The Note: End Game

Johnston and Stevenson of the New York Times attempt to read the tea leaves remaining behind after Fitzgerald's three hours with the grand jury and 45-minute meeting with Judge Hogan. LINK

"The grand jury deliberations and the special prosecutor's meeting with the judge ratcheted up fears among officials that Mr. Fitzgerald might have obtained an indictment from the grand jury, and was requesting that it be sealed. He could also seek an extension of the grand jury's term, which expires on Friday."

And they manage to squeeze in an attribution from the Judge's assistant, who has the mystery-novel-worthy name of Sheldon Snook.

Richard Schmitt of the Los Angeles Times reports "some lawyers close to the case" are speculating that Fitzgerald may have already secured one indictment that is being kept under seal. But Schmitt discounts the possibility of a grand jury extension, since federal rules would prevent such a scenario. LINK

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz Notes that poetry that in an investigation into who anonymously ousted a CIA operative, "virtually every bit of information, confirmed and alleged, comes from unnamed sources." LINK

The New York Times explores the roles played by Susan Ralston, the woman at the center of not one, but two investigations underway in Washington. Anne Kornblut writes that the personal aide to Karl Rove has been interviewed at least twice by the grand jury in the leak investigation, in addition to the interviews she's given to lawyers looking into the activities of Jack Abramoff, her former boss. LINK

Deb Orin of the New York Post says that while some Republicans are preparing for battle over the indictments, they are "in a distinct minority" -- most in the GOP believe the best move is to just "talk about something else." LINK

Dick Morris writes in the New York Post that if the New York Times is correct that Cheney told Libby about Valerie Plame, then the Vice President is responsible for any lies Libby may have told the grand jury and "owes us all an explanation." LINK

If the players and their connections in the leak investigation have you confused, the New York Daily News has a helpful FAQ. LINK

The New York Daily News says severance talks between Judy Miller and the New York Times reached a standstill yesterday, with the two sides far apart. LINK

For the Wall Street Journal's Marketplace section, June Kronholz and Jackie Calmes report that a city that had been holdings its breath yesterday anticipating indictments "found itself deflated."

"'Today was supposed to be Christmas, and now Christmas is delayed,' complained Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for the Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities, a union-financed lobby."

In a must-read op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Georgetown Law Professors Viet Dinh and Neal Katyal dissect why Ashcroft's decision to grant Fitzgerald all the power of the Attorney General have created the "spectacle" that Fitzgerald, a "respected prosecutor of unquestioned integrity," may face claims of "an unwarranted prosecution."

Bush agenda:

David Brooks thinks the President is suffering from a case of second-term-itis, and he's got the prescription to cure it. "Breaking out doesn't mean bringing in James Baker. It means bringing in like-minded but objective people who haven't been molded by five years in power...As Lincoln showed, humility is the only antidote to the corruptions of the insane lifestyle of the presidency."

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