Did Rover Roll Over?
[Note: This is another very long analysis intended for the seriously RoveGate afflicted. It is also speculation, based on publicly available information. Neither I nor TalkLeft have any sources connected to the investigation.]
There were three articles last week with new details about Karl Rove's status with Patrick Fitzgerald. I recommend reading all of them.
- Washington Post, Libby May Have Tried to Mask Cheney's Role
- The Wall Street Journal, As Time Passes in Leak Probe, Rove Is Seen as Less Vulnerable(subscriber only link)
- Murray Waas, Libby Testimony Is Key To Rove Inquiry
One thing that stands out immediately is the different information coming from Karl Rove's camp as to his status and, more particularly, when the outcome will be disclosed.
Murray Waas reports:
The ongoing investigation means that Rove's legal status is likely to remain up in the air until the final disposition of Libby's case. That could be two years from now, or even longer. Rove's predicament contradicts recent news accounts indicating that Fitzgerald will conclude his probe of Rove in the near future.
....Sources close to Rove say that Libby very likely misled Rove when he told Rove that he had learned about Plame from journalists. Investigators also want to learn from Libby whether that's true, or whether Libby told Rove a different source for the Plame information — specifically other government officials with access to highly classified information.
The Wall St. Journal reports:
Mr. Rove's camp believes he is likely to learn the prosecutor's final decision on an indictment within a matter of weeks, not months, a person familiar with the situation said last week.
The Wapo article reports:
Karl Rove, the president's deputy chief of staff and top political adviser, remains under investigation for providing misleading statements about his role in the leaking of Plame's identity, and people close to the case said he could still be charged. A final decision is expected soon on Rove's fate.
I see all of this as a smokescreen by Karl Rove's camp to prepare the public for the disclosure that Rove cooperated against Libby and Cheney, which likely will come in the coming weeks, while the final decision as to the outcome of his cooperation won't be known for months or even years, depending on whether Fitzgerald is successful at getting Cheney and/or others as well as Libby, or just Libby. It's the only way to reconcile the different versions as to whether we will know within weeks or not for months or longer.
I have speculated before that Karl Rove already has his deal with Fitzgerald and will either get a complete pass or plead guilty to a false statement charge in exchange for his cooperation against Libby and others, including Cheney.
Waas' report that Fitzgerald is trying to turn Libby to get Rove seems like spin from the Rove camp. I think they are trying to shield Rove as long as possible from the disclosure that all that remains pending is the final concession Rove will get for his cooperation, and that is what we won't know for a long time.
Libby turned down a pre-indictment deal and is about to spend $1 million or more on legal fees to fight the charges. Immediate cooperation is not in the cards for him. One thing that could change his position is information Libby receives in discovery showing that Fitzgerald has hard documentary evidence that he and Cheney lied to Fitzgerald, rendering it pointless for Libby to continue to fall on his sword for Cheney. If Fitzgerald is waiting to turn Libby, I think it's to get Cheney, not Karl Rove. Fitzgerald, as we learned here, has a history of going for the top dog.
It is far more likely that Rove has his deal, bought by his 11th-hour disclosure to Fitzgerald. Rove's deal may be contingent upon his following through with testimony favorable to the government at Libby's trial, or it may be contingent upon Rove delivering someone higher up than Libby. If either of these are the case, we probably won't know for many months or even a year or more.
As I wrote here, Libby's defense team will learn from the discovery as to any concessions Fitz made to Rove in exchange for Rove's cooperation. Assuming there was a concession made to Rove for providing incriminating evidence against Libby, even an open-ended one that doesn't specify the exact details of the concession because it's still up in the air, I think Libby's lawyers will disclose it in a court pleading. They also may give their preferred journalists a heads-up a few days beforehand.
Word of this strategy likely will reach Fitzgerald, whom I suspect will want to release the information first, along with a statement of support for Rove's cooperation and credibility.
I think there are two issues of timing with respect to Karl Rove. One pertains to whether he made a deal with Fitzgerald in exchange for cooperating against Libby and/or Cheney, and the other pertains to what he gets from Fitzgerald for that cooperation. I think we will learn the first within weeks and we won't learn the second for a long time.
