- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA officer’s identity met for three hours yesterday with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his deputies, adjourning for the day without announcing any action.

Mr. Fitzgerald is close to completing a two-year criminal probe that has involved President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Away from the federal courthouse, FBI agents conducted a few last-minute interviews to check facts key to the case. Two lawyers familiar with the activities said the interviews involved basic fact-checking and did not appear to plow new ground.

After the grand jury left for the day, federal prosecutors conferred for about an hour in the grand jury area of the federal courthouse.

There was no word on whether Mr. Fitzgerald planned to make any announcement or when the grand jury planned to meet again. Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jurors entered the courthouse at about 9 a.m., with just three days left before the jury’s term is set to expire.

Lawyers representing key White House officials expected Mr. Fitzgerald to decide this week whether to charge Mr. Libby and/or Mr. Rove.

The two joined other officials yesterday at the daily White House senior staff meeting, as usual. Mr. Libby has been on crutches after breaking a bone in his foot.

Mr. Fitzgerald met with Rove attorney Robert Luskin at a private law firm office Tuesday, heightening White House fears about Mr. Rove’s future.

Mr. Rove’s legal team has made contingency plans in case of indictment, consulting with former Justice Department official Mark Corallo and Republican strategist Ed Gillespie to prepare a strategy against an indictment, both in court and in the public arena.

Sheldon Snook, the administrative assistant for Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, said his boss met with Mr. Fitzgerald yesterday but declined to say what was discussed.

Prosecutors wrapping up a criminal investigation can meet with the chief judge for many reasons, such as extending the term of a grand jury, empaneling a new grand jury, temporarily sealing indictments or simply preparing logistics for indictments or the closing of a case.

Mr. Fitzgerald could charge one or more administration aides with violating a law prohibiting the intentional unmasking of an undercover CIA officer or other crimes.

The prosecutor has been in Washington since Monday. In the past two days, he has dispatched FBI agents to conduct eleventh-hour interviews, said lawyers close to the investigation, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

One set of interviews occurred in the neighborhood of Bush administration critic Joseph C. Wilson IV, whose wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA employee. Agents asked neighbors whether they had any inkling that Mrs. Plame works for the CIA.

“They wanted to know how well we knew her, which is very well,” said neighbor David Tillotson. “Did we know anything about her position before the story broke? Absolutely not.”

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