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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Lewis Libby Indicted in CIA Leak Case
Aired October 28, 2005 - 10:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM at a special time for breaking news on the CIA leak investigation.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Happening now, the legal fate of two high-ranking White House aides, Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Karl Rove, are about to be revealed. Official paperwork expected to be made public about an hour from now. And all signs and all of our sources pointing toward an indictment of Libby. Rove, however, may be off the hook, at least temporarily.
The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, will go before the cameras at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, three hours from now, and talk about his case, his targets and the legal twists and turns ahead. We'll carry his remarks live.
And President Bush is trying to conduct business as usual, but it's anything but. Over at the White House there are serious concerns. Is there a strategy for pulling the administration out of legal jeopardy and out of the political dumps?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And to our viewers in the United States and around the world, thanks very much for joining us. Our special coverage continues this hour as we get closer to seeing the outcome of a two-year CIA leak investigation.
We'll get some paperwork on that. We're expecting it to come out in about an hour. And then we'll hear directly from the special counsel himself, who is about to go forward with indictments, or at least one indictment.
Who is in the clear? Who is not? What remains under investigation? All those questions outstanding.
Standing by, CNN's Bob Franken is over at the federal courthouse. Our Dana Bash is over at the White House.
Bob, first to you. Set the scene.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the irony, Wolf, is that what we've been learning thus far in this leaks investigation has come from leaks from the secretive grand jury process. Here's what we have been told from sources involved in the case, that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, has been informed that there is going to be an effort to seek indictments against him. The sources go on to say that the expectation would be because of inconsistent or allegedly misleading statements that Libby had given during the course of this investigation.
We have also been told now on the record that Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, the chief political adviser of President Bush, will not be indicted today, but that the special prosecutor is going to continue his investigation, because there is a strong effort going on, on the part of Libby's lawyers -- we know that as information that has come from various lawyers involved on the Libby team -- that there is a long discussion going on with the special prosecutor that inconsistencies that may have come up in Rove's testimony before the grand jury were inadvertent. The requirements for perjury, false statements and that type is willfulness.
We also know that the underlying charge, which is a very hard one to prove, is that the original leaks of Valerie Plame's identity, she being an undercover CIA operative and the wife of a harsh administration critic, the high bar there is, is to prove that it was willful and that the government was making an assertive effort to keep her identity secret. So this investigation has expanded.
The special prosecutor at this hour is still before the grand jury. It is the grand jury that will then vote without the prosecutor in the room whether to return any indictments. And then the judiciary gets involved, a judge would be assigned to the case if there are any indictments, and then the paperwork as we call it would be released. That would be the indictments and the narrative that goes along with it.
We would be looking for many things, what the charges are across the wide range, and whatever involvement there might be, particularly at the high levels of the White House. All that lies ahead, with an explanation coming up a couple of hours later from the special prosecutor about what the handiwork is that he's done and will continue to do -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Bob. Stand by. We're going to be getting back to you.
By the way, those sketches that we've been showing, sketches of artist has been inside watching the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. No cameras are allowed inside on this day or other -- other days. The actual news conference, the statement he will make, will be over at the Department of Justice.
Dana Bash is over at the White House watching all of this.
The president spoke in Norfolk, Virginia, earlier today. The vice president, Dana, as you pointed out, is traveling in Georgia. What is going on behind you?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, here at the White House still, behind me, behind those walls, are Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, the two people we have been talking about, the two people at the center of this. And there is a mixed reaction when it comes to the fate, potential fate of both of those men.
As Bob just reported, let's start with Karl Rove.
His people close to him do believe that, at least for now he won't be indicted. And his lawyer put out a very carefully written statement that I'll read to you from Robert Luskin.
He said, "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. 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."
So, for now, they are breathing a little bit of a sigh of relief when it comes to Karl Rove. Of course, an incredibly influential and powerful figure inside this White House.
But going to the vice president's office, it seems to be quite a different tone. As Bob reported, our justice correspondent, our justice team has found out that people -- lawyers close to the investigation believe that Scooter Libby will be indicted, that we could hear that -- we'll likely hear that in about an hour, when we get more information, specific information.
Now, in terms of the -- the political fallout here, we do know from sources close to both men that Scooter Libby had planned to resign as soon as he got that information. At this point, it is unclear if that has happened yet or will happen very soon.
We do know that the tone and tenor of conversations and sort of the mood inside the vice president's office is not, as you can imagine, a very good one right now. And we do understand that there are already discussions about who would potentially take Scooter Libby's place.
It is a huge, huge role to fill, Wolf, as we've been talking about. He is not only the vice president's chief of staff, but he is his national security adviser. One person close to them just called him Vice President Cheney's alter ego -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The vice president, you said, is in Georgia, the president is in Norfolk, Virginia. What are the schedules for the rest of the day? What are they planning on doing? And is it anticipated that at some point the president will actually go before the cameras and make a statement?
BASH: The answer to that question at this point is yes. We are told by a senior official that they certainly have this planned out as best they can, and part of that plan is for President Bush to make a statement before the cameras.
Where he will do that, when he will do that is still unclear. But we do know he will wait until Mr. Fitzgerald does give his formal statement. As for the vice president, he is traveling. And we understand what he will give out in terms of a statement will probably be in written form -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The fact that the prosecutor is going to hold open this investigation and not necessarily close it, it's better than -- I assume for the White House than Karl Rove actually being indicted, but it still is not giving them total room to breathe.
BASH: That's right. You know, when you talk to some people close to him, with an understanding of what he understands is his legal situation right now, he does believe that in the next several days, perhaps, it will become clear that he is in the clear.
Having said that, other people at the White House and in and around this investigation do also understand that there could be things out there, could be information out there that nobody really knows about. So, as you mention, as long as an investigation is open, anything can happen.
BLITZER: Dana Bash is going to be busy all day at the White House.
Dana, thank you very much. We're going to check back with you soon.
Candy Crowley and John King are here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me.
Candy, all of us, we've covered stories like this in earlier administrations, whether it was Iran-Contra, it was Bill Clinton's problems in the second term with Monica Lewinsky. Give us a little historic perspective on what today might mean.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today might mean that they are -- they are back there looking at some way to really shake things up. I mean, I think it's become clear over time that in fact they need to do something to get people back into doing something, accomplishing something in a second term, rather than getting lame duck status when you've still got most of your second term left.
What -- you know, I'm told by people who are trying to get messages into the White House, who have in fact got messages into the White House, was he needs to do something like Ronald Reagan did post- Iran-Contra, to some extent Bill Clinton did...
BLITZER: To shake this down.
CROWLEY: ... which is to shake up -- not necessarily shake up -- bring in new air. They are tired. I mean, that's -- you know, I mean, some of the very basic things that happen.
You've had people going full tilt for five years. An election year in and of itself is dog years. So you have, you know, any number of people that are exhausted. Plus, major mistakes are being made here.
Harriet Miers was a series of blunder, not just one blunder. It was mishandled.
So what they are looking at now, if history -- you know, if they are looking at history, is how do we shake this up, who do we bring in, where can we find fresh voices, fresh ideas, how can we move this forward?
BLITZER: John, you know having covered this White House, these guys, they come into work very early. The chief of staff, Andy Card, Karl Rove, they're there when, the crack of dawn?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're there at the crack of dawn. And Candy is dead right in the sense that it's five years in office. Take it back through the election in 2000, that's six years, essentially. That's two campaigns, and they are dog years. And so this is the same team.
I talked to someone this morning who was going to a meeting at the White House who said everybody is telling them they need to change things. Everybody in town believes that. The question is, do four people believe it, the president, Andy, Karl and Dan? That would be the president, Andy Card, the chief of staff, Karl Rove, and Dan Bartlett.
This is the president's closest group. Do they believe they need new blood? That is the key question.
And, of course, the key person there is the president of the United States. He likes to work with people he knows and trusts. So for him to go outside -- many people say bring Ken Mehlman back, the Republican Party chairman. Other people say bring Ed Gillespie in, the former Republican chairman who worked closely with this White House.
Both of those gentlemen will tell you, or are telling friends, anyway, that they don't think they're the answer, because they're Bushies, too. That the president needs to go outside his longtime circle. That is something this president has always been very reluctant to do.
CROWLEY: And something -- you know, one of the situations that I've heard of, one of the suggestions, is that he has people that he does know. The president definitely has a comfort zone with people. He doesn't like to bring in strangers. He doesn't -- a huge, huge cache of loyalty in this Bush administration and the other Bush administration.
And they say, look, he's got his cabinet. He needs to use them. They can bring -- they're out there, they're doing things. He can bring -- you know, he could talk to his cabinet.
This has been an administration that has talked -- it's been a president who has talked to his administration -- to his cabinet through his staff. He needs to talk directly to his cabinet and give them broader roles.
BLITZER: This is a particular problem for this administration, John, if in fact there is an indictment or two or more, because when he ran against -- when he ran to start off against Al Gore in 2000, avoiding scandal, the highest ethical and moral standards in the aftermath of Bill Clinton, that was one of his major themes.
KING: Many would say he ran against Bill Clinton more than he ran against Al Gore. He said repeatedly, "When I take the oath, I will restore honesty and integrity to the White House." He said he would live to a higher standard.
They made a big deal the first day in office of bringing the whole senior staff into the East Room. They all took an oath. And they wanted coverage of that. The president wanted to set that tone from day one that this would be a different administration.
But look, at the same time, as they said that, and as they did that, this is a president and a team. This team who play hardball politics, as hard as anyone plays it, they did it to John McCain in the primaries, they did it in the midterm elections. And guess what? They did it to Joe Wilson.
When Joe Wilson started criticizing them, the president was in the meetings, the vice president was in the meetings. They had a communication and a political strategy to rebut this argument and to hit it hard, to question his credibility, to call him a partisan, to say that he did not have the technical expertise to make the conclusion he made in Niger.
The question now is, did someone cross the line and break the law as part of that hardball politics? But there is no question that they had a calculated strategy approved by the president of the United States to rebut Joe Wilson and hit it hard.
BLITZER: And some -- some critics of this whole process are saying what is happening, in effect, is the criminalization of tough politics.
CROWLEY: Well, what's also interesting is that there are a couple of liberal groups who are no friends of the George Bush administration who really are a little worried about this, because I think there's a free speech thing that it may very well -- that sources are important. That people leaking are important, that this may have a chilling effect on that.
I don't know that I agree. We'd have to see. But so you have some liberal groups who are not allies of George Bush thinking, I don't think this is a great thing to have this come up. We have seen columns to that effect and we've seen other groups talking about it.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by.
We're going to continue our coverage, special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM of the unfolding CIA leak saga. We're standing by over at the federal courthouse here in Washington, D.C., for official word on the outcome, at least at this stage, of the special counsel's investigation.
When those documents are released -- we expect them to be released in about 45 minutes or so -- we'll bring you the headlines immediately.
Also ahead, how did the key players in this investigation get to where they are today? We'll go back to where the case began.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Washington, D.C., bracing about 45 minutes or so from now for some official documents that will make it clear where the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, stands in the CIA leak investigation. The leak investigation, the name of a covert CIA officer, Valerie Plame. Her name was released more than two years ago under certain circumstances. That could be a crime.
We're bracing for information. Widely expected now by lawyers involved, sources close to this investigation, suggesting that Karl Rove, the president's deputy White House chief of staff, will not be indicted today, but the investigation involving his roll in all of this will continue. That is what we are being told.
He emerged from his home this morning pleased, saying that he's going to have a good Friday and a good weekend. His attorney, Robert Luskin, later issuing a statement saying 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. "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."
Good news, at least for now, for Karl Rove. Not so good news for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's longtime chief of staff.
Sources close to this investigation say he is facing an indictment later today. We're standing by for official word of that.
David Ensor is over at the Justice Department, our national security correspondent.
David, what are you picking up?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're standing by here for a document which could be released both here and at the courthouse just several blocks from here which could reveal a great deal of what we've all been waiting to hear. Really, what does Mr. Fitzgerald have? Does he have clear evidence of what he would consider a conspiracy? Does he have evidence of what he considers to be perjury or lying in some way to -- to authorities?
As you mentioned a moment ago, we believe from lawyers close to the case that the document will include an indictment on at least one charge for Lewis Libby, Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, and will not include an indictment, at least at this point, for Karl Rove. But there could be other names in there.
There are a lot of questions about this case and exactly what went on. We just don't know the answers. And we'll be getting them very soon.
BLITZER: All right, David. Stand by for that. We're all anxious to learn what has happened.
Let's get some more on the fallout from this leak investigation on this pivotal day. For that, we return to former Republican congressman and CNN contributor Bob Barr. He's joining us today from Cleveland.
You're a former U.S. attorney. You know how the process works, Congressman. What's -- what's going through your mind?
BOB BARR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what's going through my mind is just how far this is going to go. And you all have talked at length here in THE SITUATION ROOM about the legal implications certainly for the individuals involved. You have talked about the important political implications for the Bush administration and for the president himself.
But what is of equal concern to me is word that I'm receiving that this investigation is focusing also on top levels of the National Security Council. If, in fact, that is the case, this could have very serious implication for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and our security concerns not just here in Washington but around the world.
BLITZER: Why is the CIA -- and you know this subject well -- so upset over releasing the name of Valerie Plame?
BARR: It's very upset because, whether or not a person at any particular time may still be undercover, two things are important here. One, she was not just undercover, she was under non-official cover, which is very, very sensitive, very extensive, very expensive to put somebody in an unofficial cover position. And if in fact...
BLITZER: In other words, she was a -- she was a spy going around the world pretending to work as some sort of business consultant, when in effect she was really working for the CIA. That's what is at the bottom of this investigation.
BARR: Exactly. That is. And that -- the CIA and other intelligence agencies always pay very, very close attention and are very sensitive about persons under non-official cover, which is much more dangerous and much more difficult to establish than official cover. And, of course, again, even...
BLITZER: And official cover -- official cover -- let me just explain to our viewers who may not be all that aware of the lingo in this kind of business involving espionage.
Official cover is when a CIA operative goes around the world working, let's say, as a -- as a cultural attache at one U.S. embassy. That's official cover, as opposed to non-official cover, when you're just going out there pretending to be a private citizen.
BARR: That is absolutely correct, Wolf. And with non-official cover, if a person is outed, as Ms. Plame apparently was, then that sets in motion an unraveling of all sorts of individuals that she might have had contact with in her undercover capacity and makes it very difficult for her or others similarly situated ever to be in that situation again in that particular country, or countries, or with all of the range of people that she had contact with.
BLITZER: Now, when you think the leak might go all the way to the National Security Council, as you know, Scooter Libby is a member of the National -- he's the vice president's top national security adviser in his own right. Elaborate a little bit on what your fears are.
BARR: My fears are that there are others at the National Security Council that engaged in discussions with Mr. Libby and possibly others regarding Ms. Plame's status, Mr. Wilson's status, what they were doing, and that possibly that's where the information came from that got to the political person such as Mr. Libby. And in fact, if that's the case, what we're probably looking at is classified information, known classified information, and that very important but very unfortunate bringing together of politics and national security data that resulted in information getting out.
That could pose very serious concerns. And again, not just for the administration, Wolf, which has prided itself on putting national security foremost in its operations, but also for our allies and those overseas who would see this as a reason not to disclose information to us because it would be improperly handled, for example.
BLITZER: One final question, a technical question, because we've heard this word, these words thrown out over the past few days. And we may or may not hear these words later today: unindicted co- conspirators. What exactly does that mean? And how significant potentially could that be?
BARR: Well, of course, the good news for an unindicted co- conspirator is that they're not indicted. The bad news is that they are a conspirator, a co-conspirator, and will be labeled as such.
