The Rove rumor

BlackBerrys are buzzing with word of Karl Rove's indictment. We'll believe it when we see it.


Tim Grieve
May 15, 2006 5:31PM (UTC)

If the only news from the Karl Rove indictment watch had been word of Dick Cheney's handwritten notes on a copy of Joseph Wilson's column, it would have been a pretty intriguing weekend for the Plamegate obsessed. But was there more? That was the rumor, bouncing around the internets and even announced as fact at a Michigan trial lawyers banquet attended by Sen. Hillary Clinton and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm: Rove has been indicted.

Could it be?

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The rumor seems to have begun at Truthout, where Jason Leopold -- claiming to rely on "high-level sources with direct knowledge" of the matter -- said Saturday that Patrick Fitzgerald met with Rove lawyer Robert Luskin for "about 15 hours" Friday; that Fitzgerald informed Luskin that Rove has already been indicted by the grand jury; and that Fitzgerald told Luskin that Rove had 24 hours to "get his affairs in order." Leopold said the meeting was "a closely guarded secret and seems to have taken place without the knowledge of the media."

But did such a meeting take place at all? Both the National Review and the New York Sun say the answer seems to be no. Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Rove's legal team, told the National Review's Byron York that Fitzgerald didn't meet or communicate in any way, anywhere, with any of Rove's representatives Friday -- let alone for 15 hours in Luskin's office -- and didn't inform Rove or his representatives that Rove has been indicted. The Sun carries a similar report, quoting Corallo as saying: "The story is a complete fabrication. It is both malicious and disgraceful."

Leopold is standing by his story, claiming he has more than one source to back him up. But this isn't the first time one of Leopold's Rove "scoops" has been called into question. Last month, Leopold reported that Fitzgerald had sent Luskin a "target letter" informing him that Rove was a target of the grand jury's investigation. When Luskin issued a statement in which he said that Fitzgerald told him that Rove "is not a target," Leopold tried to defend his story by pointing to the fact that the U.S. Attorney's Manual doesn't specify that target notification must come in the form of a letter. "Luskin's assertion that Rove did not receive a target letter does not answer the broader question of whether Rove received notice of any kind," Leopold told us. That may have been the broader question, but Leopold had claimed specifically, in the first paragraph of his story, that Fitzgerald had sent Luskin a "target letter." Corallo denied it, and Leopold's defense of his story, at least in our opinion, was entirely unpersuasive.

So could Rove's indictment be imminent? Absolutely. Are we ready to believe that it has already happened? No.

Update: Luskin denies Leopold's story in an email exchange with TalkLeft; he says Rove's status still hasn't changed. Truthout's Marc Ash is still defending it. "The story is accurate," he writes, "and Karl Rove's attorneys have been served with an indictment."

Ash says that Truthout's report was based on the word of three sources -- two who are "close to the Fitzgerald investigation" and a third who "reported communication with a source who had 'direct knowledge'" of the alleged Fitzgerald-Luskin meeting. Not to be outdone, Leopold is claiming to have had "five sources" for his story the same number he told us he had last month when he claimed Rove had received a "target letter" from Fitzgerald.

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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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