Why Karl Rove came clean about Matthew Cooper

Did another Time reporter remind Rove -- or force his hand?

By Tim Grieve

Published December 2, 2005 1:51PM (EST)

From the New York Times, we're getting a little more insight today into Patrick Fitzgerald's interest in talking with a second Time magazine reporter about Karl Rove's involvement in the CIA leak case.

"People knowledgeable about the sequence of events" tell the Times that a conversation between Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, and Time reporter Viveca Novak may have prompted Rove to come clean about the fact that he'd told Time reporter Matthew Cooper about Valerie Plame in July 2003. As you'll recall, Rove failed to mention his conversation with Cooper when he first appeared before Fitzgerald's grand jury. But in the summer or early fall of 2004, the Times' sources say, Viveca Novak apparently told Luskin -- with whom she is friends -- that Rove and Cooper had talked about Plame.

That conversation with Novak prompted Luskin to ask Rove to ask the White House to search for any record of a conversation between Rove and Cooper, the Times' sources say. After that search turned up an email message in which Rove told then deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley about the conversation, Rove return to the grand jury to correct his earlier testimony.

Rove's camp, which has claimed before that Novak's testimony will be helpful for him, will undoubtedly spin this as proof that Rove simply forgot about his conversation with Cooper and moved to correct the record as soon as he was reminded of it. The other way to spin it: Rove lied about the Cooper conversation until it became clear to him that he was going to get caught.

Update: Atrios asks an entirely reasonable question here: If Time's editors didn't push the Cooper-Rove story for fear of making too big of a splash before a presidential election, and if Cooper was willing to go to jail to protect his source, what exactly were the "journalistic ethics" involved in spilling the beans about Cooper's source to a reporter who then leaked them to the lawyer for the likely target of a federal investigation?

Tim Grieve

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

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Karl Rove War Room