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Attorney: Rove didn't circulate CIA operative's name

Key White House aide to testify before grand jury for fourth time

By Suzanne Malveaux
CNN Washington Bureau

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White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has appeared before a federal grand jury three times.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Karl Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said Monday his client "did not circulate" the name of an undercover CIA operative.

"Karl has truthfully told everyone who's asked him that he did not circulate Valerie Plame's name to punish her husband, Joe Wilson," Luskin said. Asked if that included President Bush, Luskin said, "Everyone is everyone."

Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has alleged that his wife's name was leaked to retaliate against him after he disputed Bush administration statements that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium in Africa.

Because federal law makes it a crime to deliberately reveal the identity of a CIA operative, the Justice Department launched an investigation.

Luskin projected confidence as his client -- the president's deputy chief of staff -- prepared for what is expected to be his final appearance before a federal grand jury investigating the CIA leak.

"He's told everyone who's asked him, including the federal prosecutor, that he's not part of any scheme," Luskin said.

He said that's the allegation the president and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan were commenting on when they received assurances from Rove that he did nothing wrong.

Sources familiar with the proceedings of the CIA leak investigation said Rove will testify for the fourth time before the federal grand jury this week. Luskin would not say what day the testimony will be given.

Sources have said that after this appearance, it's expected prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will want "nothing further." Those same sources said they are "not at all surprised" by the wide range of legal options Fitzgerald is pursuing.

One source said, "I don't see it as an evolution or broadening of the probe. It's building a case."

Fitzgerald is trying to determine whether any crimes were committed when Plame's identity as a CIA operative was exposed in a July 2003 piece by syndicated columnist and CNN contributor Robert Novak. Knowingly identifying a covert agent is a felony under federal law, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Novak said the disclosure was made to him by two "senior administration officials." He has refused to say publicly who his sources were, and what cooperation he may have given Fitzgerald, if any, remains unclear.

The Justice Department opened a criminal probe in September 2003 at the request of the CIA.

Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, Illinois, was named a special prosecutor at the end of 2003 after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the probe.

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