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Colleagues say Rove unfazed by legal woes

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, arrives at the White House every day wearing a jovial smile that masks his boss's political troubles and his own legal woes.

Rove, the man Bush dubbed ''the architect" of his reelection, has the arduous task of halting Bush's downward popularity spiral and keeping Democrats from capturing the House or Senate in November elections while under the threat of indictment in the CIA leak case.

His friends and colleagues say he's not fazed by his precarious situation.

''Karl's focus is sharper than ever and his spirit is high," said Dan Bartlett, White House counselor, downplaying any assertions that Rove is distracted.

Rove was asked about his legal problems yesterday after a speech on the economy at a conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. ''Nice try," Rove told the questioner.

If the grand jury weren't in the news, it would be hard to tell that Rove, a deputy White House chief of staff, is waiting to find out if he'll be indicted.

Photos of Rove, often seen walking behind Bush on the South Lawn or sitting behind him at meetings, depict the adviser wearing the same smile, one that suggests little about what he might be thinking or feeling.

Rove's friends say he handles whatever pressure he feels by reminding himself that he can't control the outcome.

Rove's fate is in the hands of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who must decide whether he thinks Rove lied or just forgot to tell a grand jury about a conversation with a reporter.

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