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Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge

It seems inescapable to me that Karl Rove will be charged with making at least one false statement to federal officials under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001.

Rove was interviewed by the FBI in October, 2003. This was before Fitzgerald was appointed special counsel and before a grand jury was convened.

Rove did not tell the agents that that he had spoken with Robert Novak prior to his column being published on July 14, 2003, or that he had been one of the two "senior administration officials" cited in Novak's column as having confirmed Valerie Plame Wilson's identity and CIA employment.

But we know now that Rove spoke to Robert Novak on July 8. In that conversation, they discussed Wilson's wife's employment with the CIA. Novak's version is that Rove reportedly replied that he had heard this too.

But, that's not the end of it. There may be another false statement charge. Rove reportedly also told investigators in October, 2003 that he only disseminated information about Valerie Wilson aftter Novak's column appeared.

Yet, he discussed Wilson and her employment with the CIA with Matthew Cooper on July 11, three days before Novak's column ran. In his July 17, 2003 Time 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 later told the grand jury and the world that Karl Rove was one of those officials.

Former State Department Undersecretary Marc Grossman could be a key witness against Rove -- and one of the reasons Fitz and the grand jury don't buy his forgetfulness claim. Grossman reportedly is the State Department official who told the Washington Post (September 28, 2003):

Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account touched off a political fracas over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

While a recantation defense may be available on a perjury charge, it does not apply to a false statements charge. It's the easiest charge for Fitzgerald to prove. Think Martha Stewart. The only defense Luskin has publicly put forth for Rove on these conversations is he forgot.

Even tonight, Bloomberg News is reporting that Karl Rove maintained to the grand jury yesterday that he can't recall his conversation with Cooper. (Although the AP reported in July, 2005 that he told the grand jury he had discussed Plame's work at the CIA with both Cooper and Novak in October, 2004.)

I don't think either Fitzgerald or the grand jury will buy a forgetfulness defense in the end. Karl Rove's best hope seems to be that this is the only charge Fitzgerald brings against him. If Fitz also charges Rove with perjury before the grand jury or obstruction of justice, he's in much more trouble.

The false statements offense carries a maximum five year penalty and each false statement can support a separate charge. Under the sentencing guidelines, however, if these are the only charges against Rove, with a reduction for cooperation against others in the investigation, he could work himself down to a non-prison sentence. But again, that would be up to Fitzgerald.

If there's an Indictment against Rove, I would look to counts 1 and 2 being false statement charges. If there's a last minute plea deal, this will be the count Rove agrees to plead guilty to in a bid to avoid prison.

In subsequent posts, I'll discuss Rove's potential liability for perjury before the grand jury and obstruction of justice.

All of TalkLeft's 400 posts on the Valerie Plame investigation are accessible here. Those on the Scooter Libby indictment are available here.

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  • Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#1)
    by Repack Rider on Thu Apr 27, 2006 at 11:02:09 PM EST
    Paraphrasing Malkin: Tree. Rope. Rove.

    Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Apr 27, 2006 at 11:09:33 PM EST
    Thanks for yet another great post. questions: 1) If Rove pleads to the no jail scenario, do you think he'll be forced to leave the White House? 2) Do you think helping Fitz with only Libby would be enough to get him the plea deal or would he also have to provide evidence resulting in, or contributing to, the indictments of others? 3) From the prosecution's point of view, how happy would they be to have Rove take a lesser guilty plea, thus avoiding the time, effort and risk of losing/pardoning entailed in a jury trial?

    Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Thu Apr 27, 2006 at 11:50:41 PM EST
    If Rove pleads to the no jail scenario, do you think he'll be forced to leave the White House? It could get bad. He might have to move to the Eisenhower building, where some other members of the President's staff have offices.

    Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#4)
    by ding7777 on Fri Apr 28, 2006 at 05:11:04 AM EST
    TL Whats the difference between perjury and false statements? Being under oath?

    Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Apr 28, 2006 at 11:17:14 AM EST
    Rove claims he forgot about the converstaion with Cooper because he was so pre-occupied with the 2004 election. But that is precisely the point. Because 9/11 and Iraq were the foundation of Bush's re-election campaign, and Joe Wilson attacked the very basis of Iraq, the counter-attack against Wilson was an integral part of the 2004 election. Rove did not forget. He took one for the team.

    Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 28, 2006 at 11:35:31 AM EST
    litesq-
    Rove claims he forgot about the converstaion with Cooper because he was so pre-occupied with the 2004 election.
    Nice one. So full of irony it is almost perverse. The next defense, for charges yet unknown, will be: I was too involved in the 2006 elections, and the Iran war to have remembered.

    Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#7)
    by Dadler on Fri Apr 28, 2006 at 12:41:53 PM EST
    littleleg wrote of Rove: He took one for the team. Just WHERE he is going to be taking it has yet to be seen.

    Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#8)
    by Dadler on Fri Apr 28, 2006 at 12:42:20 PM EST
    Or, um, felt.

    Re: Karl Rove and a False Statements Charge (none / 0) (#9)
    by William Ockham on Fri Apr 28, 2006 at 12:54:25 PM EST
    You say: But we know now that Rove spoke to Robert Novak on July 8. The Libby indictment says: On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House ("Official A") Is that a typo on your part? The date is pretty important for various reasons.