Prosecutors investigating whether someone in the Bush administration improperly disclosed the identity of a C.I.A. officer have expanded their inquiry to examine whether White House officials lied to investigators or mishandled classified information related to the case, lawyers involved in the case and government officials say.
The expansion of the inquiry’s scope comes at a time when prosecutors, after a hiatus of about a month, appear to be preparing to seek additional testimony before a federal grand jury, lawyers with clients in the case said. It is not clear whether the renewed grand jury activity represents a concluding session or a prelude to an indictment.
The broadened scope is a potentially significant development that represents exactly what allies of the Bush White House feared when Attorney General John Ashcroft removed himself from the case last December and turned it over to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago.
Nick Gillespie comments,
Translation from the original Nixon: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up that gets people in trouble. It’s a phrase that’s gotta make the Bush folks get a little weak in the knees. In nothing else, it allows this thing to drag on longer.
I’m not so sure about the first part, but this does seem sure to lengthen the investigation and perhaps have this debate take place at the worst possible time for President Bush in terms of his re-election bid. When this thing first broke–over six months ago–I observed,
If, indeed, any Administration official leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent, risking not only her life but that of her sources, they should be imprisoned. If it can be demonstrated that President Bush knew of this, it would of course be an impeachable offense for which he should be removed from office. But let’s wait and see.
The fact that this story quickly disappeared from the radar screen and doesn’t even get mentioned by the most vitriolic Democratic operatives makes me think there’s not much to it. Still, this issue should have been resolved months ago. Bush and Co. have not handled this one well at all.