Prosecutors investigating CIA leak case are focusing on whether top White House aides tried to conceal their involvement from investigators, lawyers involved the case said on Thursday.
Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser, and Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, are at the center of federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Plame's identity was leaked to the media after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, challenged the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq.
The lawyers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Fitzgerald appears likely to bring charges next week in the nearly two-year leak investigation. The grand jury expires on October 28.
Fitzgerald's spokesman declined to comment, reports Reuters.
The case has cast a cloud over the White House, as has the Congressional criticism over the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers. On Thursday, responding to a reporter's question, Mr. Bush said: "There's some background noise here, a lot of chatter, a lot of speculation and opining. But the American people expect me to do my job, and I'm going to."
The possible violations under consideration by Mr. Fitzgerald are peripheral to the issue he was appointed in December 2003 to investigate: whether anyone in the administration broke a federal law that makes it a crime, under certain circumstances, to reveal the identity of a covert intelligence officer.
But Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby may not be the only people at risk. There may be others in the government who could be charged for violations of the disclosure law or of other statutes, like the espionage act, which makes it a crime to transmit classified information to people not authorized to receive it.
It is still not publicly known who first told the columnist Robert D. Novak the identity of the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson. Mr. Novak identified her in a column on July 14, 2003, using her maiden name, Valerie Plame. Mr. Fitzgerald knows the identity of this source, a person who is not believed to work at the White House, the lawyers said, informs the New York Times.