http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-102805leak_lat,0,2110081.storyWASHINGTON Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, one of the most trusted and powerful aides in the White House, was indicted today on charges of obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury in a case that goes to the heart of the Bush administration's reasons for invading Iraq.
Libby resigned within an hour.
He was charged in connection with statements he made to FBI agents and to a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Wilson, also known by her unmarried name, Valerie Plame.
The five felony counts were handed up by a federal grand jury, as the panel's term expired. If convicted on all charges, Libby would face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.
Libby and Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff and the president's closest political advisor, have been at the center of the 22-month investigation by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
Rove was left dangling.
"The special counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he has made no decision about whether or not to bring charges and that Mr. Rove's status has not changed," Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, said in a statement this morning.
"Mr. Rove will continue to cooperate fully with the special counsel's efforts to complete the investigation. We are confident that when the special counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong," Luskin said.
The charges against Libby allege that he lied to FBI agents who interviewed him on Oct. 14 and Nov. 26, 2003. He is also charged with committing perjury while testifying under oath before the grand jury on March 5 and March 24, 2004. The indictment alleges that he engaged in obstruction of justice by impeding the grand jury's investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of Plame's CIA affiliation to various reporters in the spring of 2003.
The indictment alleges that Libby lied about information he discussed about the CIA employment of Plame in conversations he had in June and July 2003 with three reporters-Tim Russert of NBC News, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, and Judith Miller of the New York Times.
In a statement, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald said: "When citizens testify before grand juries they are required to tell the truth.
"Without the truth, our criminal justice system cannot serve our nation or its citizens," he said. "The requirement to tell the truth applies equally to all citizens, including persons who hold high positions in government. In an investigation concerning the compromise of a CIA officer's identity, it is especially important that grand jurors learn what really happened."
The indictment caps one of the most trouble-ridden weeks of the Bush presidency. His nominee to the Supreme Court, Harriet E. Miers, withdrew under fire from conservative activists who had been part of the president's political base. Early this week, the Pentagon reported that American deaths in the Iraq war topped 2,000.
It also hits the administration at a difficult time for the GOP as a whole. Party leaders in both the House and Senate are embroiled in ethical and legal troubles of their own: Onetime House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has been indicted on money laundering charges; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is under investigation for possible insider stock trading.
The indictment of Libby shines a new spotlight on White House efforts to defend its flawed rationale for going to war the belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the lengths to which it was willing to go to counter dissenting views. It provides a rare public window onto one of the administration's most crucial, but mysterious power centers the office of the vice president.
While rumored for weeks, the indictment was a stunning conclusion to an investigation that has kept Washington on edge for the better part of two years.