Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Rove Appears Before the Grand Jury a Fifth Time

White House adviser Karl Rove made his fifth appearance before the grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA covert agent, although this time the grand jurors themselves were different because the earlier grand jury expired in October 2005.  In his last appearance, which came shortly before the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, Rove spent a considerable amount of time in the grand jury room (see earlier post here).  Since then, additional information has emerged about contacts between Rove's counsel, Robert Luskin, and Newsweek reporter Viveca Novak, about whether Rove disclosed Plame's identity to fellow Newsweek reporter Matt Cooper.  In addition, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's office has received additional e-mails from the Office of the Vice President that may shed further light on Rove's role in an alleged campaign to counter the allegations of Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, disputing administration claims about attempts by Iraq to obtain materials in Africa to produce WMD.

The key question at this point is whether Rove's role in the case has changed in the eyes of Fitzgerald.  Is he a target of the investigation?  Luskin is quoted as stating that "[i]n connection with this appearance, the special counsel has advised Mr Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Mr Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges."  (See AP story here)  The grand jury cannot be used for discovery purposes for the Libby prosecution, so Fitzgerald must be able to articulate a plausible basis for a continuing investigation of someone connected to the disclosure of Plame's identity, or who may not have been completely forthright with investigators or in the grand jury.  If Libby's defense team has the slightest suspicion that the grand jury is being used to assist the case against him, then there will be a motion filed in the district court in short order seeking to block any further use of the grand jury for that purpose. 

Although I doubt such statistics are kept anywhere, I suspect Rove must be getting close to the record for most appearances before a grand jury in a single investigation, at least by a witness who has not asserted the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  (ph)

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