And they are not out of the woods. I don't think that Mr. Rove, for example -- and all indications right now are that he will not be indicted today -- I don't think that he's out of the woods. Because these cases, of course, as you know from having studied and followed them over the years, one person leads to another, you flip somebody. And there may still be people that the special prosecutor is working on flipping or for them to disclose information in return for a deal for themselves that could result in a later indictment against somebody even though they are not indicted today. BLITZER: Air Force One, the president's plane, just took off from Norfolk, Virginia, bringing the president back to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington. These are live pictures that you're seeing.
Bob Barr, former U.S. congressman, Republican of Georgia, former U.S. attorney, CNN contributor. Thanks very much for joining us.
BARR: Certainly, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst, are with us as well.
Jeff Toobin, I want you to elaborate a little bit more on what we just heard from Bob Barr. It sounds, no matter what happens right now, still very, very ominous for the Bush administration.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely. And if we are to believe the reporting, say, in "The New York Times" about what the nature of the charges are against -- against Scooter Libby, if they happen, Vice President Cheney is certainly a witness in that trial. That's an important -- that would be a very dramatic, very unusual thing, to say the least, to have the vice president of the United States testify as a witness in a criminal trial.
Now, it doesn't mean the administration is going to end, and it doesn't mean Vice President Cheney did anything wrong. But if there is a criminal trial where he's a witness, I mean, you can imagine what a distraction that would be from anything else that's going on in the world.
BLITZER: Well, why do you just limit it to the vice president? Why not the president?
TOOBIN: Well, because of the nature of Libby's contacts, and specifically, according to the allegations that have -- that have been raised largely in the press, the claim is that Scooter Libby testified in the grand jury that he learned Valerie Plame's name from reporters. According to his notes which have been produced in the course of this investigation, he learned, in fact, of Valerie Plame's name and her undercover status or her -- the fact that she worked at the CIA from Vice President Cheney, who heard it from the director of the CIA.
In a trial, if you're trying to prove -- if you the prosecutor are trying to prove that he's -- that Scooter Libby lied to the grand jury, the only way to prove that is by calling the vice president to say this is how he learned about Valerie Plame's status. So, you know, that doesn't really implicate the president at all, but it certainly puts Vice President Cheney in the middle of the trial.
BLITZER: If all of these things unfold, Jeff Greenfield, as we're talking about, today might just be the beginning of the next chapter in this saga, and by no means the end.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, I think if we get an indictment of the vice president's chief of staff and some other people today, that's certainly true. And it will be very interesting.
One of the really curious things about this is to see whether or not the response from the White House, particularly the unofficial response, is anything like we have seen in the past. What I mean by that is that we've seen in the past White Houses under siege pivot and go after the motives of the people going after them.
We saw that most recently with the Clinton White House challenging Ken Starr, the independent counsel, after Starr went after Bill Clinton because of Monica Lewinsky. We also saw it when Lawrence Walsh, who I think Jeff Toobin knows quite well, raised some harsh questions about the behavior of the first George Bush during the so- called Iraq-gate story. The question that Lawrence Walsh was off on a kind of a zealous mission.
But the president has gone out of his way, this president, to say nice things about Mr. Fitzgerald, to say that this is a dignified process, that these are serious matters. We heard those sound bites that were put together a few moments ago on our air. And so the idea that they could -- they could begin to question Mr. Fitzgerald, his motives, his zealousness, given what they've said before, you know, is a tactic that I would think would be much tougher this time than it was in the past.
We have seen what Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, has had to say about Ronnie Earle, the Texas prosecutor who has indicted him. That's a clear-cut statement this is all political.
Whether or not that's the tactic that the White House takes, whether they try to distance themselves from whoever may be indicted, as a political matter that's one of the more curious things as this next chapter, assuming it begins today, is about to begin -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume it's about to begin. Jeff Greenfield, Jeff Toobin, stand by.
We're going to take another break, a short break. But our extensive coverage of this day will continue.
We're awaiting word of an indictment or indictments from here. This is the courthouse in Washington, D.C. About 30 minutes or so from now we could get first official word on what is going on.
Our special coverage continues from THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers in the United States and around the world, welcome back to our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.
Breaking news, we're standing by for announcement, an announcement that could come within a half an hour by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, in the CIA leak investigation. We expect documents to be released right at the top of the hour. We'll bring you official word on indictment or indictments as soon as we get that word. Stand by for that. This is quite a day in Washington D.C.. Quite a day for the Bush administration, the president and the vice president. Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, expected to be indicted. Karl Rove, the president's deputy chief of staff, top political adviser, expected not to be indicted today. But word that the investigation will continue.
The pending announcement by the special prosecutor is two years in the making. Let's look back now on what triggered the CIA leak probe and how it has played out until now.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
BLITZER (voice-over): In his January 2003 State of the Union speech, President Bush, building the case for war with Iraq, insinuated Saddam Hussein was trying to build nuclear weapons. March 20th, coalition forces invade Iraq. May 1th, the president announces major operations over. On July 6, 2003, Joe Wilson, the former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, wrote in a "New York Times" opinion piece that he had traveled to Africa in February 2002 to investigate similar allegations for the CIA. His conclusion, it was, quote, "highly doubtful that such a transaction would have occurred."
On July 14th, CNN political analyst Robert Novak wrote in "The Chicago-Sun Times" column Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife Valerie Plame is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate.
And that's where the possible criminal case begins. Under a 1982 law, it's a crime to reveal the name of an undercover CIA agent. The burden of proof is high. Among other things, the disclosure must reveal the identity of a covert agent. It must be intentional. It must be made by someone with authorized access to classified information, and the source must be aware that the information disclosed will reveal the identity of the covert agent.
In September, 2003, nearly three months after Novak's column, the Justice Department opened an investigation. There were early suspicions that the White House was behind the leak. Perhaps the president's top adviser Karl Rove. Press Secretary Scott McClellan was dismissive.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: I said it's totally ridiculous.
QUESTION: Did Karl Rove do it?
MCCLELLAN: I said it's totally ridiculous.
BLITZER: And the president said he welcomed an investigation and promised action. BUSH: If there's a leak out of my administration I want to know who it is. And if the person is violated law, the person will be taken care of.
BLITZER: In December of 2003, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to find out who leaked Plame's identity. Over the course of the next 18 months, top administration officials were questioned including Rove, Vice President Cheney, and even the president himself. In August, 2004, at the Republican National Convention, in an interview with CNN, Rove denied he was responsible.
KARL ROVE: Didn't know her name, didn't leak her name.
BLITZER: Prosecutors also went after journalists, who had Plame's identity leaked to them. "Time" magazine's Matthew Cooper, who wrote an article on the story, and "The New York Times" Judith Miller, who researched one, but never published it. But after the Supreme Court refused to hear the journalists' request to shield them from prosecution, Cooper's employer, Time Inc., which is owned by CNN's parent company, cooperated with the prosecutor, turning over notes which revealed that Karl Rove was in fact Cooper's source, which Cooper himself later confirmed.
BLITZER: Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days. She was finally freed after agreeing to testify, getting the go-ahead personally and explicitly from the source she was protecting. That source, Lewis Scooter Libby.
Let's talk a little bit more about this very unusual and important case. Joining us here in Washington is Jonathan Turley. He's a law professor at George Washington University. Jonathan, thank you very much for joining us.
What specifically are you looking for right now as we await in the coming moments official word from the prosecutor?
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, what you're probably going to see, I assume, are some of the charging papers. If an indictment has already been issued, we will be able to see what specifically was the charge against Libby, assuming he's being charged with perjury. The problem in this town, I think, is that you have a lot of type-A personalities, who are sort of masters of their own universe, people like Rove and Libby who are paid to change the context, change the message, and sometimes that can get them into trouble. That's why in this town you are more often indicted for the reaction to a scandal than the original cause, and that's what is happening here. Once you go before a grand jury, you dramatically increase the chances that you will be charged, because just the act of testifying makes you vulnerable to a charge of perjury.
So in that sense, this is a classic scenario for the Beltway. What is being suggested is that Libby will be charged with a false statement, giving perjurious testimony before the grand jury. That's one of the reasons defense attorneys try to keep their clients out of a grand jury. The problem is that these guys don't have the same range of choices that the rest of us have. They couldn't refuse to go. If they refused to go to that grand jury, they'd have to resign.
BLITZER: Politically, that would have been very disastrous, and the president said we have nothing to hide, all of our officials will be more than happy to cooperate in this investigation.
What is a little bit unusual, and correct me if I'm wrong, Lewis Scooter Libby, is not just a political adviser or a foreign policy adviser to the vice president of the United States and president of the United States, he himself is a highly respected Washington attorney. He's a lawyer, worked for a major Washington law firm, he knows the law, and he knows and he knows what his obligations are when he testifies.
TURLEY: I think that's right. And it is surprising, but you know what, it's not unheard of. When you go in the grand jury, rules of evidence don't apply. That prosecutor can ask you anything. You don't have a defense attorney in there. The prosecutor can be repetitive, can be argumentative, can be abusive. But the real difficulty is to keep a coherent and consistent line of testimony.
I once put a client through a mock testimony to show him the dangers of a grand jury. He was trying to be honest, and he still made mistakes that I said, you know, each of these mistakes shows you the dangers of going into that grand jury.
But I think the real problem for the administration is less Rove as it is the vice president. Scooter Libby, as you know, is joined at the hip to the vice president. These guys are closer than Martin and Lewis in this town. I mean, they are one in the same. And we now have evidence of a meeting in which supposedly Libby learned the name of Wilson's wife from Cheney, and we have a contradiction that's been reported between CIA -- former CIA director George Tenet and the vice president, where George Tenet denies that he ever gave the name to the vice president. Those are the types of contradictions that give a target-rich environment for prosecutors.
So when everyone is saying, oh, the White House must be breathing a sigh of relief, I have no idea what they're talking about. This is very, very serious. Once you have one indictment, there's always a great likelihood you're going to get additional ones. And sometimes prosecutors do a legal version of recon by fire. They indict a couple of people and see who comes out of the bushes.
BLITZER: One final question, because we're out of time, Jonathan Turley. Are you suggesting that the vice president himself could be in some legal jeopardy?
TURLEY: Well, the greatest jeopardy for the vice president right now is probably the test -- the statements that he gave to FBI agents under oath. You can be charged with false statements under 18-USC- 1001, which is a statute of lying to a federal investigator. If anything the vice president said stands contradicted, if he had a consistent line with Libby and Libby is now indicted, there raises the possibility that they could charge that there were misleading statements in that interview, as well.
BLITZER: Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, helping us. Thank you very much, Jonathan. We'll check back with you, as well.
We're only about 20 minutes or so away from getting official word on what is about to go down. An indictment or indictments, documents, about to be released we expect right at the top of the hour by the Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. We're watching that. We'll also get reaction from Capitol Hill. Stay with us.
BLITZER: To our viewers in the United States and around the world., thanks for joining us for our special coverage, a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM from Washington. About 15 minutes or so from now, we expect to get documents from the special prosecutor, the Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, in the CIA leak investigation. Who will be indicted? What is the next stage in all of this? We're standing by for that.
They're also anxiously awaiting word up on Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent Ed Henry is joining us now live with more on what he's picking up -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL: Wolf, that's right. We've heard over and over from the White House that it's business as usual. That's their posture, even though it's anything but. The same scenario playing out here in the Senate a short while ago. Majority Leader Bill Frist telling me he's paying no attention to what's happening just a few blocks away, in fact, about three blocks from the Capitol at that federal courthouse. Frist saying he's focused full steam ahead on the Republican agenda on the Hill, that it will not be affected at all by anything that comes down this afternoon.
But Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, she has been charging this week that in fact Republicans have lost their focus on dealing with the nation's problems. Instead, that they're consumed by various ethic questions, from the CIA leak case to Bill Frist's own stock investigations, the Tom DeLay indictments.
I asked Bill Frist about that charge, the charge that there's a culture of cronyism and corruption in the Republican party that Nancy Pelosi and others have said. Frist firing back, saying, quote, "It really shows they have a vacuum of ideas as Republicans are addressing all the other these issues," he said, like the economy, energy prices. Frist adding that Democrats are focused on quote, "scare tactics."
Democrats, you will not be surprised, are saying that's nonsense. Of course, they say that even if Karl Rove ends up not being indicted today, they will keep up the focus and you will see a lot of statements from Democrats in the House and the Senate, Harry Reid and others, saying that this focus of the case should really not be about individuals, but what they believe to be the bottom line, which is that Democrats charge the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction, trumped up intelligence in order to lead the nation to war in Iraq. And that this leak case is all about the administration, led by Karl Rove, trying to silence a critic like Joe Wilson.
So that's what we can expect in the statements, not so much pouncing on the specific indictments, if there are any, but regardless of what exactly happens in the courthouse, Democrats taking the posture that it's a broader fight about the war in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ed Henry monitoring the situation on Capitol Hill. Ed, thank you very much.
Our political analyst Carlos Watson is watching all of this with us, as well. Carlos, there's been some speculation that there could be some sort of power vacuum in the Bush administration as a result of all these legal developments. What do you think?
CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Very much so, Wolf. As I've talked to a number of insiders over the last couple of days, including this morning, you're hearing as much not only about the indictments, but about the possibility, no matter what happens to Karl Rove, of significant personnel shake-ups.
I think in that whole story, though, maybe the most interesting part of it is not just what happens at senior levels, the White House staff and elsewhere, but what happens to junior staffers, who in many ways will be, if you will, the canaries in the coal mine to the extent that they stay aboard and stay focused and wait until the State of the Union to make decisions about whether or not they continue to stay focused on the White House through 2006.
That will be a really positive sign for the president, to the extent you start to seeing resumes going out around Washington from these mid-level and junior-level staffers who, in effect, are saying the game's almost over. At least they can see the end game. I think that will be a major and important sign that may, frankly, be below the radar screen.
BLITZER: A lot of friends of this president, Republicans around town, as you know, Carlos, they want him to bring in some new blood and shake things up, because people may have been burnt out over these past five years. Are there any names that jump out, people, friends of the administration, with some experience, some credibility, that could come in and help George W. Bush get through this crisis?
WATSON: Well, there at least two significant scenarios that you're hearing about. And, obviously, all of this is speculation. But one that you hear about is the idea of bringing people from the outside, particularly former members of Congress, whether it's someone like a Ben Webber, the former Congressman from Minnesota, or someone like Fred Thompson, the former senator who's returned to acting, but also played a role in some of the recent confirmation battles. Whether or not those sort of folks will come.
And then, obviously, you hear the conversation that has echoes of the Reagan administration about switching role. You remember that during the Reagan administration, there was a switch between James Baker, who went and became the chief -- secretary of the treasury, and, also, the chief of staff then, Don Regan.
And you might see another such switch or at least conversations about that involving any of variety of people, not only in the White House, but in other departments, including, perhaps, the Office of Management and Budget.
BLITZER: Any specific names, people who are highly respected on the Hill, beyond those that you mentioned, that jump out at you?
WATSON: Well, one name that you keep hearing is arguably one of the most admired and most loved people in this administration, within internal circles -- is Josh Bolten, a former lawyer and investment banker who right now runs the Office of Management and Budget. And the question is, is there a larger and more important role that he can play for the president? He's thought to be someone who's got a small ego, much like Andy Card and others, but also gets the job done, who's thorough and detail oriented. And so that's one of the names you hear people say. Is there more for him to do.
You also hear people who, obviously, have a lot of admiration for the current chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, who was formerly White House political director, also managed the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004. Does stay at the RNC? Or is there a different role for him? a lot of speculation at this point. But There's almost no doubt, I think, that no matter what happens in terms of Karl Rove, there are going to be some personnel changes over the next 90 days.
