"Official A" and the mystery of Karl Rove

Sources say that Rove is "Official A." Why won't Patrick Fitzgerald?

Published October 29, 2005 2:52PM (EDT)

Is Karl Rove"Official A"? Sources tell the New York Times and the Associated Press that he is.

Patrick Fitzgerald alleged Friday that Scooter Libby spoke on July 10 or 11, 2003, with a "senior official in the White House" identified only as "Official A." "Official A" allegedly told Libby of a conversation earlier in the week in which Joseph Wilson's wife -- Valerie Plame -- was "discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson's trip" to Niger. "Official A" also allegedly told Libby that Novak was going to be writing about Wilson's wife in his column.

Asked yesterday to say more about "Official A," Fitzgerald refused: "I know that people want to know whatever it is that we know, and they're probably sitting at home with the TV thinking, 'I want to jump through the TV, grab him by his collar and tell him to tell us everything they figured out over the last two years,'" he said. "We just can't do that. It's not because we enjoy holding back information from you; that's the law."

Fitzgerald still isn't talking, but "people briefed on the case" tell the Times and "three people close to the investigation" tell the AP that "Official A" is Rove. It's not exactly a blockbuster revelation: Fitzgerald isn't alleging necessarily that "Official A" was the first to leak Plame's identity to Novak, as we suggested in the rush of things yesterday, and we've known for months now that Rove was at least one of those who leaked to Novak.

If "Official A" is really Rove, the more intriguing question may be this: Why won't Fitzgerald just say so? Coming from a man who says he doesn't do "tea leaves," this sure seems like some kind of tea leaf suggesting Rove is still a subject of some interest for the special prosecutor. Maybe he is.

That said, a report in this morning's Los Angeles Times suggests that Rove may be close to clear. The Times says that "new information, reevaluation of older evidence and negotiations with Rove's lawyers" persuaded Fitzgerald not to indict Rove, at least not now. Among the evidence: An e-mail exchange between Rove and former White House communications aide Adam Levine. The e-mails apparently came just after Rove leaked Plame's identity to Time's Matthew Cooper, and Rove's team is arguing that the fact that the e-mails don't mention the Plame leak are a sign that it wasn't particularly important to Rove and was therefore something he could have forgotten, innocently, when he was first asked about it by federal investigators.

By Tim Grieve

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

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