Two key White House aides await results of the CIA leak probe, after a prosecutor spent three hours before a grand jury that has the power to hand up indictments that could rock the Bush administration.
The White House braced for the possibility that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, could become a criminal defendant by week's end.
President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, remained in jeopardy of being charged with false statements.
Rove's legal team made contingency plans, consulting with former Justice Department official Mark Corallo and GOP strategist Ed Gillespie about what defenses could be mounted in court and in public.
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald met with Rove attorney Robert Luskin at a private law firm office Tuesday, heightening White House fears for Rove's future.
In 2003, eight days after former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat, columnist Robert Novak disclosed the identity of Wilson's wife, covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.
After checking with Rove and Libby, the White House categorically denied that either aide was involved in leaking Plame's identity.
Fitzgerald was appointed nearly two years ago to determine whether any presidential aides violated a federal law that prohibits the intentional unmasking of an undercover CIA officer.
The prosecutor also has discussed other charges with defense lawyers in recent weeks, including false statements, obstruction of justice and mishandling of classified information.
The grand jury's term expires on Friday, and the panel met with Fitzgerald's team for about three hours Wednesday before adjourning for the day, reports the AP.
Photo: CIA P.T.