BUSH ROVE
Ron Edmonds  /  AP file
President Bush, left, and his Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove are pictured leaving the White House in this July 14, 2005 file photo in Washington. Presidential confidant Rove will testify for a fourth time before the federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA officer's identity even though prosecutors have warned they can no longer guarantee he will escape indictment, lawyers said Thursday, Oct. 6, 2005. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)
msnbc.com
updated 10/14/2005 9:24:55 AM ET 2005-10-14T13:24:55

Though he may not be showing the stress outside his home each morning, the pressure on Karl Rove couldn't be much greater.  At the end of an investigation, according to lawyers, nobody volunteers to testify unless their fate is on the line.  Now, even high profile friends of Rove are stating the obvious.

On a “Today” show appearance Wednesday, Alberto Gonzales said, "This prosecutor may have new information that may contradict prior testimony or may have questions about prior testimony."

In fact, lawyers for Rove acknowledge that in earlier grand jury appearances the president's top advisor told the panel.  He didn't recall talking to Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about administration critic Wilson had publicly undercut White House claims about Iraq.

Cooper told the grand jury Rove did talk about Wilson.  He also said that after Rove told him Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, Rove added, "I've already said too much."

"I thought maybe he meant, I've been indiscreet, but then as I thought about it, I thought it might be just more benign like, I've said too much, I've got to get to a meeting,” Matt Cooper told “Meet the Press” on July 17.  “I don't know exactly what he meant, but I do know the memory of that line has stayed in my head for two years."

After Cooper testified, Rove volunteered to go back to the grand jury again — a request prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald accepted only recently.

Justice Department guidelines require prosecutors to issue a warning before a witness being considered for an indictment testifies again.

Lawyers for Rove now acknowledge he has been warned by prosecutors there is no guarantee he will not be charged.

Because of the dangers facing Rove and Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby, whose testimony lawyers say contradicts the testimony this week of New York Times reporter Judy Miller, concerns in the White House have been growing.

Two years ago, at the beginning of the investigation Bush said, "I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information.  If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate steps."

When the White House was asked if Karl Rove was involved, McClellan said, "I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place…. "I've said that it's not true and I've spoken with Karl Rove."

Now, both Bush and McClellan refuse to comment on the case.

Karl Rove has been President Bush's political mentor for more than 25 years.  He orchestrated Bush's campaigns for Texas governor and president.  In the White House, Rove has served as top advisor on political strategy and policy.

But conservatives point to problems with the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination and stumbles over Hurricane Katrina as evidence that Rove is pre-occupied.

In the end though, it's not Karl Rove's state of mind or even his freedom that's at issue, it's about whether this president can operate without Rove and a healthy vice president's office.  For that reason alone, many republicans shudder at the prospect's for the administration's second term  without some of the key people who helped President Bush get here to begin with.

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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