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Monday, November 28, 2005

Rove is still on the hotseat

Looks like FITZMAS day could come more than once a year.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will present evidence to a second grand jury this week in his two year-old investigation into the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson that could lead to a criminal indictment being handed up against Karl Rove, President Bush’s deputy chief of staff, attorneys close to the investigation say.

Rove has remained under intense scrutiny because of inconsistencies in his testimony to investigators and the grand jury. According to sources, Rove withheld crucial facts on three separate occasions and allegedly misled investigators about conversations he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

The attorneys say that Rove’s former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston -- who was also a special assistant to President Bush -- testified in August about why Cooper’s call to Rove was not logged. Ralston said it occurred because Cooper had phoned in through the White House switchboard and was then transferred to Rove’s office as opposed to calling Rove’s office directly. As Rove’s assistant, Ralston screened Rove’s calls.

But those close to the probe tell RAW STORY that Fitzgerald obtained documentary evidence showing that other unrelated calls transferred to Rove’s office by the switchboard were logged. He then called Ralston back to testify.

Earlier this month, attorneys say Fitzgerald received additional testimony from Ralston -- who said that Rove instructed her not to log a phone call Rove had with Cooper about Plame in July 2003.

Ralston also provided Fitzgerald with more information and “clarification” about several telephone calls Rove allegedly made to a few reporters, including syndicated columnist Robert Novak, the lawyers said.

If true, this is perhaps the most significant evidence Fitzgerald has obtained suggesting Rove deliberately sought to mislead investigators. Her testimony may help Fitzgerald prove that there were inconsistencies in Rove’s account of his role in the leak and assess why he withheld a crucial fact from the prosecutor: that he had spoken with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper as well as Novak about Plame and confirmed that she was an undercover CIA agent.

Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, maintains that his client did not intentionally withhold facts from the prosecutor or grand jury but simply forgot about his conversations with Cooper. But sources say Rove’s reasons for not being forthcoming have not convinced Fitzgerald that Rove had a momentary lapse.

At this point, it might be best if Rove makes a plea and resign. As long as this story continues to get press coverage, Bush's approval numbers will continue to drop.