BLITZER: It's been a curious turn for the president. he goes out to speak in various locations earlier today in Virginia, Norfolk, Virginia, candidates who were up for election, including the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, not necessarily running to be by the president's side during this visit. We've seen it happen a few other places, as well. I guess they are feeling just sanding next to the president is not necessarily going to help them win a close contest against the Democrat?
WATSON: Well, they're not singing "Stand by Your Man," that's true. You know, one of the most interesting things are not just the president's numbers in the national polls that show him below 40 percent in a couple of states, but if you go state by state, at least one national survey of 50 different states showed the president was above 50 percent in less than 10 states. So as you're saying, his ability to have a positive coattail effect and go into states that traditionally Republicans have won, like Virginia, is limited.
BLITZER: Carlos Watson is our political analyst joining us. Stick around, Carol. We've got a long day ahead of us.
Jacki Schechner is our Internet reporter. She is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, following the situation on line. What are you picking up, Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're going to continue to monitor Patrick Fitzgerald's Web site, the usdoj.gov. But in the meantime, some fast facts available on line about Scooter Libby. This from whitehouse.gov, his official photo and bio. You can see under the heading, the president and his leadership team. He is very important to the administration. There's also this photo available online of him as part of Dick Cheney's staff. You can see him just to the right of the vice president there, and also some information about his -- excuse me, involvement with the project for the New American Century, a neoconservative group, part of the push to go to war with Iraq. Scooter Libby available online all of this information -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jacki, thanks very much. We're moments away from the official release of some documents announcing an indictment or more. We're standing by for that in our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. Much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: It's almost noon here in Washington, and you're in the SITUATION ROOM at a special time for breaking news on the CIA leak investigation happening now. We expect to get our hands on legal documents shortly and get official word on any indictments. According to sources close to the case, two top White House aides face different fates. Lewis Scooter Libby is expected to be indicted. Karl Rove is not, at least for now. The special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has been mum for months and months. In about two hours, I'll finally open up about what he found and whether he believes crimes have been committed. We'll carry his announcement live.
Also this hour, the president and the vice president, their top aides in legal jeopardy, their political standing and agenda in danger.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
To our viewers in the United States and AROUND THE WORLD, thanks very much for joining us.
We're standing by for the expected release of documents from the special counsel's office and the news the Bush White House has been waiting for with high anxiety. We're on indictment watch this hour, along with our correspondents Bob Franken over at the courthouse, David Ensor over at the Justice Department, Dana Bash, she is at the White House, Air Force One. The president's plane has just returned to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington in Maryland. The president delivered a speech in Norfolk, Virginia earlier today on the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. He's coming back to Washington eventually. He's going to be heading out to Camp David, his retreat for the weekend.
Let's go to Bob Franken over at the courthouse to set the scene for us -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The scene inside shortly is going to be -- the courthouse is going to become a bit after madhouse. The work of the grand jury is going to be taken to the judge. There will be some formal procedures that have to go on. The chief judge will have to sign them. At that point, the reporters are going to get their hands on both a news release, and then subsequent to that the actual paperwork if there are indictments, that kind of thing, which contain important narrative.
Now, I think the watchword here is that we should expect surprise. The leaks that have occurred from the grand jury, from sources involved in the case, suggest that the one who is in most legal jeopardy is the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby. He's the one who has been told we're told by a variety of sources with close involvement in the case that he should expect the possibility of indictment.
We've also been told by the attorneys for Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff and the close political adviser of the president,that he is not going to be indicted today, but he is not out of the woods yet, that there's a continuing negotiation in effect between Rove's lawyers and the special prosecutor over the intention when there were some inconsistent statements, allegedly inconsistent statements, made before the grand jury.
There are also so many other people involved, former and present people at the White House, who have been interviewed, who have testified before this grand jury, all about the disclosure of Valerie Plame, the undercover CIA operative who became public in a series of articles, certainly the one by Robert Novak, the CNN contributor. That happened in July of 2003. The investigation began in December. It's almost two years old, and apparently not through yet. Valerie Plame, the wife of Joe Wilson, who had harshly criticized the administration's claims about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
It's a very tangled web. We are hoping some of it is going to untangle in the announcements that are expected soon.
BLITZER: When we say the announcements are expected soon, we're expecting the documents to be released. Specifically how will that be done?
FRANKEN: Well, there are people upstairs working for CNN and the other news organizations who will get, we're told, first the very detailed news releases that apparently are characteristic of Patrick Fitzgerald's office.
As we well know, he is very familiar to people and his political investigations are well known, particularly in Illinois, where is the U.S. attorney, but they will be passed out. They will be quickly run out. The news release will be quickly looked at by all of us, and it will, in effect, present the headlines about what was and was not done.
Then the indictments will come out after that. That's where you're going to get the really important narrative. That's where the texture is going to be there.
At 2:00 this afternoon, Eastern, the special prosecutor himself, Fitzgerald, will be holding a news conference with others who have participated in the investigation and will hopefully shed more light. But we have to realize that he is constrained by grand jury secrecy, and to be perfectly honest about it, will be hardpressed to go much beyond the documents hat we will have already seen.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Bob Franken, stand by over there.
That's Air Force One. It has now come to a stop at Andrews Air Force Base, outside Washington, D.C., in Maryland. The president of the United States about to get off Air Force One. We're watching that.
What a day it is for the president, for the vice president. The vice president, Dick Cheney, by the way, is traveling today, campaigning for candidates in the state of Georgia.
Let's go over from the courthouse to the Justice Department. Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, is over there.
What are you bracing for where you are, David?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're understanding that the press release and the indictment documents will be released approximately simultaneously at the courthouse and here at the Justice Department. So we have a similar situation where we have CNN personnel up inside the building here. And they'll be sprinting down the road here with whatever they get to this camera position here.
Then it's a question of speed reading. Something we're all used to doing here in journalism. And we'll be looking at a document that could be anything from three to 80 pages. We'll be looking, first, who has been indicted?
The word is Lewis Libby, the chief of staff, Scooter Libby, vice president's chief of staff, will be one of those indicted. There may be other names. There could be some surprises in there.
The word is that Karl Rove won't be. We'll be looking to make sure that's the case.
Secondly, what are they being indicted for, and how many charges are there? In the case of Scooter Libby, there are questions about whether he has been entirely forthcoming with the grand jury about how he first perceived the information about Ambassador Wilson's wife working for the CIA. There are also questions about who exactly he passed that information on to, which reporters, when?
So, will he be charged with several counts? That's the -- that's the next question.
And then, as Bob said, the narrative, who's in that narrative? Is Vice President Cheney called into question? Will he have to testify in any kind of court case? Where do the problems start for the administration?
It will be just a quick first look. And we'll give it to you as soon as we can -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're standing by for that. The president of the United States now on the ground at Andrews Air Force base, being escorted by an officer from Air Force One to Marine One. Marine One will pick up his journey.
We know eventually he's going to wind up this weekend at Camp David, Maryland. We had been told earlier the president would be spending significant time working on his Supreme Court justice nomination now that Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination, presumably spending some time worrying about what's happening with indictment or indictments.
Joe DiGenova is a former federal prosecutor. He was the U.S. attorney here in the nation's capital, later served as a special counsel himself to top-level investigations. He's joining us on the phone from Palm Springs, California.
Joe, thanks very much for joining us.
We don't know yet what's going to happen. At least we don't know specifically. We are hearing that Scooter Libby will be indicted. Karl Rove will not be indicted today. But the investigation will continue.
What are -- what are your thoughts at this historic moment?
JOE DIGENOVA, FMR. PROSECUTOR: Well, actually, there's several, Wolf. First of all, after two years and spending a lot of money and being very aggressive and putting reporters in prison, this better be a damn good indictment. That's my first reaction.
Because what has happened here is a political dispute has been turned into a crime, which, if that's what happened, then so be it. But after this long, I really am waiting to see what the indictment says.
It will also show how important it is, Wolf, when you're president of the United States to pick the right people to be attorney general of the United States. You go back and look at the history of this case, and John Ashcroft was AG, a very political individual, former United States senator, governor.
When this case first broke, he had to recuse himself because he was considered a political person. He gave all of his authority to James Comey, who was then deputy attorney general. Comey passed it off because it was too politically hot for him and he was worried about his political future. And he gave it to Patrick Fitzgerald.
When you go back and look at the history of this case, it will show categorically that who is in charge of the Justice Department can sometimes determine the fate of an administration.
BLITZER: But by all accounts, Patrick Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago who was given this assignment two years ago, is highly respected, has no political agenda that we know of his own.
DIGENOVA: That's exactly right. And I wasn't suggesting that he did.
My point is that when you lose control of something, and you lose the authority to make policy decisions about what laws should be enforced and what shouldn't, then you end up where you are today. And it may very well be when we see this indictment that it will be an indictment that is based on solid foundations that is worthwhile and should have been brought no matter what.
All I'm saying is, after two years, it better be a good indictment.
BLITZER: Now, what would not be a "damn good indictment," in your words? If it would be obstruction of justice, perjury, conspiracy, mishandling classified documents, would that not necessarily make it worth it? Or does it have to be the specific violation of that 1982 law that makes it illegal under certain circumstances to release the identity of a clandestine CIA officer?
DIGENOVA: Well, first of all, I don't agree with some of these Republican folks who have been on television saying perjury is not sufficient here. If he can prove real perjury and an effort to mislead the grand jury, then he should bring indictments. And if that's all he brings, that's still legitimate and worthwhile and, in my opinion, would be worth bringing.
If he uses the espionage statute, I will be extremely surprised. Because, as you know, that statute was passed in 1917. It's designed to deal with the disclosure of national defense information. And it was in existence in 1982, when the Congress enacted the Agent Identities Protection Act because the Justice Department said that the espionage act does not apply to the identity of a covert agent.
So, if he's using that act, that will be a somewhat dubious use of criminal law. But on the obstruction side, if anybody lied to the grand jury, no matter who they are, or misled people or purposely tried to influence other witnesses, they should be charged. And, of course, whether or not they're guilty will be determined by a trial.
BLITZER: How hard is it to prove what you call real perjury?
DIGENOVA: Well, the -- it can't be just one person's word against another. If you have a conflict between two people, that's just legally insufficient.
But in this case, if he has multiple sources saying something different then whoever it is he charges, and has documentary proof that their testimony was inconsistent with what the documents show, that will be -- that will be -- make his case easier to prove, but not necessarily easy.
BLITZER: Perjury is giving false information under oath. It could be either in oral or written form. And it's punishable by fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years.
Making false statements is different than perjury. Explain the difference. DIGENOVA: Well, if you make a false statement, you don't even have to be under oath. You can be talking to an FBI agent, and you tell them something that you know, intentionally know is false, and they write it down, and that -- upon -- based on that information, the government acts -- and it's also important that it also be something material. You know, if you give them the wrong date or the wrong time of day when you had a conversation, that's not material. But if you say you didn't have a conversation with someone, when in fact the evidence shows that you did, and he can prove that you intentionally misled him, then that would be a false statement..
Perjury requires that you be under oath, that you be sworn, that you be appearing in an official proceeding, either in Congress, a regulatory agency, or a trial in federal court, and that you purposely lie. And they have to prove that you made up your mind to lie.
That is entirely different than false statement. It may not seem like much of a difference, but it's a big one.
BLITZER: Stand by, Joe, if you can.
Jeff Toobin, our senior analyst, is with us as well.
As we await all of this, Jeff Toobin, you've been listening to Joe DiGenova, who knows a lot about this kinds of legal matters, these kinds of investigations. What are you bracing for?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the real question here is, will there be a substantive offense, will the -- will these indictments relate entirely to obstructing the investigation? Now, as Joe points out, and I think the Republicans are somewhat chastened after Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senator from Texas, tried to raise the issue that perjury wasn't important, yes, perjury is important. But is there a substantive offense in this crime -- in the crimes that are charged here?
I'd like to know that. I don't know.
I think it's -- I mean, they tend to be stronger cases if you can make them. But the obstruction is a crime that there are plenty of people in prison for. And it's a serious crime as well.
BLITZER: Joe DiGenova, there's been some suggestion that I've heard from legal sources around town here in Washington that if Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, believes that significant damage was done to the United States' national security by releasing the name of Valerie Plame, the clandestine officer, he'll look for any way to get those people responsible brought to justice, even if it means bringing one of these secondary charges.
It's the old Al Capone thing. They couldn't get Al Capone on murder or other horrendous acts, so they got him on tax evasion.
What do you make of that theory?
DIGENOVA: Well, that may be a theory, but let me just say this about this identity question of Valerie Plame. I find it somewhat strange, and I would love to see the documents and the sworn testimony of the CIA about what steps they took to protect her identity. Because if you go back and look at the history of this case, what I find fascinating is the extremely poor trade craft that the agency used in protecting her identity.
Let's look at what happens. She recommends that her husband, Joe Wilson, go overseas to look into this yellow cake matter in Niger. The CIA agrees to send Mr. Wilson, the husband of a covert officer, on this mission.
He signs no confidentiality agreement. He returns to the United States in February of 2002. He reports by cable.
No written report. Orally and by cable. And then he is quiet until some time in 2003, when he writes an op-ed piece criticizing the president.
Now, if you were the husband of a covert officer, and you had gone on a secret mission, and the agency gives you permission to write an op-ed piece, I consider that to be such poor trade craft that the agency may very well itself have been responsible for compromising her identity. Because anyone who lives in the world of Washington knows that the first question that is going to be asked is, who is this guy and how did he get on this trip?
And if the agency allowed him to do this, which they said they did, then that is the worst trade craft in protecting cover I have ever seen.
BLITZER: Yes. Jeff Toobin, before you respond to that -- and I want you to -- I just want to remind our viewers, we're waiting for the release of a document that will explain where this investigation stands right now.
The special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, we had been told would release that doubt around noon. It's about 12 minutes after right now. As soon as we get word of what is in those documents, we will bring it to you.
Go ahead, Jeff Toobin.
TOOBIN: Well, I was just going to say, Joe's narrative of the facts of the case underlines why Patrick Fitzgerald may well want to keep this simple. One of the rules of being a prosecutor is keep it simple.
That means perjury, obstruction of justice, but not the underlying crime. Because the one thing you don't want to get involved in, in front of a jury which is not familiar with, you know, how the CIA works, is a lot of complicated testimony about who's an undercover agent and what that meant, and how -- how the identities are protected or not protected. All of that stuff is (INAUDIBLE) that the defense can exploit. If you simply say to the jury, this isn't about the war in Iraq, this isn't about the CIA, this is a question of did Scooter Libby lie in the grand jury, that's a case that a jury will have a lot easier time understanding than a larger one about the CIA.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on one second, Joe. I want you to hold in.
Jeff Toobin, hold on as well.
And I think Jeff's point about that is very important, especially those of us who remember the Martha Stewart case. Martha Stewart eventually went to jail, not for insider trading, but for lying to the -- to investigators about her role in all of that.
Joe DiGenova, we're going to get back to you in a moment.
I want to remind our viewers, we're waiting for the release of these documents. We have reporters all over Washington getting ready to try to explain what is going on.
Bob Franken is over at the courthouse. Candy Crowley is here in Washington. David Ensor is at the Justice Department. Our Dana Bash is over at the White House.
Jeff Toobin is here. Jeff Greenfield is here as well.
First of all, let me go back to Bob Franken for a moment.
Bob, go ahead.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I wanted to ask our high-priced lawyers here to discuss also another possibility, and that is a charge of conspiracy. That would mean that the person who is charged did not necessarily commit any other crime, but it might be hypothetically where Mr. Burns says to Smith, look, I don't care. Get this guy. I don't care how you do it, just keep me out of it.
And he doesn't actually commit any crime, but he could be charged for conspiracy. And it would seem that that type of thing could also open up a wide range of possibilities to discuss roles of higher-ups, that type of thing.
