Washington Karl Rove testified to a grand jury for the fourth and final time Friday, smiling as he emerged from hours of questioning about his possible role in the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that statements in the summer that Rove retained the president's confidence remained true. However, McClellan declined repeatedly to utter words of confidence outright.
Prosecutors had warned Rove before his latest grand jury appearance that there was no guarantee he would not be indicted. The grand jury's term is due to expire Oct. 28.
"Karl continues to do his duties as deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to the president," McClellan said. "What I said previously still stands."
Rove spent about four and one-half hours inside the federal courthouse, and left without commenting to reporters.
His lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, said Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald "has not advised Mr. Rove that he is a target of the investigation and affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges. The special counsel has indicated that he does not anticipate the need for Mr. Rove's further cooperation."
Fitzgerald has a variety of options as he weighs whether anyone broke a law that bars the intentional unmasking of a covert CIA officer. Defense lawyers increasingly are concerned Fitzgerald might pursue other charges such as false statements, obstruction of justice or mishandling of classified information.
Until three months ago, the White House had denied that Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, were involved in leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame in 2003.
The White House denials gave way to "no comments" following revelations in July that Rove and Libby had been sources for Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper in a story that identified Plame, the wife of Bush administration critic and former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified twice in recent days about three conversations she had with Libby in June and July 2003 regarding Wilson and Plame.