This leads back to the question of what Rove told Fitzgerald about Libby or others in the 11th hour before Libby's indictment. I think Rove may have turned over additional documents, such as an e-mail (besides the one with Adam Levine) establishing who first told Libby that Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and was involved in sending Wilson to Niger — and that it was either someone at the CIA or a member of the White House Iraq Group. Perhaps Rove was copied on an e-mail between them and only recently located it. This would be confirming evidence that Libby lied when he told investigators and the grand jury that he initially learned about Wilson's employment with the CIA from reporters.
Maybe it was these e-mails that Fitzgerald picked up when he visited Rove's lawyer's office the day before the indictments were issued.
Raw Story has previously reported that Cheney personally attended two of the meetings of the White House Iraq Group at which Wilson's trip to Niger was discussed.
Two officials close to Fitzgerald told RAW STORY they have seen documents obtained from the White House Iraq Group which state that Cheney was present at several of the group's meetings. They say Cheney personally discussed with individuals in attendance at least two interviews in May and June of 2003 Wilson gave to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus, in which he claimed the administration “twisted” prewar intelligence and what the response from the administration should be.
It's doubtful Fitzgerald would move against the vice president of the United States based solely on information from Karl Rove. But if, down the line, Fitzgerald could turn Libby, he might have two corroborating sources and decide to take a stab at Cheney.
If this is the case, it makes sense that Fitzgerald would withhold his final decision on Rove until after Libby's case is resolved. Here are two possible scenarios. One is that before trial Libby decides his goose is cooked, largely because of information Rove provided to Fitzgerald, and agrees to plead guilty to some of the offenses against him and cooperate against Cheney in exchange for a sentence concession. If Fitzgerald gets a conviction from Libby and a crack at Cheney as a result of Rove's cooperation, he'd be in a position to offer Rove a complete pass or at least probation on a plea to a false statements charge.
Many (including me) have theorized that Libby would never give up Cheney because of their closeness. But Libby will receive a copy of Cheney's statement to Fitzgerald in discovery. If Rove has provided proof that Cheney lied, Libby might just decide it’s hopeless and join Fitzgerald's team.
The second possibility is that Libby goes to trial, gets convicted, loses his appeals, and then, with no more 5th Amendment protection, is hauled in front of a grand jury by Fitzgerald who extracts information about Cheney. Waas mentions this possibility in his article.
Either of these last two scenarios would serve Rove's best interests, since the entire process could easily take another year, even longer, which would mean the outcome won't be known until after the November 2006 elections. The conservative faction of the Republican Party would regard Rove as a hero for not decimating their chances in 2006, and his career would continue with minimal harm.
Details about Cheney's testimony to Fitzgerald have been shrouded in secrecy. But they will reach the Libby team soon. And there have been a few MSM articles providing details, like this one:
Agence France Presse — June 5, 2004 (available on lexis.com)
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.
If Fitzgerald can prove there was a concerted effort by the White House Iraq Group to discredit Wilson by alleging his wife was a CIA operative who played a role in the CIA's decision to send him to Niger, and that Cheney was a part of the effort, then Fitzgerald has hit pay dirt. If Karl Rove provided the 11th-hour documents to establish Cheney's participation, then Cheney and Libby are toast — at least on charges of lying to Fitzgerald's investigators and possibly the grand jury.
Who but Karl Rove could be the architect of this scenario?
Bottom line: Prosecutors don't buy a pig in a poke. They often refuse to specify their final sentencing concession or promise not to indict at all until the cooperator has fulfilled his part of the bargain. If Rove has a deal, his fulfillment comes partially by testifying against Libby at trial or being a major factor in Libby's decision to plead guilty and cooperate. If Libby chooses the latter and his information, combined with Rove's information, provides Fitzgerald with the goods to indict Cheney, Rove will fare much better.
Update: Jane Hamsher follows up on Firedoglake. There's good comments there as well.
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