WASHINGTON, (AP) -Karl Rove, President Bush’s close friend and chief political strategist, plans to leave the White House at the end of August, joining a lengthening line of senior officials heading for the exits in the final 1 1/2 years of the administration.
A longtime member of Bush’s inner circle, Rove was nicknamed “the architect” by the president for designing the strategy that twice won him the White House.
A criminal investigation put Rove under scrutiny for months during the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s name but he was never charged with any crime.
Bush was expected to make a statement Monday with Rove.
“Obviously it’s a big loss to us,” White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. “He’s a great colleague, a good friend, and a brilliant mind. He will be greatly missed, but we know he wouldn’t be going if he wasn’t sure this was the right time to be giving more to his family, his wife Darby and their son. He will continue to be one of the president’s greatest friends.”
Since Democrats won control of Congress in November, some top administration officials have announced their resignations. Among those who have left are White House counselor Dan Bartlett, budget director Rob Portman, chief White House attorney Harriet Miers, political director Sara Taylor, deputy national security adviser J.D. Crouch and Meghan O’Sullivan, another deputy national security adviser who worked on Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was forced out immediately after the election as the unpopular war in Iraq dragged on.
Rove is expected to write a book after he leaves.
“He’s been talking with the president for a long time — about a year — regarding when might be good to go,” Perino said. “But there’s always a big project to work on, and his strategic abilities — and our need for his support — kept him here. He said there’s never a good time to leave, just the `right’ time.”
Rove testified before a federal grand jury in the investigation into the leak of the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA officer whose husband was a critic of the war in Iraq. That investigation led to the conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on charges of lying and obstructing justice. Plame contends the White House was trying to discredit her husband.
Attorneys for Libby told jurors at the onset of his trial that Libby was the victim of a conspiracy to protect Rove. Details of any save-Rove conspiracy were promised but never materialized.
The most explicit testimony on Rove came from columnist Robert Novak, who outed Plame in a July 2003 column. He testified that Rove, a frequent source, was one of two officials who told him about Plame. Libby, with whom he seldom spoke, was not a source.
The jury did not hear testimony that Rove was not indicted after testifying five times before the grand jury, occasionally correcting misstatements he made in his earlier testimony.
Nor did the jury hear testimony about how Rove is credited as an architect of Republican political victories and has been accused by opponents of playing dirty tricks.
All that jurors heard is that Rove leaked Plame’s identity and, from the outset, got political cover from the White House. He was never charged with a crime.