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Leopold: For Rove, New Testimony, New Problems

For Rove, New Testimony, New Problems

By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Friday 09 December 2005

There are unanswered questions about whether Karl Rove was truthful when he was first interviewed by FBI and Justice Department investigators in early October 2003 regarding whether he played a role in the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. According to sources close to the probe, he was not.

In that very first interview, which took place just three months after Plame Wilson's name was published in a July 14, 2003, story by conservative columnist Robert Novak in an attempt to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's prewar Iraq intelligence, Rove testified that he did speak with a handful of journalists and told them about Plame Wilson and that she worked at the CIA - but only after her identity had already been made public. In fact, Rove had been one of the two "senior administration officials" cited in Novak's column confirming Plame Wilson's identity. Additionally, Rove had also been a source for Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who also published Plame Wilson's name in a story three days after Novak's column - another fact President Bush's deputy chief of staff allegedly withheld from prosecutors.

Moreover, the five-count indictment handed up by a grand jury in late October against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, shows that Rove had learned of Plame Wilson's identity a month or so before Novak's column was published. Neither Rove nor his attorney, Robert Luskin, has so far clarified Rove's alleged misstatements to investigators two years ago. Those falsities, which Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is homing in on, will likely end Rove's political future, sources close to the investigation said Thursday.

Fitzgerald prepped a second grand jury hearing evidence in the case Wednesday, spending more than three hours bringing them up to speed on the latest developments in the case, sources said. They added that Fitzgerald would not have convened another grand jury if he were not seeking additional indictments against senior officials in the Bush administration.

Last Friday, in yet another bizarre twist in the two-year-old investigation, Luskin testified in a deposition before Fitzgerald that in mid-2004 he spoke with a reporter at Time magazine named Viveca Novak, who had written about the probe for the magazine on several occasions, and that she tipped him off to the fact that Cooper's source was Rove while the two were discussing the Plame Wilson case over drinks. Following his meeting with Viveca Novak, Luskin told Rove what she had passed on to him, according to sources close to Rove, and Luskin and Rove did an exhaustive search through White House phone logs and emails to find any evidence that Rove spoke with Cooper.

An email Rove sent to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley just minutes after his conversation with Cooper in July 2003 turned up, and Luskin said he immediately turned it over to Fitzgerald. Luskin said Rove didn't recall the conversation with Cooper a year earlier, and thanks to Viveca Novak's supposed tip, they were able to turn up the email to Hadley. Still, it's unclear why that email wasn't found when White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered all White House staff in October 2003 to turn over emails and other documentary evidence that showed officials spoke with journalists, specifically Robert Novak and Matthew Cooper, about Plame Wilson.

Early Thursday morning, Viveca Novak gave a sworn deposition about her conversation with Luskin in which, Luskin had claimed, she passed along information that Rove was Cooper's source. According to two reporters at Time magazine familiar with her sworn testimony, Novak testified that she did not tip off Luskin about Rove being Cooper's source; rather, she repeated what had been said in Washington at the time for nearly a year: that Rove was Cooper's source.

Luskin has said that Novak's testimony will help exonerate his client and prove that Rove did not knowingly withhold any crucial information from the prosecutor. However, sources familiar with Novak's hour-long deposition said it hasn't done anything to help Rove's case. If anything, it has raised additional questions about the timing of Rove's grand jury testimony in which he acknowledged speaking with Cooper. Fitzgerald is said to be probing whether Rove had changed his testimony once it became clear that Cooper was going to have to reveal the identity of his source.

Novak is expected to write a first-person account about her sworn deposition and her role in the case for Time's Monday edition. Her story will be posted on Time's web site Sunday, a spokesman for the magazine said.

Rove's murky testimony during the initial stages of the leak probe in October 2003 has him in jeopardy of being indicted for obstruction of justice and making false statements related to the investigation. While there are still unanswered questions about the reasons Rove failed to disclose the fact - again during his initial interview with FBI and Justice Department investigators, and on two other occasions when he testified under oath before the grand jury - that he had a conversation with Cooper about Plame Wilson in July 2003, the way Rove's attorney Luskin tells it, the architect forgot about it.

Although news reports over the past year have specifically zeroed in on Rove's alleged failure to disclose to the grand jury his conversations with Time's Cooper, there is more scrutiny being placed on his initial testimony, because it's likely his conversations with Novak and Cooper would have still been fresh in his mind, considering the many front page news stories about the Plame Wilson's outing and the fact that Rove and Libby in particular had been rumored to be sources of the leak. Rove finally did testify that he spoke with Cooper - in October 2004, exactly a year after he was first questioned - but only after Cooper was held in contempt by the judge presiding over the case and compelled to testify about the identity of his source.


Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak invesigation, and will be a regular contributer to t r u t h o u t.

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