Today's Papers

Indictment Day

The papers lead with the much-anticipated indictment and subsequent resignation of Scooter Libby, and the non-indictment of Karl Rove. Libby was not indicted for leaking secret information but was charged with five counts including perjury, false statements, and lying to the grand jury. The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post recount Patrick Fitzgerald’s argument that the five crimes represent compromises of national security and are themselves “a very serious matter.” If convicted of all five, Libby could face 30 years in jail and $1.25 million in fines. But the New York Times also portrays the indictment as the revelation of “a hub of concerted effort” in Dick Cheney’s office to gather information about Joseph Wilson and calls the charges against Libby evidence of a “cover-up.”

As for Karl Rove, it’s unclear what exactly saved him from indictment on Friday. According to the LAT, he was still being investigated as late as Tuesday. But the WP reports that Rove avoided trouble “after providing new information during eleventh-hour negotiations.” The WSJ claims that columnist Bob Novak’s “Official A” source was Rove. But whether “Official A,” who Novak said was “no partisan gunslinger,” was the source of the leak won’t be investigated further by Fitzgerald, reports the NYT. All the papers report that Fitzgerald may still seek to indict Rove, although the LAT quotes Fitzgerald saying “the bulk of the work in this investigation is concluded.”

The papers offer even less clarity about what’s next for the White House. The LAT’s lead gets to quote machine and Republican lodestar Grover Norquist first, who was thrilled that Rove wasn’t indicted so that Republicans could get back to business as usual. Along those lines, White House staffers tell the NYT that Rove is back to his central role, although the story offers nothing to suggest this isn’t just best-face-forward spin.

But the WP digs a bit deeper, quoting a senior administration official saying the White House is “still in purgatory for a while,” taking a wait-and-see attitude about what to change because they believe immediate changes would be seen as a “sign of panic and surrender.” And the WSJsmartly suggests that while Bush may shuffle his staff, any policy changes will depend on how Republicans in Congress react. So far, things look ugly. The WP’s Dan Balz and Juliet Eilperin talk to GOP congressmen—notably Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who offers no sympathy and says “they brought this on themselves.”

Buried in the WP’s off-lead profile of Libby is the notable suggestion that Cheney’s role in the White House will be diminished without his very effective and well-connected chief of staff. Also, one tidbit definitely requires follow-up: The NYT reports Fitzgerald was seen outside the Washington offices of Bush’s personal lawyer, but the paper doesn’t know if they met.

The indictment stories stuffed inside the papers also deserve mention. The NYT looks at what the trial will be like, saying that it will be an unprecedented pitting of journalists against their sources. The LAT talks to legal experts who say that Libby will have a tough time beating Fitzgerald’s accusations that his testimony contradicted statements by Tim Russert, Matt Cooper, and Judith Miller. The WP’s Howard Kurtz is sympathetic to Fitzgerald’s argument that the media’s source loyalty was abused by Libby, and offers up Fitzgerald’s mea culpa that he’s not out to destroy the press’ privileges.

Finally, the WP has the brilliant idea of asking whether or not Valerie Plame’s outing actually put anyone in danger—as it turns out, probably not.

In other news, don’t miss the NYT ‘s Supreme Court update: Two Republican insiders say U.S. appeals court judge Samuel J. Alito is currently the favored candidate. Judges Priscilla Owen and J. Michael Luttig are also near the top of the list. Bush aides tell the WP a nomination could come in “days.”

Off-lead, the LAT reports that U.S. generals are intensifying efforts to turn over Iraq military installations to Iraqi forces. Officials say the next major operations hub to be turned over to the Iraqis will be Saddam Hussein’s Tikrit palace. The WP reports that five GIs were killed by roadside bombs.

The U.S. economy grew surprisingly briskly at 3.8 percent last quarter, although it would have been stronger if not for the hurricanes, the WP reports. The LAT reports that labor costs grew the slowest since 1999, a sign that inflation won’t be a big problem.

The WP fronts news that Rosa Parks, who died on Monday at age 92, will be honored with a visitation at the Capitol Rotunda, becoming only the 30th person, the first woman, and second African-American to lie in state at the Capitol.

Oh, Kay. Will Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson stick to her guns? Hutchinson has been assailed lately for dismissing potential perjury charges against Libby, while back in 1999 she thought such crimes were a big deal when it was President Clinton being charged. In today’s WSJ, she says: “Everyone needs to take a deep breath and not judge those involved. Today’s announcement is the middle of the process, not the end.”