Murray Waas: Rove's Latest Defense Strategy

Intrepid reporter Murray Waas is back with a new article in the National Journal on why Robert Novak called Karl Rove on July 9, 2003: It was to discuss Frances Fragos Townsend, "a former senior attorney in the Clinton administration's Justice Department whom President Bush had recently named to be his deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism."

In a nutsell, Waas' latest goes like this: Cheney and Libby objected to Frances Townsend because she might not approve harsh interrogation techniques or secret renditions. The President wanted Townsend for the job. Libby embarked on a campaign to discredit her. Rove embarked on a campaign to support her. Rove and Novak spoke about her and it was at the end of the call when Valerie Plame came up. Novak then wrote his trash piece on Townsend on July 10, and his Plame expose on July 14.

One-third of my way through the article, I thought this is Team Rove's latest attempt to blame Libby to clear Rove. [ Update: On a second read-through, I'm not sure about this. There's enough later in the article that hurts Rove to suggest this isn't coming from Team Rove.]

Murray tells how the Novak-Rove called occurred:

Both Novak and Rove have told federal prosecutors that it was Novak who raised Plame's name, with the columnist saying he had heard that "Wilson's wife" had worked for the CIA and had been responsible for having her husband sent on the Niger mission.

"I heard that too," Rove responded, according to published accounts of what Rove told federal investigators of the conversations. Novak's version of what was said has been slightly different. He reportedly has told investigators that Rove's response was something to the effect of, "Oh, you know about it."

This suggests to me that Rove and Novak are on the same page with Fitz.

Waas continues, reporting that Libby and Rove often would be at cross-purposes when their agendas differed.

Libby's opposition to Townsend was so intense that he asked at least two other people in the White House to obtain her personnel records. These records showed that she had been turned down for two lesser positions in the Bush administration because of her political leanings, according to accounts provided by current and former administration officials. Libby also spoke about leaking the material to journalists or key staffers or members on Capitol Hill, to possibly undercut Townsend, according to the same accounts.

In other words, Murray's sources are saying that it's almost standard operating procedure for Libby to seek personel records and trash a person's reputation when he (or his boss Cheney) oppose someone. The inference we're to make is that it was Libby who was behind the campaign to discredit Valerie Plame Wilson, not Karl Rove.

Then there is this stab at Libby, drawing another comparison in the Townsend and Plame campaigns:

And Libby suggested both inside and outside the White House that Townsend was being considered as a national security adviser to the president because her husband had been a classmate of George W. Bush's at Andover and Yale.

Does Karl Rove fight dirty or what?

As to Valerie Plame, Waas writes:

But on the issue of Valerie Plame, prosecutors have been unable to determine whether in fact Novak was the one who first broached the subject, and whether Rove simply confirmed something that Novak already knew. Sources close to the investigation say this uncertainty is one of the foremost reasons Fitzgerald has not decided yet whether to bring criminal charges against Rove.

....Fitzgerald is said to be continuing his investigation into whether Rove made false statements, committed perjury, and obstructed justice. The investigation is focused on Rove's apparent failure to disclose his conversation with Cooper in his first interview with the FBI in October 2003 or in his first appearance before the grand jury in February 2004.

The New York Times put the date of Rove and Novak's conversation at July 8, 2003. Murray reports it is July 9. Who else would know that besides Team Rove or Novak? Only Fitz and he's not talking.

Meanwhile, Jane reports Fitz may be back at the grand jury today.

Update: Crooks and Liars weighs in on Waas's latest, as does Reddhedd. Also, I've modified some of my first impressions about what the article means.

Update: Digby makes a great point about Novak's reportedly saying Rove would be happy with one article and unhappy with the other. In the context of the article, Rove would be unhappy with the Townsend article and happy with the Plame article. If Rove didn't know about Plame or a plan to discredit Wilson through a spousal nepotism charge, then one would expect at a minimum that Novak's original article would at least be critical of Wilson.

In order to understand why this is significant, you have to go back and look at the column in which Novak outs Plame. It quite mildly states that the Vice President didn't send Wilson (which Wilson had never claimed) but it is not particularly critical of Wilson --- the man with whom both Rove and Libby are reported to have been obsessed. In fact, it is surprisingly complimentary.

If Novak told Rove that he would be happy with that column there can be only one reason ---- Plame.

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    Re: Murray Waas: Rove's Latest Defense Strategy (none / 0) (#1)
    by roxtar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:07:06 PM EST
    In para. 2, you reference Kathleen Townsend. Typo?

    Re: Murray Waas: Rove's Latest Defense Strategy (none / 0) (#2)
    by Patriot Daily on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:07:06 PM EST
    Do you really think Fitz sees Novak and Rove on same page? If Rove's response was "Oh, you know about it," that would be a confirmation of what Novak said. If Novak revealed the name of Plame, would that not be a potential violation of law or regulations governing classified information? News reports have said that CIA can not even confirm an agent's name as that would be the same thing as disclosure. However, if Rove responded "I heard that too," that is not clearly a confirmation, could be interpreted various ways.

    Re: Murray Waas: Rove's Latest Defense Strategy (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:07:06 PM EST
    Yes, it was a typo. I fixed it, thanks. I don't see the difference between "I heard that too" and "Oh you know about it." Both indicate Rove had heard it before and I think that is what Fitz is after - where and from whom did Rove first hear it. Was it from someone in the White House or from another reporter as he reportedly first told investigators?

    Re: Murray Waas: Rove's Latest Defense Strategy (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:07:06 PM EST
    Jeralyn Waas' story CAN'T be exclusively sourced to Rove's camp. Look at this direct quote from Novak: "I think that you are going to be unhappy with something that I write," he said to Rove, "and I think you are very much going to like something that I am about to write." Now, it's not clear whether this came from a Waas interview with Novak or from Novak's testimony. But presumably Novak said the same thing when he testified. And that goes a long way to proving Rove's motive. That is, if Novak knew that his column outing Plame was going to please Rove, then it means Rove clearly communicated that he wanted the leak to come out. Not sure how this jibes with the "Oh you heard that too" comment. Nevertheless, it seems like this quote alone would get Rove a lot closer to an IIPA violation.

    Re: Murray Waas: Rove's Latest Defense Strategy (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:07:06 PM EST
    Empty, I didn't mean to suggest that Murray didn't have a source for Novak only that the bulk of the article seems to be too pro-Rove not to come from his team. You're right, this statement attributed to Novak "I think that you are going to be unhappy with something that I write," he said to Rove, "and I think you are very much going to like something that I am about to write." suggests knowledge on Novak's part that the WH wanted to dump on Wilson, but I don't think by itself it shows that Rove knew Wilson's wife was a cia agent at that time. I still think Fitz is trying to determine when Rove found out and from whom. But, I don't see a cia leaks charge for Rove in this.