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CNN BREAKING NEWS

CIA Leak Probe Findings Expected to be Released

Aired October 28, 2005 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Next week Soledad's back and -- we won't get into that. Next week Soledad will be back and I'll be in New Orleans. We're going to check in on a lot of the people we've been telling you about there. The road to recovery in the city of New Orleans. We'll bring you every facet of it and we'll tell you about where the red tape is, where the problems are and where people are succeeding as they try to get back now as -- what's the milestone? How long has it been now? Two months. Two months since Hurricane Katrina struck. And now . . .
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you now to the one and only Wolf Blitzer.

MILES O'BRIEN: THE SITUATION ROOM begins right now.

WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM: I'm Wolf Blitzer and this is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM where we're bringing you breaking news on the CIA leak investigation.

Happening now. The special prosecutor in the case is four hours away from making his bombshell announcement. But two hours earlier, around noon Eastern, we expect documents to be released in the courthouse. We're bringing all of that to you. We're getting some early indications right now and who's about to be slapped with indictments and who's not.

This hour, sources close to the case suggest the axe will fall on the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby. The top presidential adviser, Karl Rove, appears in the clear, at least for now, but not necessarily completely out from under a very serious cloud. It's a crisis in the making for the president, the vice president, the entire White House. How well can the Bush administration function with the leak case bursting wide open and the investigation continuing?

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Thanks very much for joining us.

Our early and expanded coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM begins now as the CIA leak saga is about to reach its most dramatic and perilous point yet. The special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, is at work preparing to announce the long-awaited findings of his investigation. And the White House is ready to break into what's described as damage control mode once the expected indictment or indictments are revealed. Our Bob Franken is over at the courthouse here in Washington, D.C., Dana Bash is our correspondent over at the White House.

Dana, let's begin with you.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly this is a White House that has been waiting for a long time to get this news and certainly hoping to end what has been a horrible week, nobody here would quibble with that, for the White House. And it is sort of a mixed bag in terms of what we know right now for this White House.

We do, from the perspective of Karl Rove, believe from associates close him that he believes he will not get indicted. As for his attorney, he put out a very carefully written statement and I'll read it very quickly to you, Wolf. 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."

And again, associates of Karl Rove believe that he perhaps is OK for now. Clearly, his attorney is leaving a little bit of wiggle room because just because he isn't indicted today doesn't mean necessarily that they have convinced Mr. Fitzgerald that he will be in the clear and should be in the clear at all. We do know that Mr. Rove did meet with the president last night. We believe, perhaps, about this investigation, but we're not entirely clear.

But when it comes to Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, that's obviously a different subject around here. We understand from our justice team, Kelli Arena and Kevin Bond (ph), that sources close to the investigation, lawyers understand that Scooter Libby is likely to be indicted. And what that means is a no notion around here is that anybody indicted will very likely resign. That is what we are waiting to find out from Patrick Fitzgerald and then, of course, from the vice president's office to see exactly what will happen to see how things might change perhaps dramatically around here in the next few hours.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, stand by. I want to get right back to you.

By the way, we're getting a live picture in from Norfolk, Virginia. The president of the United States, George W. Bush, expected to speak. The subject, the war on terrorism. You're looking at that live picture. Strategy for victory, that's the banner behind the president. We'll go there once Mr. Bush speaks.

Let's head over to the courthouse here in Washington D.C. Our Bob Franken is standing by.

You've been covering this story virtually from day one, Bob. Update our viewers around the world on what's going on where you are. BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, inside the courthouse right now, behind the veil of secrecy that defines a grand jury, we are led to understand that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, is now presenting to the grand jury a recommendation that there be indictments leveled against Lewis Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff.

Sources who have been closely involved in this investigation say that there has been an emphasis on inconsistent statements that Libby has made during his testimony. The underlying charge has to do with the revelation that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA operative. There's a law that, in certain circumstances, makes that illegal. Plame, the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson.

But as is so often the case, particularly in a political case like this, an alleged cover-up can be where the real tripping up is done. And that, we're told, is what the special prosecutor is investigating with the grand jury. This is the last scheduled day of this grand jury, although we know that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, met with the chief judge the other day to discuss the possible that he may have to keep his investigation open a little longer. There's some question whether this grand jury could be extended once again or whether he would go before still another grand jury to conclude the Karl Rove matter.

We're going to get a lot of these answers when Fitzgerald finishes here and goes before the various federal official to present whatever indictments or nobills (ph) that he has. And then, of course, the news conference later today.

