The Rove watch: Still on the hook, still spinning

All the news from Plamegate.


Tim Grieve
April 27, 2006 5:37PM (UTC)

Karl Rove's fans and supporters are putting on a brave face -- he's just wrapping up loose ends, putting questions to rest, etc. -- but a source close to the president's chief political advisor tells the Washington Post that Rove simply doesn't know whether he's going to be indicted or not. And in a story that may be based more on common sense than confidential sourcing, the Los Angeles Times says that Rove's appearance before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury is a sign that the prosecutor may seek perjury and obstruction of justice charges against him.

All the news from Plamegate:

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Rove's testimony: Rove testified for more than three hours Wednesday in what was his fifth appearance before grand juries investigating the outing of Valerie Plame and the coverup that may have come afterward. As expected, the Post says that Rove spent most of his time trying to explain why he didn't acknowledge -- during an interview with federal investigators in 2003 or his first grand jury appearance in 2004 -- that he had leaked Plame's identity to Time's Matthew Cooper. The Post's source says that Rove argued that it would have been foolish for him to try to hide the Cooper leak from investigators or the grand jury because -- if he remembered it at all -- he would have known that the truth would ultimately come out.

The Viveca Novak story: Rove and Luskin are apparently arguing that Luskin's conversation with Time reporter Viveca Novak led Luskin to renew his search for some record of a telephone call between Cooper and Rove. When Luskin found the record, in the form of an e-mail message from Rove to Stephen Hadley, Luskin turned it over to Fitzgerald -- eventually -- and Rove returned to the grand jury to testify about the phone call it described.

But there are questions about the timing of events here. As we've noted before, Luskin and Novak can't seem to agree about when their conversation occurred. The Post can't even seem to agree with itself. In one point in the Post's story today, the paper says unequivocally that Luskin told Rove about his conversation with Novak "before Rove testified that he did not recall his conversation with Cooper." Two paragraphs later, however, the Post acknowledges that "the timing of that Luskin-Novak conversation is in dispute, and that it's not clear whether the conversation happened before or after Rove first testified before the grand jury.

The Rove camp seems to have a story to cover either set of facts. If the Luskin-Novak conversation happened before Rove failed to tell the grand jury about his conversation with Cooper, then it proves that Rove really wasn't trying to lie: He knew the conversation was going to be revealed anyway, and he didn't testify about it because he simply didn't remember it himself. (As the Post notes, however, Rove really couldn't have been sure that the story would come out because he wouldn't have known during his FBI interview or his initial grand jury appearance that Cooper would be ordered to testify about the conversation.) And if the Luskin-Novak conversation happened after Rove failed to tell the grand jury about his conversation with Cooper, well, then, it just backs up Rove's story that he really didn't remember the conversation at first but testified about it as soon as his recollection had been refreshed.

Viveca Novak's career: Editors at Time were none too happy with Novak when they learned that she had told Luskin that Rove had leaked to Cooper, hired a lawyer to represent her and undergone questioning by Fitzgerald -- all without telling them and all while continuing to report on the Plame case. It now appears there were consequences for her behavior: The New York Times says that Novak, who is not related to Robert Novak, has left Time "after a dispute over her role in the case."

Rove's future: Luskin insists that Fitzgerald has told Rove that he's "not a target" in the investigation, but at least one legal expert says he wouldn't be sleeping easy if he were Rove. Washington defense lawyer Stanley Brand tells the Associated Press that Rove's appearance before the grand jury is an ominous sign. "I don't think you need to drag a guy before a grand jury to wrap up," he said, reminding anyone who has forgotten that Rove "is testifying in an investigation in which a White House aide has already been indicted for lying."

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Tim Grieve

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

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