BLITZER: Joe DiGenova, I'll bring you back. Conspiracy -- and I think we have some graphics explaining what that specific charge might be -- planning with at least one other person to commit an offense against the United States requires steps be taken towards committing the crime, and it's punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years.
Joe, go ahead.
DIGENOVA: Bob's right. If you -- you don't even have to violate the underlying statute, let's say the Agent Identities Protection Act. But if you conspire with one or more persons, and you commit at least one overt act in furtherance of that conspiracy, and you have an agreement to do that, then trying to violate the act, in essence, would be a crime.
He might very well choose to do that. But if he does that, if he does that, he will bring into play exactly the things that Jeff and I were just talking about. And this will then become a trial about the war and about not only what may have happened with regard to Valerie Plame's identity, but what the CIA did and did not do to protect her identity.
And more importantly, I can assure you that if he does charge a substantive offense, there will be George Tenet on the witness stand, there will be the deputy director of operations, the director of analysis from the CIA explaining under oath what steps they took to undermine the president of the United States. And in a democracy, it will be very interesting to see the sworn testimony of senior intelligence officials about whether or not they were conducting a campaign because they disagreed with policy against the president of the United States.
BLITZER: Well, that brings up a point that Jeff Greenfield brought up earlier.
And Jeff, I want to bring you back. If there is a trial against Scooter Libby or anyone else, this could quickly become a trial not only involving some Arcane laws that may have been broken, but a much bigger trial involving why the United States went to war against Saddam Hussein.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yes. And I think -- I think Joe reflects perfectly one strain of thought.
Joe is a prominent Washington attorney, has served Republican administrations. You heard him express some independence from some Republican views. But a general view among many, many people in the conservative movement is that the CIA not only wasn't firm enough, but was trying to undermine the Bush administration after the war in Iraq turned trickier and the weapons were not found.
And I think that what we're hearing here is just another example of how deep into the -- into the past 30 years and how deep into the most contentious of foreign policy issues right now, how we got involved in the war and how it's going, how this particular case has ripples that go way beyond whether or not there was individual wrongdoing. I think Joe's point, you know, is exactly one we have to pay attention to.
And there will be people on other side. I'm sure within the CIA right now there's a lot of satisfaction at the prospect that Scooter Libby will be indicted, because from their point of view, people like Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney, to use Joe Wilson's words, were twisted intelligence. And this debate is going to go on in the same sense.
I realize I'm going a little far afield here -- in the same sense that a major trial always produces, in my view, arguments about stuff way removed from the trial. The way, as Jeff Toobin knows, the O.J. Simpson trial produced big debates about race in America, the way the Watergate conspiracy trial produced big debates about the war in Vietnam, about the efforts to silence critics.
And I think Joe's point can't be ignored. We are -- the fact that this is not just going to be a trial, if it happens, about one or two or three individuals, but about who is right about the war in Iraq, how we gather intelligence, were the hawks wrong about overestimating Saddam's danger? Were the doves or the CIA wrong in underestimating?
And that's why, to come back to your point, Wolf, from a while ago, this is -- this is page one of another very contentious chapter.
BLITZER: Joe DiGenova, you did serve in the Reagan administration. You're a solid Republican. But take a look at the point that Jeff Greenfield just made, that this trial would quickly expand into a trial involving the war in Iraq.
Is that likely?
DIGENOVA: Absolutely. And let me just say, I want to -- I want to fully associate myself with what Jeff Greenfield just said.
I said it a little bit more inartfully earlier. And thank god he's on the show so he can clarify what I was trying to say.
The issue here is this is a much deeper series of questions. This should have been played out in congressional hearings that delved into the reasons for going to war and for all of this stuff to be played out.
Now we are going to have it played out in a criminal trial, which is not a good way to discuss public policy. But it's going to happen.
And I can tell you, I've talked to people, I know what the thoughts are out there. And although I am not a movement conservative -- I consider myself a mainstream conservative Republican, but I'm not a movement conservative. But I will tell you this: I talked to people.
I talked to people in the legal community, in the political community, and up on Capitol Hill. If this issue is joined over whether or not the intelligence in this matter should have been disclosed, and a conspiracy disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, this will be an unending series of conflicts that will go on for a year or two.
Now, that's neither -- you know, that's not necessarily good for the president. But if that's the way this has to be played out to get at the truth, so be it. And it will get there, because the CIA is viewed by many people -- and it's not -- listen, there are graduates of the CIA who are furious at the way they handled the intelligence on the war and the way they backed off after things started to go bad, trying to have it both ways.
But what really makes people angry is the notion that somehow they took active steps to protect this woman's "identity" and yet, they allowed her husband to write an op-ed piece on the -- in "The New York Times," with no agreement to keep his trip secret. That smacks of covert action inside the United States to many people.
BLITZER: All right. Well, let me bring David Ensor in, our national security correspondent, Joe, who covers the CIA for us.
By commission or omission, did the CIA authorize Joe Wilson to write that op-ed article?
And by the way, we're showing a picture of Dick Cheney, who is in Savannah, Georgia, right now. He's campaigning for candidates down there. He's continuing his trip, even as his chief of staff potentially under -- facing indictment right now. We'll show you this picture.
But David, go ahead and respond to that.
ENSOR: Yes. Three quick points, Wolf.
First of all, no, the CIA did not authorize him. He doesn't work for the CIA. He did a quick assignment for them to Niger. As I understand it, he didn't sign any confidentiality agreements before going on the assignment.
He's a -- he's a former ambassador. He can write op-ed page pieces anytime he wants. The CIA has no power to stop him.
Secondly, the suggestion that's been out there quite a bit, and there's even some discussion of it in the Senate Intelligence Committee report, that -- that Valerie Plame suggested her husband be sent to Niger, I have talked to very high intelligence officials who say that just isn't true, that it was senior officers above her who had the idea of sending Ambassador Wilson, knowing that he'd been in Niger before and was an experienced hand in Africa, a former ambassador on that continent, and they thought he'd be good.
They then went to her and said, well, what do you think? And she responded with an e-mail that said, yes, he'd be good for following reasons. That was in response to higher-ups at the CIA who suggested that Joe Wilson be sent.
And finally -- I frankly forget what the last point I wanted to make was. But, you know...
BLITZER: No -- I think you may have -- go ahead, David.
ENSOR: Well, the idea that the CIA was out to get Scooter Libby or that there's some sort of a vendetta going on, I just have to tell you that that's certainly not the view of presidents and former senior intelligence officials. They just don't see it that way.
And there are plenty of people over in the CIA who are strong Republicans, who agreed with the war in Iraq, and so forth, as a private matter. There were, however, many occasions when the White House was saying, look, can we say this, can we say that about the intelligence connecting al Qaeda with Saddam, or the intelligence suggesting Saddam had a weapons of mass destruction program? And the CIA would come back and say, look, we really can't say that, the evidence isn't strong enough.
There still may have been people at the CIA who politically agreed with the president, but they were doing a job as intelligence officers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're still standing by for the documents.
Joe DiGenova, I'm going to bring you back in a moment.
I want to remind our viewers, it's about 23 minutes after the hour, after 12:00 noon Eastern here in Washington, D.C. We had been told earlier the documents would be released around noon. About 23 minutes after. So we expect momentarily to get those documents announcing an indictment or more in this two-year investigation.
Let's bring back Joe DiGenova. He's on the phone with us, a former U.S. attorney in Washington who served under Republican administrations.
Joe, you want to respond to what David just said?
DIGENOVA: I certainly do. The CIA generally requires -- I know Joe Wilson doesn't work for the CIA. And I didn't say that he did. But they sent him on a mission which they paid for, and they did not...
BLITZER: All right. Joe, hold on a second.
Bob Franken is getting some additional information for us.
Bob -- at the courthouse -- what are you picking up?
FRANKEN: Well, we're getting close to the release of these documents. The process has moved forward from the grand jury room to the federal magistrate's courtroom, where they will be presented to the federal magistrate. It should be shortly thereafter that the documents will be handed out and we can move ahead with the story, going from reporting leaked information to reporting hard information.
That's going to be happening all very shortly. .
BLITZER: All right. Bob, thank you very much.
Joe DiGenova, explain to our viewers what this process is -- how this process is unfolding right now. We'll get to the CIA issue shortly. But walk us through this technical matter of having these documents go from one room to another and then being made public over at the courthouse.
DIGENOVA: Right. Well, there's the secret part, where the grand jurors actually vote on the language of the indictment. The prosecutor comes in and he reads the indictment line by line to them.
This may have happened a day or two ago. This may have been already just been under seal.
They then vote on it secretly after the prosecutor leaves the room. And if they to return the indictment, the next thing that happens is called a presentment. And that is that the grand jurors, along with the prosecutor, and the piece of paper, the indictment, go downstairs to either the chief judge's chambers, or in this case, a magistrate's court. And they announce that they have something to give the magistrate.
They give it to the magistrate. They say are presenting. That's why it's called a presentment. They present the indictment to the judge, who can either read it out loud or simply accept it and file it in the court docket.
So this is -- this is the first time that the grand jury does something public. It hands the charging document to the judge.
BLITZER: And if the prosecutor wants to continue the investigation, and extend this grand jury, or impanel a new grand jury, Joe, is either one of those preferable? And is either one necessarily a big deal?
DIGENOVA: Actually, it's pretty mundane stuff. He probably won't want to -- he probably would like to extend this one. But the chief judge may not want him to. These people have served beyond their tenure now, at least six months more than they should.
A new grand jury is already sitting. He can simply read some transcripts in front of the new grand jury. And, you know, the case will continue unabated. He doesn't have to actually impanel a new grand jury, he can use one that's already sitting.
BLITZER: And I just want to alert our viewers, I've gone to the office of special counsel Web page on the Internet, where we're also standing by. We expect the documents to be posted on the Web. As soon as they are, we will bring them to you as they're officially handed out, hard copies, over at the Justice Department or at the courthouse.
I'm looking at the Web site right now. No new news yet. But we're standing by for that.
We anticipate imminently to get final word, official word, from the special counsel on what exactly is going on. Joe DiGenova, former Republican U.S. attorney, is still with us from Palm Springs.
You were responding to David Ensor. The CIA insisting they had no responsibility in getting Valerie Plame's name out there, that others were responsible. But you were making some -- some points in response and I interrupted you.
Go ahead. DIGENOVA: Well, I was just going to say, David said that he didn't -- that Joe Wilson didn't work for the CIA. Well, of course, he didn't. But he did do a job for them. And he worked for them for that trip. They paid for his trip overseas.
What's fascinating is they did not ask him to sign a confidentiality agreement, which everyone who does that kind of work is required to do. And for them to say that they did not -- that they did not authorize "The New York Times" officer -- op-ed piece is nonsense.
They winked and nodded, if they didn't give direct approval. Because I will say this one more time. Why in the name of god would you send the husband of a covert officer overseas on an allegedly secret mission, and then when he came back allowed him to write an op- ed piece about it? If that's good trade craft protecting a covert officer, then Porter Goss is doing the right thing cleaning house.
BLITZER: Well, what about that, David Ensor?
ENSOR: Look, I really don't know. But I can tell you one thing, I'm told by several former CIA officers who actually were in Valerie Plame's class that there are other members of that class who are married to people that we've heard of that may be on television, that we see around town in Washington. And yet, they are covert officers, clandestine officers. And nobody knows who they are at this point.
So it's just not a given, according to these former CIA officers, that because you're married to somebody famous everybody knows who you are.
DIGENOVA: And I don't -- and I don't gain (ph) say that. I'm just saying it's pretty bad trade craft when you decide to let the husband of a covert officer in the middle of a war write an op-ed piece and then assume that the cover is going to be secure. That's pretty bad trade craft no matter what.
BLITZER: All right. Let's review where we stand right now. And we've got all of our reporters standing by, awaiting official word from the courthouse here in Washington, D.C. Those were live pictures you saw of the courthouse here in Washington.
Various charges might be filed against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president chief of staff, or others. We are not sure exactly how broad these indictments -- this indictment or these indictments might be. But various charges potentially could be filed. And we're awaiting specific word right now from the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald.
Among the charges that could be filed, violations of various laws, making false statements, perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy. The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, or the Espionage Act of 1917, all of those specific charges that could be filed in connection with this indictment or indictments as we await word from the special counsel.
... with this indictment or indictments, as we await word from the special counsel.
Jeff Toobin, as you're looking at all these possible charges that could be filed right now, I assume you think the most likely are the secondary charges, the obstruction, the perjury, making false statements.
And, by the way, these are not live pictures. This is tape of the president returning from Marine One on the south lawn of the White House, coming back to the residence of the White House. He spoke earlier in the day in Norfolk, Virginia. Returned to Andrews Air Force Base. Was flown from Andrews on Marine One, back on the South Lawn. And these are pictures of him walking back. Looks like he's going into the West Wing of the White House.
Jeff, go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, I was just -- I was listening to David Ensor and Joe DiGenova and Jeff Greenfield talk about this controversy about the quality of the work at the CIA and the CIA's involvement in Joe Wilson's trip. And that is clearly a real live controversy. And as a prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald is going to be desperate to keep that controversy out of the courtroom. Because the one thing you want to do as a prosecutor is tell the jury this isn't about politics, this isn't about who's in and who's out at the CIA. This is simply about the crime charged, whether it's lying in the grand jury or something else.
And what's going to be a struggle, in a case as we anticipate that will be brought today, is the defense attempt to say to the jury, look, you have to see this case in its full context, the political -- and context. And the prosecutor is saying, no, this is only about lying. We don't care about the Iraq war. We don't care about, you know, who's in and who's out at the CIA. That tension is going to be a big factor as a case like this moves forward.
BLITZER: All right. I want to get all of our correspondents and analysts, Joe DiGenova, back into discussion. Dana Bash is over at the White House. The president is now over -- is now back at the White House. Dana, tell us what he's planning on doing today?
BASH: Well, you saw the video of President Bush arriving here on the South Lawn, going into the White House, going into the Oval Office, making no statement. However, we do expect him to make a statement later today. That is the current plan, for him to say something before the cameras after Peter -- excuse me, after Mr. Fitzgerald makes his formal statement talking about what this White House has been waiting for.
I can tell you that in talking to all of the officials that we've been talking to today, it's impossible for them to mask the tension and anxiety that has been building for weeks and certainly over the past several days. But now it is really at the highest level that you can imagine.
As for the president, what the plan has been in the terms of the tone and tenor of his statement, has been for him to talk about the fact that, whether or not there are indictments, that he appreciates the work of the special prosecutor.
As you've been playing this morning, he has made several statements over the past couple of years, talking about the integrity of the process, the importance of the process. So he is going to sort of try to button that up today. But also, if there are indictments, we'll talk about the fact that the legal process is going to continue. That we expect.
And in terms of Vice President Cheney, we just saw some pictures. He is traveling today. We expect him to give a written statement later today of some sort, explaining what we expect to be some kind of statement about his chief of staff. His chief of staff, as we have been reporting, Scooter Libby, we understand, has been informed that he will likely be indicted, and we know from sources close to him that that means that he will tender his resignation to the vice president. So we're awaiting all of that news. here at the White House.
BLITZER: And if Lewis Scooter Libby, Dana, is indicted, the expectation is he will step down, he will resign from his position working for the vice president?
BASH: Correct. That is certainly the expectation. That is what we understand from several sources here at the White House, sources close to Scooter Libby, that that was the expectation. That if this happened, if he did -- if he was indicted, that he would eventually -- he would have to do that.
Certainly, he is somebody who Dick Cheney has known for a very long time, since their days at the Pentagon. Somebody earlier today called Scooter Libby Dick Cheney's alter ego. So he obviously has a very important role to the vice president, his chief of staff, his national security adviser.
