Karl Rove joins a lengthening line of senior officials heading for the exit doors in the final 1 1/2 years of the administration.
On board with President Bush since the beginning of his political career in Texas, Rove was nicknamed "the architect" and "boy genius" by the president for designing the strategy that twice won him the White House. Critics call Rove "Bush's brain."
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.
"I just think it's time," Rove said in an interview at his home on Saturday. He first floated the idea of leaving to Bush a year ago, the newspaper said, and friends confirmed he'd been talking about it even earlier. However, he said he didn't want to depart right after the Democrats regained control of Congress and then got drawn into policy battles over the Iraq war and immigration.
Rove, currently the deputy White House chief of staff, has been the president's political guru for years and worked with Bush since he first ran for governor of Texas in 1993.
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 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.
Rove, though, was not indicted after testifying five times before the grand jury, occasionally correcting misstatements he made in his earlier testimony.
The jury in Libby's trial did not hear that testimony, nor did it hear that 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.