Presidential political guru Karl Rove and White House Communications director Dan Bartlett have been subpoenaed to testify for the defense in the perjury trial of former Vice Presidential chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
The subpoenas have White House lawyers scrambling to find a way to stop Rove and Bartlett from testifying and are also sending shock waves through the West Wing.
Reports Michael Isikoff of Newsweek:
White House anxiety is mounting over the prospect that top officialsÃ¢â‚¬â€including deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and counselor Dan Bartlett-may be forced to provide potentially awkward testimony in the perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis (Scooter) Libby.
Both Rove and Bartlett have already received trial subpoenas from LibbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense lawyers, according to lawyers close to the case who asked not to be identified talking about sensitive matters. While that is no guarantee they will be called, the odds increased this week after LibbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawyer, Ted Wells, laid out a defense resting on the idea that his client, Vice President Dick CheneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s former chief of staff, had been made a Ã¢â‚¬Å“scapegoatÃ¢â‚¬Â to protect Rove. Cheney is expected to provide the most crucial testimony to back up WellsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s assertion, one of the lawyers close to the case said. The vice president personally penned an October 2003 note in which he wrote, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the other.Ã¢â‚¬Â The note, read aloud in court by Wells, implied that Libby was the one being sacrificed in an effort to clear Rove of any role in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq war critic Joe Wilson. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Wow, for all the talk about this being a White House that prides itself on loyalty and discipline, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not seeing much of it,Ã¢â‚¬Â the lawyer said.
Libby is charged with lying about when and from whom he learned about Plame during the spring and early summer of 2003, a time when the White House was working to discredit Wilson. A former U.S. ambassador, Wilson was dispatched to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium from Africa. Wilson said he told U.S. officials there was nothing to those reports. But the president later used the claim anyway in his 2003 State of the Union address, prompting Wilson to charge the administration had manipulated the intelligence about Iraq. The week after he went public, journalist Robert Novak first reported that WilsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wife, Plame, worked for the CIAÃ¢â‚¬â€a disclosure that prompted allegations that administration officials had Ã¢â‚¬Å“outed herÃ¢â‚¬Â in retaliation for WilsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s criticism.
The possibility that Rove could be called to testify would bring his own role into sharper focusÃ¢â‚¬â€and could prove important to LibbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawyers for several reasons. Rove has said in secret testimony that, during a chat on July 11, 2003, Libby told him he learned about PlameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s employment at the CIA from NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, a legal source who asked not to be identified talking about grand jury matters told NEWSWEEK. If Rove repeats that story on the witness stand, it could back up LibbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s core assertion that he honestly, if mistakenly, thought he had heard about WilsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wife from the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Meet the PressÃ¢â‚¬Â hostÃ¢â‚¬â€even though Russert denies he knew anything about Plame, and more than a half-dozen officials (including Cheney) have said they passed along the same information to Libby earlier than that.