Fitzgerald and Rove, or the indictment watch revisited

Assessing the speculation in the Valerie Plame case.


Tim Grieve
April 21, 2006 9:39PM (UTC)

Karl Rove's job change puts the president's chief political advisor back in the news, and that leads inevitably -- like the aspens turning in clusters -- to speculation about the peril that could await Rove in the Valerie Plame case.

We've been down this road before. And if the experience has taught us anything, it's that nobody should get too excited about the size of the mystery package sitting under the Fitzmas tree.

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To wit:

As we noted earlier this week, former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta responded to the news of Rove's new post by wondering if his security clearance had finally been yanked as a consequence of his Plame leaks. But in response to a reporter's question Wednesday, Scott McClellan said that Rove is "absolutely" keeping his security clearance.

Writing for the Guardian this week, Salon contributor and former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal saw signs of Rove's impending demise in a recent court filing in which Scooter Libby's lawyers identified Rove as a "subject" of Fitzgerald's investigation. That's a term of some legal significance -- according to the U.S. Attorneys' Manual, a "subject" is someone who "whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury's investigation" -- but Rove's status as a subject isn't exactly news; his lawyer, Robert Luskin, all but confirmed that Rove is a subject in an interview with the National Review's Byron York last July.

Over at Truthout, reporter Jason Leopold, citing "sources close to the case," said this week that Fitzgerald met with the grand jury in Washington Wednesday and, for the first time, told the jurors that he would be presenting them with a list of criminal charges he hopes they'll include in an indictment of Rove. But York, posting on the National Review's Web site, cites his own "sources knowledgeable about the investigation" as saying that Fitzgerald was in Chicago Wednesday.

MSNBC correspondent David Shuster also seems to be raising a question about the Truthout story, at least implicitly, by reporting that Fitzgerald himself "wasn't seen at the grand jury" this week. At the same time, however, Shuster's Ouija board still points toward trouble for Rove. His clues? First, Fitzgerald has said in a court filing that he doesn't intend to call Rove as a witness at Libby's trial, and Shuster says prosecutors often avoid putting people on the stand if they think they might want to charge them with a crime later. Second, Fitzgerald identified Rove as "Official A" in the Libby indictment, and Shuster says people identified that way in prior Fitzgerald investigations always seem to end up getting indicted.

When will we learn Rove's fate? Your guess is as good as ours. All we know for certain is that Fitzgerald says his investigation is continuing -- and that ABC's the Note says that the Plame grand jury was scheduled to meet this morning.

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Tim Grieve

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

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