We understand that there are already preliminary discussions about who would replace him in those roles. Perhaps two people would do that. Those are all discussions that are going on quietly here as they prepare to make some public statements very soon.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, we'll get back to you very soon. Thank you very much.
Candy Crowley is our senior political correspondent. Candy, the tone, the tenor, the public statement that the president of the United States makes after the word from Patrick Fitzgerald is made known, that will be very significant in setting the reaction, if you will, setting the reaction, setting the tone, setting the pace for how the White House deals with this crisis?
CROWLEY: It will be. And it's not just the words, because we expect, from what we've been led to believe, that this will be a very matter of fact, sort of business-like -- now, you know, the process moves on, and we're going to let the process work its way through all of this, and then turn back to business.
But this is a president who has a hard time with body language. He has -- I don't know, to me, when he went down for his first trip down to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, his aides were, some of them, quite upset with the way he looked during that. It wasn't so much what he said, as it was just he looked so angry and peeved. So he has trouble kind of not signaling how he actually feels in ways other than the words. So it's not just what he says, but kind of the manner in which it's presented.
BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, I want you to weigh in on that as well. Because when bad news rocks a White House, whether Iran-Contra with the Reagan administration, Monica Lewinsky with the Clinton administration, or this with this Bush administration, it's very important for the top leaders to present some sort of response that is cogent, understandable, and can help deal with this crisis.
GREENFIELD: It is. And it's particularly true, I think, because, a lot of you folks know this better than I -- this may sound callous. I think it goes back to the courts of England. The most exciting story for any journalist is when the king is wounded. When very powerful people appear to be in trouble, it sets the testosterone and estrogen begin to flow. The metabolism increases. And it's an incredibly exciting story. And, you know, that's the only conversation that takes place.
And in response to that, what a leader does, particularly in this world of 24-hour news and the instant communication of images and analysis of those images, is very -- is significant. You know, I'm old-fashioned enough to think that the substance of what's going on may just actually be more important. You know, were there crimes committed? If so, what kind were they? Where did they stem from?
But I think it's very true that we will be looking at the president, we'll be looking at Dick Cheney. Our cameras will be focused, as they are, in fact, even I'm speaking, on every movement. I guess every little movement has a meaning all its own, as the old song goes.
And I think it's particularly tricky, as I said earlier, because the impulse of some of these folks is going to be, I think, to criticize Patrick Fitzgerald. The way that special prosecutors have in the past. This is made more difficult because the president in the past has praised what Fitzgerald is doing.
But I think what happens today, when we finally find out what, if any, indictments are issued, is going to be studied, you know, microscopically, to see whether we can show signs of presidential petulance, presidential exasperation.
BLITZER: Bob Franken, let's go right back to what you. What are you picking up?
FRANKEN: Well, we're picking up now the literal handing up of the indictment, which, by the way, is the term that is used. The magistrate, who is Deborah Robertson (ph) has entered her courtroom on the second floor of this building. They've come down from the grand jury room, which is on the fourth floor of a new annex of the courthouse. Now, this last act is taking place before this becomes public knowledge. And we will very shortly thereafter be able pass it along to you.
BLITZER: All right, we'll stand by for that. Momentarily, we're going to get official word, John king, on what Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, is up to. But let's get back to the notion of a White House in crisis and how this vice president and vice president deal with this indictment or indictments?
KING: And it is a defining moment for the president, not just because of this investigation, but because of a number, a very long list of other political problems. The government reported today that the economy grew at the rate of 3.8 percent in the last quarter. The president should be doing cartwheels on the South Lawn of the White House today, and saying my policies are working. The president had hoped to have a compromise on Social Security this week or the next, near the end of the congressional session. He has no such compromise. His plan is dead for this year and perhaps for his administration.
So this president was in trouble to begin with. This investigation is a cloud over him. The vice president likely to lose his most trusted adviser today. Scooter Libby will resign immediately if indicted. And the investigation of Karl Rove will continue.
Now, Karl Rove believes and is telling friends he believes he's just a few days or a few weeks away from being cleared. But as we know from past investigations, as long as there's an ongoing investigation, there can be surprises, there can be new evidence. There can even be a turn in a direction in which the investigation is not heading today.
So the Bush White House, one year after this president was re- elected with a majority, has a major cloud over it. There's a communications challenge for the president today, but there's also a much larger challenge. It is what he says and how he says it today, and it is how gets about his business as we go forward.
And again, the president gave a big speech today in Norfolk, Virginia, about the war on terror that will not get much attention today. But that was evidence of another political weakness. Even in strong military communities in this country, people are asking questions. Not necessarily they're opposed to the war, but they're asking questions. What is the exit strategy? When will these almost endless deployments of the troops be coming to an end?
BLITZER: Joe Digenova, if you're still with us, one question just raised now that's very interesting to me. Does the prosecutor usually gives a heads-up to lawyers representing witnesses, potential defendants on what is likely to come down?
DIGENOVA: Well, they certainly don't do it with witnesses, but certainly with defendants. They will call them. They will be in communication. There's usually a lot of communication.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, Joe. Kathleen Koch is walking out of the courthouse. She's on the cell phone.
What are you picking up, Kathleen?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was just in the courtroom, Wolf, and what happened is a magistrate Judge Deborah Robertson (ph) entered at 12:37, and grand jury members entered, 18 of them, and then the foreperson. The judge asked if they had materials to present to the court. They said yes. The foreperson took that up to the clerk, and then she said, are there are motions? They said, yes. And then she said, the materials will be tendered to the deputy clerk for filing. So there was no reading of what these motions. There was no reading of anyone's name. So now everyone is lined up outside the deputy clerk's office waiting to get that materials.
BLITZER: So we'll get the documents, but what -- talk to us in English, Kathleen, what this might mean.
KOCH: That's what I don't know, Wolf. We're waiting really to find out when this material comes in, whether it will have names. We assume, again, that because there was -- there were materials to be presented to the court, there were motions, that those motions consist of something relatively important.
Hang on, Wolf. I'll put my microphone on.
But we're not really sure at this point what they will include. Again, the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, was there, came into the courtroom, sat at the table, as did the members of the grand jury. They sat, some again, 18 of them.
But, Wolf, we're really not sure what that means, and I've just lost my earpiece. Why don't we go to Bob Franken.
BLITZER: Hold on, bob. We'll get back to you. We'll let both of you hook up.
Joe Digenova was listening to this, Jeff Toobin was listening to this, both excellent lawyers, both former prosecutors.
Joe, first you, what did you understand from that?
DIGENOVA: Well, sometimes -- well, obviously, the indictment is handed up. It's always handed up in a package, and it could be that the motions have something to do with the manner in which the case is going to be assigned. There may have been a discussion with Judge Hogan about that the other day during that 45-minute meeting, if it had something to do with keeping certain things under seal. It's hard to tell at this point.
BLITZER: Jeff Toobin, what about you it?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: That's the word that Kathleen used that jumped out at me, motions, because this is actually -- I mean, it's funny to see all this sort of attention what in on an ordinary day in a U.S. attorney's office is totally routine and boring process, which is walking the indictment from the grand jury room over to the magistrate, who's on duty, and literally handing it up. I mean, that's what they call handing it up. You hand it to the judge who is sitting on the bench. They call it handing up, and that's essentially the end of it, and the document become public.
I don't know anything about motions that would be presented there. And maybe Joe could help us, because every office is a little different, and he used to be the boss there. But I'm a little puzzled by the reference to motions.
DIGENOVA: Well, when I was U.S. attorney in that very courthouse, I never presented a single indictment that had a motion attached at the time and handed up to the magistrate. So it could have something to do with classified information, it could have something to do with specially assigning the cases, not putting it on the wheel, where the judges get cases by random, or it could have something to do with keeping it sealed, although that seems unlikely since Patrick Fitzgerald is holding a news conference at 2:00 p.m.
TOOBIN: That certainly doesn't seem -- I mean, that occurred to me. But Patrick Fitzgerald just scheduled a news conference. So I don't see how he could have at the same time claim that an indictment needs to be sealed.
BLITZER: All right, we now have official word that Scooter Libby, Lewis scooter Libby, has been indicted. Word now officially being released by the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, that Lewis Scooter Libby has been indicted, we are being told at least on obstruction of justice, and we are also being told he's been indicted on perjury and making false statements, at least three specific charges right now, perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice. Those would be serious crimes, all felonies. Joe Digenova, what do you think?
DIGENOVA: Well, wolf, as I said to you, I separate myself from the Republican part of the crowd that said perjury and these crimes against the process are not significant. They are very significant. As a prosecutor, the one thing that you fight for is to protect the integrity of the investigative process. That is the only thing that protects the innocent, is if the process works properly.
If someone has obstructed justice, given false statements or committed perjury, that is a very serious matter and it is worthy of prosecution. And I can only assume that Mr. Fitzgerald has thought very seriously about this matter and that these charges are well founded. I cannot conceive of him bringing them unless they are.
BLITZER: And he is highly respected. The president himself said he was operating in a very dignified manner. Jeff Toobin, obstruction of justice, making false statements, perjury, all very, very significant. We're now seeing producers, reporters running from the U.S. courthouse with official word of what we have just learned, that the vice presidential adviser, the chief of staff for Dick Cheney, Lewis Scooter, has been indicted.
David Ensor, you've got the document.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll just read you a couple of lines. Senior White House official I. Lewis Libby was indicted today on obstruction of justice, false statement and perjury charges for allegedly lying about how and when in 2003 he learned and subsequently disclosed to reporters then-classified information concerning the employment of Valerie Wilson by the Central Intelligence Agency. Libby was charged with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements in a five-count indictment returned today by a federal grand jury as its term expired." This is a news release from Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel.
I can read on.
BLITZER: Go ahead, David, read on, because this is important, and I want you to be specific -- go ahead.
ENSOR: Further down here, "The charges allege that Libby lied to FBI agents who interviewed him on October 14th and November 26th, 2003, committed perjury while testifying under oath before the grand jury on March 5th and march 24th, 2004 and engaged in obstruction of justice by impeding the grand jury's investigation in the unauthorized disclosure, or leaking, of Valerie Wilson's affiliation with the CIA to various reporters in the spring of 2003. So those are the specific charges against Scooter Libby.
BLITZER: All right, so let's recap, David. Five specific counts filed against Lewis Scooter Libby, and they were making false statements, obstruction of justice, perjury. Once again, how did they divide up the five counts?
ENSOR: But let's see here. There's one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements. That's five counts in all against Mr. Libby.
BLITZER: All right, and is there anyone else indicted? Any word of anyone else? How long is that release?
ENSOR: You know, the release itself is nine pages. I haven't had time to read it. And right behind it is the actual indictment, and it mentions Lewis Scooter Libby. I'm just looking to see.
BLITZER: There goes your umbrella.
ENSOR: Well, that was exciting.
BLITZER: All right, David, stand by for a moment. I'm going to let you digest what you have. Bob Franken and Kathleen Koch are also digesting the document right now.
Go ahead, Bob. What are you picking up.
FRANKEN: Well, if you read in the indictment, it makes this mention -- this is from the indictment -- "On or about June 12th, 2003, Libby was advised by the vice president of the United States that Wilson's wife worked in the CIA in the counterproliferation division. Libby understood that the vice president had learned this information from the CIA."
So now we hear that in this indictment there's at least a mention that we had heard earlier that there might be of Vice President Cheney, which would be in contradiction that Libby allegedly had given before, the contradiction being the alleged part of it that Libby had learned about this from reporters.
Now we're hearing that the indictment says that he learned about Valerie Plame from the vice president himself, his boss.
BLITZER: I'll read, because I have this document also. Let me read this operative paragraph to our viewers. And I want Jeff Toobin, Jeff Greenfield, Joe Digenova, to be paying attention, because this is very specific information in the actual indictment. Beginning in late may 2003, May 2003, that's two months, maybe a month and a half before the actual column by Bob Novak was written in 2003, "I, Lewis Scooter Libby allegedly began acquiring information about a 2002 trip to the African country of Niger by Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador and career State Department official, to investigate allegations concerning efforts by the former government of Iraq" -- that would be under the government of Saddam Hussein -- to acquire uranium yellow cake, a processed form of uranium ore."
"The CIA decided on its own initiative to send Wilson to Niger after an inquiry to the CIA by the vice president concerning certain intelligence reporting. Wilson orally reported his findings to the CIA upon his return. Subsequently, Libby allegedly lied about information he discussed about the CIA employment of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame-Wilson, in conversations Libby had in June and July of 2003 with three news reporters: Tim Russert of NBC News, Matt Cooper of 'Time' magazine, and Judith Miller of the 'New York Times.'"
Let me just read one more paragraph, and then we'll bring back our analysts and our reporters. "Prior to July 14th, 2003, Valerie Wilson's employment status was classified. Prior to that date, her affiliation with the CIA was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community.
Disclosure of classified information about an individual's employment by the CIA has the potential to damage the national security in ways that range from preventing that individual's future use in a covert capacity, to compromising intelligence-gathering methods and operations and endangering the safety of CIA employees and those who deal with them," the indictment says.
Joe Digenova, that's the heart of this. He believes that Scooter Libby -- that's Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, believes that Scooter Libby endangered national security by talking about Valerie Plame-Wilson with reporters among others?
DIGENOVA: Yes. And so therefore, it's puzzling why he did not charge a violation of the Agent Identity Protection Act. And I assume that he didn't because he couldn't prove it.
And so what he's doing is, he's making an allegation which he will have the right to show -- in fact he's going to be required to show -- and he may open up exactly what we were talking about earlier, which is the -- whether or not she really had a kind of protected status in a way that was sufficient to protect her. This is really fascinating. He has not charged a substantive crime involving the disclosure of her identity. That is very, very significant.
BLITZER: What about that, Jeff Toobin?
TOOBIN: I think the indictment appears to be an attempt to tailor the case to a manageable size and a comprehensible size for a jury. The jury -- you know, you always want to try to keep things simple for a jury. And as Joe has been spelling out, the issue of her covert status is something that would be complex.
The prosecution will not be able to get away from that issue entirely. That will obviously be part of the case, but it won't -- at least if the prosecution has its way, it will be the center of the case. But just to state the obvious, I mean, what you have read means Dick Cheney, Tim Russert, Matt Cooper, Judy Miller will all be witnesses at the trial.
And those will raise a lot of questions, especially, of course, the vice president of the United States. Maybe Jeff Greenfield can help me here. I can't think of when a sitting vice president has been an important witness in a criminal trial ever, much less one against his former top aide. But that is going to be having that's both very dramatic and politically difficult.
BLITZER: We do know that Spiro Agnew was a sitting vice president when he was forced to step down during the Nixon administration, charged with a crime in Maryland. He pleaded nolo contendere as you remember.
TOOBIN: Right, but he pleaded. What he did was he pleaded nolo contendere which is the equivalent of guilty in an effort to stay out of court, to make the process go away. Here we're going to have a trial with the vice president, as it appears, perhaps the key witness in the whole case. Now, that's not impossible. I don't think it's legally untenable, but I think it's politically very complicated. And, you know, we'll see how it plays out in the months ahead.
BLITZER: When citizens testify before grand juries, they are required to tell the truth. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, says, in a statement, "without the truth, our criminal justice system cannot serve our nation or its citizens." Let's go right to the White House. Dana Bash is standing by with reaction there -- Dana.
BASH: Well, Wolf, no reaction yet and he reason is, because the president's senior aides right now, we understand, are in intense meetings. They are all huddling about what exactly their next move it. Certainly, they had this planned.
In terms of Scooter Libby, the informed assumption and presumption it was that he was planning to resign if indicted. And we have been reporting, he has been well aware of the fact that he was going to be indicted, certainly over the last several hours. And so the plan is in place for him to tender his resignation. We understand it will happen soon. The question is when, and as soon as we get that, we will get back to you for sure.
