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INDICTMENT IN CIA LEAK CASE

Bush, Cheney Spend the Day Otherwise Occupied

On separate trips, they discuss the war on terrorism, with limited talk of the grand jury.

October 29, 2005|Johanna Neuman and Warren Vieth | Times Staff Writers

NORFOLK, Va. — Back in Washington, a special prosecutor soon would be telling the world about the indictment of a high-ranking administration official. But President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to talk about other things.

So one headed to Virginia, the other to Georgia, for televised appearances with uniformed troops who applauded the administration's overseas military engagements.

"Thanks for the chance to get out of Washington," Bush quipped to cheering military personnel and business leaders during a midmorning stop in Norfolk, Va. He then talked at length about U.S. objectives in Iraq and the Middle East.

Cheney picked a similar theme in an afternoon speech at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Ga., where he thanked camouflage-attired troops and their families for their sacrifices in the war on terrorism.

"It is tough and it is dangerous to fight enemies who dwell in the shadows," Cheney said.

Bush later jetted back to Washington, where he extolled the White House fellowship program, then headed to Camp David for the weekend. He was accompanied by White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers, who on Thursday withdrew her nomination to the Supreme Court.

White House officials said the Bush and Cheney day trips had nothing to do with the announcement by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald that Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had been indicted in connection with the public disclosure of a CIA's officer's identity. A federal grand jury charged Libby with obstructing justice, committing perjury and making false statements.

But the excursions appeared to be taken straight from the White House game plan for responding -- and sometimes not responding -- to allegations arising from the leak investigation. Bush advisors have said the president and his aides intended to limit their public comments about the case and seize every opportunity to talk instead about their domestic and foreign policy priorities.

On Friday, the contrast was anything but subtle. At one point, CNN's live coverage of Fitzgerald's news conference on the indictment was juxtaposed with split-screen images of Cheney delivering his remarks to the troops in Georgia and Bush in the White House holding forth on leadership.

Bush and Cheney did not duck the leak issue entirely. The vice president's office issued a statement saying Cheney accepted Libby's post-indictment resignation "with deep regret." Bush told reporters on the White House South Lawn that he regarded Fitzgerald's investigation findings as "serious."

Then he changed the subject.

"I got a job to do, and so do the people who work in the White House," Bush said. "We got a job to protect the American people.... I look forward to working with Congress on policies to keep this economy moving. And pretty soon I'll be naming somebody to the Supreme Court."

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Neuman reported from Norfolk, Vieth from Washington. Times staff writer Edwin Chen contributed to this report.

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