Wolf.

BLITZER: By the way, Bob, the picture our viewers are seeing now is the president in Norfolk, Virginia. Not all that far away from Washington, D.C. He was just introduced at this event. He's going to be speaking on what's being described as a speech on the war on terror. The president, no doubt, will be talking about the situation in Iraq as well. The president, a very receptive audience, presumably. Norfolk, home of the largest U.S. Naval facility -- presumably in the world. The president getting ready to address all of those people in Norfolk. And we'll go there once the president starts speaking. What a day it is for the president of the United States.

Bob Franken, you're still with us. Let's walk through some of the events that are scheduled. We had reported 2:00 p.m. news conference over at the Justice Department. At noon, what are they going to do, release some documents?

FRANKEN: They will release documents. They will be presented to a federal magistrate. The documents will detail what decisions the grand jury has made. And were led to believe that we can expect at least an indictment of one official.

Then these documents will be released and there will be this frantic rush as the various news organizations try to go through them very quickly and present whatever is in them on the air. We'll be looking not only to see what has been done to whom, but what the narrative is that accompanies that.

There are charges, for instance, a conspiracy charge, which could ensnare other officials. We know not yet whether the special prosecutor has plans along those lines. We'll be looking to see if, in fact, Scooter Libby is indicted or is named, what discussion there is about his boss, Vice President Cheney.

We can tell you that during the course of this investigation, the special prosecutor has asked, in front of the grand jury, questions about whether the vice president was involved. What we know is that various people have said that they have no evidence that he was directly involved in any way that would provide criminal suggestions. Although we do know that one of the Scooter Libby notebooks contained information that perhaps he found out about Valerie Plame not from reporters, as he once claimed, but from the vice president. That would not necessarily suggest illegality, but this is the kind of question that the grand jury has been grappling with.

In any case, all of that will be made clear us to in the narrative that accompanies whatever documents come out and hopefully in the news conference that follows at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

BLITZER: All right. Bob Franken, stand by.

The president has started speaking. We're going to monitor what he's saying. Usually at the top of these events, he thanks all the local officials and has some light hearted words which presumably he's going do. We'll monitor when he gets to the thrust of what he's saying, which is the subject being war on terrorism.

John King is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Candy Crowley is here as well.

For the president on this day, John, it's very important that he project business as usual.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is important for him to project business as usual. But it is not business as usual and the president knows that, as well as anyone around him. And certainly the American people, if they're been following this story, know that because the president is giving a speech on the war on terror.

The war on Iraq, right now, is quite unpopular in this country. It is one of the factors in the president's dragging, declining approval ratings and yet the president knows full well, as he gives this speech, which he believes is important, that it won't get much coverage today because it is likely, we are told, that one of his top advisers in the White House, Scooter Libby, will face indictment by a special counsel. That is a dramatic, traumatic event for the White House to deal with.

BLITZER: Now, John, tell our viewers why that's so important. Government officials occasionally do get indicted. Scooter Libby, Louis Scooter Libby, why is he so important? What does he do? KING: I think it's interesting. Most people know Karl Rove because he has been the president's top adviser going back years. Political adviser. Well, Scooter Libby is to Dick Cheney as Karl Rove is to George W. Bush. Scooter Libby has been with Dick Cheney back with his days as defense secretary in the first Bush administration.

And he serves a very unique role. He is not only the vice president's chief of staff, he is the vice president's national security adviser. He is involved in every major decision, whether it is making the case to go to war in Iraq. Scooter Libby was a proponent with the vice president of going war in Iraq. A key architect of that policy.

Or whether it is picking somebody for a Supreme Court vacancy. Scooter Libby is in the room for those meeting as well. He is much less known than Karl Rove and other senior officials at the White House, but he is critically important and he has been the right-hand man for this vice president for years.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, you've known Karl Rove. You've covered him for many years. He seemed in a pretty good mood this morning when he was leaving his house and reporters were watching him, staking him out. He smiled. He thought he was going to have a good day and a good weekend. He's not, though, by all accounts, necessarily completely out of the -- out of some problems.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right. I mean, if what we believe to be true turns out to be true, and that is that Rove will not be indicted but that there will be a continuing investigation, which is where sources from a variety of places have told us we're going, then what that means -- the good news for the White House is that the bad news could have been worse. It could have been Karl Rove, as well as Scooter Libby. Again, assuming that what we hear about Scooter Libby is true.

