KARL ROVE WOULD IMMEDIATELY RESIGN OR GO ON UNPAID LEAVE IF INDICTED IN THE CIA LEAK CASE, SOURCES FAMILIAR WITH STRATEGY TELL TIME
New York – Karl Rove has a plan, as always. Even before testifying last week for the fourth time before a grand jury probing the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity, Rove—who as senior adviser and deputy chief of staff runs a vast swath of the West Wing—and others at the White House had concluded he would immediately resign or possibly go on unpaid leave if indicted, several legal and Administration sources familiar with the thinking tell TIME.
The same scenario would apply to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s chief of staff, who also faces a possible indictment. A former White House official says Rove’s break with Bush would have to be clean—no “giving advice from the sidelines”—for the sake of the Administration, TIME’s Viveca Novak and Mike Allen report in this week’s issue of TIME (on newsstands Monday, Oct. 17).
Severing his White House ties would allow Rove to fight aggressively “any bull_ charges,” says a source close to Rove, like allegations that he was part of a broad conspiracy to discredit Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson. Rove’s defense: whatever he did fell far short of that. Fitzgerald appears to be seriously weighing a perjury charge for Rove’s failure to tell grand jurors that he talked to TIME correspondent Matt Cooper about Plame, according to a person close to Rove. Rove corrected himself in a later grand jury session. If charged with perjury, he will maintain his line: he simply didn’t recall the conversation with Cooper, and told Fitzgerald as soon as he did, TIME reports.
These strategies are being shaped absent any real knowledge of what Fitzgerald might do before the grand jury’s dissolution on Oct. 28. “If he played his cards any closer to the vest they’d be in his underwear,” says a lawyer who’s a friend of the White House. But Fitzgerald’s intentions aren’t the only mystery. Another character in the drama remains unnamed: the original source for columnist Robert Novak, who wrote the first piece naming Plame. Fitzgerald, says a lawyer in the case, “knows who it is—and it’s not someone at the White House,” TIME reports.