Truthout: Luskin is the one who should be coming clean

The site that claimed Karl Rove has already been indicted says it's Rove's lawyer who has some explaining to do.

By Tim Grieve

Published June 13, 2006 3:55PM (EDT)

Click on the Plamegate link on the cover of Truthout today, and you'll be taken to a list of stories about Karl Rove. The latest is from May 13, 2006, and the headline says: "Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators."

If you're looking for any word of today's news -- Robert Luskin's statement that Patrick Fitzgerald does "not anticipate" bringing charges against Rove -- you'll have to look past Truthout's cover to an editor's note posted on Truthout's blog. "We are stunned by the magnitude of the reaction to the article we published yesterday morning," Truthout executive director Marc Ash writes there. "We have put our cards on the table. We invite Mr. Luskin to do the same." It's a reference to the flawed Jason Leopold story Truthout put up yesterday -- the one suggesting that a sealed criminal case filed in the U.S. District Court last month might have something to do with the Valerie Plame case. As for Truthout's putting its "cards on the table"? We have no idea what Ash means.

Earlier this morning, we asked Ash and Leopold to respond to today's news: "Do you still believe 1) that Rove told George W. Bush and Josh Bolten in May that he was going to be indicted, 2) that Rove was, in fact, indicted, and 3) that Fitzgerald told Rove that he had been indicted in a meeting in May?"

We haven't heard back from them, but that doesn't mean that we haven't heard a lot from them. To wit:

Jason Leopold, Truthout story, May 12, 2006: "Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, within the last week that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to people knowledgeable about these discussions."

Jason Leopold, Truthout story, May 13, 2006: "Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald ... [has] served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning."

Marc Ash, editor's note, May 15, 2006: "What everyone is asking right now is how accurate is the story? Has Rove in fact been indicted? The story is accurate, and Karl Rove's attorneys have been served with an indictment."

Jason Leopold, radio appearance, May 16, 2006: "What's kind of troubling here, is being accused of just making up a story. I mean, what would I be doing that for? ... We believe that this is a solid story, and we went with it."

Marc Ash, editor's note, May 18, 2006: "For the past few days, we have endured non-stop attacks on our credibility, and we have fought hard to defend our reputation ... While we had only our own sources to work with in the beginning, additional sources have now come forward and offered corroboration to us."

Marc Ash, editor's note, May 19, 2006: "The time has now come ... to issue a partial apology to our readership for this story. While we paid very careful attention to the sourcing on this story, we erred in getting too far out in front of the news-cycle. In moving as quickly as we did, we caused more confusion than clarity. And that was a disservice to our readership and we regret it."

Marc Ash, interview, May 20, 2006: "We're not in a position to continue on without an official confirmation. Unless we get some official confirmation, we're going to look stupider and stupider."

Marc Ash, editor's note, May 25, 2006: "We know that we have now three independent sources confirming that attorneys for Karl Rove were handed an indictment either late in the night of May 12 or early in the morning of May 13 ... We believe that the indictment which does exist against Karl Rove is sealed."

Marc Ash, editor's note, June 3, 2006: "We stand by the story. TO's staff is treating this story as our highest priority and will be following up with additional information as it becomes available."

Jason Leopold, Truthout story, June 12, 2006: "Four weeks ago, during the time when we reported that White House political adviser Karl Rove was indicted for crimes related to his role in the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, the grand jury empanelled in the case returned an indictment that was filed under seal in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the curious heading of 'Sealed vs. Sealed.'"

Marc Ash, editor's note, June 12, 2006: "We believe that federal criminal indictment '06 cr 128' ('Sealed vs. Sealed') is directly related to the Fitzgerald/Plame investigation ... We believe that Karl Rove is cooperating with federal investigators, and for that reason Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is not willing to comment on his status."

Marc Ash, e-mail message, June 12, 2006: "We are comfortable with what we've published. We're going to let her ride."

We'll report back if we hear from Leopold or Ash. In the meantime, they can take some comfort in this: Although some of their readers are now demanding that they come forward with an explanation for their reporting -- one refers to Ash's cryptic "cards on the table" comment as bordering on "lunacy" -- a few are still standing by them. "Look, I am not going to get into the whole 'did Jason Leopold lie, get played, hallucinate' nonsense," says one poster. "Things are rarely as simple as that in big time investigative journalism. I still think he and Marc deserve props for taking a big chance and taking a big cut at the ball ... Get up off the mat, dust yourself off and get after the next one."

Update: We still haven't heard from Leopold or Ash, but Ash has added a bit to his "cards on the table" editor's note. Ash writes: "The entire basis for the information that 'Rove has been cleared' comes from a verbal statement by Karl Rove's attorney. No one else confirms that. As Karl Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin is bound to act -- in all regards -- in Rove's best interest. We question his motives."

Tim Grieve

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

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