But the bad news is, if it continues, it continues. It has been -- it's still there.

BLITZER: It's still hovering over Rove.

CROWLEY: It's still a distraction. You still don't know the uncertainty. Still is going to be that they're going to say, well, you know, what's the mood in the White House, Scott. What's -- talking to the press spokesman. What's going on? How does the president feel? It still brings this blanket over it that makes it very tough for the president to pivot, which they want to do, and move on to the nation's business as they call it.

BLITZER: Bob Franken, if you're still with us over at the courthouse, are there indications that it's just Scooter Libby? Karl Rove may be able to breathe a little bit easier, at least for now, although the investigation, we're told, will continue. In the past, we've often been surprised when the formal announcements are made, the papers are released and new names, all of a sudden, surface.

FRANKEN: Well, as a matter of fact, I will be surprised if there are no surprises, Wolf. And you bring up an excellent point. The grand jury has interviewed any number of people involved in this. Many people who work at the White House. Familiar names like Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary. The president, for that matter, was interviewed by the special prosecutor and Vice President Cheney.

But there have been other lower level people who have been involved here, too. We have the man who is now the national security chief, Hadley, who is also somebody whose name has come up in this. There are any number of people who might turn up, if not in terms of legal action, certainly in terms of a narrative, if there is one. So that is something we're going to want to look forward to.

Will other legal action be taken? Perhaps so. That is, as I said, a question that really is going to be very interesting to watch if it goes beyond Scooter Libby.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a second. I want to briefly go to Norfolk, Virginia. The president speaking about terrorism, 9/11. Let's listen in.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random and isolated acts of madness. Innocent men, women and children have died simply because they boarded the wrong train or worked in the wrong building. They have died because they checked into the wrong hotel.

Yet while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology. A set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane. Some call this evil Islamic radicalism. Others, militant jihadism. And still others, Islammo fascism.

Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This former radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent and political vision. The establishment by terrorism, subversion and insurgency of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom.

These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews and also against Muslims who do not share their radical vision whom they regard as heretics. Many militants are part of a global, borderless, terrorist organizations like al Qaeda which spreads propaganda and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists and conducts dramatic and brutal operations like the attacks of September the 11th.

Other militants are found in regional groups often associated with al Qaeda. Paramilitary insurgencies in separatist movements in places like Somalia, the Philippines and Pakistan and Chechnya and Kashmir and Algeria. Still, others spring up in local cells inspired by Islamic radicalism but not centrally controlled or directed.

Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with military branches and an army under a single command. Yet these operatives fighting on scattered battlefields share a similar ideology and vision for our world. We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it in videos and audiotapes and letters and declarations and Web sites.

First, these extremists want to end American and western influence in the broader Middle East because we stand for democracy and peace and we stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, "their resources, sons and money," to driving the infidels out of their lands.

The tactics of al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists have been consistent for a quarter century. They hit us and they expect us to run. Earlier this month, the world learned of a letter written by al Qaeda's number two leader, a man named Zawahiri. He wrote this letter to his chief deputy in Iraq, the terrorist Zarqawi. In it, Zawahiri points to the Vietnam War as a model for al Qaeda. Zawahiri writes, "the aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam" and how they ran and left their agents is noteworthy. The terrorists witnessed similar response after the attacks on American troops in Beirut in 1983, in Mogadishu in 1993. They believed that America can be made to run again, only this time on a larger scale with greater consequences.

Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country. A base from which to launch attacks and to conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal for a time in Afghanistan. And now they have set their sights on Iraq.

In his recent letter, Zawahiri writes that al Qaeda views Iraq as "the place for the greatest battle." The terrorists regard Iraq as a central front in their war against humanity and we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war against terror.

Third, these militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. Zawahiri writes that the terrorists "must not have their mission end with the expulsion of Americans from Iraq." He goes on to say that jihad requires several incremental goals, expel the Americans from Iraq, establish an Islamic authority over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, extend the jihad way to the secular countries neighboring Iraq. With the greater economic military and political power they seek, the terrorists would be able to achieve their stated agenda to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people and to blackmail our government into isolation.

Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. They are fanatical and extreme, but they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zawahiri has vowed, we will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life. And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Paul Pot (ph), consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history. Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience must be taken very seriously and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.

Defeating a militant network is difficult because it thrives like a parasite on the suffering and frustration of others. The radicals explode local conflicts to build a culture of victimization in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution. They exploit resentful and disillusioned young men and women, recruiting them through radical mosques as pawns of terror, and they exploit modern technology to multiply their destructive power.

