversation between Mr. Rove and Mr.
Cooper, who turned the interview to questions about
the trip to Africa by Mr. Wilson.
In his testimony to the grand jury in February 2004,
Mr. Rove did not disclose the conversation with Mr.
Cooper, saying later that he had forgotten it among
the hundreds of calls he received on a daily basis.
But there was a record of the call in the form of Mr.
Rove's message to Mr. Hadley, the deputy national
security adviser, which confirmed the conversation.
One lawyer with a client in the case said Mr.
Fitzgerald was skeptical of Mr. Rove's account because
the message was not discovered until the fall of 2004
a year after Mr. Rove first talked to investigators.
It was at about the same time that Mr. Fitzgerald had
begun to compel reporters to cooperate with his
inquiry, among them Mr. Cooper. The prosecutors legal
thrust at reporters, in effect, put White House aides
like Mr. Rove on notice that any conversations might
Associates of Mr. Rove said the e-mail message was
turned over immediately after it was found at the
White House. They said Mr. Rove never intended to
withhold details of a conversation with a reporter
from Mr. Fitzgerald, noting that Mr. Rove had signed a
legal waiver to allow reporters to reveal to
prosecutors their discussions with confidential
sources. In addition, they said, Mr. Rove testified
about his conversation with Mr. Cooper long before
Mr. Cooper did acknowledging that it was possible
that the subject of Mr. Wilson's trip had come up.
It is now known that Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury
have questioned Mr. Rove about two conversations with
reporters. The first, which he admitted to
investigators from the outset, took place on July 9,
2003, in a telephone call initiated by Robert D.
Novak, the syndicated columnist. In a column about Mr.
Wilson's trip four days after the call to Mr. Rove,
Mr. Novak disclosed the identity of Ms. Wilson, who
was said by Mr. Novak to have had a role in arranging
her husband's trip. Mr. Novak identified her as
Valerie Plame, Ms. Wilson's maiden name.