- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Top White House aide Karl Rove will not be charged in an investigation into the leaking of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity after her diplomat husband accused President Bush of manipulating intelligence to justify military action in Iraq.

Washington lawyer Robert Luskin said Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald told him late Monday that “he does not anticipate seeking charges against” Mr. Rove. The notification came after Mr. Fitzgerald met with chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, who has overseen the grand jury investigation.

“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’s office declined to comment.

“It’s a chapter that has ended,” Mr. Bush told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way back from Iraq. “I think he’s conducted his investigation in a dignified way. And he’s ended his investigation.

“I think it’s going to be important for you all to recognize there’s still a trial to be had,” he said. “And those of us involved in the White House are going to be very mindful of not commenting on this issue.”

Mr. Rove emerged from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building several times yesterday in view of photographers staked out on the White House lawn, waving and smiling at them.

“Now Karl can be Karl,” said one senior administration official, who said Mr. Rove is now free to focus on politics heading into the 2006 congressional elections. Mr. Rove was given expanded duties after the 2004 election, including a post as deputy chief of staff and a portfolio that included domestic issues. But earlier this year he was reassigned back to focus on politics.

The administration official said Mr. Rove did not show strain at the White House, even as stories swirled that he was about to be indicted.

Mr. Rove testified five times before a federal grand jury in the leak investigation, most recently in April. Grand jurors handed up an indictment in October against I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, charging him with obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to FBI agents.

The three-year probe centers on accusations that senior Bush administration officials leaked Mrs. Plame’s CIA role in retaliation for critical comments on the Iraq war by her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Mr. Rove’s name surfaced almost immediately, and he was the subject of continuing press speculation about his role in the affair.

Mr. Fitzgerald focused on concerns over whether Mr. Rove, 55, obstructed justice in failing to disclose to investigators a conversation that he had with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper just before he and columnist Robert Novak published Mrs. Plame’s name in July 2003. Mr. Rove told prosecutors that he did not recall the conversation until his lawyer discovered a White House e-mail referring to it.

Mr. Libby is the only person charged in the Fitzgerald investigation. No one was indicted in the case on the original accusations that spurred the special counsel’s inquiry — that an administration official violated a 1982 law prohibiting the purposeful disclosure of a CIA agent’s name.

From the White House’s standpoint, the Fitzgerald notification to Mr. Luskin means that Mr. Rove is in the clear, and Republicans said Democrats now owe him an apology. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, speaking on CNN, said Democrats “took this good man, and they prejudged him.”

Mr. Rove was a popular target for Democratic lawmakers, who tried to strip him of his security clearance through an amendment on the Senate floor last year, and an even more popular target for liberal-leaning Web logs, or blogs.

Yesterday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said he accepted Mr. Fitzgerald’s findings, although he added that Mr. Rove acted wrongly and deserved the attacks from Democrats.

“I don’t think he conducted himself honorably and well here,” Mr. Schumer said, though he acknowledged that “some of the things that were said about him proved to be untrue.”

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Mr. Rove leaked Mrs. Plame’s identity, which is a reason to fire him, even though Mr. Fitzgerald did not indict him.

“Karl Rove does not belong in the White House,” Mr. Dean said. “If the president valued America more than he valued his connection with Karl Rove, Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Libby, 55, has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he was “confident that at the end of this process, I will be completely and totally exonerated.”

The indictment said he discussed Mrs. Plame and her husband with several people in the White House but identified them only by title and did not accuse them of breaking the law. Those named were former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, an undersecretary of state later identified as Marc Grossman and a senior White House official referred to as “Official A,” later named as Mr. Rove.

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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