IMAGE: Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political strategist
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP file
Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political strategist, had already spoken to investigators once before.
updated 10/15/2004 7:06:44 PM ET 2004-10-15T23:06:44

President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, testified Friday before the federal grand jury trying to determine who leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer.

Rove spent more than two hours testifying before the panel, according to an administration official who spoke only on condition of anonymity because such proceedings are secret.

Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said prosecutors had reassured Rove that he was not a target of the criminal investigation.

“He appeared voluntarily today. He answered every question that was put to him,” said Luskin, who added that he would provide no further details because prosecutors “have advised us that public disclosure would interfere with the investigation.”

Rove has been interviewed at least once previously by investigators in the leak case, as have Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior administration officials.

Trent Duffy, a spokesman for the White House, referred questions to the Justice Department. The special prosecutor in the case, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago, declined to comment through a spokesman.

Campaigns trade slams
Rove’s testimony in the yearlong investigation comes as the hotly contested presidential race between Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry enters its final weeks. Democrats wasted no time in turning Rove’s appearance into criticism of the president.

Joe Lockhart, a senior adviser to Kerry, issued a statement calling on Rove and other aides to “come clean about their role in this insidious act.”

“If the president sincerely wanted to get to the bottom of this potential crime, he’d stop the White House foot-dragging and fully cooperate with this investigation,” Lockhart said.

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, charged that Kerry’s campaign “is spreading rumors and working to politicize a legal investigation.”

The investigation concerns whether a crime was committed when someone leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose name was published by syndicated columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003.

Novak’s column appeared after Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, wrote a newspaper opinion article criticizing Bush’s claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger, a claim the CIA had asked Wilson to check out. Wilson has said he believes his wife’s name was leaked as retribution.

Wilson has accused Rove of spreading word of the Novak column to reporters. In a widely quoted remark, he said after a speech in 2003 that it might be “fun to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.”

Reporters under scrutiny
U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan has ordered two reporters held in contempt for refusing to reveal confidential sources before the grand jury. Matthew Cooper of Time magazine was ordered jailed for up to 18 months this week, but Hogan suspended the jail time and a $1,000-a-day fine against Time pending an appeal.

Hogan issued a nearly identical order against Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, who is also refusing to name her sources. Miller and Cooper, who are represented by the same lawyer, are expected to join in appealing their cases on First Amendment grounds.

Disclosure of the identity of an undercover intelligence officer can be a federal crime, if prosecutors can show that the leak was intentional and that the leaker knew about the officer’s secret status.

Novak, who cited two senior administration officials as his sources, has refused to say whether he has testified or been subpoenaed.

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