Rove and Libby talked to each other; who's talking to Fitzgerald?

Once he's reminded by a prosecutor, Rove admits that he and Libby discussed Plame's identity before Robert Novak outed her.

Published October 20, 2005 1:01PM (EDT)

They talked.

It's always been inconceivable to us that Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and a source still to be identified started leaking the identity of Valerie Plame entirely independently of one another. We still don't know that they didn't, but Patrick Fitzgerald now appears to have evidence that Rove and Libby talked about the leaks once they had begun.

As the Associated Press and the Washington Post are reporting, sources say Rove told Fitzgerald's grand jury that he and Libby discussed Plame's identity in the days before Robert Novak revealed it in his column. Rove reportedly claimed in his testimony that his conversation with Libby was limited to what the two men had been hearing from the reporters with whom they talked.

The AP says Rove's testimony came during a grand jury appearance in which he was shown a portion of Libby's testimony indicating that the two men had talked about Plame. Once Rove saw Libby's testimony, he apparently said it was consistent with his own recollection. But the fact that Rove had to be shown the testimony in the first place suggests that he wasn't exactly volunteering information about the discussions until he was confronted with evidence that Libby had already let the cat out of the bag.

Libby's testimony also raises some questions. Relying on a source "directly familiar with the information shown to Rove," the AP says that Libby told the grand jury that he told Rove about information he'd received about Wilson's wife from NBC's Tim Russert. But according to NBC, Russert has told investigators that he didn't know the identity of Joseph Wilson's wife until after Robert Novak revealed it, meaning that he couldn't possibly have told Libby about it in time for Libby to tell Rove before Novak's column appeared.

In another blow to the "we were just talking about what reporters told us" theory, the AP says that Fitzgerald has evidence that Libby initiated calls with Russert and Judith Miller, not the other way around.

Although the AP beat the Post on the story -- hello, New York? -- Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig offer some big nuggets of their own, including the first real sign from the mainstream media that Cheney aide John Hannah may be in Fitzgerald's sights. Raw Story reported earlier this week that Hannah had been threatened with prosecution and is now cooperating with Fitzgerald, and the Web site is now saying that a second Cheney aide is also cooperating. The Post doesn't go all the way there, but it does say that Hannah has told friends in recent months that he's worried that he may be implicated in the investigation.

The Post says it's not clear why Hannah might be implicated -- but that if he is, a lot of other Bush administration officials ought to be worried. "The eleventh-hour emergence of another possible target shows how Fitzgerald has cast his net so widely over the past two years that it is impossible to know who, if anyone, it might ensnare," VandeHei and Leonnig write.

They then tick off the outstanding questions about the case in quick succession: "What role did Hannah play? What, if any, role was played by former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer? Who was the second source for Robert Novak, the columnist who first disclosed Plame's name and role in July 2003? (Note: We know who the second source was -- Rove; the real question is, who was the first source?) Who was the White House official who leaked word about Wilson's wife to the Washington Post's Walter Pincus, who has never publicly revealed his source?"

By Tim Grieve

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

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