LIBBY
Joe Marquette  /  AP
** FILE ** Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in this March 1, 2001 file photo. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File)
msnbc.com
updated 10/28/2005 7:58:14 PM ET 2005-10-28T23:58:14

This was a 22-month investigation that began with White House denials and then rolling disclosures.  Today, the prosecutor and his grand jury charged the vice president's chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby with perjury, making false statements, and obstruction of justice.

It was the announcement from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that White House officials had feared.

The indictment charges that Libby lied repeatedly to federal investigators and the grand jury about his conversations with reporters.  It also says that Libby lied about how he actually learned that the wife of an administration critic worked at the CIA.

Fitzgerald told reporters, "If it is proven that that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, that is a very serious matter."

The indictment says that Libby began collecting information on Joe Wilson in the spring of 2003, when news articles surfaced criticizing claims Iraq had sought uranium from Africa and referring to a CIA sponsored trip there the year before.

In addition to hearing it from government officials, it's also alleged in the indictment that at least three times Mr. Libby discussed this information with other government officials.

The indictment says in July 2003, Libby spoke about Wilson with press secretary Ari Fleischer and an official not named but believed to be Karl Rove.  Then, on board Air Force Two, the indictment says Libby spoke with other officials in the vice president's office about how to deal with media inquiries about the intelligence related to the Africa uranium claim.

While the indictment doesn't charge Libby with actually disseminating classified information to smear a critic, prosecutors said Libby's lies to investigators impeded efforts to determine if there was any orchestrated white house scheme or plan.

"The harm from the obstruction crime is that it shields us from knowing the full truth," said Fitzgerald, who plans on continuing the investigation into the CIA leak.  "I will not end the investigation until I can look anyone in the eye and tell them we have carried our responsibility sufficiently."

Fitzgerald said his investigation will remain active with a new grand jury available in case more evidence is collected about Karl Rove or in case Libby wants to cut a deal and offers testimony about others.

But the prosecutor also sounded pessimistic that any new information would come from Libby who resigned from the administration moments after the charges against him were announced.

Libby will appear in this federal courthouse in the coming weeks for an indictment. 

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

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