Rove Then vs. Rove Now

[Note: Only for the seriously RoveGate-afflicted. This may be my longest parsing yet.]

Karl Rove's lawyers are talking again. Here's their latest, from Saturday's New York Times:

Lawyers involved in the case say the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has narrowed the investigation of Mr. Rove to whether he tried to conceal from the grand jury a conversation he had with a Time magazine reporter, Matthew Cooper, in the week before the identity of an undercover intelligence operative was made public in 2003.

In what is believed to be his final look at any involvement by Mr. Rove, Mr. Fitzgerald has centered on whether he was fully forthcoming about the belated discovery of an internal e-mail message that confirmed his conversation with Mr. Cooper, to whom Mr. Rove had mentioned the C.I.A. officer. Lawyers in the case say Mr. Rove had learned the officer's identity from the columnist Robert D. Novak two days before speaking to Mr. Cooper.

It sounds like Fitzgerald still believes that Karl Rove learned that Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA from a White House official earlier than July 8 when he says he learned it from columnist Robert Novak. Did someone who read the June 10, 2003 classified memo tell him about it - perhaps on July 7 or 8 after it found its way to Air Force One?

Here is what has been disclosed to date [note: unlinked sources are available on Lexis.com]:

Karl Rove was interviewed by investigators before any grand jury subpoenas were issued, during or prior to October, 2003.

Cooper was first subpoenaed in May, 2004. According to the Court of Appeals decision, the subpoena related to two specific Time articles dated July 17, 2003, and July 21, 2003, to which Cooper had contributed. After losing a motion to quash, Fitzgerald and Cooper made an agreement that Cooper would identify a specific person in whom the grand jury was interested. Cooper complied. (This was Libby who agreed to be identified.)

On August 2, 2004, Time Magazine got a subpoena seeking:

“[a]ll notes, tape recordings, e-mails, or other documents of Matthew Cooper relating to the July 17, 2003 Time.com article entitled ‘A War on Wilson?’ and the July 21, 2003 Time Magazine article entitled, ‘A Question of Trust.’”

In the July 17 article, Cooper wrote:

And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices.

Cooper was deposed by Fitzgerald's team in August, 2004.

On September 13, 2004, again according to the Court of Appeals decision, he was served with another subpoena requesting:

“[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.

Cooper testified before the grand jury in mid July, 2005. He recounted his q and a in Time. The major quotes are here.

As I told the grand jury--and we went over this in microscopic, excruciating detail, which may someday prove relevant--I recall calling Rove from my office at TIME magazine through the White House switchboard and being transferred to his office. I believe a woman answered the phone and said words to the effect that Rove wasn't there or was busy before going on vacation. But then, I recall, she said something like, "Hang on," and I was transferred to him. I recall saying something like, "I'm writing about Wilson," before he interjected. "Don't get too far out on Wilson," he told me. I started taking notes on my computer, and while an e-mail I sent moments after the call has been leaked, my notes have not been.

...Rove went on to say that Wilson had not been sent to Niger by the director of the CIA and, I believe from my subsequent e-mails--although it's not in my notes--that Rove added that Dick Cheney didn't send him either. Indeed, the next day the Vice President's chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, told me Cheney had not been responsible for Wilson's mission.

....There were some words in my notes that I could not account for--at one point they read, "...notable..." I didn't know if that was Rove's word or mine, and one grand juror asked if it might mean "not able," as in "Wilson was not an able person." I said that was possible, but I just didn't recall that. The notes, and my subsequent e-mails, go on to indicate that Rove told me material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson's mission and his findings.

Moving on to the Rove-Hadley e-mail that Rove wrote on July 11, 2003, right after his conversation with Cooper. Both Hadley and Rove were attendees at the White House Iraq Group meetings in July, 2003. According to this August 10, 2003 Washington Post article:

The group met weekly in the Situation Room. Among the regular participants were Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser; communications strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy advisers led by Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, along with I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff.

According to the March 5, 2004 Chicago Tribune (available on Lexis.com)(free Truthout version here) Fitzgerald subpoenaed the records of the group for July.

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.

Newsday reported on November 11, 2004 (quoted here):

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.

Did Fitzgerald first get the Rove-Hadley e-mail from its subpoena of White House Iraq Group records? Rove's lawyer said he discovered the e-mail to Hadley about Rove's converstation with Cooper in the fall of 2004 after a White House records search turned it up and he immediately turned it over to Fitzgerald. Reportedly, Rove then went back to the grand jury on October 15, 2004 and testified about his conversation with Cooper.

