Within the last week, Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to sources.
Details of Rove’s discussions with the president and Bolten have spread through the corridors of the White House where low-level staffers and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high- profile political scandals for nearly a year, said a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources confirmed Rove’s indictment is imminent. These individuals requested anonymity saying they were not authorized to speak publicly about Rove’s situation. A spokesman in the White House press office said they would not comment on “wildly speculative rumors.”
Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, did not return a call for comment Friday.
Rove’s announcement to President Bush and Bolten comes more than a month after he alerted the new chief of staff to a meeting his attorney had with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in which Fitzgerald told Luskin that his case against Rove would soon be coming to a close and that he was leaning toward charging Rove with perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators, according to sources close to the investigation.
A few weeks after he spoke with Fitzgerald, Luskin arranged for Rove to return to the grand jury for a fifth time to testify in hopes of fending off an indictment related to Rove’s role in the CIA leak, sources said.
That meeting was followed almost immediately by an announcement by newly-appointed White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten of changes in the responsibilities of some White House officials, including Rove, who was stripped of his policy duties and would no longer hold the title of deputy White House chief of staff.
The White House said Rove would focus on the November elections and his change in status in no way reflected his fifth appearance before the grand jury or the possibility of an indictment.
But since Rove testified two weeks ago, the White House has been coordinating a response to what is sure to be the biggest political scandal it has faced thus far: the loss of a key political operative who has been instrumental in shaping White House policy on a wide range of domestic issues.
Late Thursday afternoon and early Friday morning, several White House officials were bracing for the possibility that Fitzgerald would call a news conference and announce a Rove indictment today following the prosecutor’s meeting with the grand jury this morning.
However, sources close to the probe said that is unlikely to happen, despite the fact that Fitzgerald has already presented the grand jury with a list of charges against Rove. If an indictment is returned by the grand jury, it will be filed under seal.
Rove is said to have told Bolten that he will be charged with perjury regarding when he was asked how and when he discovered that covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the agency, and whether he discussed her job with reporters.
Rove testified that he first found out about Plame Wilson from reading a newspaper report in July 2003 and only after the story was published did he share damaging information about her CIA status with other reporters.
However, evidence has surfaced during the course of the two-year-old investigation that shows Rove spoke with at least two reporters about Plame Wilson prior to the publication of the column.
The explanation Rove provided to the grand jury – that he was dealing with more urgent White House matters and therefore forgot – has not convinced Fitzgerald that Rove has been entirely truthful in his testimony.
Sources close to the case said there is a strong chance Rove will also face an additional charge of obstruction of justice, adding that Fitzgerald has been working meticulously over the past few months to build an obstruction case against Rove because it “carries more weight” in a jury trial and is considered a more serious crime.
Some White House staffers said it’s the uncertainty of Rove’s status in the leak case that has made it difficult for the administration’s domestic policy agenda and the announcement of an indictment and Rove’s subsequent resignation, while serious, would allow the administration to move forward on a wide range of issues.
“We need to start fresh and we can’t do that with the uncertainty of Karl’s case hanging over our heads,” said one White House aide. “There’s no doubt that it will be front page news if and when (an indictment) happens. But eventually it will become old news quickly. The key issue here is that the president or Mr. Bolten respond to the charges immediately, make a statement and then move on to other important policy issues and keep that as the main focus going forward.”
Jason Leopold spent two years covering California’s electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak investigation, and is a regular contributor to t r u t h o u t. He is the author of the new book NEWS JUNKIE. Visit www.newsjunkiebook.com for a preview.