Video: Legal jeopardy

msnbc.com
updated 10/25/2005 10:11:13 AM ET 2005-10-25T14:11:13

The president’s top advisor, Karl Rove, and the vice president’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, have now been advised they are in legal jeopardy according to a report in The New York Times.  This comes as at a crucial phase in this case at a time when there is every indication that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is ready to go back to his grand jury to seek criminal charges. 

It’s the development the Bush administration has long feared, after two years, lawyers say Patrick Fitzgerald is prepared to conclude his investigation and has indicated White House officials may soon be indicted.  Legal sources say the prosecutors has been communicating with lawyers representing Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and others. 

What have the attorneys been talking about?  Rove lawyer told the Reuters news agency, "I’m just not going to comment on any possible interactions with Fitzgerald." 

From the beginning, Fitzgerald has been trying to determine if anybody in the White House broke the law when officials told reporters, including the New York Times' Judy Miller and Time magazine’s Matt Cooper that the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson worked at the CIA. 

Fitzgerald has also been examining, however, efforts to possibly thwart the grand jury investigation.  On his Web site unveiled last week, Fitzgerald’s office now prominently features a February, 2004, Justice Department letter giving the prosecutor the authority to pursue, "federal crimes committed in the course of and with the intent to interfere with your investigation such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence and intimidation of witnesses." 

“Sometimes people cover up because it’s a natural political instinct, otherwise because they have got reason to,” said Sol Wisenberg, former. dep. independent counsel. “I can’t think of any good reason for outing an undercover agent of your own country.” 

In a preview of how Republicans might counter indictments, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said on "Meet the Press" that charges relating to the investigation, not the original subject, should be pushed aside. 

"I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment, but says something happened, but if there is an indictment that says that something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime, and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime, and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars," said Sen. Hutchinson. 

But during the impeachment trial of President Clinton, it was Senator Hutchison who said, "The reason that I voted to remove him from office is because I think the overriding issue here is that truth will remain the standard for perjury and obstruction of justice in our criminal justice system, and it must not be gray.  It must not be muddy." 

Nevermind other Republican comments six years ago about the significance of perjury and obstruction of justice.  Some members of the GOP say the president himself has made it tough for any criticism of Fitzgerald because of these remarks two weeks ago. 

President Bush said, “The special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation.  He is doing it in a very dignified way, by the way.  And we’ll see what he says.”

Tonight the office of Patrick Fitzgerald isn’t saying very much except no comment.  The grand jury in this case is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Friday of this week before they expire.  

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

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