The chief of staff to the most powerful vice president in the nation's history goes to court today, where he will face criminal charges that he lied about the way the White House responded to criticisms of the president's path to war. Could Karl Rove soon find himself in similar straits?
Sources tell the Washington Post that it remains a real possibility. The paper says that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is still considering false-statement charges against Rove and that sources close to the president's deputy chief of staff expect final word from the prosecutor "within weeks."
One sign that Fitzgerald's investigation is continuing: Sources tell the Post that Fitzgerald spoke this week with an attorney for Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about conversations Rove had with Cooper before and after Plame's outing.
Meanwhile, the Post says, White House aides have been debating among themselves whether the president can ever get off to the "fresh start" he needs if Rove is still working as a senior member of his staff. In the Post story, headlined "Rove's Future Role Is Debated," White House communications director Nicole Wallace insists that there is "no debate" about Rove's future. White House press secretary Scott McClellan also brushed away talk of a staff shake-up this week, insisting at a press briefing that the president has a "great team" busy doing the people's work.
But as the Post notes, aides are concerned, as well they should be, that the Plame episode has crushed McClellan's credibility, and they worry that Rove's continued presence serves as a reminder both that Bush promised to fire anyone involved in leaking Plame's identity and that McClellan assured the American people that neither Rove nor Libby had anything to do with it.