Instead of attending faraway training camps, recruits can now access online training libraries to learn how to build a roadside bomb or fire a rocket-propelled grenade. And this further spreads the threat of violence, even within peaceful democratic societies.

The influence of Islamic radicalism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They've been sheltered by authoritarian regimes, allies of convenience like Syria and Iran. They share the goal of hurting America and modern Muslim governments and they use terrorist propaganda to blame their own fail on the west, on America and on the Jews.

The radicals depend on front operations such as corrupted charities which direct money to terrorist activity. They are strengthened by those who aggressively fund the spread of radical and intolerant version of Islam in unstable parts of the world. The militants are aided as well by elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-semitism that feed conspiracy theories and speak of so-called American war on Islam with seldom (ph) a word about American action to protect Muslims in Afghanistan and Bosnia and Somalia and Kosovo and Kuwait and Iraq and with seldom a word about our generous assistance to Muslims recovering from natural disasters in places like Indonesia and Pakistan.

Some of us will argue that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country is somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September 11, 2001, and al Qaeda attacked us anyway.

The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue and it was exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom and yet the militants killed more than 150 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan.

Over the years, these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence. The Israeli presence on the West Bank, U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, or the defeat of the Taliban, or the crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology within alterable objectives to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of killers and no consequence, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans of murder.

On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response. We will never back down, we will never give in and we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet in many ways this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden sets his own rules to tell Muslims "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this is the road to paradise, though he never offers to go along for the ride.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision and this explains their cold blooded contempt for human life. We've seen it in the murders of Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg and Margaret Hansen and many others. In a courtroom in the Netherlands, the killer of Theo van Gogh turned to the victim's grieving mother and said, I don't feel your pain because I believe you are an infidel. And in spite of this veneer of religious rhetoric, most of the victims claimed by the militants are fellow Muslims.

In an al Qaeda attack on two Baghdad hotels this week . . .

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor the president and his address on the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq. In Norfolk, Virginia, the president repeating many of the lines he used earlier on the same subject, trying to underscore the connection, if you will, between what's happening in Iraq, the broader global war on terrorism on this very important day in the life of this Bush administration.

Sources, lawyers involved in the investigation of the CIA leak are suggesting that the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby, will be indicted later today. The president's deputy chief of staff and top political adviser, Karl Rove, expected not to be indicted today. The investigation, though, continuing as far as he is concerned.

We don't know about other indictments, but we are awaiting a news conference at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, about three and a half hours or so from now, involving the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI lead agent in this case. That will happen over at the U.S. Justice Department around noon Eastern, an hour and a half or so from now. We expect documents to be released to the news media. They have a Web site as well. They may be posting some of those documents on the Web site.

I want to thank our viewers in the United States and around the world for joining us. We have extensive coverage of this very important day in the U.S. capital. We have reporters covering this. Our Bob Franken is over at the courthouse. Jeff Toobin, our legal analyst, is in New York. Dana Bash is over at the White House. Our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, is joining us as well. John King, Candy Crowley are here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Our special coverage continues.

Jeff Greenfield, as our viewers have been listening to the president speaking on the war on terrorism, presumably it's connected to the projection of business as usual, that they're trying to go forward with at a time, as our John King just said, this is anything but business as usual.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think it's kind of fitting that we're hearing the president talk in broad strokes about the need to fight the war on terror, the link between that war in Iraq, because in a sense, what Lewis Scooter Libby was up to in talking about Joseph Wilson is connected to this.

Let's go back. Dial back. It's early 2003, mid-2003. Saddam has been toppled. The weapons of mass destruction haven't been found and Joseph Wilson is beginning to talk to the press, not yet visible, saying, you know, I went to Niger to find out about the story. I think the Bush administration is playing with intelligence.

And what apparently -- actually, undeniably in this place, what Scooter Libby and other White House officials were up to was talking to the press saying, don't trust this guy. His credibility is in doubt because they were very concerned that the underlying rational for the war in Iraq, which they had linked to a greater war on terror, was in doubt.

One more quick thing, Wolf, to show you the length of this. You may remember -- I hope you remember -- you and I were down in Atlanta in early 2004, covering one of the early Democratic primaries. And you remember the rumor that was sweeping the newsroom that Tuesday? That Lewis Libby was about to be indicted? So clearly the special prosecutor has had Mr. Libby in his sights for quite a while, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're getting some sketches, Jeff and company, sketches of Patrick Fitzgerald earlier today. Take a look at this. He was in the courthouse making some statements to cleric -- jurists -- clerics at the courthouse. Actually, this was the sketch when he was walking into the courthouse earlier today. A lot of business going on right there.

