Could Time reporter's testimony help Rove?

That's what sources want the Washington Post to say.

Published November 29, 2005 2:03PM (EST)

When Time magazine reported over the weekend that another one of its reporters will testify in the CIA leak case, some on the left took it as a sign that a Karl Rove indictment may be in the cards after all. The Washington Post -- or at least the sources spinning it -- throw some cold water on that theory today.

In a front-page report, "two people familiar with the situation" tell the Post that Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, believes that the testimony of Time reporter Viveca Novak will help to exonerate his client. One source says that Luskin told Patrick Fitzgerald about his conversations with Novak in October, when he was arguing strenuously -- and, ultimately, successfully -- that Rove shouldn't be indicted. "This is what caused [Fitzgerald] to hold off on charging" Rove, the source told the Post.

But another "person familiar with the conversations" tells the Post that whatever Luskin and Novak said to each other doesn't seem to "significantly alter the case." Perhaps Fitzgerald is interested in collecting Novak's testimony simply to tie up a loose end before announcing whatever decision he's already made. Or perhaps he's talking to her to rob Luskin of a talking point -- "He didn't get our side of the story!" -- before moving forward with a criminal charge against Rove.

Which spin is right? It's hard to tell because we don't know what Luskin and Novak discussed. What we do know is that their conversations occurred at around the same time Rove was "remembering" that he had discussed Valerie Plame with Time's Matthew Cooper -- a fact he failed to disclose in the initial stages of the investigation. The other thing we know, thanks to the Post, is that while Viveca Novak isn't related to Bob Novak, she is friends with Robert Luskin.

The Post says that Fitzgerald will take Viveca Novak's deposition at some point in the next few weeks, and that Novak herself is likely to write a first-person tell-all afterward. In the meantime, Fitzgerald is gearing up to present evidence to a second grand jury. First on the docket there: questions about Bob Woodward's source, who apparently testified in the case earlier but -- and doesn't this sound familiar? -- failed to mention the fact that he or she had had a conversation with Woodward about Plame.

As for Plame? The New York Post says that she will retire from the CIA next month. Plame's friends and family say that her outing "effectively ended her spying career," but the Post says she has hung on to her job as long as she has so that she she'll be eligible for a government pension when she retires.

By Tim Grieve

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

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