One lawyer with a client in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald could be skeptical of Mr. Rove's account because the message was not discovered until the fall of 2004. It was at about the same time that Mr. Fitzgerald had begun to compel reporters to cooperate with his inquiry, among them Mr. Cooper. Associates of Mr. Rove said the e-mail message was not incriminating and was turned over immediately after it was found at the White House. They said Mr. Rove never intended to withhold details of a conversation with a reporter from Mr. Fitzgerald, noting that Mr. Rove had signed a waiver to allow reporters to reveal to prosecutors their discussions with confidential sources. In addition, they said, Mr. Rove testified fully about his conversation with Mr. Cooper -- long before Mr. Cooper did -- acknowledging that it was possible that the subject of Mr. Wilson's trip had come up.

Karl Rove testified four times to the grand jury. One time was in February, 2004.

In February 2004, when Mr. Rove testified about his conversations with reporters, he recalled the Novak conversation, but no other interviews with reporters -- an omission that Mr. Fitzgerald has investigated as a possible false statement or perjury. Mr. Rove said he had forgotten the discussion with Mr. Cooper, the lawyers said.

Mr. Fitzgerald did not learn of the Cooper conversation until months later when a search of Mr. Rove's e-mails uncovered the e-mail that he had sent to Mr. Hadley. ''Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he's got a welfare reform story coming,'' Mr. Rove wrote in the message to Mr. Hadley that was first disclosed in July by the Associated Press. ''When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger,'' Mr. Rove wrote. ''Isn't this damaging? Hasn't president been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn't get Time far out on this.'' (my emphasis)

The third time Rove testified before the grand jury was October, 2004. The fourth time was October, 2005.

According to a July 15, 2005 New York Times article, a source within Rove's camp said:

Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist [Novak]the name of the C.I.A. officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq, the person said.

After hearing Mr. Novak's account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist: "I heard that, too." The previously undisclosed telephone conversation, which took place on July 8, 2003, was initiated by Mr. Novak, the person who has been briefed on the matter said. ...Asked by investigators how he knew enough to leave Mr. Novak with the impression that his information was accurate, Mr. Rove said he heard portions of the story from other journalists, but had not heard Ms. Wilson's name.

A July 19 correction was posted by the Times to the story:

Correction: July 19, 2005, Tuesday A front-page subheading on Friday with an article about the disputed involvement of Karl Rove, the White House senior adviser, in leaking the name of a C.I.A. officer omitted attribution for an account of Mr. Rove's words to the columnist Robert D. Novak. The conversation was described by someone who had been officially briefed on the matter. According to the account, Mr. Rove said ''I heard that, too'' after hearing about the officer from the columnist. The subheading should not have attributed the account of that comment directly to Mr. Rove.

An Associate Press article on July 15, 2005(available on Lexis.com) reports:

Presidential confidant Karl Rove testified to a grand jury that he learned the identity of a CIA operative originally from journalists, then informally discussed the information with a Time magazine reporter days before the story broke, according to a person briefed on the testimony.

The person, who works in the legal profession and spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, told The Associated Press that Rove testified last year that he remembers specifically being told by columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, the wife of a harsh Iraq war critic, worked for the CIA.

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.

At the same time, Fitzgerald is said to be investigating whether the disclosure of Plame's identity came after someone discovered her name among classified documents circulating at the upper echelons of the White House.

Again, did the White House turn over the Hadley-Rove e-mail before Luskin did? It should have been on the White House computers since Rove sent it to Hadley from his office in the White House. Or did Hadley give it to the White House to turn over or give it directly to Fitzgerald?

Murray Waas reported in March, 2004:

President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the FBI in an interview last October that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists, according to a government official and an attorney familiar with the ongoing special counsel's investigation of the matter.

But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

So Rove told the FBI that he only circulated information after Novak's article appeared, when we now know, and his lawyers confirm, that he spoke to Cooper about her on July 11, 2004, three days before Novak's article appeared.

The Washington Post reported Rove didn't offer to go back to the grand jury a fourth time until after Cooper testified in July.

As recently as a week ago, people familiar with Rove's role in the affair said they believed he was in the clear because, after Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper testified in July about his conversation with Rove, Rove had not heard back from Fitzgerald. Rove offered then to come back and answer any questions that might arise from Cooper's testimony, Luskin has said.

When did Karl Rove turn the Hadley e-mail over? He didn't. The White House turned it over. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The White House turned the e-mail over to prosecutors, and Rove told a grand jury about it last year during testimony in which he also acknowledged discussing Plame's covert work for the CIA with Cooper and syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Rove, however, told the grand jury he first learned of Plame's CIA work from journalists, not government sources.

...Rove, Bush's closest adviser, told a grand jury the e-mail was consistent with his recollection that his intention in talking with Cooper wasn't to divulge Plame's identity but to caution the reporter against certain allegations Plame's husband was making, according to legal professionals familiar with Rove's testimony.

