Luskin: No Change in Karl Rove's Status

The Washington Post reports that while Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's lawyer, had no comment on yesterday's grand jury proceedings,

"What I can say is, there's been no change in Karl's status since late October," he said. At that time, Fitzgerald told Luskin that Rove remained under investigation but that he would hold off on charging him because of information Luskin had provided late that month.

If, as the Washington Post previously reported, the information Luskin provided at the 11th hour concerned his conversation with Viveca Novak, then she is critical to Fitzgerald's decision. But perhaps she is only critical to Rove's avoiding a perjury charge for his testimony to the grand jury in February, 2004 when he didn't disclose his call with Cooper.

While Viveca may solve that problem for Rove, I don't see how she solves the problem of his failing to tell investigators in October, 2003, before the grand jury was convened, that he spoke to Robert Novak about Joseph Wilson's wife before Novak published his article. It has been reported that lawyers close to the case say that Rove told investigators he first learned of Plame Wilson when he read Novak's article.

Rove told investigators that he merely passed along information about Plame-Wilson to other journalists and White House officials after it had already appeared in Novak’s column, the attorneys said. He maintained, they added, that it was entirely within his right to do so being that Plame-Wilson’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was publicly criticizing the Bush Administration and had claimed in a New York Times op-ed that it had “twisted” prewar intelligence to build public support for a preemptive military strike against Iraq.

According to lawyers, Rove did not tell FBI investigators in 2003 that he had spoken with Novak prior to his column being published and had been one of the two “senior administration officials” cited in Novak’s column as having confirmed Plame’s identity and CIA employment.

Now for the tea leaves. Here's one possibility: Rove is still working on a deal to limit his charge to false statements to federal investigators, avoiding a perjury and obstruction charge, with sentencing concessions not to be determined until Libby's trial is over or indictments are brought charging others against whom Rove has provided incriminating information.

Here's why I think the false statement to investigators charge is one Rove likely can't avoid. Shorter version: Robert Novak spoke to Rove on July 8, six days before his column ran. When Novak told him about Wilson's wife, Rove replied, "I heard that too." [New York Times has a similar account here.] If this is true, then he didn't first hear it from a reporter and he lied to investigators. But for Fitzgerald, the bigger question likely is, where did he hear this before July 8 and from whom?

According to the Libby Indictment, Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby both knew on or about June 12. So did a senior CIA official and a Secretary of State official. Did Rove learn it from one of them or from someone else who had seen the June 10 classified memo that Colin Powell received on Air Force One on July 7?

Rove told Matt Cooper a lot about Valerie Plame Wilson on July 11 -- all but her name. Was he just repeating what Novak told him or was he combining information from Novak and information from someone at White House?

Yesterday was the first time the grand jury met since Libby's indictment. Fitz and his FBI agent spent three hours bringing the grand jury up to speed. They would have introduced Bob Woodward's deposition and his source's statements, as well as the results of any other interviews the FBI conducted in the last five weeks.

I have a hard time believing this is just about Karl Rove. I think Fitzgerald has a bigger target in mind. Fitzgerald is going to keep his plea deals and grants of immunity secret until the last possible moment. But the fact that the probe is continuing with new evidence being introduced suggests at least the possibility that Fitz is back to investigating whether there was a conspiracy to leak Valerie Plame's identity or to obstruct justice by covering up the leak.

Remember at the press conference after Libby's indictment when Fitzgerald said he couldn't charge leaking an undercover's identity because he couldn't read Libby's mind and Libby hadn't told the truth? Karl Rove may have begun filling in some of those blanks as to Libby, Cheney and others at the 11th hour before Libby's indictment when Luskin met with Fitzgerald. Fitz has a history of going for the top guy, and the top guy is not Karl Rove.

Does it mean anything that Karl Rove is back on display accompanying the President everywhere, while Cheney reputedly is in the dog house? I keep returning to the July 12 flight that Cheney, Libby and Catherine Martin took to Charlotte, NC, after which Libby called Cooper and told him about Wilson's wife. If that's when the plan was hatched, was Rove in on it or not?

The Libby indictment says Rove told Libby about his conversation with Novak and Novak's intent to write an article on July 10 or 11, the day before the flight. Does that add anything to the picture?

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