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Rove testifies again in CIA leak case

Bush political adviser appears before grand jury for 5th time

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau



Karl Rove
George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
Lewis Libby

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, testified Wednesday for a fifth time before a grand jury in the CIA leak investigation, Rove's attorney said Wednesday.

Rove entered a Washington courthouse shortly after 1 p.m. ET and remained in the building for nearly 3 hours.

"Karl Rove appeared today before the Grand Jury investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity. He testified voluntarily and unconditionally at the request of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to explore a matter raised since Mr. Rove's last appearance in October 2005," Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said in a written statement.

"In connection with this appearance, the Special Counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Mr. Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges.

"At the request of the Special Counsel, Mr. Rove will not discuss the substance of his testimony," Luskin said. (Watch as Rove heads back to the courthouse, and what it could mean to the adviser -- 1:35)

Fitzgerald met briefly Wednesday morning with the grand jury hearing the case at the Washington courthouse.

At issue in the case has been how covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was disclosed to the media.

Before arriving at the courthouse, Rove went to Luskin's office, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Fitzgerald has admonished anyone from speaking to reporters about grand jury proceedings.

The sources said the goal of the session was, as one put it, "to clean up some things" in the hopes of reaching a resolution.

Testimony from reporters implicated Rove, whom Bush has credited as the architect of his 2004 re-election victory, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, in the Plame leak.

Libby is charged in a five-count federal indictment with lying to the FBI and the grand jury investigating how Plame's identity was leaked to the media.

He is accused of making false statements about how he learned of Plame's CIA employment and what he told reporters about it.

After Libby's indictment last year, sources close to Rove had voiced hope that he quickly would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

But Fitzgerald decided to impanel a new grand jury so that he could continue to gather evidence, and Rove's legal team for months has been trying to answer the prosecutor's questions.

Among those questions: Why did Rove initially not disclose a conversation with Time magazine's Matt Cooper that included a discussion of the CIA job held by Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vocal opponent of the Iraq war?

Rove said he did not recall the conversation, and his team has noted repeatedly that he is the one who brought the information to the attention of prosecutors.

The sources said they did not expect a statement of any kind from the prosecutor's office Wednesday. But sources sympathetic to Rove suggested the goal was that his testimony would lead to a final deposition in the near future.

Last week, a senior White House official said that Rove no longer will focus on policy but will be involved in long-term strategic planning as a deputy chief of staff and a senior adviser. (Full story)

Plame's CIA status was publicly disclosed eight days after her husband, Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat from weapons of mass destruction.

In 2002, the CIA dispatched Wilson to Africa to check out intelligence that Iraq had an agreement to acquire uranium yellowcake from Niger, and Wilson had concluded that there was no such arrangement.

Wilson alleges that the Bush administration leaked his wife's identity as a CIA employee in retaliation for his July 2003 op-ed in The New York Times disputing the claim that Iraq sought uranium in Niger.

Bush had cited the uranium claim in his 2003 State of the Union address as the invasion of Iraq loomed.

CNN's Kevin Bohn and Bob Franken contributed to this report.

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