Bloomberg is reporting that Rove and Libby both gave testimony to the grand jury that flatly conflicts with the testimony given by those they said they talked to.
We now know that the Top Secret memo most consistent with the talking points that Rove and Libby told reporters was seen in the hands of Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in the days before the leak occurred. And that Fleischer told the grand jury he never saw it.
Update [2005-7-22 16:38:29 by Hunter]: [And Steve Clemons has verified that John Bolton was one of Judith Miller's regular sources on WMD issues, and that MSNBC stands by its story that Bolton gave testimony to the grand jury about the State Department memo in question. Bolton, you may recall, has previously been identified to have been involved in the Niger uranium claims that Wilson's trip helped disprove -- just to add even more gunpowder to this mix.]
This is, to use the most calm and soothing phrase possible in such circumstances, extremely f---ing bad for the administration. It shows the broad outlines not just of multiple perjury charges, but indeed of linked conspiracy charges against a number of administration officials.
We know that there are members of the administration familiar with the attack against Plame/Wilson who have been talking to prosecutors. At least, we can assume they've been telling prosecutors at least as much as they've been telling the press, or we'd have a whole passel of reporters likely joining Judith Miller in her Fortress of Suddenly Discovered Integrity. The fact that other administration officials have been giving their side of the story perhaps poses the most serious risk of all for Rove and others -- because it wouldn't be very difficult, for people in the right places, to shatter what little plausible deniability Rove, Libby, Fleischer, and others have been clinging to.
That branch may already be broken, in fact. I don't think it's possible to exaggerate the amount of legal danger here for Rove in particular, and Fleischer and Libby as well. The special counsel is likely trying to solidify how, exactly, Rove learned the information in the memo, since it's looking increasingly implausible that reporters told him, and looking more probable that Rove and Novak "agreed" on a storyline after the fact (reports are now saying that Rove's and Novak's stories don't quite match, too, further raising the stakes.) Note, however, that it may not matter whether the grand jury can fully identify how he came by the information. Rove has now been identified as confirming the classified info to both Novak and Cooper; that in and of itself represents a likely crime under the Espionage Act.
And in the middle, the President of the United States is wading in hipboots through the worst of it. As more leaks come out, Bush continues to embrace those figures now known to have played pivotal roles in the outing of a CIA NOC agent, even as the investigation becomes more encompassing and the questions, more pointed. Towards what end was Press Secretary Ari Fleischer -- who had already announced his imminent retirement from the administration, and was hardly a member of the Bush intelligence circle -- given access to classified Wilson information seemingly intended specifically, on Air Force One, for Powell and Bush? How is it that so many administration figures could be simultaneously involved, and the campaign against Wilson be orchestrated according to such specific classified talking points? What did the president and vice president know of the involvement of their immediate staff in the outing -- and, critically, when did they learn it, and what did they do about it?
What poses perhaps the greatest threat of all for the Bush administration is that, as each news agency puts the story in the hands of some of the best investigative reporters, the various threads of the story are being woven into a compelling -- and disastrous -- storyline. A Bush administration crime, carried out by Watergate-era and Iran-Contra figures that this administration has embraced wholeheartedly, done in the service of shoring up "fixed" evidence used to justify a preemptive war. And news services are tying the Plame outing to the "fixed" nuclear intelligence cited by Bush in his pre-war declarations to the nation. Those links are, finally, being made, and it's beginning to make the Nixon White House look like a Norman Rockwell painting in comparison.
There is very little time left for the White House to come up with some path -- any path -- by which to distance themselves from the wider allegations against not just Rove, but against the president and vice president themselves. Instead, they are stonewalling reporters asking them to clarify their involvement. In fact, both Bush and Press Secretary Scott McClellan haven't even backed off their previous public statements that Rove, by name, wasn't involved -- they've just refused to discuss it.
That's not going to cut it. The President needs to answer for his subordinates, who at this point are looking like they have given up any credible pretenses of innocence, and are now simply shopping for the weakest possible charges against them.