Did Hadley tell Rove about Plame?

A Washington Post reporter seemed to connect some dots on "Hardball," but his colleague says he misspoke.

By Tim Grieve
Published December 13, 2005 2:35PM (EST)

In the days before before a federal grand jury indicted Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame case, there were rumors afoot that National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would also face criminal charges.

It didn't happen, and it may well never happen: At the moment, at least, Karl Rove is the only administration official known to be a focus of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. That having been said, the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei may have shed some light Monday night on why Hadley may have been thinking he was on the hook. Appearing on "Hardball," VandeHei said -- almost in passing -- that Hadley was one of the people who told Rove about Plame. "We still don't know exactly where Karl Rove originally learned about Valerie Plame," VandeHei said. "That's still one of the mysteries. We know one of them -- he had heard it from Hadley as just sort of chatter inside the office -- but he had learned it earlier from some other place."

That's news. Different sources have told different stories about how Rove first came to know that Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA; like Libby, Rove himself apparently told the grand jury that he first heard about Plame from reporters. And while it stands to reason that Hadley and Rove had a conversation about Plame at some point -- Rove's semicryptic e-mail message to Hadley about his conversation with Matthew Cooper wouldn't make much sense otherwise -- VandeHei's statement is the first direct claim of such a conversation that we can remember hearing.

Of course, it's hard to judge what VandeHei was saying. For better or for worse -- and it's probably for worse -- newspaper reporters say things during TV and radio interviews that they wouldn't or couldn't say in print. Does VandeHei have solid sourcing for the claim that Hadley told Rove? If so, how is it that we don't remember seeing that revelation in print? Maybe he has sourcing that's solid in his mind but not solid enough for his editors. But if that's the case, how do his editors feel about his telling all on "Hardball"?

Or did VandeHei really mean to say what he said in the first place? It's easy to say things in conversation that we wouldn't say in print -- we've all done it, just not necessarily on national TV -- and the comment about Hadley came off as such a passing thing that no one on the show seemed to notice either the revelation or its importance. That may say more about Chris Matthews and his other guests than it does about VandeHei. But as Hadley himself has said, "It is what it is."

Update: Or maybe it isn't. One of VandeHei's colleagues now says the reporter simply misspoke -- that when he said "Hadley," he meant to say "Libby." More here.

Tim Grieve

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

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