No indictment for Rove but jury still out

Contrary to some published reports, Presidential advisor Karl Rove was not indicted two weeks ago by the federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative’s name but he remains a focus of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, sources close to the investigation say.

“No indictment, sealed or otherwise, has yet been issued against Mr. Rove,” says an investigator working on the case. “But,” he adds, “that doesn’t mean one isn’t in the works if Fitz (special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald) can make his case.”

A published report on the liberal web site Truthout on October 13, written by Jason Leopold, a journalist with a checkered past, claimed Rove had been indicted and that he had informed the White House that he had been told he had “24 hours” to get his affairs in order. The story claimed Rove would resign his post as political guru to President George W. Bush.

When no arrest of resignation occurred during the following week, spokesmen for Truthout amended their report to say Rove had been given “24 business” hours (three eight-hour days) and maintained the indictment would be announced shortly. When no arrest came after several “24 business hour” cycles had passed, Truthout issued a “partial apology” to its readers for getting “ahead of the news cycle,” but still maintains an indictment was issued.

Reporters for major news organizations have worked for the past two weeks trying to confirm existence of an indictment but have come up empty.

“That’s no surprise,” says a Justice Department source that has proven reliable in the past. “You can’t find an indictment that doesn’t exist.”

But multiple sources say Rove remains a central figure in Fitzgerald’s investigation and could still be indicted. Some suggest the prosecutor is using the threat of an indictment to force to testify against former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who has been indicted, and others, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

Fitzgerald is also focusing on reported collusion between Rove and right-wing columnist Robert Novak, the reporter who first used covert CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name in print.

Investigative reporter Murray Waas, writing in The National Journal, says investigators are suspicious “that Rove and Novak might have devised a cover story during that conversation to protect Rove.”

Rove’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, denies such activity.

“Karl Rove has never urged anyone directly or indirectly to withhold information from the special counsel or testify falsely,” Corallo claims.

Investigators close to the case suspect otherwise although legal experts say it is difficult to build a case based on a private conversation between two people, especially when both are involved in an ongoing criminal investigation.

Corallo also claims Fitzgerald has told Rove that he is a focus of the investigation. Sources close to the case says Corallo is lying.

“Rove has always been a focus of the case,” says a lawyer who has worked on the case. “Surely you don’t think Patrick Fitzgerald is going to be satisfied with just Scooter Libby. There are bigger fish out there and he holds the frying pan.”