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MSNBC: Rove's legal team expects decision 'at any time'

Published: Monday May 22, 2006

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MSNBC's David Shuster declared Monday evening that Karl Rove's legal team expects Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to announce a decision "at any time" in the ongoing CIA leak investigation and that new documents put Cheney's former chief of staff in the hot seat.

Meanwhile, Rove spokesman Mark Corallo told TalkLeft, a progressive legal blog, the timing is still unknown.

"We have no expectation on timing anymore," Corallo said.

Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, added that "there has never been any discussion of any plea under any circumstances whatsoever."

"As a defense lawyer," Luskin told TalkLeft, "you'll understand that if a prosecutor hasn't figured out whether or not he thinks a charge is appropriate, plea discussions are a bit premature."

RAW STORY acquired a transcript of the MSNBC report, which follows.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back to Hardball. In the CIA leak case against Vice President Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby, there are new documents tonight that are raising questions about the possible role of Cheney himself in the actions that led to the outing of a CIA operative. Libby has filed legal pleadings in court saying that he never saw a key document with the Vice President's handwriting on it. If Libby didn't see that document, who did?

Hardball correspondent David Shuster reports.


DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Former federal prosecutors say it's a position that increases the odds Vice President Cheney will be called as a prosecution witness in the perjury case against his former chief of staff Scooter Libby.

In the latest pre-trial documents, Libby argues he does not remember seeing Cheney's handwritten notes about the CIA's Valerie Wilson on a column by her husband, administration critic Joe Wilson. Quote, "On Libby's first day of grand jury testimony, when asked if he recalled this particular document with the Vice President, Mr. Libby testified 'I don't recall that... I subsequently learned that the Vice President had such an article from the FBI agents who talked to me.'"

Libby also denied disclosing Valerie Wilson's identity to reporters. And for that testimony, he is facing charges of perjury.

In his latest filing, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald suggests the Cheney notes are important because they show Libby's boss was personally focused on Valerie Wilson's role at the CIA. Fitzgerald writes about quote, "The level of attention being paid by the defendant and others to responding to Mr. Wilson."

But Libby's legal team says quote, "these arguments are tantamount to an acknowledgment that the state of mind of witnesses other than Mr. Libby will be important to trial." And Libby argues he is quote, "entitled to any documents that mention Ms. Wilson that are contained in the files of other government officials."

Still, Libby's inability to remember the Cheney notes raises questions. If the chief of his office did not see the Vice President's notes, who were they intended for? Conversations between Cheney and other white house officials have remained under seal.

Meanwhile, legal experts say the latest Libby filing could be telling for what the defense does not argue. Libby does not challenge the prosecution statement that on the day columnist Robert Novak first disclosed Valerie Wilson's identity, a quote "CIA official discussed in the defendant's presence the dangers posed by disclosure of the CIA affiliation of one of its employees as had occurred in the Novak column. This evidence directly contradicts the defense position."

A former federal prosecutor says the Government's point about Libby is simple.

SCOTT FREDERICKSEN, former federal prosecutor: "He knew he may have violated the law. And that gave him motive, according to the government, to lie to the grand jury and before that to lie to the FBI."

SHUSTER: Prosecution documents indicate Valerie Wilson's classified status will be a key issue in the government's case. Prosecutors will attempt to show Libby knew about Wilson's status before talking with reporters. The defense will try and shore up Libby's claim of having learned about Wilson from reporters by seeking testimony, according to defense documents, from CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

Both sides in the Libby case have several weeks before they will file the next set of pleadings. And that could help free up prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his staff to focus on one key unresolved issue in the overall investigation -- the status of presidential advisor Karl Rove.

It's now been 26 days since Rove testified to the grand jury for the 5th time. Defense lawyers say prosecutors remain focused on Rove's claim of a bad memory regarding a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. Rove's legal team and former prosecutors tracking the investigation expect Patrick Fitzgerald to announce a decision at any time.

SCOTT FREDERICKSEN, former federal prosecutor: "Right now is when we would expect the meetings to be wrapped up with his own staff, for him to make the preliminary decision, for him to reach out to Rove's counsel to have the final conversation, or to notify him he is not going forward or to notify him we are going to indict."

SHUSTER: (on-camera) "The CIA leak grand jury is scheduled to meet again this Wednesday. As for Scooter Libby, whose lawyers are focusing on his criminal trial, one broad issue they've noted will not be part of the case. Libby's legal team says that in front of a jury drawn from residents of liberal Washington, D.C., defending the Bush administration's case for war would be foolish and self destructive, regardless of whether the trial features testimony from Vice President Cheney. I'm David Shuster, for Hardball, in Washington.