Now, again, in terms of the president, and the vice president, the statements that they will make, we don't expect that to happen until after the special prosecutor actually makes his formal statement before the cameras.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, we'll get back to you very soon. Jeff Greenfield, you're digesting what we've learned. The vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, has been indicted. Five counts, making false statements, two counts on that. Obstruction of justice, one count of that. Two counts of committing perjury in this federal investigation -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: I think there's an important point in what you just read to us, wolf. It confirms some of the reporting that's already been done. This indictment alleges that information about Wilson and his wife was being gathered in May of 2003, if I heard you right.
The op-ed piece that Joe Wilson wrote was not published, if I'm not -- unless I'm mistaken -- until June of '03. What was happening was, Wilson was beginning to talk about his trip and being increasingly critical of the Bush administration. He was talking to Nick Kristoff of the "New York Times" in a not for attribution way.
So what this suggests, if you go back to the reporting that's been done by CNN, by the "New York Times," by the "Washington Post," that early on, somewhere in the White House there was concern about what Joe Wilson was doing. Information was being gathered.
There's a story about this information that was gathered within one agency that was sent to the White House traveling office when it was on a trip with the president, and this indictment, at least, suggests that the activity that Scooter Libby was apart of and trying to figure out what was Joe Wilson up to happened before that op-ed piece in the "New York Times" that was then the source of all of the controversy we're now going into.
So I wanted to make sure we understood the timeline that Fitzgerald is putting down, because while it is true, as Joe Digenova said, that he does not -- there's no subsequent crime alleged in terms of the Identities Act. What is alleged is that the White House was up to trying to discredit Joe Wilson early on in the game, as soon as Wilson began making his comment. And I just think that somehow going to play out very importantly in what we've been talking about as this trial progresses.
BLITZER: I want to have our researchers check, Jeff Greenfield, when that Nicholas Kristof column was published, the specific date, because there was no name of an ambassador who had made a secret trip to Africa on behalf of the CIA at that point.
But I suspect that that column may have triggered some of the curiosity by Scooter Libby and others who might have been that ambassador. We'll get the specific date of that Nicholas Kristof column in the "New York Times" which certainly may have played a role in triggering some of that investigation before -- long before Joe Wilson actually wrote his own column, and certainly before Bob Novak wrote his column in the "Chicago Sun-Times" that was syndicated around the country.
GREENFIELD: The point, Wolf, that i was getting at, and I'll make this very brief. There are going to be, as Joe Digenova has talked about and I talked about earlier, there are conflicting narratives, depending on where you are I think along the political structure. You're likely to see the story in one of two ways.
The risk of her CIA was undermining the White House's attempt to come to grips with Saddam Hussein, or the White House was twisting intelligence, wouldn't listen to the CIA's warnings and then when someone associated with the CIA began to go public, began to punish him by outing his wife. Those are two different narratives, and how these two narratives play out is, I think, going to form the background noise of what we're about to go through.
BLITZER: May 6th, 2003. That's when the Nicholas Kristof column first appeared in the "New York Times." May 6th, 2003, that column named an unnamed former U.S. ambassador of having made a trip to Africa, and in this indictment it states that beginning in late May 2003, Lewis "Scooter" Libby began questioning people acquiring information about that 2002 trip by Ambassador Joe Wilson to Niger. David Ensor, you're reading this indictment, you're digesting it. What are you picking up?
ENSOR: You know, in this indictment delivered today, we now how that exact language, and I think it's worth reading, for the alleged false statements and perjury by I. Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff. This has to do with misrepresenting, according to the prosecutor, what it is he actually had done and said in relationship to NBC reporter Tim Russert, and Matt Cooper of "Time" magazine.
On the first false statement count, which is count number two, it says, "The defendant herein did knowingly and willfully make a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and representation in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." This is in terms of talking to an FBI agent.
"He was posed -- in response to questions posed to him by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Libby stated that, quote, 'During a conversation with Tim Russert of NBC News on July 10 or 11, 2003, Russert asked Libby if Libby was aware that Libby's wife worked for the CIA. Libby responded to Russert that he did not know that. And Russert replied that all the reporters knew it. Libby was surprised by this statement, because while speaking with Russert, Libby did not recall that he previously had learned about Wilson's wife's employment from the vice president." And the charge goes on to say, "As defendant Libby well knew when he made it, this statement to the FBI was false in that when Libby spoke with Russert on or about July 10th or 11th of 2003 Russert did not ask Libby if Libby knew that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, nor did he tell Libby that reporters knew it. And at the time of the conversation Libby was well aware that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA." That's the first false statement count.
The second one has to do with Matt Cooper of "TIME" magazine, and it says that during a conversation with -- this is what Libby stated, supposedly, to an FBI agent. "That during a conversation with Matthew Cooper of "TIME" magazine on July 12th of 2003, Libby told Cooper that reporters were telling the administration that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, but Libby did not know if this was true."
And it goes on to say, the charge, "As defendant Libby well knew when he made it, this statement was false in that Libby did not advise Cooper on or about July 12 that reporters were telling the administration that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, nor did Libby advise them that Libby did not know whether this was true. Rather, Libby confirmed for Cooper without qualification that Libby had heard that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA."
So those are the false statement charges. Now the perjury charges. These have to do, obviously, with testimony, sworn testimony in front of the grand jury. And this is kind of lengthy. I don't know if we want to read the whole thing.
But basically, it has to do with talking, again, to -- he's describing his discussion with Tim Russert of NBC News on or about July 10, and he apparently misrepresents what, in fact, he said to Tim Russert, again, to the grand jury. So that's the first of the two perjury charges.
And I believe the second one -- let me just get to that page. Yes, it does. It has to do with discussions with Matt Cooper. So basically, again, both these cases, both the false statements and the perjury charges, are cases where apparently what Matt Cooper and Tim Russert told the investigators and possibly the grand jury -- I don't know if they testified in front of it -- disagrees directly with what Scooter Libby said to the grand jury.
And it comes down to false statements to an FBI agent and perjury to a grand jury if the prosecutor is correct. These are alleged -- these charges are only allegations at the moment.
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR: All right. David, thank you very much. Let's bring back our chief national correspondent, John King. He's getting information on this story, as well.
John, what are you picking up?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, No. 1, as Dana Bash noted we know there are meetings, top-level meetings at the White House. Officials are telling us one result of those meetings will, without a doubt, be the resignation of Scooter Libby as the vice president's chief of staff and national security adviser. We are awaiting formal notification of that. And the answer to the question as to whether he has already submitted the letter of resignation both to the vice president and to the president.
He is an assistant to the president by title because of his status on the National Security Council. So we will see exact wording of that letter if and when it is released by the White House or obtained in other ways.
I want to go back to a point Jeff Greenfield was making. I was covering the White House at the time. And I'm going back in my head to May 2003. It was after Joe Wilson's op-ed came out in the "New York Times" that the campaign escalated. But immediately after the Kristof column earlier, quoting the unnamed ambassador, there's no question that at that moment this White House pivoted to try to find out who was it making these charges against the case for war, where was the information coming from.
I remember back in those days in public in the White House briefing and in private conversations with administration officials, they said they were trying to find out who this was.
And you will remember once Joe Wilson went public, one of the things he said that infuriated the White House is he said publicly, I believe it was on the NBC program "Meet the Press," but I'm not positive, that it was the vice president who asked the CIA to send him. And that is when the vice president's office geared up their effort even more to rebut that fact. They said the vice president had no knowledge of the trip, did not request the trip at all.
I believe everyone agrees now that what happened was the vice president said he wanted more information about Saddam's nuclear program or alleged nuclear program and the CIA then decided one way to get that information was to have this Wilson trip take place.
But the point I'm trying to make is as we read the dates in this indictment and why was Lewis Libby trying to get information about this at that point anonymous foreign ambassador who made this trip before the op-ed, before Joe Wilson came public. I remember those days quite well.
Once the allegations were starting to surface, first in a Nick Kristof column, then in a Walter Pinkus story in the "Washington Post" quoting an unnamed former ambassador who made this mission, the White House political operation kicked into gear.
And again, the big question here is -- and this indictment say it did happen -- the big question is there's no question. They had a very hardball political operation to rebut and to challenge the credibility of Joe Wilson. The question is did they break the law in doing so? This indictment of Scooter Libby says they did.
But remember, Scooter Libby still has a defense to make, and many of his aides, they will not criticize the special prosecutor but I just spoke to one of Scooter Libby's former very close associates who said they not stop criticizing Joe Wilson. BLITZER: Scooter Libby, there's a picture of him testifying before Congress a while ago. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, an indictment handed down, two counts of false statements, making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice, and two counts of committing perjury.
I want to just remind our viewers in the United States and around the world, we're continuing our special coverage of this story here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Bob Franken is over at the courthouse, digesting this, reading all the documents that have now been released.
What are you picking up, Bob?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of points. First of all, the one person who got this all started in effect is CNN contributor Robert Novak, the columnist, whose column identifying Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative began this whole domino effect that has gotten us to this point. There is really just a little bit about Novak in here.
I'd like to read from the indictment, if I may. "On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, Libby spoke to a senior White House official, called official A here, who advised Libby of a conversation official A had earlier that week had with columnist Robert Novak, in which Wilson's wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson's trip. Libby was advised by official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson's wife."
Well, of course he did write the story. We can only guess, and guesses are not good enough to report, who official A was. But in any case, that's the only mention that we've seen thus far in this whole matter about Robert Novak.
Now, Novak's role subsequent to this and his cooperation or lack thereof with this grand jury is something we know nothing about. Thus far we've not been able to reach Novak for comment.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bob, you know what I think, and Wolf, it is very interesting, when you read page 7 of this, is that you see that apparently it was relatively -- it was becoming relatively widely known within the vice president's office as you read through here, in that month of July 2003 that Valerie Plame was Joe Wilson's wife, that she worked with the CIA.
I'll read one line here at the top that precedes that section that Bob just read. "On or about July 7, 2003, Libby had lunch with then White House press secretary Ari Fleischer at the time and advised that individual that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, noting that such information was not widely known."
Then go down to another section. "No earlier than June 2003 but on or before July 8, 2003, the assistant to the vice president for public affairs." At the time that was -- we're unsure of exactly who that was at the time. We're still trying to research that, but that assistant to the vice president for public affairs "learned from another government official that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and advised Libby of this information."
And then all this was also a topic of discussion on board Air Force Two. "On or about," it says, "July 12, 2003, Libby flew with the vice president and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia, on Air Force Two. On his return trip Libby discussed with other officials aboard the plane what Libby should say in response to certain pending media inquiries, including questions from 'TIME's' Cooper." So it's a very interesting...
BLITZER: Stand by, Kathleen.
KOCH: ... widely discussed...
BLITZER: Kathleen, stand by. Bob Franken, stand by. We're now getting word that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff to the vice president of the United States, has resigned, has resigned his position. The White House -- the president and vice president have accepted that resignation. Those reports coming in from both the Associated Press and the Reuters news agency.
Not a surprise. Everyone knew that once -- once there were indictments those officials would be forced to step down right away -- John.
John King, are you there?
KING: Yes, I am, Wolf. Sorry. I just wanted to read you a note I just received from a senior administration official that Scooter Libby had submitted his letter of resignation earlier today. So as we knew this was coming, he knew well this was coming. It was accepted. He is no longer at the White House. The letter was delivered to Andy Card, who is the White House chief of staff, of course, and it was Andy Card who informed the president.
BLITZER: So we have now confirmed that Scooter Libby, as expected, has resigned his position as the vice president's long- standing chief of staff. Scooter Libby.
We have some graphics on Scooter Libby. Who exactly is he? He's been working with Dick Cheney for a long time, going back to when Dick Cheney first worked at the Department of Defense at the Pentagon, when he was the secretary of defense. He worked there as one of his advisers. The -- Scooter Libby is 55 years old. He's been the vice president's chief of staff now since the vice president took office five years ago.
Earlier he worked in Congress, State Department, and as I pointed out, the Defense Department, he worked very closely at the Defense Department, not only with the vice president but also with Paul Wolfowitz, who was one of the undersecretaries at the Defense Department when Cheney was the defense secretary.
He's a graduate of Yale University and the Columbia Law School.
We've seen him lately on crutches walking around, hobbling around the grounds of the White House. He broke one of his legs recently, we're told, in some sort of accident.
But he has now stepped down after being charged with five counts of potential crimes.
Remember, we're waiting also for a formal news conference, the statement by the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald. That's expected at 2 p.m. over at the Justice Department. A little bit more than two -- a little bit less than two hours or so from now we'll be hearing directly from Patrick Fitzgerald on this five-count charge against Scooter Libby.
There he is, the 55-year-old now former chief of staff to the vice president of the United States.
We've got some analysts here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I want to bring them in, get their reaction to all the drama, all the excitement that's going on. I want to remind our viewers that just as Scooter Libby has been indicted, Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff, the president's top political adviser, has not been indicted. That doesn't mean he won't be indicted down the road. The investigation, we are told, will continue. But on this day Karl Rove remains on the job at the White House.
Paul Begala, what's your reaction to all of this?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, politically, we'll let the legal analysts do the lawyering. Politically one of the president's cardinal campaign promises, one of his best lines in his stump speech when he ran for the presidency, was, "I will restore honor and dignity to the White House" He put his hand up pretending he was taking the oath of office itself.
This blows a hole in that and a permanent one at that. For the first time in 135 years, a senior White House aide is under indictment. This is an enormous problem for the president and even more so for the vice president. Even Al Gore was never as powerful as Dick Cheney is and has been.
And the readings I was getting of the indictments and the press release that Fitzgerald's office put out puts Dick Cheney at the center of this thing, and this is going to be enormously problematic. If there is a trial -- Libby may plead and avoid a trial, but if there's not this is going to go on and on, by the way. This is going to consume the rest of the Bush presidency.
BLITZER: And potentially could be a trial not only involving these specific five charges that have been leveled against Scooter Libby but a trial of the whole war and the build-up to the war. We've been talking about that.
Hold on for a second. That's your perspective. Terry Jeffrey has a very different perspective. What's your reaction to this?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well, Wolf, first, I agree with Joe diGenova that perjury and lying to federal agents are serious crimes. Scooter Libby should have resigned from the White House, as he just did. He should be held accountable for them.
I would note in reference to what Paul just said that federal district Judge Susan Webber Wright in April of 1999 held President Clinton in contempt of court for intentionally giving falsehoods in a deposition in her case.
BEGALA: It took 11 seconds to get him to this, by the way, just for the record.
JEFFREY: President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice by a grand jury. Now, on your other point...
BEGALA: He was found not guilty.
JEFFREY: This could be really a trial about the whole argument of building up the war.
But I said another day on this program, and I'll say again, the White House had a right to rebut Joe Wilson, because Joe Wilson's arguments were inaccurate. I want to be very specific here.
If people look at page 46 of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Iraq intelligence, they say that what they learned from Joe Wilson when he came back from Niger, it says, and this is referencing what a CIA reports officer said.
"He said that he judged that the most important fact in the report was that the Niger officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, that Nigerian prime minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting."
Second fact people should know. The British government -- wait a minute. Because this is the underlying issue here. The British government...
BEGALA: No, it's not. The underlying issue is perjury.
JEFFREY: No, wait a minute.
BEGALA: This doesn't give the right -- does not give Mr. Libby the right to lie to a federal grand jury.
JEFFREY: Let me finish my thought and put some facts on the table.
BLITZER: We don't have a lot of time, because I just want to make this point. What you're suggesting is that Joe Wilson in his article and in his public statements may have lied about -- but that's not necessarily a crime like lying to the FBI or to a grand jury.
