Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was indicted Friday in the CIA-leak investigation.
He resigned from his post immediately after the charges were announced. Cheney said in a statement that he had accepted the resignation with “deep regret.”
Libby, 55, was charged with two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. (Read the indictment.)
The charges, announced at 12:45 p.m. ET, allege that Libby lied to FBI agents who interviewed him in 2003, that he committed perjury while testifying under oath in front of the grand jury in March 2004 and engaged in obstruction of justice by impeding the grand jury’s investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame’s affiliation with the CIA.
“When citizens testify before grand juries they are required to tell the truth,” special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said Friday in a statement. “The indictment returned today alleges that the effort of the grand jury to investigate a leak were obstructed when Mr. Libby lied about how and when he learned and subsequently disclosed classified information about (CIA officer) Valerie Wilson.”
Fitzgerald held a press conference at 2:15 p.m. during which he accused Libby of lying about his conversations with reporters.
“Mr. Libby’s story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true,” Fitzgerald said. “He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And he lied about it afterward, under oath, repeatedly.”
In response to the indictments, President Bush said on Friday: “While we’re all saddened by today’s news, we remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country. I got a job to do and so do the people that work in the White House. We’ve got a job to protect the American people and that’s what we’ll continue working hard to do.”
Bush’s deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, who also testified before the grand jury, was not charged Friday. Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin issued a statement saying that the special prosecutor “has advised Mr. Rove that he has made no decision about whether or not to bring charges Mr. Rove will continue to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel’s efforts to complete the investigation. We are confident that when the Special Counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong.”
The investigation focused on who leaked the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame to the press, in an effort to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was a Bush administration critic. Wilson had claimed in articles that appeared in The Washington Post and The New York Times that flawed intelligence was used to justify the war in Iraq.
His wife’s name first appeared in a syndicated newspaper column by Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. Wilson accused administration officials of leaking his wife’s identity as a CIA operative to retaliate against him for going public with his criticism.
Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was named in September 2003 as a special prosecutor to investigate the case.
Both Libby and Rove have denied leaking Plame’s name.
As has been widely noted, this has been a grim week for the Bush administration. The Iraq war claimed its 2,000th American fatality over the weekend. On Thursday, President Bush “reluctantly” accepted the withdrawal of Harriet Miers’s nomination to the Supreme Court, amid growing controversy over her qualifications and ideological stances.