Washington, Oct. 18: The White House was in a state of near siege yesterday as it emerged that Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s key adviser, will almost certainly step down if he is indicted in the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent’s identity.
With all Washington holding its breath for the results of the investigation, a source close to Rove told Time magazine that cutting his ties to the White House would allow him to fight “any charges”. This is the first time the administration has acknowledged the political peril it faces from the investigation.
The federal prosecutor heading the investigation is to release his findings any day, after two years of inquiries into several of the Bush administration’s most senior aides. The key figures are Rove and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief-of-staff.
An alternative scenario is that the two aides would go on unpaid leave if indicted. But this is seen as less likely as the White House would face an outcry if Bush did not formally sever his ties with his key strategist. Rove’s official title, White House deputy chief of staff, hides a broad and influential role overseeing key decisions. To lose him would be a terrible blow for Bush as the White House struggles to counter a six-week run of disastrous news.