JEFFREY: We're what we're talking about is in the midst of a war Joe Wilson, who as Joe diGenova said had been sent to Niger on an intelligence mission by the CIA, published an op-ed in "The New York Times" in which he said the president of the United States, quote unquote, "had twisted intelligence" in order to get the United States into war.
The specific intelligence he allegedly twisted were the famous 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union address when he said the British government has learned that Iraq sought to purchase large quantities of uranium in Africa.
Now, what Joe Wilson said is that was false because his mission in Niger proved it was false. First -- wait a minute. The Senate Intelligence Committee report said that what Wilson told the CIA reinforced that intelligence. The British Butler Commission stood by it.
BLITZER: Hold on a second. Hold on a second, guys, because this is not -- Terry...
JEFFREY: This is fundamental.
BEGALA: It's clear that Butler did it.
BLITZER: Joe Wilson hasn't been charged with committing a federal crime. Hold on. Everybody hold on for a second. It's Scooter Libby who has now been charged.
BLITZER: So he's the one presumably who presumably is going to be on trial, not Joe Wilson. But I want to pick up those thoughts because they're important thoughts.
JEFFREY: Sure they are.
BLITZER: But first let's go back to the White House. Dana Bash is getting new information on the resignation of Scooter Libby -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's essentially what we had just heard from John King. That is that Scott McClellan told reporters, the White House press corps here just a short while ago that, in fact, Scooter Libby did tender his resignation earlier today, and as we have already heard he did not just to the vice president but to the president himself, because he is also an assistant to the president. So it is done.
And as we have been expecting, he decided, because he was indicted, to step down and to leave the White House after serving the vice president since has been in office and certainly serving the vice president a long time before that, since the two of them worked together at the Pentagon.
And I can tell you just in terms of the mood in talking to the vice president's office, as you can imagine, there is a very down, very sour mood in the vice president's office as their chief of staff, the national security adviser, the person who had led the office, the very small office, is now going to leave.
BLITZER: Thanks, Dana, very much. We'll find out who will be replacing Scooter Libby on the staff of the vice president at some point down the road. We'll wait for the president's statement. We assume the president will be making a statement after the formal statement from the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.
That's expected to come up in about 45 minutes or so from now, right at the top of 2 p.m. Eastern. We will have live coverage of Patrick Fitzgerald's news conference, his statement. We assume he'll be answering reporters' questions, as well. He'll be joined by the lead FBI agent who's been involved in this investigation. We'll go to the Justice Department for that as soon as it begins.
But we're continuing to try to digest what we've learned. Five counts against Scooter Libby. Two counts of false statements, one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury in this investigation.
Someone who knows these kinds of issues quite well is Lanny Davis. He worked in the Clinton White House as special counsel.
Not only were you a good lawyer at that time, but you were a good political operative, Lanny, in trying to help then President Bill Clinton get through his legal morass. What are your thoughts right now as you see this White House, this Bush White House in crisis?
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, that's why I was smiling a little bit, my friend Terry trying to change the subject. I used to try to do the same thing. But the subject is Mr. Libby's indictment.
So let me start by doing what the Republicans never did with us. An indictment is a one-sided accusation by a prosecutor who's presented one-sided evidence. It's not about due process. It's not about guilt. Mr. Libby is innocent until 12 people vote him guilty.
And with all the rush to judgment here, let's remember he's an innocent man until Mr. Fitzgerald, in due process, with cross-examined evidence, proves him guilty.
Secondly, the political issue here is Vice President Cheney must become completely transparent today, tomorrow, or immediately, hold a press conference, and answer every question everybody has about what did he tell Mr. Libby and why did he tell it and when did he tell it and what was his motive in trying to mention Mrs. Plame?
And the third question, and that's a kind of Geraldine Ferraro moment, that this vice president must do on behalf of his president, who he let down in my opinion, but he's got to explain himself.
And thirdly, I think the president at some point, and I don't know when it's appropriate, needs to apologize for going after Ambassador Wilson on whatever merits you might have, Terry, not doing it directly but doing it by trying to mention a wife who happened to work at the agency. She's owed an apology, and that has to come from the president himself.
BLITZER: All right. Let's let Terry Jeffrey respond to that. Go ahead.
JEFFREY: Well, listen, I agree -- that some of the things that Lanny said. I don't think they should have revealed his wife's name. They shouldn't have leaked it. I believe they did have a right to rebut what Joe Wilson said. In fact, I think they needed to in the national interest. It should have been direct.
I believe that George Tenet, the CIA director, should have just come out and said what we learned later in the Senate investigation, that the information that came from Joe Wilson actually reinforced the CIA's belief at that time that in fact the Iraq government had sought uranium in Niger. But that's not what they did. And I do agree also...
DAVIS: I agree.
JEFFREY: ... that Republicans should not defend someone if, in fact, they're found guilty of having committed perjury and obstruction of justice. This man is innocent. He has only been accused. We will see the facts laid out in the adversarial process. He deserves the presumption of innocence. But people should not minimize the crime he's been accused of.
DAVIS: I just have to say I wish Terry had said that during the Clinton years, but he forgot the presumption of innocence back then. But good comment.
BEGALA: Here's one reason I think...
BLITZER: Before you talk, I want to show our viewers a live picture we're getting now from the Justice Department. This is where the news conference will take place at the top of the hour in about 40 minutes or so, less than 40 minutes from now. The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, will walk in there, together with his lead FBI agent, and announce publicly what we have now read in all of these documents from the office of special counsel, that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has been indicted on false counts of making false statements, obstruction of justice, and perjury.
Paul Begala, before you respond, let me bring in Joe diGenova. He's been listening very patiently to this. A former U.S. attorney, served during the Reagan administration.
You've had a chance to absorb some of this, Joe. What do you think?
JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, let me get back to the document itself, which is the indictment. This is very significant. In the indictment Mr. Fitzgerald, after two years of investigating, does not claim that anyone revealed or knew that she had covert status. This is Valerie Plame.
What he does say is that in May of 2003, Libby began inquiring about that, in my opinion a perfectly -- about who Wilson was, et cetera. They only say that he knew that she worked at the CIA. He does not allege that he knew of her covert status. And that presumably is why there is no violation charge of the Agent Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act.
I think that's extremely significant. And it does demonstrate for all the world to see that, if you get in one of these investigations, if you tell the truth, you're going to get out of this stuff.
I mean, this is really quite remarkable, that after two years this is what is handed up. And it demonstrates -- as a matter of law, in fact, it demonstrates that there was no violation of the Agent Identities Protection Act. It's really quite remarkable.
BLITZER: But there is a violation, at least according to the special counsel, of committing perjury, lying, obstructing justice.
DIGENOVA: Wolf, I'm not trying to minimize the fact that he's been indicted. I'm just saying that, interestingly enough -- by the way, you know, let me agree with Lanny and everybody else. Obviously, Mr. Libby is presumed innocent. There's going to be a trial, presumably. But it is -- I cannot underscore enough how significant it is that there is no allegation that anybody knew that she was a covert officer.
BLITZER: Lanny Davis, go ahead and respond.
DAVIS: Very briefly...
DIGENOVA: He would have...
BLITZER: Hold on, Joe, for one second. Let's let Lanny respond to that.
DAVIS: Joe and his very esteemed wife, Victoria Toensing, have pointed out on the air that this intelligence act, this espionage act, and you and I have talked about this, is virtually impossible to be held guilty under...
BLITZER: The 1982.
DAVIS: Correct. And it's never been prosecuted for that reason. So with all due respect, Joe, your astonishment at the significance of not prosecuting under an act that's never been prosecuted before because it's virtually impossible to prove guilt under, I don't find it as surprising.
DIGENOVA: Lanny, there have been prosecutions under the act. There was one against a woman named Scranage, who passed along CIA agents' names to her boyfriend.
DAVIS: Who pled guilty, and she was never brought to trial. And had she been brought to trial -- well, she pled guilty. She pled guilty.
DIGENOVA: I'm saying -- all I'm saying is, is that there's irony here...
DAVIS: Right. DIGENOVA: ... that there was an allegation that people knew that she was a covert officer.
DAVIS: But let me get to the specific point, Joe. And as a former prosecutor, a former U.S. attorney, the allegation is that this man, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, actually lied to members of the grand jury, to FBI agents about what he knew and when he knew it as part of this investigation.
If you had been the prosecutor in this particular case, the special counsel, and knowing what -- what Patrick Fitzgerald says he now knows, would you have filed charges against the vice president's former chief of staff?
DIGENOVA: Presumably so. Sure.
BLITZER: It seems like, you know, you don't want to reward people for lying about something as significant as this.
DIGENOVA: Well, let me just say something. I don't know how much clearer I can make this. I'm not suggesting that, because Patrick Fitzgerald can't prove that everybody knew she was a covert officer, that he shouldn't charge anybody. If he has evidence, which he apparently does, that somebody lied or obstructed justice, he should indict, and apparently he has.
My point is a different one, that this all got started over this issue of whether or not a covert officer's identity was disclosed. And apparently, Mr. Fitzgerald has concluded that it was not disclosed, because people didn't know that she was a covert officer.
That does not excuse what happened during the investigation. It clearly does not excuse it. And I would be the last person in the world to defend anybody's conduct that obstructed an investigation.
BLITZER: All right, Joe and everyone else, hang on for a second. I want to go back to the courthouse. Bob Franken is over there.
We're now told, Bob, this news conference has been delayed by 15 minutes to around 2:15 Eastern, a little bit less than an hour from now?
FRANKEN: Yes. And we're going to be taking -- the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, will be taking questions after he makes an opening statement. He is going to be accompanied by the FBI agent who has been the one who has been in charge of this investigation.
What is interesting about that, of course, is that one of the charges has to do with an allegation that false statements was made to -- were made to the FBI agent.
So the one point that, of course, Fitzgerald is going to be making is the same one that Joe diGenova and any prosecutor would be making, and that is that it is so imperative for any -- any prosecution that those who are witnesses tell the truth under oath. In particular, that is something that is considered so vitally important.
What is interesting to note here is that that underlying charge, the one that has to do with knowingly giving up the identity of somebody who's an undercover operative was not -- that was not included in the charges against Scooter Libby. The charge was the one about whether he gave false statements in a variety of settings as this investigation proceeded.
One other point: Karl Rove. Karl Rove -- and it's certain to come up in the investigation -- Karl Rove still has a pending investigation, according to his lawyer. There is a real negotiation going on now between the special prosecutor and his lawyers to try and convince -- Rove's lawyers trying to convince the special prosecutor that any misstatements he made before the grand jury were inadvertent and were not willful, which would be the standard that would be needed before he would be indicted also.
BLITZER: All right, Bob. Stand by over there, because we're getting new information all of the time on what exactly has happened.
Once again, 2:15 p.m. Eastern here in Washington, D.C., the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, will speak to reporters, speak to all of us about what he has come up with. We do have his statement. We do have the copy of his indictment, five counts being filed against the vice president's now former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Ed Henry is getting quick reaction from Capitol Hill, our congressional correspondent. Ed, what are you picking up?
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... here on the Hill are trying to issue a broader indictment of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq, the march to war as well as they would put it.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid initially putting out a statement saying, quote, "These are very serious charges. They suggest a senior White House aide put politics ahead of our national security and the rule of law. This case is bigger than the leak of highly classified information. It is about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq."
That is basically what we're hearing across the spectrum. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi saying this is another example of what she calls the Republicans' culture of cronyism and corruption. Not trying to focus on the individual, Scooter Libby here, issuing a broader indictment of the Bush administration and the Republican Party.
Finally, I also want to note CNN has obtained a copy of a letter the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has sent to four house Democrats, reacting to their questions about whether or not he will issue a final report to Congress, just as Ken Starr did in the Bill Clinton impeachment case.
Patrick Fitzgerald saying in this letter to John Conyers and other lawmakers that he will not issue a full report to Congress. You can bet Democrats will be criticizing that. They want to go beyond just this indictment of Scooter Libby and take a look at what other materials Patrick Fitzgerald has actually gathered throughout this investigation.
One final note. John Conyers also saying, quote, "Today's indictments represent the beginning but not the end of the process of finally holding the Bush administration accountable for its conduct in foisting a pre-emptive war on the country."
Again, that is what Democrats are trying to do, jump beyond the news today and issue this broader indictment of the White House and the administration -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Congressman John Conyers, the Democrat from Michigan, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, going on in that statement, Ed, to say, "What did the president and vice president know about these and related matters and when did they know it?" A famous phrase that Howard Baker said many, many years ago during the Watergate hearings up on Capital Hill, questions that eventually resulted in Richard Nixon's being forced from the White House. Didn't take very long for that phrase to be repeated in this current atmosphere here in Washington.
Ed Henry's watching all of this, once again, 2:15 Eastern, the news conference, the statement from the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, standing by for that.
Paul Begala, you've been anxious to weigh in on this, the strategy that's unfolding, some of the politics involved.
PAUL BEGALA, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's kind of interesting. When I worked for Bill Clinton and he was caught up in the Lewinsky scandal, we had some strategic options. We could have attacked Monica Lewinsky. We decided not to do that. There were a few offshore operation that's tried to do that. I thought it was scurrilous. We never did that. We instead focused on Ken Starr. We portrayed him as a sex-obsessed partisan, and it worked. I happened to believe it was true. Others may disagree.
The White House now, though, has a similar set of options. They could attack Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor. Unlikely. The president said he's conducting this in a dignified manner. They could try to attack President Clinton and say, well, gee, he lied to. Terry just did that a moment. I find that kind of silly. Clinton was found not guilty by a Republican-controlled Senate. My goodness, if Scooter Libby is going to be tried by a Democratic-controlled body, he's not going to do very well.
So they're settling on Joe Wilson. And that'll be interesting, fruitful, but ultimately unsuccessful, because the charges here are about perjury and obstruction of justice. They tried for about a half a day to minimize perjury as a crime. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Republican senator from Texas, called it a mere technicality. Principaled former prosecutors like Joe DiGenova from the Republican Party said no, this is a very big deal, so they're really just going to settle on trashing Joe Wilson, which is kind of what got them in trouble in the first place.
BLITZER: Before I let Terry respond, when Clinton was accused of lying about sex or whatever with Paula Jones, you guys at the White House, I believe, suggested that was no big deal at the time.
BEGALA: No. What we said was...
BLITZER: That it was a mere technicality.
BEGALA: No, he was found not guilty, and that matters. He was found not guilty by a Republican-controlled Senate. We never said it was not a big deal. We said he didn't commit perjury. You know, did he dance, did he mislead? Of course he did. But he didn't commit perjury. And a Republican-controlled Senate, not a D.C. Jury, which would have acquitted him in a heartbeat. It was a Republican- controlled Senate.
BLITZER: All right, Terry...
BEGALA: No, secondly, the underlying problem there was Clinton cheated on his wife. The underlying issue here is that we went to war, maybe with bad intelligence, maybe being misled. That's the underlying problem here.
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": You think the White House may have lied us into war.
BEGALA: Yes, and we should have congressional hearings for that, not a trial for libby. We should have congressional hearings about that.
JEFFREY: Well, we already did.
JEFFREY: But first, about the involvement of other people in the White House, whether it may be a problem there, as I understood Joe DiGenova explaining, the underlying act, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which covers the willful disclosure of the identity of a covert CIA agent. No one has been charged with violating that act. Mr. Libby is not being charged with violating that act. What he is charged with doing is lying to a grand jury about conversations he had with a reporter. So they can't go to the White House and say this other person in the White House was guilty of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. That's not the issue here. It's what Mr. Libby did in a grand jury.
Now, on the question of lying us into war, the Senate Intelligence Committee did this very detailed investigation which explained what it was the CIA told the Congressman, what it was they told the White House. It's a matter of public record. And I believe when you have United States senators making the sort of comment we just heard, they have a duty to read their own intelligence report, and they have a duty to make sure that the statements they say to the public comport with what they concluded in their own report.
