The indictment and resignation of top White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby over the investigation into the unmasking of a CIA agent is dominating US media outlets.
The charges, which stem from a two-year investigation, are being seen as a serious political scandal with far-reaching implications.
This is a political blow for President George Bush
For the USA Today newspaper, the charges against Mr Libby's can be seen as "a deep legal blow to an embattled White House" already reeling from the withdrawal of US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.
David Stout, in the New York Times, noted: "At first, the matter seemed like a tempest in a political teapot, driven by spite and revolving around the issue of whether anyone had violated an obscure federal statute that makes it illegal, under some circumstances, to unmask an undercover agent.
"But well before the charges were announced, the affair had mushroomed into something far more serious."
He added: "If the charges announced today lead to a conviction or guilty plea, the episode will stand in Washington history as another example of a cover-up becoming more serious than the original wrongdoing."
Washington had been abuzz for days with speculation about the content of the special prosecutor's charge sheet and the major TV networks carried live coverage of various news conferences throughout the day as the drama unfolded.
Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who led the grand jury investigation held forth on live television for almost an hour, announcing the charges and answering reporters' questions.
Yet thoughts quickly turned to the implications of the charges.
CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley commented on the political battle that will be fought out over the coming weeks.
"You now see how what has happened today will work out in the political arena," she said, "with Democrats trying to broaden out what the indictment of Scooter Libby means and you will have Republicans trying to narrow it down to a particular person."
Ms Crowley added: "The good news for the White House is that the bad news could have been worse. It could have been Karl Rove as well as Scooter Libby."
This was a theme taken up by many commentators, including Washington Post associate editor Robert G Kaiser, who answered questions in a webcast.
"In my view the Miers episode was a turning point. We are seeing signs of a breakup of the GOP coalition. Bush has, for the first time, volunteered for a major embarrassment, and did so because of pressure from his own base.
"The spinners will spin, but the news is bad. Sure it would have been worse, or it will be worse, if
Rove were indicted too, not least because Bush would then lose his right arm.
"That's a comfort, perhaps, for the president, but it's unlikely to make him dance a jig, do you think?"
MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan, a former Republican presidential candidate, said Mr Bush now needed a distraction from the case.
"The president needs to change the subject and move away, and I can't think of anything better or more immediate to do than let's say he nominated someone like Edith Jones to the Supreme Court... we would have forgotten someone named Scooter Libby for the night."