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Bush adviser Rove subpoenaed for Libby trial

Story Highlights

Dan Bartlett, counselor to president, also subpoenaed as witness
It's unclear whether either will actually be called to testify
• Former Cheney aide charged with lying to the FBI and a grand jury
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two of President Bush's top advisers have been subpoenaed as possible witnesses in the trial of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a legal source familiar with the case told CNN on Friday.

It remains unclear whether either of the aides -- Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett -- will actually be called to the stand.

Libby is charged with lying to the FBI and a grand jury investigating who leaked a CIA employee's identity to reporters in 2003. (Read full story)

Rove, Bush's longtime political confidant, serves as deputy chief of staff at the White House; Bartlett is a counselor to the president and the former White House communications director.

Rove and Bartlett are on a list of possible defense witnesses that includes Vice President Dick Cheney, his current chief of staff, David Addington, and a number of journalists and current and former White House officials.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, is fighting charges of perjury and obstruction of justice with a defense strategy that includes portraying him as someone thrown into a "meat grinder" to protect Rove.

Prosecutors are trying to portray Libby as someone who used lies and deception in his high-ranking position at the White House to try to discredit an open critic of the Bush prewar justification to invade Iraq.

Inner workings of White House exposed

The first week in the trial brought a sometimes harsh light to the inner workings of the White House and other federal agencies.

On Thursday, a former top press aide to Cheney, Cathie Martin, who now is an aide to Bush, testified she was excluded from high-level talks to decide how to respond to the media during a controversy over Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.

In the speech, Bush claimed Iraq was trying to buy uranium from the African nation of Niger. Martin said Libby attended the meeting.

The uranium claim was challenged by a former ambassador, Joe Wilson, who in the months before the Iraq war, had made a fact-finding trip to Niger at the request of the CIA, where his wife worked on matters regarding weapons of mass destruction, according to court testimony. (Read full story)

Witnesses have testified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, apparently organized the trip, and interest in the results had been expressed by the Office of the Vice President, the State Department and the Department of Defense.

But at least initially, none of those offices apparently had much knowledge of Wilson's trip nor who arranged it, according to the testimony thus far.

Prosecution witnesses from the CIA and the State Department testified that they or their staff members tracked down details of the mission at Libby's request, and that the push to do so came at the time the former ambassador had questioned the Bush argument for going to war in Iraq.

The criminal case began with an investigation of how Valerie Wilson became widely known among journalists as being an operative of the CIA. It would be illegal to disclose the covert or classified status of such an employee.

No one has been charged with leaking her name, employment status or other classified material.

Libby is the only person to face any charges in connection with the case. He resigned his position at the White House in 2005 on the day he was indicted.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has said he continues to explore for wrongdoing, including whether Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in retaliation for her husband's public criticism of the president.

Who told Libby is key to prosecution

Central to the Libby trial is whether he learned of Valerie Wilson's employment from reporters or from inside government. (Watch how the timeline is a key to the trial Video)

Libby has said that he first got the information from NBC reporter Tim Russert. His lawyers blame bad memory for any discrepancies in what he told investigators and a grand jury, and say he may have been distracted by urgent national security matters.

Martin, Cheney's former spokeswoman, testified Thursday that she had told Libby that Joseph Wilson is "married to a CIA agent" days before the date Libby claims he learned that information from Russert.

She also described feeling blamed for how the White House handled a different query about the controversial Iraq-uranium assertion in the State of the Union address. The query, by television reporter Andrea Mitchell, had been handled by Libby.

Martin testified, "I was aggravated that Scooter was calling the reporters and I wasn't" during White House efforts to handle the story.

Martin is one of four witnesses for the prosecution who have testified in the first three days of the trial, which is expected to last more than a month. The judge and jury will not hear the case on Fridays.

After the defense and prosecution conclude with Martin on Monday, the next witness is expected to be former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

He appeared at the courthouse Thursday after defense attorney Ted Wells complained he needed more time to examine Martin's original handwritten notes she made during the uranium controversy.

There was some talk of instead taking the next prosecution witness and delaying Martin's testimony, and soon after, reporters spotted Fleischer's arrival.

Prosecutor Fitzgerald acknowledged that Wells had been given the Martin notes only a few hours before Martin was to take the stand, but he disputed whether the earlier copies were of poor quality.

"That's a bit of spin," Fitzgerald said of the complaint from Wells, and suggested he didn't believe the defense team's "notion of sitting on it a year with illegible copies."

Judge Reggie Walton, his voice rising, chided Fitzgerald and loudly said, "If he's lying, I'll punish him for it," referring to the Wells complaint.

Martin was called to the stand after Fitzgerald said only a handful of the notes would be introduced as evidence. Fleischer, who had been waiting with counsel in a holding room, departed. His appearance is now set for Monday.

CNN's Paul Courson and John King contributed to this report.


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White House advisers Karl Rove, left, and Dan Bartlett have been subpoenaed as possible witnesses in the CIA leak case.

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