WASHINGTON – The prosecutor in the CIA leak case said Friday that he plans to present evidence to another federal grand jury, signaling a new and potentially significant turn in the investigation into the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Three weeks after indicting I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and declaring the investigation nearly complete, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald announced a new phase in the investigation after the disclosure this week that a senior administration official revealed Plame’s CIA connection to Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward in mid-June 2003.
Legal experts said Fitzgerald’s decision to call upon a new grand jury is all but certain because he is considering additional criminal charges in the case.
Two sources close to Karl Rove, the top Bush aide still under investigation in the case, said they have reason to believe Fitzgerald does not anticipate presenting additional evidence against the White House deputy chief of staff. Instead, lawyers involved in the case expect the prosecutor to focus on Woodward’s admission that an official other than Libby told him about Plame one month before her identity was publicly disclosed in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert Novak.
Woodward, who was questioned by Fitzgerald on Monday, has refused to reveal the source’s name publicly, but a person familiar with the investigation said the source had testified earlier in the case. The source came forward to the prosecutor again after Woodward started asking questions for a story on the CIA leak late last month and reminded the person of their 2003 conversation, Woodward said Friday. That raises the possibility that the source faces legal problems if he or she provided false or incomplete information during previous testimony, according to legal experts.
Fitzgerald’s decision to present information to a new grand jury, contained in a court filing and announced publicly at a court hearing on the Libby case Friday, is the latest twist in an investigation that has rattled the White House and threatens top administration officials. “The investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury” from the one that indicted Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges, Fitzgerald said.
The most innocuous explanation for the new grand jury is that Fitzgerald simply wants to complete his painstakingly thorough probe and to put information on the record, perhaps about Woodward’s source or Rove, according to several legal experts.
But most lawyers interviewed for this story said Fitzgerald would not go through the trouble of calling upon a new grand jury – after gathering so much testimony from and about Rove – unless he is exploring new territory uncovered since the Oct. 28 Libby indictment.