Plame indictments: Is today the day?

A renewed focus on Rove? A chance that Fitzgerald will ask for more time? And what about Niger?

Published October 26, 2005 12:25PM (EDT)

Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury is scheduled to meet this morning, and the White House -- and just about everyone else -- is bracing for indictments.

Will they come? Sources tell CBS News that they will, and the flurry of activity in Washington this week may indeed be a sign that Fitzgerald is getting ready. Roll Call says that Fitzgerald was spotted Tuesday at Patton Boggs, where he paid a visit to Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin. And the Washington Post reports that FBI agents were out interviewing neighbors of Valerie Plame Monday evening, seemingly trying to pin down just how covert she might have been before Robert Novak revealed her identity.

Could Fitzgerald make everyone wait? He could. The term of his grand jury expires Friday, but it's not at all uncommon for prosecutors to obtain an extension. Roll Call says a rumor of such a request was floating through the halls of Patton Boggs Tuesday. And the FBI's questioning of Plame's neighbors -- the kind of thing you'd think would have been done months ago -- could be a sign that Fitzgerald still has some work to do.

If there are indictments, who will be indicted? Nobody knows, except maybe Fitzgerald and his team and his targets and their lawyers. Although most of the Plame-related leaks over the last few days have revolved around Scooter Libby, lawyers and others involved in the case tell the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times that Fitzgerald is focusing once again on Rove -- and, in particular, on whether he has been fully truthful about his communications with Robert Novak and with Time's Matthew Cooper. What about others? Libby remains in Fitzgerald's sights, but we still haven't seen anything suggesting that Dick Cheney does. Who else? Well, we still don't know the identity of the "senior administration official" who first leaked Plame's identity to Novak, but Fitzgerald does. We also don't know who leaked to the Washington Post's Walter Pincus. CBS News has raised the possibility of an indictment for "Mr. X" -- someone outside the administration who may have done most of the leaking -- but there are also plenty of administration figures who have been tied to the case over the last two years, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

If there are indictments, what crimes will they involve? That's another mystery. Conventional wisdom -- and GOP spin -- of late has been that Fitzgerald has moved beyond the leak itself and is dealing with possible criminal activity in the aftermath: perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements and the like. But by sending FBI agents out to ask Plame's neighbors about her covert status, Fitzgerald seems to have signaled that he's still considering whether the leak itself was a violation of federal law.

And what about Niger? As we've noted, there's speculation -- and some evidence -- that Fitzgerald has expanded his investigation to include the forged documents that prompted Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger in the first place. The Associated Press is now reporting that Nicolo Pollari, the director of the Italian defense intelligence agency, is to be questioned next week by a commission of the Italian parliament for his role in putting the phony yellowcake story in the hands of then Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. Remember, it was Hadley who took responsibility for letting the president utter the infamous 16 words about an Iraq-Niger connection in his State of the Union address, and it is Hadley -- at least according to one blogger -- who has been telling friends that he expects to be indicted.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Karl Rove War Room