The special prosecutor investigating the alleged leak of the identity of a CIA operative advised White House strategist Karl Rove on Monday that he would not be charged with a crime in connection with the nearly three-year-long investigation, Rove’s lawyer said Tuesday.
The announcement Tuesday by Rove attorney Robert Luskin brought to a close months of uncertainty at the White House after its top strategist came under scrutiny over his conversations with reporters. “I was delighted and relieved for my client’s sake,” Luskin, a partner at Patton Boggs, says. “Obviously, he’s been through a terrific ordeal.”Luskin first received a fax from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald around 4 p.m. Monday. Rove was about to board a plane to New Hampshire to deliver a speech at the Republican State Committee’s annual dinner when Luskin reached him via BlackBerry. They decided to hold off on a public announcement until the morning, Luskin says.He declined to elaborate further on Fitzgerald’s decision. Fitzgerald’s spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment. The investigation has rocked the White House for months and cast a shadow over Rove, President George W. Bush’s closest adviser, who ultimately surrendered his policy-making role in the administration during the probe. Rove first testified before the grand jury in February 2004 and returned four more times, most recently in April. That month, Rove was relieved of his policy duties at the White House.Legal experts say the decision may signal an end to Fitzgerald’s investigation into whether government officials intentionally leaked classified information — the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame — to the media. Only one person has been indicted in the probe, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was charged in October with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury. The investigation was sparked after syndicated columnist Robert Novak named Plame as a CIA operative who worked on weapons of mass destruction. The disclosure came just days after her husband, Joseph Wilson IV, wrote an op-ed article in The New York Times criticizing the intelligence that administration officials used to bolster its claims for war against Iraq. Wilson, a former ambassador, had traveled to Niger in 2002 to examine a report that Iraq was trying to buy uranium yellowcake from Africa.The central allegations about Rove stemmed from his July 2003 conversation with Time reporter Matthew Cooper, with whom he discussed Wilson and his wife. Rove initially admitted to talking to Novak about Wilson but did not recall any conversation with Cooper.Then, in October 2004, Rove told the grand jury that he remembered his conversation after finding an e-mail he had written to Stephen Hadley, then-deputy national security adviser, mentioning his conversation with Cooper.Fitzgerald’s decision raises questions over what, if any, role Rove may play in Libby’s upcoming trial, now scheduled for early next year. Former federal prosecutor Peter Henning, now a professor at Wayne State University, says it is possible that Rove could be called as a witness, but “it’s not clear how helpful Rove will be for one side or the other.”Libby’s attorney, William Jeffress Jr., declined to comment.