Fitzgerald's press conference: Many questions, few answers

The prosecutor won't say what will become of Karl Rove, who first leaked Plame's name to Robert Novak or whether Dick Cheney encouraged Libby to leak or lie.

Published October 28, 2005 6:49PM (EDT)

Patrick Fitzgerald is taking questions from the press, but he isn't answering many of them. What will become of Karl Rove? He can't comment. Who's the mysterious "Official A" who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Robert Novak? He won't say. Did Dick Cheney encourage Scooter Libby to leak Plame's name or to lie about the leak afterward? He won't discuss anyone who hasn't been charged with a crime. Did he seek any criminal charges that the grand jury wouldn't give him? Fitzgerald looked to an aide before saying that he couldn't say.

What Fitzgerald will say: The fact that Plame worked for the CIA was classified and not widely known when it was leaked -- and that Libby was the first one to leak it. "Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003," Fitzgerald said, in a reference to the July 14, 2003, column in which Novak outed Plame, but, he also said, Novak wasn't the first reporter to get the leak of Plame's identity. That reporter was the New York Times' Judy Miller, and Libby was the one who leaked to her.

"Mr. Libby is presumed innocent," Fitzgerald said. "But if what we allege in the indictment is true, then what is charged is a very, very serious crime." When a reporter asked Fitzgerald about GOP criticism suggesting that he shouldn't have sought an indictment if he couldn't charge someone for the leak itself, he said: "That talking point won't fly. It it's proven that the chief of staff of the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied repeatedly and fabricated a story ... that's a very, very serious matter."

Asked whether he thought it was worthwhile to keep Miller in jail for 85 days, Fitzgerald defended himself by explaining that he was obliged to follow up on Libby's claims that he hadn't leaked information about Plame's job to reporters. Confronted with the possibility that the vice president's chief of staff had committed perjury, Fitzgerald said he couldn't simply "fold up" his "tent" and "walk away."

Is Fitzgerald "walking away" with respect to Karl Rove? That's not at all clear. While Rove's lawyer said earlier today that his client's "status" has not changed, Fitzgerald said that his grand jury's term expires today and won't be extended. However, he added that prosecutors in long investigations like this one generally "have available a new grand jury" to which they can return if they have the need to do so. What does that mean for Rove or anyone else under investigation? Fitzgerald was asked again and again to explain, but he declined to do so. "We're not quite done, but I don't want to add to a feverish pitch," he said. "It's very very routine that you keep a grand jury available."

Could more indictments come? Fitzgerald wouldn't say.

By Tim Grieve

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

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

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

Dick Cheney Karl Rove War Room