US Vice President Dick Cheney's former long-time chief of staff, Lewis Libby, will make his first court appearance on Thursday on criminal charges stemming from the CIA leak investigation, the court said on Monday, as Cheney replaced Libby with two influential aides.
Libby is expected to plead innocent.
Cheney on Monday appointed vice presidential counsel David Addington as chief of staff. John Hannah was named national security adviser.
Libby had held both positions before his indictment and resignation on Friday.
Libby is the only Cheney aide who has been charged in the two-year investigation into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
But Cheney himself and others in the vice president's office, including Addington, took part in discussions with Libby about Plame's job and press strategy, the indictment alleges.
At Libby's arraignment on Thursday, scheduled to start at 10.30am (1530 GMT), the federal judge handling the case, Reggie Walton, could set a schedule for the filing of motions and possibly a trial date.
Libby, who is charged with obstructing justice, perjury and making false statements, has promised a vigorous defence. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years.
As part of his strategy, Libby is expected to argue that any incorrect information he provided to federal investigators or the grand jury was the result of lapses in memory, rather than intentional lies, according to Libby's lawyer and other attorneys involved in the case.
Vice President Dick Cheney could
be called as witness
Karl Rove, President George Bush's top political adviser, escaped indictment on Friday but remains under investigation, lawyers involved in the case said.
Rove provided new information last week to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald that apparently prompted the prosecutor to reconsider charging Rove for making false statements, the lawyers said.
Democrats have called on Rove to step down because of his role in the leak, and some Republicans have urged Bush to shake up his White House staff. Bush ignored a question about whether he should fire Rove during an Oval Office appearance on Monday.
Libby's indictment was a blow to the White House, which is reeling from the rising US toll from the Iraq war, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina and the withdrawal of US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, under fire from Bush's conservative power base.
Plame's identity was leaked to the media in July 2003 after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to support action against Iraq. Wilson said the leak was made deliberately to erode his credibility.
A public trial could expose the role played by Cheney's secretive office in the leak case, which has put a spotlight on how the administration sold the nation on the war in Iraq and aggressively countered its critics.
"During their brief conversation, Libby asked the counsel to the vice president, in sum and substance, what paperwork there would be at the CIA if an employee's spouse undertook an overseas trip"
Lewish Libby's indictment
Lawyers involved in the case said Cheney himself and other top White House officials named in the indictment could be called as witnesses.
According to the indictment, Libby learned from Cheney on 12 June 2003 that Wilson's wife worked in the CIA's counter-proliferation division.
Addington is referred to in the indictment only as "counsel to the vice president".
Sum and substance
According to the document, Libby met with Addington on 8 July 2003 in an ante room outside the vice president's office.
"During their brief conversation, Libby asked the counsel to the vice president, in sum and substance, what paperwork there would be at the CIA if an employee's spouse undertook an overseas trip," the indictment says.
Wilson based his criticism of the administration in part on a CIA-sponsored mission he made to Africa in 2002 to check an intelligence report that Iraq sought uranium from Niger.
Cheney's office sought to discredit Wilson and his findings by suggesting the trip had been arranged by his wife at the CIA.