Vice President Dick Cheney's chief adviser, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted on five charges today in the CIA leak investigation and resigned from his White House position. Top White House strategist Karl Rove evaded charges but will remain under investigation.
Libby has been indicted on obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of allegedly making false statements in the investigation into the disclosure of the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. The grand jury investigating the case handed up the indictment this afternoon. If convicted, Libby could face up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million fine.
Libby said he believed he would be found innocent of the charges against him. "I am confident that at the end of this process I will completely and totally exonerated," he said in a statement issued by his lawyer, Joseph Tate.
Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor appointed to lead the investigation, said the probe is not over.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Libby submitted his resignation earlier today and it was accepted by President Bush.
Bush said in an afternoon statement that Libby "worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country."
He said Fitzgerald's investigation is "serious" but stressed that Libby is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.
Bush also said he was "saddened" by the charges, but added that he would focus on the work of the presidency. "I've got a job to do," he said.
Cheney said he regretted Libby's decision to resign and urged others not to prejudge his now-former adviser.
"Mr. Libby has informed me that he is resigning to fight the charges brought against him. I have accepted his decision with deep regret," Cheney said in a statement. "Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known. He has given many years of his life to public service and has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction. In our system of government an accused person is presumed innocent until a contrary finding is made by a jury after an opportunity to answer the charges and a full airing of the facts. Mr. Libby is entitled to that opportunity. Because this is a pending legal proceeding, in fairness to all those involved, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the charges or on any facts relating to the proceeding."
Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband and a former diplomat, said he believes revealing Plame's identity was wrong but that the charges are not a reason to celebrate.
"Today is a sad day for America," Wilson said in a statement read by his attorney, Christopher Wolf.
Libby has told the grand jury that he only learned about Plame's secret identity from other reporters and that he was only trading information that he didn't even know was true. But Fitzgerald told reporters this afternoon that evidence shows that he was talking about Plame long before her identity was leaked and that he repeatedly lied about it to the grand jury.
"Mr. Libby repeatedly said that he was at the end of a long chain of information, and he did indeed tell a compelling story," Fitzgerald said. "It was a compelling story, if only it was true. ... Evidence shows that Mr. Libby was in fact at the beginning of the chain and lied about it under oath and repeatedly lied about it."