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Plamegate explained

Break down of CIA leak story for non-political junkies

Indictments could come as soon as tomorrow in the investigation into just who outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, seems about ready to wrap up.  But according to The New York Times, lawyers close to the investigation say special prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald has information that could have the vice president, Dick Cheney, a little closer to the leak. 

According to The Times, lawyers say Cheney‘s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a likely Fitzgerald target, first heard about Plame during a conversation with the vice president.  That seems to contradict his testimony that he learned about Plame from journalists.  It also leads to questions about Cheney and the White House.

Meanwhile, federal agents for special prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald are still at work this week apparently to determine if Plame‘s work for the CIA was really secret. 

Complex story broken down
The leak itself might result in indictments, but so many of the reported cover-ups or alleged cover-ups could have occurred afterwards. 

Early news reports focused on top White House advisor Karl Rove.  The White House denies it that he was the source of the leak.  According to reports and accounts from the grand jury, Rove admits he did talk to conservative columnist Robert Novak about Wilson‘s wife.  Novak reportedly says Rove confirmed Wilson‘s wife worked for the CIA, but Novak told the grand jury he learned her name from another source.

But even if Rove wasn‘t actually the leak, Rove could still be in trouble for what happened after that.  Rove allegedly failed to tell the FBI and the grand jury about another conversation, one with Time reporter Matt Cooper in which Cooper, or according to Cooper, Rove said Wilson‘s wife worked for “the agency”. 

Newsweek reports Rove says he didn't remember the conversation with Cooper until he located an e-mail he had written recounting their phone call.  Then last week, another twist came.  The Associated Press reports that in one of his later grand jury appearances, Rove said that he may have actually first learned about Wilson‘s wife from vice presidential advisor Lewis “Scooter” Libby.  This testimony could have put Libby at the center of the investigation. 

Libby reportedly testified that members of the media told him that Ambassador Wilson‘s wife worked for the CIA.  But a different story could be emerging from the grand jury about what Libby knew and when he knew it.  Various reporters including Judith Miller of The New York Times told the grand jury it was actually Libby who called them to discuss Wilson‘s wife and who worked for the CIA.

The big picture
Other reports say Rove testified Libby may have first told him about Wilson‘s wife.  So it leads to the question, how might Libby have learned about Wilson‘s wife and the CIA.  According to a New York Times story yesterday, maybe from the vice president himself.  More than a month before her identity was revealed in a July 2003 Bob Novak column, it leaves open the possibility that the vice president was Libby‘s source and that Libby was Rove‘s source. 

There is no word yet on whether charges will be filed.

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