Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLays resignation eclipsed by court papers alleging Cheney and Bush authorized Libby leaks on WMDs
If you thought the indictment of I. Lewis Scooter Libby was the end of things in the Valerie Plame case, guess again.
Court papers in the investigation show Libby testified he was authorized to leak classified information on Iraqs weapons of mass destruction by Vice President Dick Cheney. When Libby asked if Cheney was certain such a leak was authorized, Cheney checked with President George W. Bush and told Libby he had Bushs authorization.
The court papers do not say the classified leaks dealt with the Plame case, but many wonder how high Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgeralds investigation may go.
According to Jason Leopold, investigative reporter and free-lance writer, more indictments may be coming.
Leopold said attorneys and government officials close to the investigation are saying privately they expect a federal grand jury to return indictments against one or two senior officials of the Bush administration.
These sources are present or former employees of the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council. They requested anonymity because they are barred from speaking publicly about the case.
Fitzgerald has been investigating to find out who leaked the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media. It is believed the leak was done in retaliation for a report from former ambassador Joseph Wilson that Iraq did not try to buy uranium from the African nation of Niger.
Leopold reported that, according to sources, Fitzgerald may try to indict on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and conspiracy for leaking Valerie Plame Wilsons name and efforts to conceal involvement after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The sources said Fitzgerald has begun preparing the paperwork to give the grand jury in an effort to obtain indictments against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, or perhaps both.
Leopold reported it may take more than a month before Fitzgerald presents the paperwork spelling out the governments case against one or both officials and asking the grand jury to return an indictment. The reason for the delay is that Fitzgerald is involved with several high-profile criminal cases, and will need time to write the indictment and ready the evidence.
Besides responding to discovery requests from Libbys defense team and appearing in court with Libbys attorneys, who seek additional evidence from Fitzgeralds office, the special prosecutor also is prosecuting Lord Conrad Black, the newspaper mogul; has charged several people in a child pornography ring case; and is dealing with several other lawsuits in Chicago.
Details of the current stage of the Plame investigation started turning up a few weeks ago, Leopold said, when the lead FBI investigator on the case, John Eckenrode, left the agency and told several colleagues the investigation is about to conclude with indictments against Rove and/or Hadley.
The newly retired Eckenrode has completed his work on the case, but is expected to testify as a witness for the prosecution next year against Libby, the former chief of staff for Cheney. Libby was indicted last year on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.
Hadley and Rove are still under very close scrutiny, but the sources say Fitzgerald hasnt decided if hell seek charges against one or both of them.
Attorneys close to the case said Fitzgerald met with the grand jury half a dozen times since January, and recently told the jury he intends to present them with the governments case against Rove or Hadley. That case results partly from an e-mail Rove sent to Hadley in July 2003 indicating he had talked about Valerie Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.
Neither man mentioned the e-mail when questioned by investigators or when they testified before a grand jury, Leopold said.
Rove claimed he learned about Plame Wilson from reporters, and Hadley said he learned of her when her name appeared in a newspaper column.
Sources said Rove appeared before the grand jury four times; and in the first two appearances, he said nothing about the e-mail.
Rove claimed he simply forgot about it because at the time he was busy with the 2004 election and traveling around the country. He said he simply forgot about speaking to Cooper three months earlier.
An attorney close to the case said the story Rove and his attorney gave to Fitzgerald to explain why Rove did not disclose the e-mail is less than satisfactory and entirely unconvincing to the special counsel.
Roves e-mail to Hadley, which Roves attorney said he found, helped Rove to recall his conversation with Cooper a year earlier. But Roves account of that talk was nothing like what he described in the e-mail, according to Cooper, who sent a report to his editor at Time after the conversation with Rove in July 2003.
According to Leopold, in the past few months, Fitzgeralds investigation has produced additional evidence that persuaded him that Roves attorneys revelation of the chain of events leading to discovery of the e-mail is not credible. Fitzgerald believes Rove changed his story after it became clear Cooper would be forced to testify it was Rove who told him of Valerie Plames CIA status, sources said.
The Bush administrations problems intensified with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLays resignation from Congress. DeLays former deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy also entered a guilty plea to charges of conspiracy to corrupt public officials with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pled guilty to fraud. DeLays former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, also pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to more than five years in prison, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
As the investigative noose tightens around DeLay, as thrown by Abramoff, Republicans are in trouble across the political spectrum, but major questions remain as to the Democrats ability and backbone to take advantage of the weakness, and as to Congress will and integrity to investigate itself and the administration.
From the April 12-18, 2006, issue