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Karl Rove under fire once again

Looking at what testifying for the fourth time may mean for Bush's top aide

Karl Rove, White House deputy chief of staff, and perhaps President Bush‘s most important advisor, will testify for a fourth time to a federal grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame CIA leak case.

For the first time special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has declined to guarantee Rove that he won‘t be indicted should the case go to trial. 

Solomon Wisenberg, a former U.S. attorney, joined MSNBC's Dan Abrams on Thursday's 'Abrams Report' to discuss what Rove faces.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “ABRAMS REPORT”:  Valerie Plame, is the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the administration in the run up to the Iraq war in an editorial that triggered a leak published in a Robert Novak column identifying Plame as a CIA operative. 

Because her work for the agency was covert, that leak could be a crime.  Now, as far as Valerie Plame is concerned, Karl Rove has said “I didn‘t know her name and I didn‘t leak her name.”  For his next round of testimony Rove‘s lawyer, Robert Luskin, says "Karl‘s consistent position is that he will cooperate anytime, any place.” 

So based on what you know, if you‘re Karl Rove‘s lawyer, are you nervous? 

SOLOMON WISENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, absolutely.  It‘s never good to go to the grand jury even one time and multiply that times four and it‘s not good again.

ABRAMS:  What does that mean?  The lawyer is saying look, I haven‘t seen a target letter and a target letter would mean this is a letter that tells you, you are the target of this grand jury investigation.  He‘s saying I haven‘t seen any letter like that. 

WISENBERG:  Well, that‘s true.  It‘s not an absolute requirement that a target letter be sent, though, it usually would in an investigation like this.  But my understanding from the newspaper report is that they were sent a letter that had standard warnings about your testimony being used against you, and by the way, there have been suggestions that he was given some kind of guarantee the first three times he came.  I find that very difficult to believe.  Any time you go before the grand jury, unless you are given immunity, your testimony can be used against you whether you‘re warned or not. 

ABRAMS:  What does it mean that we‘re hearing a federal prosecutor say they accepted an offer from Rove to give testimony.  What does that mean? 

WISENBERG:  Well, apparently he offered approximately in late July that if they needed his testimony he would come back again and that a couple of months later now, three, four months later, the prosecutor has accepted it.  I don‘t know exactly who is spinning the information that way, but the key thing is that he was asked to come in, and he has agreed to do it.  And really, with somebody in his situation, you cross the Rubicon the first time you come in, certainly the second time you come in.  There‘s no reason if you‘ve been in three times not to come in a fourth. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the law that most people have been talking about it.  Whoever identifies a covert agent knowing that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent‘s intelligence, relationships with the U.S., shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than 10 years or both. 

The big issue here is going to be what did they know?  Did they know that she was undercover?  Did they know the relationships, et cetera, right?  It‘s all about knowledge. 

WISENBERG:  It is all about knowledge, and there are several different kinds of knowledge that are required.  It‘s a very high standard under that statute.  Almost nobody has ever been prosecuted under it.  There‘s virtually no case law on it.  But remember, the special prosecutor can prosecute anybody who obstructs his investigation or who perjures himself.

ABRAMS:  Do you think it‘s more likely that someone, maybe even Rove, could be charged for something like perjury or even violating the civil rights?  Could they make some creative argument that maybe Valerie Plame or Joseph Wilson‘s civil rights were somehow violated by the disclosure? 

WISENBERG:  That would be extremely difficult.  But the earlier thing you mentioned, I can‘t speak to the facts of this case, but it‘s always going to be easier to indict somebody in this kind of a situation for obstruction or perjury or almost always will be, than for the actual crime itself. 

In the case with this statute where there are so many high barriers. 

ABRAMS:  Bottom line, do you think that Karl Rove is going to get charged? 

WISENBERG:  It would be irresponsible for me to say, but I would be very worried being asked to come in a fourth time if I were his attorney. 

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.