WASHINGTON, June 13 — The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case on Monday advised Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, that he would not be charged with any wrongdoing, effectively ending the nearly three-year criminal investigation that had at times focused intensely on Mr. Rove.
The decision by the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, announced in a letter to Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, lifted a pall that had hung over Mr. Rove who testified on five occasions to a federal grand jury about his involvement in the disclosure of an intelligence officer's identity.
In a statement, Mr. Luskin said, "On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove."
Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, said he would not comment on Mr. Rove's status.
Two quick guesses as to why there was no indictment:
(a) The Libby indictment looks very much like a failed attempt to force Libby to cooperate, presumably by testifying against Dick Cheney. Evidently, the prospect of a second failed attempt held little appeal for Fitzgerald.
(b) The Armitage angle made a Rove indictment problematic except as a package deal (as I discussed on May 19). Briefly, Richard Armitage, former deputy Secretary of State, had apparently leaked about Ms, Plame's CIA affiliation to Bob Woodward in mid-June and Bob Novak in early July. However, he seems to have only testified about the Woodward leak *after* the Libby indictment was handed down in Oct 2005, despite reminders and requests from Bob Woodward during 2004. That looks a lot like obstruction and perjury, yet Special Counsel Fitzgerald has shown no interest in pursuing him. Well, fine, but how can what Rove did (which amounted to forgetting about his talk with Matt Cooper of TIME) be considered indictable if Armitage's behavior was not?
Well. I have no doubt my friends on the left will explain all this. [Corrected from "friend" to "friends", although if I keep up with the shameless gloating I will have the trend backwards].
MORE: This spin could work: Rove Cleared, Zarqawi Dead, GOP Doomed.
Decision '08 questions the timing of this announcement:
[M]y only regret is that this didn’t happen when the PlameGate panel was meeting at the YearlyKos.
Oh, we are snarky today, aren't we? That PlameGate Dream Team panel discussion ought to be a collector's item now.
ANOTHER COLLECTOR'S ITEM: On the same June 12 that Fitzgwerald was informing Luskin that no charges were anticipated, Jason Leopold was keeping hope alive at TruthNot:
Four weeks ago, during the time when we reported that White House political adviser Karl Rove was indicted for crimes related to his role in the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, the grand jury empanelled in the case returned an indictment that was filed under seal in US District Court for the District of Columbia under the curious heading of Sealed vs. Sealed.
As of Friday afternoon that indictment, returned by the grand jury the week of May 10th, remains under seal - more than a month after it was handed up by the grand jury.
The case number is "06 cr 128." On the federal court's electronic database, "06 cr 128" is listed along with a succinct summary: "No further information is available."
We have not seen the contents of the indictment "06 cr 128". But the fact that this indictment was returned by the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case on a day that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury raised a number of questions about the identity of the defendant named in the indictment, whether it relates to the leak case, and why it has been under seal for a month under the heading Sealed vs. Sealed.
We don't know either, but Sweetness and Light notes that the attached case number looks more like the civil suit involving the TIME subpoenas than it does the criminal suit. Of course, that only makes sense if someone messed up - why seal a case and then give it the appropriate (but supposedly secret) case number? And I can't quite get PACER to kick up the TIME file with that case number, but the "00128" is a match.
PROPS: To the EmptyWheel, who noted that a key point of the Monday status hearing on Libby was to resolve the question of how long Fitzgerald could hide evidence under the "ongoing investigation" blanket. Apparent answer - not much longer.
And is there a Newton's Law requiring that every "Props" has an equal and opposite "anti-Props"? How about this, from a Dream Team Plame panelist on June 9:
you don’t leave a defendant hanging. you either bring a charge or let the defendant know.
which brings us to karl rove. the investigation is ongoing. she says that because she heard pat fitzgerald say "the investigation is on going." and the judge presiding over the libby case said "the investigation is on going." so, she guesses the invesigation is still ongoing. (many chuckles in the room).
Or not, and who's chuckling now? (Besides me, and you should try typing while doubled over...). [Matt Drudge seems to be able to type and laugh!]
KEEP HOPE ALIVE! Christy Hardin Smith staddles this case like a mighty Colossus, admitting that Rove looks to be clear but refusing to accept it:
On the one hand, how could Luskin, Rove's attorney, dare to mislead us?
it’s not surprising that Luskin would pick the NYTimes as his outlet for announcing news of a letter freeing-up Rove (if, indeed, that is what it fully does…although, I have to say, in all honesty, as an attorney you would never make an announcement like this without something in hand from the prosecutor which purports to say this — you’d never be taken seriously in any other case otherwise…)
On the other hand, never lack for tinfoil:
I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: unless and until I hear it from Patrick Fitzgerald, the investigation continues to be ongoing. Which means that there are still potential developments down the road, should the evidence (like handwritten marching orders on the Wilson op-ed in Dick Cheney’s handwriting) lead there.