BEGALA: Politically, this will not go away. This will dog George W. Bush and Dick Cheney until the last day of their term.
JEFFREY: Why? What did they do?
BEGALA: Here's why. First, Mr. Libby will have a trial presumably. He may plead, but he's likely to have a trial. That will take some amount of time then members of Congress will push for hearings on this. I don't think what the Senate did was exactly...
JEFFREY: Hearings on what exactly, paul?
BEGALA: On whether or not the Bush administration twisted intelligence as Joe Wilson has alleged in order to lead us into war.
JEFFREY: But wait...
BEGALA: That won't end. No wait a minute. Third, Joe Wilson is going to file a lawsuit. The Supreme Court by 9-0 ruled that Paula Jones was entitled to sue a sitting president. I think it was nuts, but that's the law of the land. If I was advising Wilson, and I'm not -- I don't even know him -- I'd tell him he should sue these people. So this thing will go on and on and on.
BLITZER: What specific intelligence that was twisted?
BEGALA: The aluminum tubes, Niger, whether there were unarmed -- rather unmanned aerial vehicles that could fly around (INAUDIBLE). I think they lied at every turn. We ought to have a fair hearing of that in Congress.
LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: One big picture question here is what did they have in mind when they wanted to take on Ambassador Wilson on the merits, which you've tried to do, by trying to say that he should be less credible because his wife at the CIA was responsible for the trip? Vice President Cheney and a number of people -- and we made some political misjudgments when we were over there Paul -- so I'm a little sympathetic to making misjudgments in the heat of the moment.
BEGALA: But we didn't lose 2,000 soldiers because of them.
DAVIS: We're talking about this prosecution. They made a massive misjudgment that led to the Novak column, that led to the prosecution. I want Dick Cheney to take responsibility for that judgment. I want the president to take responsibility for the outing of Valerie Plame, and their political damage can be managed if they step up to the line and take responsibility. The bleeding will be less or it will stop if they do that.
BLITZER: You speak as someone who wrote the book on dealing with political crisis management.
Joe DiGenova, I assume you're still there. Jeff Toobin, are you still there as well?
BLITZER: Jeff, are you there?
TOOBIN: Yes, I am.
It's very curious, to me at least, that in this formal indictment they accuse Lewis Scooter Libby of lying to the grand jury about conversations he had with three reporters -- Tim Russert of NBC News, Matt Cooper of "Time" magazine, and Judith Miller of "The New York Times." I noticed that Bob Novak's name, who wrote a column about all of this in "The Chicago Sun-Times" that was reprinted widely, who was a contributor here at CNN as well, his name is not mentioned. But you remember -- and let me let Jeff Toobin weigh in first before Joe -- that Scooter Libby gave authorization to Tim Russert of NBC News, Judith Miller of "The New York Times," and Matt Cooper of "Time" magazine to go ahead and testify. If he knew he had lied about what he had said to the grand jury, why would he have done that?
TOOBIN: Well, I think he was under tremendous professional pressure to do it. President Bush said publicly, I want everybody to cooperate with this investigation, and I want them to waive any confidentiality agreements that he had. Many journalists think that these waivers are coerced, that they are not real waivers. But Lewis Libby gave a waiver. And you know, by giving that waiver he gave the rope that he has at least been indicted on. So that waiver was the single critical factor in getting this indictment to this stage.
BLITZER: What do you think, joe?
DIGENOVA: Well, I think when all is said and done, this is a pretty bad day for the press, because you've mentioned this earlier, Wolf. If this goes to trial, on that witness stand, will be three major journalists testifying against someone with whom they dealt. It will be Russert, Cooper and Miller. They have a public duty to testify. But that aside, it will be really an awful moment for the press in that sense.
But with regard to Mr. Libby, I will be very interested in seeing the facts and circumstances that led to his testimony, which appears to be in conflict with what his actual notes reflect, and it's a mind- boggling set of circumstances that he could have found himself in this situation. I really would love to know now what the explanation for this is. Perhaps we'll know sooner.
BLITZER: We presumably at some point will hear from Scooter Libby himself, assuming his lawyers will allow him to speak.
DIGENOVA: We will not hear from Scooter Libby.
BLITZER: All right, well, maybe not.
We will hear definitely from Jeff Greenfield, who's trying to digest all of this -- Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Well, you know, remember the famous Sherlock Holmes observation about the dog that did not bark in the night. We don't know who talked to Robert Novak, whose column was the precipitating fact in so much of this. A lot of us still are trying to figure out who told Novak, did Novak cooperate with the grand jury, because if he didn't, it's inexplicable that he wasn't part of the target of Patrick Fitzgerald's efforts to get people to testify. And while I think Joe DiGenova may well be right, that this is not going to be a great day for the press, it may not be a great day for the freeflow of Washington information, if false statements are punished -- if people's relationship with the press become the basis for further indictments.
But I still -- you know, at the end of this day, the one question that still has me scratching my head, if you'll pardon the reworking of the old Watergate thing, is what did Robert Novak know, and when did he know it, and how come we don't know it?
BLITZER: All right, we're getting this statement in from John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential nominee: "Today's indictment of the vice president's top aide and the continuing investigation of Karl Rove are evidence of White House corruption at the very highest levels. Far from the" -- quote -- "'honor and dignity' the president pledged to restore to Washington just five years ago."
Kerry goes on and says, "Not only was America misled into war but a Nixonian effort to silence dissent has now left Americans wondering whether they can trust anything this administration has to say." Strong words from -- strong words coming from John Kerry.
Only moments ago, the NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, who's named in this indictment as someone who received information from Scooter Libby, spoke out about his role in all of this. We have that tape. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS: We were subpoenaed, NBC and myself, in May of 2004. And we fought the subpoena, lost. On August 7th, I sat down with the special counsel with NBC lawyers for about 20 minutes and -- under oath, obviously, not before the grand jury -- and was asked if I was the recipient of the leak. The answer was no. And whether I knew Valerie Plame's name or where she worked as a CIA operative. And the answer was no. And that was the extent of it.
Mr. Libby had called NBC and me as bureau chief in July, not to leak information, but to complain about something he had seen on a cable television program. And that was the extent of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Tim Russert, the NBC News Washington bureau chief, explaining what he says was his role in all of this, and his conversation with Lewis Scooter Libby.
Senator Byron Dorgan is joining us now. He's been looking into this whole subject very, very closely. Your immediate reaction, senator? SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Well, as I've read the statement by the special prosecutor, the one thing that sticks out is on page 2, where he talks about these activities posing danger to our -- or damage to our country's national security. As we talk about this, we should remember that's the root of this issue, damaging our national security. The potential to put in danger lives of those who work in the CIA who are gathering intelligence today.
No one takes joy in what's happening here. But there is -- as you read what the prosecutor has said, there is a level of corruption here that seems to ignore these questions about national security in a very dangerous way.
BLITZER: What do you think should happen now, Senator?
DORGAN: Well, that's not for me to say. Look, these actions speak for themselves. The special prosecutor has spoken for himself. We'll now, I assume, see a trial at some point. Mr. Libby has resigned. It appears from what I have heard that Mr. Rove will remain under some kind of investigation. My hope is the president would understand, and I'm sure he does, the seriousness of this.
As you know, the White House advised all of us, including the entire country, that they had asked Mr. Libby and asked Mr. Rove whether they had been involved in any of this. The answer was no. It's clear now that both were involved. The question is whether there was criminality on the part of Mr. Rove, but Mr. Libby was how been indicted. So this is a tough day for the president and for the country for that matter, because it deals with our national security.
BLITZER: Well, speaking as a Democratic leader in Congress, Senator Dorgan, should there be separate congressional hearings on all of this or should the judicial process simply go forward with a trial and potentially other indictments down the road?
DORGAN: Well, obviously, on the judicial side, it will go forward. The one thing we don't know -- we are told by the CIA retired agents there would have been certainly what is called a damage assessment done in the CIA to evaluate what did this disclosure of a covert operator mean, what was the damage? There would have been a damage assessment done. I think it's important for us to understand what did that show, how much damage existed here? I think it's important for all of us to understand that.
BLITZER: I'm sure that is about as classified a document as there is in the CIA. And I've also been told by some that maybe no formal document was even written, out of fear that it could have been subpoenaed in some sort of judicial procedure and that document by a judge, federal judge, made public. Have you heard anything along those lines, Senator?
DORGAN: I have not. But it would be unthinkable that they wouldn't have done a damage assessment. Seems to me that all of those who risk their lives as covert agents, the CIA that puts people in those positions, they're going to want to know what happened. This was one agent, but it was a network of companies and people all around the world that this person had contacts with. What was the result of all of this? I think it's very important for this country to know that.
BLITZER: Well, do you know if your colleagues, the chairman and the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Roberts, Senator Rockefeller, have been briefed -- at least they have been briefed on the damage that might have been done?
DORGAN: I have no knowledge of that.
BLITZER: This is -- because this gets to the core issue right now, whether or not there was real national security damage to the United States of America as a result of Valerie Plame-Wilson's name being made public.
DORGAN: It is. And that's, as I said, on page two of the statement by the special prosecutor. He describes the seriousness of this as the potential damage to our national security. This is not one of these gotcha things. This is not normal political back and forth. This is an issue that potentially endangers our country's national security. That's why we ought to all take it with a great deal of seriousness.
BLITZER: But what if Scooter Libby did not know that Valerie Plame was a clandestine CIA officer, that he assumed she was simply an analyst who was out in the field recruiting spies or running networks?
DORGAN: Well, here's what I would suggest. I'll give you some names of some retired CIA agents and have them on and ask them that question. I think most people feel that what was done here to move the name around of someone who I'm told, when you learn where she worked in a certain directorate, they would have known it was a potential covert operation.
It was irresponsible for people -- and what they were trying to do, as you know, is they were trying to get back at people who were questioning the evidence that the administration was putting forth to justify taking action against Iraq. And so this was all about retribution. And doing so, I think, in a -- not just a careless way, but a very damaging way. And then as a result of all of that, we have the issues of lying and covering up and perjury and so on.
BLITZER: Senator Dorgan, was it irresponsible of Ambassador Joe Wilson to write that column in the "New York Times" talking about his then secret trip to Niger, knowing that his wife had some sort of role in recommending him for this mission and knowing that she was a covert CIA officer?
DORGAN: Well, I don't think this afternoon is the time to blame Ambassador Wilson. This is about indictments of a top White House official who did things that, as the special prosecutor indicated, posed potential damage to our national security. That's the issue.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on one second, Senator Dorgan, if you can. Because you know, we just want to make sure that we're covering all our bases here. Terry Jeffrey is here, who's been watching all of this with us. You just heard what a good, solid Democratic senator like Senator Dorgan had to say. I want you to respond to that.
JEFFREY: Well, I think there's a lot of good sense to what Senator Dorgan said. I don't think it was a good thing for people in the White House to leak Valerie Plame's name to the press. I don't think it was the correct way to rebut what they viewed as the incorrect arguments that Joe Wilson was making in public. I do believe they had a right to rebut his information.
It's not clear to me, though, Wolf, that what they were trying to do was punish him. I think what they were trying to do was discredit the argument he had made to certain reporters and to "The New York Times." I don't think they wanted to punish him.
BEGALA: But what did they accept the argument? The president said, I made a mistake, I shouldn't have said that. Honestly, I mean, it's not like a partisan question. I'm not being tendentious. Why, then, do you need to discredit Wilson and his argument if you've accepted it?
JEFFREY: I think probably the most serious allegation you can make against the president or an administration is that they lied the country into war. I mean, if it were true that a president of the United States lied the country into war, I think that's about the most heinous thing he possibly could do.
BLITZER: I want to thank Senator Dorgan for joining us.
Abbi Tatton is our Internet reporter. You've got some information coming up on the Internet, Abbi.
TATTON: Yes, the indictment, Wolf, that everyone was e-mailing around a fax copy, we now have online. It's been put up online at the usdoj.gov Web site. This is the Department of Justice web site. Just over a week ago, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald got his own Web site dedicated to him.
This is where the documents are now. You can read this indictment for yourself and the five counts right there. An accompanying press release going through each of the different counts, including two there of perjury. Count 4 and count 5 you can read just exactly what these charges are. Again, that's at usdoj.gov. It's a long web address. We're going to put that up at the bottom of the screen there so you can go to it yourself -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Abbi. Thank you very much.
Lanny Davis wants to weigh in as well. Lanny, the former Clinton White House special counsel.
DAVIS: Just a quick informational point. There's another statute that hasn't been mentioned, and that's Section 724 of Title 18. Section 793 says that it is a crime to disclose classified information to persons not authorized to receive such information. And there is certainly an argument to be made just on the face of Judy Miller's reporting that Mr. Libby did disclose to her the fact that Mrs. Plame was a CIA agent, which is a fact that's classified information.
So the motive to cover up or the motive to lie by Mr. Fitzgerald must be that he was concerned about violating at least Section 793, which on its face, it appears that he did violate when he confirmed to Judy Miller, as she has testified and written in "The New York Times," that he told her that Mrs. Plame was a CIA agent, which is a classified fact.
BLITZER: All right. Michael Madigan has joined us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. A former federal prosecuter, now a white collar criminal defense attorney here in Washington. What do you think about this case that Patrick Fitzgerald -- I assume you've had a chance to digest, to read through this indictment.
MICHAEL MADIGAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I have. It's interesting, Lanny, that none of the underlying offenses that you spoke about are charged in the case, so ...
BLITZER: You're referring to the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it illegal under certain circumstances to reveal the identity of a clandestine CIA officer, or the Espionage Act of 1917 which does something similar.
MADIGAN: Yes, exactly. There is a particular criminal statute that makes it a crime, and the special prosecutor, who I guess is going to explain this to us in a bit, decided not to charge that for whatever reason. Now, the charges that have been brought are very serious charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. But for whatever ...
BLITZER: Making faults statements as well.
MADIGAN: And making false statements to the FBI. But I assume we'll hear in the press conference the reasons why the underlying charges were not brought.
BEGALA: But why lie about it? If they didn't violate the law, if they didn't out Mrs. Plame, why did they allegedly -- why did Mr. Libby allegedly perjure himself about it?
MADIGAN: That's what we're going to have a jury trial to find out. We don't know what Mr. Libby has to say about all this. And we don't know whether he lied or whether he didn't lie. That's why we have a court and a jury. But the charges are very serious.
BLITZER: So far we're getting one side of the story.
MADIGAN: That's right.
BLITZER: And what is surprising to me, and I'm sure to you, Michael, and to Lanny and to all the Washington lawyers, it's basically a pretty small community of people who are involved in these kinds of matters. Scooter Libby was not just a political aide to the vice president.
He himself was a well-known Washington attorney, a criminal defense attorney, if you remember his involvement before he became the chief of staff with Mark Rich, who was pardoned by outgoing president Bill Clinton at the time. If anyone knows about the dangers of perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements, it's a lawyer like Scooter Libby.
MADIGAN: Well, I don't think he was a criminal defense lawyer, but certainly he has a lawyer and everybody ought to know going back to Watergate, that I was involved in, this town, you get in trouble by going in and covering up something and not telling the truth about something.
So when you have something as serious as talking to the FBI or going before a grand jury, if you do it -- and you have a constitutional right not to talk to them, but if you do it, you'd better get it right.
BLITZER: Can you stand by? Because I want you to -- we want to continue our coverage, but we're going to take a quick commercial break. Much more of our coverage. Remember, 2:15 Eastern, less than 20 minutes or so from now, about 20 minutes or so from now, the special prosecutor, the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, will be making a statement over at the Justice Department together with his lead FBI agent, explaining what's going on and presumably answering reporters' questions. We'll carry that live as our special SITUATION ROOM coverage continues.
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