Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source

David Corn scoops a Newsweek exclusive to be released today confirming that Karl Rove was Matthew Cooper's source. Corn says,

This new evidence could place Rove in serious political, if not legal, jeopardy (or, at least it should). If what I am told is true, this is proof that the Bush White House was using any information it could gather on Joseph Wilson--even classified information related to national security--to pursue a vendetta against Wilson, a White House critic. Even if it turns out Rove did not break the law regarding the naming of intelligence officials, this new disclosure could prove Rove guilty of leaking a national security secret to a reporter for political ends. What would George W. Bush do about that?

I continue to believe that Karl Rove was Matthew Cooper's second source. (Cooper has acknowledged that Lewis Libby was his first source.) But, before we jump the gun, I think we need to ask: Is it possible that Fitzgerald wants Cooper to tell what he and Rove talked about not to get Rove, but because that conversation may make a case against Libby and possibly others? Or, does he want Rove as well?

Cooper's first supboena asked specifically about Lewis Libby. He refused to answer, was held in contempt, and then, because he got a personal waiver from Libby, he agreed to be deposed by Fitzgerald. It was after that deposition that he got the second subpoena, asking about communications with other sources. According to the DC Circuit Court of appeals decision, the second subpoena asked for:

“[a]ny and all documents . . . [relating to] conversations between Matthew Cooper and official source(s) prior to July 14, 2003, oncerning in any way: former Ambassador Joseph Wilson; the 2002 trip by former Ambassador Wilson to Niger; Valerie Wilson Plame, a/k/a Valerie Wilson, a/k/a Valerie Plame (the wife of former Ambassador Wilson); and/or any affiliation between Valerie Wilson Plame and the CIA.

The White House also got subpoenas, including this one, according to the March 5, 2004 Chicago Tribune [Note: all sourced articles available on Lexis.com):

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

The subpoena to the White House, which it refused to comply with [correction: on re-reading, the article is saying the White House refused to give the information to the Chicago Tribune, not to the Government] also asked for:

.... records of telephone calls to and from Air Force One from July 7 to July 12, while Bush was visiting several nations in Africa. The White House declined Thursday to release a list of those on the trip.

The subpoena further wanted a "complete transcript" of Ari Fleischer's July 12, 2004 press gaggle from Nigeria, which had been removed from the White House web site, and in which Ari Fleischer talked about Joseph Wilson. (It's now back up here, but who knows if it's complete.)

I think the key here is the White House Iraq Group. It was created to increase support for the Administration's reasons for going to war. Participants in the weekly meetings included:

...senior political adviser Karl Rove; communication strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas Calio; policy advisers led by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley; and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Newsday reported on November 11, 2004:

Among those confirming that they appeared before the grand jury led by a special Justice Department prosecutor appointed six weeks ago are chief White House spokesman Scott McClellan, former press aide Adam Levine and Republican consultant Mary Matalin, who served as a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

...In the grand jury sessions, press aides were confronted with internal White House documents, mainly e-mails and telephone logs, between White House aides and reporters and questioned about conversations with reporters, according to sources and reports.

...The logs indicate that several White House officials talked to Novak shortly before the appearance of his July 14 column, the Washington Post reported. According to the New York Times, the set of documents that prosecutors repeatedly referred to in their meetings with White House aides are extensive notes compiled by I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser.

....The FBI has interviewed Rove, Libby, McClellan, Levine, Matalin, White House communications director Dan Bartlett, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Cheney aide Cathie Martin, the Post reported.

Corn mentions Scott McClellan's earlier statements. USA today reported on October 8, 2003:

On Tuesday, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan ruled out three senior Bush aides as possible sources of the leak: Karl Rove, Bush's political adviser; Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff; and Elliott Abrams, a senior official on the National Security Council. All have been named in Washington speculation.

He said each, when asked by him, denied leaking the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson to newspaper columnist Robert Novak, who revealed her identity in an article July 14. "They were not involved in leaking classified information, nor did they condone it," McClellan said.

Note: They denied leaking "the name." That is consistent with what Karl Rove and his lawyer have said. Lawyers parse words for a reason. "I did not disclose her name" and "I did not knowingly leak classified information" does not foreclose that he said "Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA" without mentioning in what capacity. And I think that's just what Karl Rove told Matthew Cooper, and if Rove did not know that Plame had ever been an undercover operative, then he's probably in the clear on an unlawful disclosure charge.

But, Lewis Libby may not be clear of wrongdoing. Go back to this transcript of an October 24, 2003 Senate policy hearing on the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, in which witnesses said it was most unusual that Dick Cheney and Lewis Libby went to CIA headquarters on at least two occasions to meet with policy analysts - and right after, it was decided to send Joseph Wilson to Iraq. Vince Cannistraro,Former Chief of Operations and Analysis, CIA Counterterrorism Center testifies:

Toward December of 2001, intelligence report was received in Washington that alleged that Saddam Hussein had been attempting to acquire yellow cake uranium ore in Niger and two other African countries. The vice president of the United States and other senior officials in the administration seized on this information as a proof that Saddam was that clear and present danger and needed to be addressed immediately in order to eliminate that danger.