As I read this, she is saying that Rove may walk, but Cheney is still a target. Let me just say, I have no doubt Fitzgerald wanted Cheney, but he doesn't have him and won't get him.
In a further attempt to keep hope alive, note this misreading of Luskin's words. From the Times:
In his statement Mr. Luskin said he would not address other legal questions surrounding Mr. Fitzgerald’s decision. He added, "In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation.
And how does Ms. Hardin Smith interpet that?
Hmmm…interesting that Luskin, who has blathered about town about every hangnail that he’s ever witnessed on any person involved in this matter suddenly clams up, isn’t it? And that he mentions the ongoing investigation…
No, he did *NOT* mention the "ongoing investigation", he mentioned the "pending case". Now I understand that in somebody's fantasy, that is the pending case to be brought against Dick Cheney, but in my world, that is the pending case agaisnt Lewis Libby, a case in which Rove will almost surely be a witness. And since he will be a witness, he has been asked to pipe down about the "subject matter of the investigation", which again, is a phrase with a different meaning than "the ongoing investigation".
UNRELENTING: John Tabin of the American Spectator is enjoying the morning.
A QUICK CHANGE OF GEARS: Dan Froomkin makes the perfectly valid point that Fitzgerald's decision not to indict hardly represents a complete exoneration, and he urges the press to get some answers:
Senior White House political adviser Karl Rove's successful avoidance of criminal charges in the CIA leak investigation is a huge win for the White House.
It's also a massive blow to those who had hoped that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation would end Rove's career as a cunning and outlandishly successful Republican strategist.
And finally, it means Fitzgerald probably won't be shedding any more light on Rove's role in the outing of Valerie Plame.
By all rights, that latter job should now fall to the press.
The White House has long maintained -- spuriously, I might add -- that the ongoing criminal investigation precluded them from answering any questions even vaguely related to Rove's conduct.
Now, without charges against Rove in the offing, the media should demand answers to a slew of questions. The overriding issue: Just because Rove wasn't charged with a crime doesn't mean his conduct meets the standards the public expects from its White House.
Yes, but - the press may well decide on their own initiative to pursue this. But after eight months of hearing from the left that the indictment of Rove was imminent, it is going to strain credulity for the left to grind through the gearbox and insist that this case really should have been pursued by the press after all. Not that straining credulity is something the left has avoided on this case.
But no worries - the latest dodge, as articulated by Luskin, is that Rove can't comment on the pending Lobby case.
CHUCK, FIND YOUR SONGSHEET: This AP story has Chuck Schumer off-message:
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he accepts Fitzgerald's decision to not seek Rove's indictment but called on him to ferret out the person who leaked the name of then-CIA operative Valerie Plame and whether the disclosure amounts to criminal wrongdoing.
Schumer also said that Fitzgerald should issue a report on his findings and any decisions to seek the indictment of others. "I have every confidence in this decision because it was made by an independent and fair minded prosecutor," the senator told reporters at the Capitol.
"It is not good enough to simply have a case for perjury. We still need to know who did the leak," Schumer added. "We still need to make sure that anyone who did that is given the appropriate punishment."
Look, the fellow who leaked to Woodward and Novak is (IMHO) Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State, and an indictment seems to be unlikely. I am not sure why that is, but I think that, in FitzgeraldWorld, Libby was part of a vicious White House conspiracy to make Joe Wilson cry; Armitage was just flapping his gums about a CIA operative. That's a big difference.
OK, more seriously, I don't think Libby or Armitage had criminal intent, and I don't think either of them could ever have been indicted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, since neither of them knew that Ms. Plame was covert. However, Armitage's failure to come forward with his tale of the leak to Woodward threw a monkey-wrench in this investigation - why no indictment for perjury, or failed memory, or anything at all?
But let's go double or nothing - don't rule out Armitage as a candidate for indictment. More later.
OR IS "LATER" NOW? Is it just an extraodinary coincidence that Armitage is on the Charlie Rose show tonight? Some possibilities:
(a) Yes, it is an extraordinary coincidence; Armitage has made no news for months, but here he is.
(b) Armitage can't wait to tell the world about his impending indictment - who wouldn't be bubbling over with excitement?
(c) Armitage will accept the opportunity to do a bit of a mea culpa, clear up his role in this (he never did get back to the many folks who called him last fall about the Woodward leak), and anounce that he, too is in the clear.
Choice (b) makes no sense (unless Fitzgerald offered him a chance to tell the world himself first???). Go with (c), but don't bet the ranch.