"Bush's Brain" testifies


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Tim Grieve
October 16, 2004 12:17AM (UTC)

Karl Rove has been everywhere on the campaign trail this week, spinning reporters at Wednesday's debate and showing up at Bush rallies to spin some more. But Friday morning in Washington, Rove found himself in a more hostile work environment: the grand jury room at the federal courthouse.

According to the Associated Press, Rove spent more than two hours testifying before the grand jury investigating the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame. The AP says that Rove was interviewed previously by investigators looking into the leak. That special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called Rove to testify before the grand jury suggests -- at a minimum -- that Fitzgerald thought Rove had something to say that the grand jury ought to hear.

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The intentional disclosure of a CIA offficer's identity is a crime. Plame's name -- and her identity as a CIA officer -- turned up in Robert Novak's column shortly after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly disputed George W. Bush's claim that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. Many Democrats believe that the Plame leak was retribution for Wilson's criticism, and Wilson himself has accused Rove of spreading word of Novak's column to other reporters.

Immediately after Rove testified -- even before news of it hit the cable networks -- the Kerry campaign urged Bush to come clean about the Plame affair. "With two weeks to go before the election, the American people are still in the dark about how it is that their White House leaked the name of an undercover CIA operative to the press, jeopardizing the life of this agent and possibly violating federal law," Kerry spokesman Joe Lockhart said. "Instead of hiding behind the lawyers he so often likes to criticize, George Bush should direct Karl Rove and anyone else involved to go to the White House briefing room and come clean about their role in this insidious act."

Don't hold your breath. The White House referred AP to the Justice Department for any comment on Rove's testimony, and Fitzgerald declined to say a word. The White House will surely hide behind the rules of grand jury secrecy. But as any devoted fan of "The West Wing" knows, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) prohibits all sorts of people from disclosing what occurs before a grand jury -- but not the witness himself.

Karl Rove is free to tell the world what he told the grand jury today. Whether he chooses to do so or not is a different matter entirely.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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