The vice president and his chief of staff went out to CIA headquarters on a number of occasions -- at least on two occasions -- specifically to address the questions of weapons of mass destruction and the attempt to acquire a nuclear capability. These meetings, I'm told secondhand, were contentious, but the vice president insisted that there must be some support for this reporting of the yellow cake acquisition attempt. CIA analysts, I'm told, didn't have any independent data to verify that, but as a result of the insistent pressure being applied to the analysts and particularly to the nonproliferation center, the CIA did send, as they've said publicly, Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger.

Senator Harkin then grills Cannistraro on the unusualness of Cheney and Libby's visits.

Sen. Harkin: The last point I wanted to make was, again, Mr. Cannistraro, I want to be perfectly clear on this as much as I can. I read your testimony and I heard you say it again that the vice president and his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, visited the CIA headquarters to engage the CIA analysts directly on this issue of uranium acquisition in Africa.

You call it, "an unprecedented act for the vice president to engage desk-level analysts resulted in a contentious give-and-take. Vice president insisted that CIA analysts were not looking hard enough for the evidence."

HARKIN: Again, in all of your years you've never seen a vice president or his chief of staff come down and engage in that kind of activity?

CANNISTRARO: No, I haven't, Senator. The vice president gets the president's daily brief every morning and he's briefed by a senior-level CIA official who goes out to the White House and does the briefing. So he has no need in going out and debating with desk-level analysts.

Next, the CIA agents who testified at the hearing made it clear that to the CIA, Valerie Plame was indeed an undercover operative at one time, that she might have gone back into undercover work, and even if she didn't, the agency and other agents would still want to protect her identity. For example, if it were known she had been an undercover CIA agent, she'd be ripe for a kidnapping ever after to get classified information out of her.

As to Dick Cheney, Agence Presse reported on June 5, 2004:

US Vice President Richard Cheney has been interviewed by federal prosecutors who asked whether he knew of anyone at the White House who had improperly disclosed the identity of an undercover CIA officer, The New York Times reported Saturday. Citing unnamed people involved in the case, the newspaper said Cheney was also asked about conversations with senior aides, including his chief of staff, Lewis Libby. Cheney was also asked whether he knew of any concerted effort by White House aides to name the officer, according to the report.

The Associated Press put it this way on July 11, 2003:

One of the mysteries congressional investigators seem intent to explore is how much Cheney knew. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday that Cheney was not informed nor aware of the CIA report casting doubt on the British allegations. But Wilson, the former envoy who helped the CIA write the report, said in an NBC-TV interview last Sunday that Cheney's office requested and received from the CIA a report on Wilson's mission.

As to what Fitzerald is after, The International Herald Tribune reported on April 3, 2004:

Fitzgerald is said by lawyers involved in the case and government officials to be examining possible discrepancies between documents he has gathered in the case and statements made by current or former White House officials during a three-month preliminary investigation conducted last fall by the FBI and the Justice Department. Some officials spoke to FBI agents with their lawyers present; others met informally with agents in their offices and even at bars near the White House.

...The suspicion that someone may have lied to investigators is based on contradictions between statements made by various witnesses in FBI interviews, the lawyers and officials said. The conflicts are said to be buttressed by documents, including memos, e-mail messages and phone records turned over by the White House.

I think Lawrence O'Donnell was pretty much on the money when he said he wanted to ask Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's lawyer, these questions, including:

You told Newsweek that your client “never knowingly disclosed classified information.” Did Rove ever unknowingly disclose classified information?

I bet that answer is "yes." Rove disclosed that Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA but he probably didn't mention in what capacity - since she was no longer undercover, it probably had no relevance to him.

In my view, this is much bigger than a simple perjury rap. It's about conspiracy to obstruct justice. I think the case is strongest against Lewis Libby and other members of Cheney's staff, possibly including Cheney - but it may also be strong against all members of the White House Iraq Group, and Karl Rove attended many of those meetings. So he's not off the hook.

One more article to read is this April, 2004 USA Today article about an alleged meeting by Cheney's top staff members which Cheneys' office told Vanity Fair never occurred.

To be continued....and please, keep in mind, I'm not an investigative reporter. I don't conduct interviews or speak with people about this. This is just a "Rubik's Cube" puzzle for me, hence the graphic at the top of this post. If you've ever spent an hour with a Rubik's cube, you know you either throw it down in frustration or get obsessive. I believe this is solvable from the information that's out there. I'd like to think I'm close, but then again, I've yet to master the Rubik's Cube. All information in mentioned here is available on the web or from Lexis.Com, my favorite company ever.

