Fitz Watch

Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei write in today’s Washington Post that the big announcement will be made on Friday.

The prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation presented a summary of his case to a federal grand jury yesterday and is expected to announce a final decision on charges in the two-year-long probe tomorrow, according to people familiar with the case.

The reporters say it is unlikely he will fake us out and extend the grand jury’s term, which expires tomorrow:

Should he need more time to finish the investigation, Fitzgerald could seek to empanel a new group of grand jurors to consider the case. But sources familiar with the prosecutor’s work said he has indicated he is eager to avoid that route. The term of the current grand jury has been extended once and cannot be lengthened again, according to federal rules.

Whenever I feel impatient, I remind myself that the wait must be torture for Karl Rove. Happy thoughts!

Even as Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald wrapped up his case, the legal team of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has been engaged in a furious effort to convince the prosecutor that Rove did not commit perjury during the course of the investigation, according to people close to the aide. The sources, who indicated that the effort intensified in recent weeks, said Rove still did not know last night whether he would be indicted.

And here’s another happy thought:

A new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll reminded the White House of the damage the CIA leak case has already inflicted: Eight in ten people surveyed said that aides had either broken the law or acted unethically.

Over at the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus, Warren Vieth and Mary Curtius discuss how the White House might react to indictments.

The basic plan is familiar to anyone who has watched earlier presidents contend with scandal: Keep the problem at arm’s length, let allies outside the White House do the talking, and try to change the subject to something — anything — else.

The White House doesn’t plan to attack Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation — at least not directly, several GOP officials said. Instead, expect Bush to unveil a flurry of proposals on subjects from immigration and tax reform to Arab-Israeli peace talks.

Oh, yes, that’ll work. When the press hears the President is going to make a tax reform proposal, they’ll scamper away from the courthouse and come runnin’ to the White House.

Or maybe not.

Republicans outside the White House are pleading with Bush to act quickly and decisively if aides are indicted. “What is of most concern is that the president handle it properly — that he ask [officials who are indicted] to step down; that he not vacillate, not equivocate; that he be decisive,” said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), a leading Republican moderate.

“Changing the subject will not work,” said David Gergen, a former aide to Presidents Reagan and Clinton. “Giving more speeches about Iraq or the state of the economy doesn’t have the weight that action does…. It’s dangerous for the country to have a disabled president for three years, and we’re getting close to seeing that happen. I worry that they [Bush and his aides] are in denial.”

And GOP pollster David Winston warned that discontent among Republicans in Congress was rising. “This is not the environment that Republicans want to run in next year,” Winston said.

The Bushies actually seem to think the story will go away.

White House officials and allies are hoping that intensive news coverage of the Fitzgerald investigation will be short-lived. On Nov. 7, they predicted, attention would shift to the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers.

“Let’s say something happens in the next 48 hours,” said one official. “It will dominate the news cycle until the 7th of November. Then a new cycle begins: Harriet will be the news.”

Once the controversy begins to subside, they argued, Bush will have an opening to change the subject and call public attention to Iraq and the domestic economy, where the administration says there is good news.

“Because all this other snap, crackle and pop is occurring, it’s harder to tell the story of the progress being made on the foreign policy front and the economic front,” another strategist said. “When some of these other stories expire, it will be easier to get back on those issues.”

Others disagree.

[David] Gergen said problems went deeper than the CIA case. “This story’s going to have legs if somebody gets indicted,” he said. “I think the president has to lance the boil directly…. It starts with facing reality, accepting your share of responsibility without blinking.”

Kenneth M. Duberstein, who served as chief of staff to Reagan after his White House was shaken by a scandal over secret weapons sales to Iran, said his old boss “cleaned house and appointed…. a very strong management team. There are lessons to follow there.”

Yes, but this is George W. Bush we’re talking about. He’s not capable of facing reality without blinking, accepting responsibility, or starting over with a new team any more than pigs can fly.

Also: Congratulations to Chicago and the White Sox. The fellow pictured on the baseball card above, John Collins, played first base for the Sox ca. 1912.

4 thoughts on “Fitz Watch

  1. “Let’s say something happens in the next 48 hours,” said one official. …

    Time to wag that dog.

  2. BINGO! The ‘distraction’ arrives in the form of the Mier’s letter pulling out of the Supreme Court nomination. Does anybody really believe this isn’t the work of Rove and Co.? The crap may be rising around them but nothing will deter them from their agenda. So, now what? You can just hear the right wingers smacking their lips… now we’ll get a real knuckle dragger, right wing idiot nominated to the court. Get ready folks! It’s time for the Democrats in the Senate to say – very clearly – ENOUGH! No right wingers, period and the Democratic Senators need to be ready to stick together, show some spine, and if necessary bring the Senate to a complete halt with a filibuster. The time for games and ‘nuance’ is over. It’s time to take a stand and stick to it!

  3. “You can just hear the right wingers smacking their lips… now we’ll get a real knuckle dragger, right wing idiot nominated to the court. Get ready folks!”

    I agree.

Comments are closed.