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, who used to be a prosecutor and knows how this process works. For our viewers in the United States and around the world, Jeff, walk us through what the grand jury itself might be doing, the members of the grand jury, on this last day that they're supposed to have been convened.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think a lot of people have confusion about grand juries because they think of trial juries. But a grand jury looks nothing like a courtroom. It really looks much more like a classroom where the grand jurors sit, classroom-style and the prosecutor stands in front of them. There's no judge in a grand jury room. There's no defense lawyer. And the prosecutor conducts the proceedings. There are 23 members of a grand jury, but only 16 of them are needed for a quorum. Again, a difference with a trial jury, which, of course, can't act unless everyone's present. And of the 16 in a quorum, 12 are needed to vote an indictment.

And the way the presentation of indictment usually works is the prosecutor stands up and says -- you know, reads the indictment, goes through it and says let's go through the evidence that you've heard. You've heard this witness say this, that supports this allegation. And he goes through it all. Then he reads the law on, you know, what is the law of making a false statement, what is the law of outing a CIA agent and what are the elements and this is how it goes.

At that point, the prosecutor leaves the room and the grand jury foreman or forewoman, who is a member of the grand jury, conducts the vote. And if there are 12 votes -- and the standard is just probable cause -- they don't need to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why grand juries are generally considered the tool of prosecutors. They can usually persuade people, especially when there's no defense attorney, that there's probable cause. Then there's a vote. If there's a vote, an indictment is then rendered by the grand jury.

BLITZER: Usually, grand juries do what the prosecutors want because they only hear his side of the story effectively. As you point out, the witnesses are not allowed to bring their own defense attorneys into those grand jury question and answer sessions.

FOREMAN: No. In fact, a familiar scene in criminal courthouses, especially in -- when they're complex investigations, is witnesses come to the grand jury with their defense attorneys. But the defense attorneys have to sit outside.

And jurors often answer questions from the prosecutor, but then ask to be excused to consult with their the defense attorney. And this sort of dance goes on for a while. But no defense attorneys in the grand jury. It's one of the big advantages prosecutors have.

BLITZER: And one additional technical question, Jeff. The Karl rove issue -- the new element, if you will, is that he's probably not going to be indicted today, at least that's all of the indications that we're getting. But the investigation pointedly will continue. That can continue if they extend the current grand jury or empanel a new grand jury to continue the investigation. I assume it's more likely to extend this one than to empanel a new one.

GREENFIELD: That's right. There is some confusion about how long this particular grand jury can be extended. Because it depends whether it's a special grand jury or a regular grand jury. I don't think people should be very distracted by that. It's not a big issue. It's a very narrow, technical issue. And I bet if you went through every U.S. attorney's office in the country, 99 out of a hundred assistant U.S. attorneys wouldn't even know the technical rules about that. The point is, Patrick Fitzgerald can get another grand jury. He can read the transcripts of what this -- what this grand jury heard to another. The issue of who -- which grand jurors are hearing the evidence is not the impediment here. If Patrick Fitzgerald wants an indictment of Karl Rove, he'll get one, whether it's this grand jury or another. But the significant fact today is that some kind of investigation of Karl Rove will continue, and that means he's not off the hook.

BLITZER: Dana Bash, our correspondent over at the White House. Dana, I understand that Lewis Scooter Libby was over at the White House, or is at the White House right now. Karl Rove came to the White House this morning, both participating in their regular staff meetings. Is that right?

BASH: Well, we know that Scooter Libby was in the regular senior staff meeting this morning, as you know, with the regular meeting at 7:30 every morning. Karl Rove got here a little bit afterwards. We believe both are still here.

BLITZER: By the way, that's Scooter Libby. We got video of him crossing that little driveway, that street that separates the West Wing of the White House from the old executive office building next door. He's on crutches. Remind our viewers around the world why he's on crutches?

BASH: Well, we think he's on crutches because he broke his foot. Not having a very good time of it these days. But he is here at the White House and we understand that he did meet with the vice president this morning. The vice president is actually not here. He, like the president, is traveling. He's in Georgia today to give a couple of speeches.

