WASHINGTON – President Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove won’t be charged with any wrongdoing in connection to the investigation of the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity, Rove's lawyer said Tuesday.
Rove learned of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's decision on Monday after he stepped off a plane in New Hampshire where he was delivering a speech to state Republican officials.
“We believe that the special counsel's decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct,” Rove attorney Robert Luskin said in a statement. "In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation."
Fitzgerald’s decision ends speculation into the investigation that started in 2004 that Bush could lose his longtime political aide if criminal charges came down against him.
"We're pleased that special counsel has concluded his deliberations. Karl is as he has been throughout the process fully focused at task at hand, crafting and building support for the president's agenda," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino. "Karl is a valued colleague and friend and everyone is pleased that the process has concluded."
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Rove, said the White House official "is elated" and said that "we're done."
Rove has testified five times in the case; his last appearance before a federal grand jury was in April when Fitzgerald told him he was not a target of the investigation.
Fitzgerald is probing the leaking of the name and identity of former CIA officer Valerie Plame. Plame’s name was first reported in a column by Robert Novak in July 2003. Some say Plame was targeted because her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.
Rove was investigated for lying or obstructing justice in not initially disclosing the conversation he had with Novak and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper before they published Plame’s name. Rove did not tell prosecutors about talking to Cooper until it was revealed after his lawyer found an e-mail that referred to it.
Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, resigned from his White House position after a grand jury indicted him on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of false statements to FBI agents and two counts of perjury. Libby pleaded not guilty in November.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats were quick to call for an investigation into the CIA leak and the connection to Rove, arguing that the controversy was just another reason for the president to clean house.
"Good news for the White House, not so good news for America," Howard Dean, the Democratic Party chairman, said Tuesday in a cable television interview.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters on Capitol Hill that he wants Fitzgerald to continue pursuing the leaker in the investigation.
"I have every confidence in this decision because it was made by an independent and fair minded prosecutor," Schumer said.
For his part, Bush has refused to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
“The fact is this, I thought it was wrong when you had people like Howard Dean and (Sen.) Harry Reid presuming that he was guilty,” Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman told FOX News.
“This is an enormous burden lifted off his shoulders. He always believed that he was totally innocent and that nothing would happen,” former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said of Rove.
Gingrich added that Rove’s situation shows that something is wrong with the current legal system.
“There’s something wrong when your entire life can be under this kind of threat for two full years, you spend lots and lots of money on lawyers, lots of time going to the grand jury and there’s nothing there,” Gingrich said.
FOX News' Carl Cameron and Melissa Drosjack contributed to this report.