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Newsweek: Rove could testify in Libby case as subpoenas delivered

Mike Sheehan
Published: Friday January 26, 2007
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President Bush's top political consultant, Karl Rove, could testify in the much-publicized trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Michael Isikoff reports in a Newsweek web exclusive.

"White House anxiety is mounting over the prospect that top officials--including deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and counselor Dan Bartlett--may be forced to provide potentially awkward testimony in the perjury and obstruction trial" of Libby, writes Isikoff.

Rove and Bartlett have both already received subpoenas from defense lawyers for Libby, Isikoff quotes lawyers related to the case as saying.

The article states that while it's not guaranteed that Rove and Bartlett will be called, chances rose this week after Libby's lawyer "laid out a defense resting on the idea that his client ... had been made a 'scapegoat' to protect Rove."

Isikoff adds, again quoting, that the Vice President is "expected to provide the most crucial testimony" to back up the assertions made by Libby's lawyer.

RAW STORY earlier reported on a New York Times article that suggested Libby's "scapegoat" defense "may not be supportable by any evidence."

Excerpts from the Newsweek article follow...

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The possibility that Rove could be called to testify would bring his own role into sharper focus--and could prove important to Libby's lawyers for several reasons. Rove has said in secret testimony that, during a chat on July 11, 2003, Libby told him he learned about Plame's employment at the CIA from NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, a legal source who asked not to be identified talking about grand jury matters told NEWSWEEK...

But the Rove account could cut in other ways. Fitzgerald would likely argue that Libby's comment to Rove merely shows that the vice president's top aide "was even lying inside the White House," according to the legal source. Moreover, Rove is likely not eager to recount the story either. The reason? He would have to acknowledge that shortly after he had the chat with Libby, he went back to his office and had a phone conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper in which he also disclosed the fact that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. The disclosure was potentially illegal since, at the time, Plame was employed in the Directorate of Operations, the agency's covert arm...

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An equally embarrassing conflict could emerge next week when former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer takes the stand. Fleischer has been one of the most mysterious figures in the case, making virtually no public comments about it since he left the White House in July 2003. In the past he has insisted he wasn't even represented by a lawyer. But it emerged during court arguments this week that Fleischer originally invoked his Fifth Amendment privileges to avoid testifying and then only agreed to do so after he was given an immunity deal by Fitzgerald--an arrangement that normally requires extensive bargaining among attorneys...

...

On its face, Fleischer's account seems to contradict the repeated public assertions of his immediate successor, Scott McClellan, in October 2003 that nobody at the White House was in any way involved in the leak of Plame's identity. It also potentially puts Bartlett, one of the president's senior and most trusted advisers, on the hot seat. If Bartlett backs up Fleischer, it suggests he himself played a role in passing along radioactive information that triggered a criminal investigation that has plagued the White House for more than four years...

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LINK HERE TO READ THE FULL NEWSWEEK ARTICLE.