Refreshing recollections on Rove and Plame

What we know and what we don't.


Tim Grieve
April 26, 2006 10:11PM (UTC)

As Karl Rove makes his fifth appearance before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury, it seems like an opportune moment to review what we know -- and what we don't know -- about Rove's role in Valerie Plame's outing and the investigation into it.

Rove's leaks: Although White House press secretary Scott McClellan insisted in September and October 2003 that Rove wasn't involved in Plame's outing, we now know that that's not true. Rove has reportedly admitted to the grand jury that he leaked Plame's identity to Bob Novak, and Time's Matthew Cooper has testified that Rove leaked to him, too. We don't know whether Rove leaked to other reporters; a spokesman for Rove has said that he didn't leak Plame's identity to Bob Woodward, who says that someone in the administration leaked to him in June 2003.

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Rove's testimony: Rove failed to mention his leak to Matthew Cooper when FBI investigators first interviewed him about the Plame case back in the fall of 2003. He also apparently failed to mention it when he first testified before Fitzgerald's grand jury back in February 2004.

The Viveca Novak episode: Sometime in early 2004 -- after Rove made his first appearance before the grand jury -- Time reporter Viveca Novak had a drink with her friend Robert Luskin. Luskin, who is Rove's lawyer, told Novak that Rove didn't leak Plame's identity to Cooper. Novak told Luskin that she had heard otherwise at Time. Novak says that Luskin seemed genuinely surprised by her news and that he followed up by searching again through White House e-mails for evidence of a Cooper-Rove conversation. He apparently found it in a message Rove sent to Stephen Hadley at the National Security Council right after Rove got off the phone with Cooper. In the message, Rove wrote that Cooper had asked him about Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger but that Rove had warned him from making too much of the story.

The spin: Rove returned to the grand jury room in October 2004 -- five months or so after Novak's conversation with Luskin -- and he reportedly admitted then that he'd talked with Cooper about Plame. Rove's camp argues that he'd simply forgotten about the conversation before and that Novak's conversation with Luskin -- and the e-mail message discovered as a result -- refreshed his recollection. That's one way to spin it. The other is that Rove, knowing that his call with Cooper wasn't on the White House phone logs, simply chose to hide the fact that he'd talked with Cooper until he was confronted with evidence to the contrary and with the knowledge that Cooper was being held in contempt of court for his own refusal to testify about the conversation.

Rove's October escape: In October 2005, as Washington waited day in and day out for news of indictments, Luskin met with Fitzgerald, and Rove went before the grand jury again. At the time, it seemed likely that Rove was trying to clear up the inconsistencies and omissions in his own story; Luskin was apparently arguing that additional e-mail messages Rove sent in the summer of 2003 suggested -- through their silence on the Plame matter -- that the outing wasn't a big deal to Rove and that therefore he really might have simply forgotten about his conversation with Cooper. But Murray Waas was reporting then that Rove would also be asked about conversations he had with Libby in the week before Robert Novak outed Plame, and the indictment the grand jury handed down at the end of October seemed to confirm as much: Only Libby was indicted, and Rove got away with just a mention as the mysterious "Official A" who told Libby that Novak would be writing a column in which he mentioned Plame.

The tea leaves: When Fitzgerald announced Libby's indictment, he was asked whether Rove was off the hook. He declined to answer, but Luskin acknowledged that the investigation into his client was continuing. Public developments in the case have been few and far between since then. We heard revelations from Bob Woodward in November and Viveca Novak in December, and Fitzgerald met with a new grand jury then, but most of the press focus has remained on the White House official the grand jury indicted rather than the one it didn't. That began to change last week amid speculation that Karl Rove's job change might be a sign that an indictment was near. Rove supporters are telling CNN that today's grand jury testimony could lead, once and for all, to a happy resolution for him. Others, like the Huffington Post's Lawrence O'Donnell, are wondering whether an indictment isn't imminent. We've heard both kinds of predictions a whole lot of times over the course of the last year. We'll be standing by.


Tim Grieve

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

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