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INDICTMENTS IN CIA LEAK CASE

Day After Advisor Is Charged, Washington Exhales

The vice president's legal counsel is said to be the top candidate to replace Libby as chief of staff.

October 30, 2005|Tom Hamburger | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — From the podium at the Justice Department on Friday, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation, advised everyone "to take a deep breath" and allow the justice system to do its work.

On Saturday, Washington took that breath.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who remains under investigation by Fitzgerald, was home with his family. His attorney, Robert Luskin, spent a quiet day fielding phone calls.

A few people were at their desks at the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, where the departure of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was said to have created a noticeable vacuum.

Libby resigned as the vice president's chief of staff Friday after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to investigators. Libby has been close to Cheney for years and ran the office in close consultation with the vice president.

Fitzgerald launched his probe to determine who leaked the name of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame, to members of the media. Identifying an undercover officer can be a felony in certain circumstances. Fitzgerald did not charge anyone with that crime but alleged that Libby had lied to FBI agents and the grand jury.

The leading candidate to replace Libby as chief of staff is another longtime member of Cheney's inner circle, David S. Addington, said two Republicans who were following events. Addington serves as the vice president's legal counsel and, like Libby, is considered a staunch conservative who does not shy from confrontation.

Cheney's office declined to comment Saturday on any personnel changes. There were indications that the vice president might not have made a final decision on Libby's successor. Also on the list of possible replacements were Eric Edelman and Mary Matalin. Edelman, a former ambassador to Turkey who is now at the Pentagon, worked closely with Cheney in the past. Matalin, a communications expert, served as a deputy to Cheney and President Bush during their first term.

Addington has been embroiled in some tough bureaucratic battles on behalf of the vice president, some of which concerned enhancing the power of the executive branch, a longtime interest of Cheney's.

For example, it was Addington who developed the legal arguments used to shield Cheney from demands by Congress and its investigative agency that the vice president reveal information about private meetings with energy industry lobbyists, which were held while he was drafting his national energy policy report.

Addington was one of the authors of the White House memo that critics said justified the use of torture on terrorism suspects. And he formally requested that a website making fun of Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife, take down its material.

Addington came to know Cheney in 1984, when he was counsel to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on which then-congressman Cheney sat. When Cheney was Defense secretary in President George H.W. Bush's administration, Addington served as general counsel to Defense and special assistant to Cheney.

The Fitzgerald investigation began after Robert Novak revealed Plame's CIA affiliation in a July 2003 newspaper column. Plame is married to former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was then gaining prominence for accusing the Bush administration of "twisting" intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat before the war.

Administration critics said Plame's CIA work was leaked to the media to discredit Wilson, by suggesting that a CIA mission he took to investigate Iraq's alleged interest in obtaining weapons material from Africa was a boondoggle arranged by his wife.

The indictment filed Friday against Libby contains a brief mention of Addington. It says that two days after Wilson went public with his criticism of the administration in a July 2003 op-ed piece, Libby consulted with Addington, asking what paperwork the CIA would have if an employee's spouse undertook an overseas trip. The indictment did not specify how Addington replied.

Addington did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

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