Sun, Oct 16, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Top Bush aide makes last bid to stave off indictment


US President George Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, on Friday made his fourth appearance before a grand jury in what was billed as a final attempt to convince federal prosecutors he did nothing illegal in the CIA leak case that is gripping Washington.

Before he gave evidence prosecutors had warned Bush's most trusted aide that there was no guarantee he would not be indicted over the leak of the name of a covert CIA operative. Charges could come as early as next week, with the White House said to be racked by uncertainty and foreboding.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby, vice president Dick Cheney's chief of staff, is also said to be firmly in the firing line of special council Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation.

For the Bush administration the possibility of indictments could not come at a worse time, faced by plummeting ratings over its handling of the war in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina and now allegations of cronyism over the nomination of Harriet Miers, the president's former personal lawyer, for the vacant spot on the supreme court.

Rove made no comment yesterday as he arrived at the federal courthouse in Washington to begin his testimony after failing to enter unnoticed through a side door.

The two-year leak investigation was launched after the disclosure in July 2003 of the name of a CIA undercover official, Valerie Plume.

Her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former US ambassador, claimed that her identity had been intentionally leaked by the administration in retribution against him for accusing the president of twisting prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Matt Cooper, a journalist for Time magazine, told the grand jury in July that Rove had told him on condition of anonymity that Mr Wilson's wife was a CIA agent and she had been instrumental in sending her husband to Africa in 2002 to check claims that Iraq had been buying uranium.

Meanwhile Judith Miller, the New York Times journalist sentenced for refusing to cooperate with the investigation, finally testified two weeks ago that she had spoken to Libby about Wilson's wife.

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