Rove reportedly told Novak on July 8 after Novak mentioned Wilson's wife that he had heard this too. From whom did he hear it? That seems to be what Fitzgerald wants to know. Rove said he heard it from other journalists, but couldn't remember which one. It seems more likely he heard it from Libby.

By about June 12, Libby had learned of both Wilson and his wife from a variety of sources - the undersecretary, a top CIA official and Cheney himself.

And it was after Wilson went public on July 6, 2003, that Libby appears to step up his focus on Wilson as the White House tried to decide how to beat back his claims. In a series of conversations - with former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, Cheney's counsel, and an official believed to be Karl Rove - Libby asks: How should we deal with media inquires about Wilson? In each conversation, prosecutors say, Libby discussed Wilson's wife.

I suspect Fitzgerald now has his answer. The question is, will he charge Rove with making a false statement to FBI investigators or with perjury before the grand jury, both or neither? While recantation is a defense to a perjury charge, it may not apply to Karl Rove, as I explained here. There is no recantation defense available to making a false statement to investigators.

It seems to me a false statements charge is the easiest for Fitzgerald to prove against Rove. The guidelines would not be as high as they are for perjury, but it's still a felony and even charging it would result in Rove having to leave the White House.

Update: Tom Maguire at Just One Minute and Anonymous Liberal also re-analyze Rove. Tom's post may be even longer than this one.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Rove Then vs. Rove Now (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:21 PM EST
    Great post! It appears that Rove is relying on the same excuse that Libby used: that when he circulated or confirmed the classified information, he did not remember where he originally got it -- i.e., he forgot that he originally got this information from government sources. It's a lame excuse, but hard to disprove. Libby and Rove could maintain "plausible deniability" by engaging in a round robin of leaking and confirming: X leaks to Novak, then Rove confirms for Novak; Rove leaks to Cooper, then Libby Confirms for Cooper. In each case, Libby and Rove can truthfully say they heard about Plame from reporters. They can not-so-truthfully claim to have forgotten that this was not the first time they heard about Plame. One reason Miller's testimony is important: it shows that Libby leaked to Miller well before these other events took place. I would also bet that X will claim he was not told the information about Plame was classified when he leaked it. As I speculated here, the problem is that Libby screwed up by claiming Russert told him about Plame when he was probably thinking of Cooper, who actually did tell him.

    Re: Rove Then vs. Rove Now (none / 0) (#2)
    by Tom Maguire on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:22 PM EST
    A part of the Waas 2004 story does not seem to have stood up, based on subsequent leaks: But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. That looks like the same spin he gave the President - "I was not a ource, I just said "I heard that, too' ". Subsequent reports, such as the NY Times today, say he was forthcoming about Novak from the outset. Now, my question - I would think that a conviction on a false statement charge requires more than just proving that the statement was false. Surely, intent and demeanor matter. If you were defending this, wouldn't you emphasize that Rove did disclose his Novak talk, and does not seem to be lying about anything else? Secondly, I have no idea of the answer, but my impression from the Times story is that their is a central White House archivist that handles these document requests. In my imagination, anyway, all emails are on the White House server, and the archivist works with Fitzgerald and WH counsel to comply with requests. Perhaps some judgement calls get bounced up to the WH official in question (or his attorney) but Rove was not asked to go through his old emails himself. Anyway, I don;t know, but it seems plausible.

    Re: Rove Then vs. Rove Now (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:25 PM EST
    I think his false statement to investigators occurred in 2003 and consisted of him telling them he first learned Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA from a reporter when he learned it from a White House official, probably Libby - or someone who had seen the June 9 classified memo that was faxed to Colin Powell on Air Force One on July 7.

    Re: Rove Then vs. Rove Now (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:25 PM EST
    The question is whether Rove is still claiming that he first learned about Wilson's wife from a reporter. I'd bet not. I'd bet he's now willing to conceed that he must have learned it from inside the government, but that he can't remember specifically. And most important for a false statement charge, when he talked to investigators, he really believed that he had first learned this information from reporters. If that's what he really believed at the time, he would not be guilty of either the false statement charge or the underlying IIPA violation. My guess is that Fitz is still struggling with the problem of how you prove what Rove believed at the time he spoke to investigators.

    Re: Rove Then vs. Rove Now (none / 0) (#5)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:25 PM EST
    Two words: Big Time.

    Re: Rove Then vs. Rove Now (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:29 PM EST
    NYT, spinning now: "In what is believed to be his final look at any involvement by Mr. Rove, Mr. Fitzgerald..." NYT, spinning then: "In what is believed to be his final look at any involvement by Mr. Hussein, Mr. Bush..."