- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

1:01 p.m.

Top White House aide Karl Rove has been told by prosecutors he won’t be charged with any crimes in the investigation into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity, his lawyer said today, lifting a heavy burden from one of President Bush’s most trusted advisers.

Attorney Robert Luskin said that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald informed him of the decision yesterday, ending months of speculation about the fate of Mr. Rove, the architect of Mr. Bush’s 2004 re-election, who is focusing on stopping Democrats from capturing the House or Senate in this November’s elections.

Mr. Fitzgerald has already secured a criminal indictment against Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

The announcement cheered Republicans and a White House beleaguered by war and low approval ratings.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Mr. Rove, said the White House official “is elated” and said that “we’re done.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said he accepts Mr. Fitzgerald’s decision not to seek Mr. Rove’s indictment but called on him to ferret out the person who leaked the name of then-CIA operative Valerie Plame and whether the disclosure amounts to criminal wrongdoing.

Mr. Schumer also said Mr. Fitzgerald should issue a report on his findings and any decisions to seek the indictment of others. “I have every confidence in this decision because it was made by an independent and fair-minded prosecutor,” the senator told reporters at the Capitol.

“It is not good enough to simply have a case for perjury. We still need to know who did the leak,” Mr. Schumer added. “We still need to make sure that anyone who did that is given the appropriate punishment.”

Mr. Fitzgerald met with chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan before he notified Mr. Rove. Judge Hogan has been overseeing the grand juries in the CIA leak case. Mr. Fitzgerald’s spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

Asked if the CIA leak investigation is continuing, Mr. Samborn said, “I’m not commenting on that, as well, at this time.”

The prosecutor called Mr. Luskin late Monday afternoon to tell him he would not be seeking charges against Mr. Rove. Mr. Rove had just gotten on a plane, so his lawyer and spokesman did not reach him until he had landed in Manchester, N.H., where he was to give a speech to state Republican officials.

“In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation,” Mr. Luskin said. “We believe the special counsel’s decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove’s conduct.”

Mr. Fitzgerald has been investigating whether senior administration officials intentionally leaked Mrs. Plame’s identity in retribution because her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, sharply criticized the administration’s pursuit of war in Iraq.

Mr. Rove testified five times before a grand jury, most recently in April. He has admitted he spoke with columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper in the days before they published Mrs. Plame’s name in July 2003.

Mr. Rove, however, did not originally tell prosecutors about his conversation with Mr. Cooper, only revealing it after his lawyer discovered a White House e-mail that referred to it.

Mr. Fitzgerald was investigating whether Mr. Rove lied or obstructed justice in failing initially to disclose the conversation. The presidential aide blamed a faulty memory and sought to testify before the grand jury after finding the e-mail to correct his testimony.

The threat of indictment had hung over Mr. Rove even as he was focusing on the arduous task of halting Mr. Bush’s popularity spiral and keeping Democrats from capturing the House or Senate in November elections.

Mr. Fitzgerald’s investigation has been under way since the start of the 2004 election, and the decision not to indict Mr. Rove is certain to buoy Republicans, who also got good news in the last week with the military’s killing of most-wanted Iraqi terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.

“The fact is this, I thought it was wrong when you had people like Howard Dean and [Sen.] Harry Reid presuming that he was guilty,” Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman told Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” show this morning.

Democrats, on the other hand, had no reason to cheer.

“He doesn’t belong in the White House. If the president valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove, Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago,” said Mr. Dean, the Democratic Party chairman, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show. “So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but it’s not very good news for America.”

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