< Weekly Quiz | Robert Novak's Version Of the Plame Leak >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:52:01 PM EST
    rea, I'm waiting for the Karl promotion to be rolled out as a rationale for extending executive privilege to something he's been involved in. That is, perhaps Karl's been involved in strategy meetings to figure out how to respond to Fitz' upcoming indictments. But they wanted to shield those meetings from prosecutorial eyes. So they made Karl an official executive branch advisor (rather than a non-official one), thereby making meetings he's involved in subject to executive privilege.

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#11)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:52:01 PM EST
    The e-mails surrendered by Time Inc., which are largely between Cooper and his editors, show that one of Cooper's sources was White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, according to two lawyers who asked not to be identified because they are representing witnesses sympathetic to the White House Careful People. No self respecting neoc**t is going to concede anything based upon two lawyers' statements to TIME. Patience.

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#1)
    by rilkefan on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:02 PM EST
    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#2)
    by DawesFred60 on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    This is going to be fun to watch over the next weeks, You asked what would bush do about this, have the people shot if he could.

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    One word keeps coming to mind: treason. The Plame disclosure doesn't have the moral argument of conscience. I don't see a values argument to explain exposing the work of Plame's network which could conceivably have protected Americans from a terrorist attack by dirty bomb or worse. Treason.

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    I think there is someone besides Rove--and someone pretty high up, too. As I point out here, the first Isikoff article naming Rove depends exclusive on White House friendly lawyers as sources (Rove's lawyer and one or two more). But if that's so, then why would one of them leak that the White House is worried about Rove? All you're doing, then, is reinforcing rumors that Rove is guilty. I think there are two reasons this anonymous lawyer may have named Rove. Either said anonymous lawyer represents someone else in the White House and wants direct attention away from his client. Or the White House knows Rove is technically innocent, so they're using him as a decoy to distract attention away from someone else.

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    Regardless of whether Rove is in breach of the law (although I think that it is clear he is), The President called for an investigation and for those responsible to come clean; Rove didn't. Then he got promoted. What do you have to do to get fired from the administration (besides tell the truth, like O'Neill)?

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    It's becoming increasingly clear that Miller and Cooper changed the outcome of a presidential election by their ridiculous claim that there's some sort of reporter/source privilege that extends to protect a source's attempt to manipulate the media in order to commit a crime . . .

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    I keep hearing comparisons to Watergate and the protection of confidential sources, but the basic facts are so different because the potentially illegal activity was the leak itself and its motivation. Rove was not leaking about misconduct at the WH, he was committing the misconduct. I wish the press would have noted the distinction and outed him immediately when it became apparent that he had engaged in the misconduct and relied on press confidentiality to provide cover. I think there are times for journalists to protect their sources even if it means jail time. I don't think this is one of those times. I figure Rove and Libby can do the jail time.

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    Interesting observation about disclosure, empty wheel. Obstruction of justice, is that an infraction, a misdemeanor or felony? About time for another memo and legal opinion from Alberto.

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    Just symantics, but didn't Lawrence O'Donnell talk about Rove being the leak on The McLaughlin Group a week ago? I fear that Rove has figured out a legal way out of this mess. Evil smart. James

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#12)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:03 PM EST
    Rove is part of it, Rove should go down. And he's FAR more powerful in this adminisatration than Libby, who also, don't get me wrong, oughtta go down to if this manages to be uncovered. But I have to be honest. The right wing and neo-cons control the government, and they are experts at being criminal scumbags and getting away with it. The Dems can't even come close. Because they have no one with an ounce of imaginative or creative ability in their powerhouse.

    Re: Newsweek to Name Rove as Cooper Source (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:04 PM EST
    I've been speculating that this is a 5th Amendmendment case for Miller, not a 1st Amendmendment one (thoough I don't think this instance could qualify as a 1st amendment one at all). As for Rove, I said it on my blog, the clearly crafted response of claiming he did not say/know her name and he didn't knowingly out an operative is no vindication despite BushCos expected assertions. Just because the emails show the Rove said "Wilson's wife" and didn't indicate she was a covert operative is proof Rove didn't know her name or status. Based on Cooper's marriage to a Democratic strategist, I can imagine Rove would be careful not to give information that would very highly likely to ellicit Cooper to have great difficulty with the info he received such that he may need to discuss the moral implications with someone he trusted (the possiblity of doing the right thing and achieving Woodward/Bernstein status would have made tipping Cooper against him quite a possibility). Additionally at such a high level of government, wouldn't Rove be under some sort of obligation to ensure that any information he provides regarding CIA personnel could not possibly interfere with an operation or risk national security?