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White House Weathers Indictments


President Bush spent Saturday at the presidential retreat at Camp David considering his next Supreme Court nominee one day after a senior White House official was charged with lying to a Grand Jury. The White House says it will not be distracted by the scandal.

White House officials say their strategy for weathering criminal charges against the vice president's chief of staff Lewis Libby is to keep attention on President Bush doing his job for the American people.

Leaving the White House Friday following the indictments against Mr. Libby, President Bush said he will not be distracted.

"While we are all saddened by today's news, we remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country," said George W. Bush. "I've got a job to do and so do the people who work in the White House. We've got a job to protect the American people and that is what we will continue working hard to do."

The president says his biggest job is fighting terrorism, and he kept the focus there in his weekly radio address Saturday, not mentioning the Justice Department charges.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan says all members of the White House staff are now barred from contacting Mr. Libby about any aspect of the five charges against him. If convicted on all counts of obstructing justice, perjury, and making false statements, the 55-year-old could face 30 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines.

Mr. Libby's lawyer says his client is confident that he will be cleared of all charges.

The indictments say Mr. Libby lied to the Grand Jury and FBI investigators about how and when he learned the identity of a CIA officer whose husband has been critical of the president's justification for invading Iraq.

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson says the White House purposefully revealed his wife's identity in retaliation for his criticism of the president's allegations that then-Iraqi-dictator Saddam Hussein tired to buy uranium in Africa.

When this investigation began two years ago, Mr. McClellan says he spoke with Mr. Libby and the president's senior political advisor Karl Rove. At the time, Mr. McClellan assured reporters that neither of them was involved, calling the allegations ridiculous.

"There is simply no truth to that suggestion and I have spoken with Karl about it," said Scott McClellan.

Mr. Rove appeared before the Grand Jury four times and remains under investigation in the probe. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald would not say whether he ultimately plans to indict Mr. Rove but did indicate that his work is nearing completion.

"It's not over, but I will tell you this," said Patrick Fitzgerald. "Very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that is going to be tried and would you ever end a Grand Jury investigation. I can tell you that the substantial bulk of the work in this investigation is concluded."

White House spokesman McClellan says Mr. Fitzgerald has indicated that he wants to move forward swiftly with a trial for Mr. Libby. Mr. McClellan says everyone in the White House would like to see that happen as quickly as possible.

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