And I should tell you that right now, you know, we have been reporting that the White House does have and has had a rough plan in place for when Patrick Fitzgerald did actually make his final announcements. And that plan is, as we know it now, for the president to make some kind of statement before the cameras, in front of the cameras, some time after Fitzgerald speaks. Now, the caveat here is that that could change depending on a whole lot of things, but right now that is the plan.

And as far as Dick Cheney goes, as I said, he is traveling. He probably, when all is said and done, will make some kind of written statement as we are getting more information about what will or will not potentially happen to his chief of staff, to his national security adviser, Scooter Libby.

BLITZER: And we may know the answers in less than an hour and a half when the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald and his staff, expected to release documents announcing, in effect, what they're doing at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Two hours after that, he will be holding a news conference with the lead FBI agent involved in this investigation.

Bob Franken is over at the courthouse for us. He's been watching this. Earlier this morning, reporters, camera crews were staking out Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, the president's top political adviser. He seemed very upbeat as he left his house.

FRANKEN: The quote was, "I'm going to have a good Friday and a fantastic weekend." A dead give-away that he does not expect to be indicted. Interestingly, bouncing off what Jeff was saying a moment ago, the standard probable cause and a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed. That, of course, quite different from the beyond a reasonable doubt that would go in an actual criminal trial. So the bar is pretty low with the grand jury.

Now, the underlying crime that was originally investigated was one that would make it a violation of the law to intentionally disclose the name of an undercover government operative, if the government was making an assertive effort to try and keep that person's identity a secret. That is a very high bar.

But as so often happens in these cases, an investigation expands. There is a possibility of perjury. If somebody willfully lied before the grand jury, there's that willful standard again or obstructed justice or gave false statements to investigators. All those might be allegations that could be levied against somebody in an indictment.

There is also the conspiracy charge. And Jeff is a prosecutor, I'm prosecutes conspiracy cases. What's interesting about that is that somebody can be prosecuted under that without having actually committed the crime, just, in effect, contributed in conversations to somebody else committing a crime. It's a charge that is often criticized, but one that often comes into bear in a case like this.

We're going to be watching closely to see in the narrative what kind of conversations are described, what kinds of acts are described, as whatever comes out does come out. We'll be finding that out around the noon hour Eastern, after the chief judge has had a chance to look at the handiwork of the grand jury. That will be released. And then we'll get an explanation, more of an expansion on this, we hope, from the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald at 2:00 Eastern.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We're going to take a quick break, but we have much more ahead here on our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. We're watching what's happening at the federal courthouse. We're waiting for official word on indictments, or an indictment.

We'll talk to two former White House insiders about the political jeopardy for President Bush and his administration: the former Reagan chief staff Ken Duberstein and former adviser to numerous presidents, David Gergen. They're standing by. All of the special coverage will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back in THE SITUATION ROOM. Welcome back to viewers in the United States and around the world. We're continuing of our special coverage of an indictment or indictments potentially about to be announced here in Washington D.C. involving top officials, or at least one official over at the White House.

We have reporters covering this story. Our Bob Franken is over at the courthouse. Dana Bash is at the White House. Our senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin is here. Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst in THE SITUATION ROOM with us, John King, Candy Crowley. We're watching the story from every angle.

Let's just review what the president of the United States, George W. Bush, has said over these past two years-plus since the identity of a covert CIA officer was released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: If there's a leak out of my administration I want to know who it is, and if the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.

There's a lot of leaking in Washington D.C. It's a town famous for it. And if this helps to stop leaks, this investigation, and finding the truth, it will not hold someone to account who should not have leaked. And this is a serious charge, by the way. We're talking about a criminal action and, but it also hopefully will help set a clear signal that we expect other leaks to stop as well. And so I look forward finding the truth.

I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators. Full disclosure, everything we know, investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is, partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out.

QUESTION: Given recent developments in the CIA leak case, particularly, Vice President Cheney's discussions with the investigators, do you still stand by what you said several months ago, suggesting that it might be difficult to identify everybody that leaked? And do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?

BUSH: Yes, and that's up to the U.S. attorney to find the facts.

If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action, and this investigation is a good thing.

I don't know all of the facts. I want ton all of the facts. The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who is spending time investigating it. I would like this to end as quickly as possible, so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime they will no longer work in my administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: A summary of what the president has said over these past two years on this CIA leak investigation, releasing the identity of a clandestine CIA officer. Under certain circumstances, that's a felony, that's a crime with serious consequences for everyone involved. David Gergen advised four U.S. presidents. He's joining us on the phone from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Why is this such a big deal right now, David?

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: It's such a big deal because the man closest to the vice president of the United States will be indicted, and the man closest to the president of the United States is still under investigation. The prosecutor clearly does not have enough information on Karl Rove to indict him, but he has enough to keep the investigation, which means Karl Rove continues under a shadow. The White House remains distracted. It will be hard to manage the presidency. So that alone, I think, is a big deal.

But beyond that, Wolf, if Scooter Libby is being indicted as all indications suggest, and there may be other indictments and other surprises today, we're likely to move toward a trial of the war in Iraq and how we got into that war, and that also casts a continuing cloud over the administration.

BLITZER: Explain that, David, a little bit, why a trial of Scooter Libby on whether it's the underlying charge, if that in fact happens, violating the 1982 law that prevents releasing the identity of a CIA officer, whether that is the charge, or some related charge, perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, something along those lines. Why would a trial of that specific nature be, in effect, a trial involving the buildup to the war in Iraq?

GERGEN: Because we know that central to the planning of the public affairs campaign and telling the country what the threats were in Iraq, that it was a group that Scooter Libby was a pivotal player in, and the vice president had a lot of responsibility, and a trial would inevitably bring a lot of witnesses who would have to explain what the administration was doing from one day to the next, and I think that kind of public testimony raising all sorts of suspicions in people's minds, and allowing people in the press to chew over it, and the world to sort of say, you know, this only illustrates, as some in world press are already saying, that the country was misled on the way into Iraq.

The administration is going to be fighting that all long, saying this is all wrong, we didn't mislead anybody, but it's going to just cause a continuing argument controversy in which the vice president of the United States might even be called to testify. So that's -- if you're in the White House, you profoundly do not want that to be occurring, when you're trying to keep a focus the war itself, and trying to win the war and other initiatives that you may be pushing.

If he comes back with the State of the Union, the president, next January, he'll have his domestic agenda he'll want to push, not have a lot of courtroom proceedings that are dramatic on television that totally distracts the country from what he's trying to do in his government. I think it will keep the president in a weakened -- it will make it harder for him to rebuild his presidency. He's in a very weak position right now.

BLITZER: David, hold on for a moment. Abbi Tatton, our Internet reporter, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Abbi, a week or so ago, the -- exactly a week ago the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, and his office opened a new Web site to release documents, to release information about what he was doing, sort of late in the game, but that was widely anticipated as suggesting that he would be issuing an indictment or more.

Show our viewers where that Web site is, because presumably the documents that will be released around noon would be posted on that Web site very soon thereafter or around the same time.

ABBI TATTON, INTERNET REPORTER: That's what we're hoping for, and this is the space that we are watching, the Web site here, from the Department of Justice, focusing, as you said, on special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. We've been watching it. Today there's a news advisory about the press conference at 2:00 p.m.

The section that we're really looking is the section here on legal proceedings. This is where the documents do appear, as you say. The most recent right now was actually far back as July. That was focusing on "Time" magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, but this is the space. We're watching this Web site. We expect to be a very busy place today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If viewers want to go to the Web site, do you want to give them the address once again and where it is?

TATTON: It's actually on the screen right now. It's a long URL, a long Web address, but you can find it through doj.gov, but we're putting it on the screen for you right now.

BLITZER: So if you go to USDOJ.gov, you can go to the specific special counsel Web site of Patrick Fitzgerald as well. Thanks very much.

David Gergen is still going to hold for us.

But Jeff Greenfield, Scooter Libby, let's talk about him for a second. Because his name is associated with the so-called hawks, the advocates, the neoconservatives, the neocons, as they're called, who pushed for the war in Iraq. Is that a fair description?

GREENFIELD: I think so and I think you put your finger on something very important that David was talking about. This effort by, call them neoconservatives, hawks, to make sure from their point of view that the intelligence arm of the government was giving information that they thought was valid, goes all of the way back to the 1970s, when a group of hawks felt the CIA was underestimating Soviet military prowess. And George Bush's father, then in the CIA, brought in the so-called Team B. It goes flash forward now to the Gulf War, when then Secretary of Defense Cheney felt that intelligence agencies like the CIA, like the State Department, were overestimating what casualties would happen with the Gulf War. And in that war, turned out that Cheney was right. The casualties are relatively low.

So in the run-up to the Iraq War, Cheney's office, Rumsfeld's office, saw the CIA as a risk-averse agency that didn't want to push the administration in the direction toward war. And Lewis Libby was a key part, is a key part, of the vice president's effort. He was the chief of staff. He has been a longtime hawk.

