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Libby Charged in Leak Probe

He resigns. Bush aide Rove avoids indictment but is said to remain under investigation.
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Updated from 2:49 p.m. EDT

Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, was charged Friday with lying to a grand jury during the investigation of possible intelligence leaks by members of the Bush administration.

A five-count indictment unsealed Friday by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald charged only Libby -- it did not name Karl Rove, a key political adviser to President Bush and his assistant chief of staff. Prosecutors reportedly told Rove on Thursday that while he wouldn't face immediate charges, he is still under investigation.

Bush praised Libby's service and said he was saddened by the indictment. He said he remained "wholly focused" on his duties as president. "I got a job to do and so do the people working hard at the White House," Bush said.

Fitzgerald, speaking at an afternoon news conference, declined to provide specifics on the status of his investigation.

"We don't talk about people who are not charged with a crime in an indictment," Fitzgerald said. "I know that people want to know what we know. We just can't do that. It's not because we enjoy holding back information from you, it's the law."

Fitzgerald used a baseball analogy to answer a question about his investigation's original mandate: to determine whether administration officials broke the law by leaking the name of a CIA operative to reporters.

Libby's alleged obstruction "is like when an umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes," Fitzgerald said. It makes it impossible to draw accurate conclusions about other matters. "If you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost."

The counts against Libby included one of obstruction of justice, two of perjury and two of making false statements to a FBI agents.

Libby was charged after a two-year investigation into how reporters came to know that Valerie Plame, the wife of a congressional opponent of the Iraq war, was a CIA operative. Administration critics have suggested her name was leaked as part of a broader campaign to discredit the war's opposition.

White House officials accepted Libby's resignation after the indictment was unsealed.

Fitzgerald was appointed in December 2003 by the attorney general's office to investigate the circumstances under which Plame's name was disseminated. Published reports said a focus of the probe quickly became the truthfulness of statements made by witnesses testifying before the grand jury.

The charges against Libby pertain to his account of how he first learned Plame's identify. According to Fitzgerald, Libby told he grand jury that he learned of it during discussions with reporters. In fact, he said, her status at the CIA was the subject of conversations Libby had with seven different government officials -- including Cheney -- prior to the date he claimed he heard it from reporters.

"Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls among reporters was not true. It was false," Fitzgerald said Friday. "He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls and the the first government official to disclose this information outside of government to a reporter, and he lied about it repeatedly."

Columnist Robert Novak identified Plame in a column on July 14, 2003.

Friday's news caps an eventful week for the Bush administration. On Thursday, Harriet Miers withdrew her name from consideration for the Supreme Court vacancy created by Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement.