WASHINGTON – The prospect of indictments against White House officials in the leak of a CIA officer's identity created anxiety in the West Wing on Wednesday as Bush administration officials worked to conduct business as usual.
The White House is waiting to find out the results of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's two-year criminal investigation that has entangled officials close to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (search).
Lawyers representing key White House officials expected Fitzgerald to decide as early as Wednesday whether to chargeI. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (search), Cheney's chief of staff, or Karl Rove (search), the president's top political adviser and deputy White House chief of staff.
In a White House known for its discipline, the prolonged watching and waiting for the grand jury's action has created a palpable tension.
Bush himself has said the investigation has created "background noise" that officials are trying to tune out to focus their attention on Iraq, terrorism, hurricane relief, the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers (search) and economic worries.
Both Rove and Libby joined other officials at the daily White House senior staff meeting, as usual.
"Everybody's focused on the priorities of the American people," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "We're focused on the work at hand. We're certainly are following developments in the news but everybody's got a lot of work to do.
"The president has a number of meetings he's been participating in this morning focused our highest priorities."
The president and Cheney met in the Oval Office on Wednesday with Zalmay Khalilzad (search). Later, the president was meeting with lawmakers to talk about congressional spending decisions. He was also scheduled to sign a bill addressing gun manufacturers' liability, give a speech to the Economic Club of Washington and meet with the prime minister of Macedonia.
The grand jury that Fitzgerald has used in the investigation is set to expire Friday. Fitzgerald could charge one or more presidential aides with violating a law prohibiting the intentional unmasking of an undercover CIA officer. In recent weeks the prosecutor has also examined other charges such as mishandling classified information, false statements and obstruction of justice.