And in this war, if I can use that phrase, between Cheney's office and Rumsfeld's office on the one hand, and the CIA and State Department on the other, what intelligence is valid? Is the CIA giving us too soft an estimate? Are we getting information we should be getting?

Libby was one of those people who was arguing again and again, we need sharper intelligence, we don't trust the CIA to tell us what we're doing, and after the war, we think the CIA is trying to cover its own backside in not fessing up to what they were telling us. So this is why Scooter Libby is so central to this investigation and to David Gergen's point that an indictment of Libby, if it happens, may open up the whole question of just how the United States went to war in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, let's bring in our John King. He was our senior White House correspondent for many years, covering that whole period. It's very interesting. There were tensions between the vice president's office and the CIA, the leak that happens.

It's the CIA, then, that refers this leak to the Justice Department and says somebody's got to find out, there's got to be a criminal investigation, because there's been damage done to U.S. national security. A clandestine officer, a woman who had been an American spy, her identity has been released and there are potential disasters for all those other spies who may have worked with her in a covert manner.

KING: There is no question that this investigation and potentially a trial of Scooter Libby or anyone else will be a continuation, if you will, a new stage for the years-long now tension between this White House and the CIA. Every time the president or someone in the administration criticizes the CIA, there is suddenly a leak to a major newspaper or news organization. The CIA bumps back. That has gone on now for three or four years.

I think what Jeff is on is an interesting issue, in the sense that the vice president has consistently denied -- I think most recently in an interview with you -- that he did not bully the CIA to change the intelligence.

But they did do this, and the concede the point. After 9/11, they took the worst-case scenario. If the intelligence says Saddam might have nuclear weapons, you assume he does. If the intelligence says Saddam might be trying to recompose his chemical stockpiles, you assume he does. You assume the dark side. You don't assume, well, maybe he doesn't. In any scenario, you assume the worst, post-9/11. That is the leverage, if you will, that Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney and others used to help make their case for war in Iraq.

And just -- that's a policy debate within the government. There's a political question, too. If David Gergen's still listening, I wonder how different this would be if Dick Cheney or someone who was considering running for president in 2008.

BLITZER: And by all accounts, he's not, including his own. David, what about that?

GERGEN: Well, if he were running for president in 2008, this would be even more of a mess for the administration. But he's not. One of the things -- I think the conversation already illustrates, Wolf, is that even here in the press, the trial of how we went to war is already starting. I mean, we are already engaged in going back now one two, three, four years , how we got into this war.

And we're all going to be talking about this here for the days to come, as this trial sort of -- if we move to trial. That's why, I think, it's going to revive the debate. And I think complicate the administration's efforts to keep the public behind it in a very difficult situation in Iraq. So -- and I think it puts -- it keeps the administration on the defensive and I think makes it extremely difficult to govern.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin has been listening to all of this, our senior legal analyst. And as we see, the president, he wrapped up his speech on the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq, just a few moments ago in Norfolk, Virginia. He's shaking hands with some of the people who came to hear him speak.

Jeff Toobin, I've been told that at the CIA and at other intelligence agencies in Washington, some officials have been reluctant to put anything in writing, as far as the damage done from the identity of Valerie Plame being made public, for fear that that could be subpoenaed as part of any criminal trial and further damage to U.S. intelligence-gathering could result if that information were made public by a federal judge. Is that a realistic fear?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean this even goes back to the Clinton administration, where the atmosphere of perpetual criminal investigation that seems to exist for most presidents has had, it does seem, a chilling effect on what people write down. There are e-mails that are not sent. I was just talking to a former Clinton official the other day who said, you know -- there was one person who said don't put that in an e-mail. Just tell me about things.

This goes on now because if you go back, you know, basically to Nixon, there has been almost always a criminal investigation of some part of the executive branch going virtually all of the time. And you can't -- and physical evidence is what criminal investigations are made of, whether it was the prof notes, which was the Oliver North/John Poindexter, early electronic mail system during the Iran- Contra scandal, or subsequent scandals.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, stand by. Everyone stand by. We're about an hour away from knowing what's going on, as opposed to speculating about what might be happening. The Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald around noon Eastern, a little bit more than an hour or so from now, expected to release documents explaining where the CIA leak investigation stands.

We'll bring that to you as soon as we get it. Much more of our special coverage from THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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