Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzgerald - Luskin Meeting

Last night, I spoke to Jason Leopold on the phone for a half hour or so. Here's what he had to say about Byron York's article stating that Karl Rove's spokesman Mark Corallo told him that Jason's article Saturday reporting sources told him Fitzgerald met with Luskin Friday and told him Rove has been indicted is false.

1. Jason says he spoke with Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun and Gerstein told him Corallo called both York and Gerstein, not the other way around. In other words, Corallo reached out to a few select reporters to debunk Jason's article. Corallo told Gerstein, as he told York, Jason's article reporting Rove has been indicted is a baseless lie. A New York Sun article today reports Carollo's comments to the paper.

2. Before Jason published his article, he left messages with both Corallo and Luskin offering an opportunity to respond. Neither returned his calls.

3. Jason spoke to Corallo twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. The first time they spoke Saturday was after Jason's article was published. Corallo told Jason the article was lies and hung up. As I reported here, I e-mailed with Jason Saturday evening. Jason had provided me with two numbers each for Mark Corallo and Robert Luskin. After my non-conversation with Robert Luskin, I e-mailed Jason that I had also left a message for Corallo at his office, since no one answered at the other number he gave me.

Jason told me last night that after he got this e-mail, he called Corallo at home, which was the first number he had given me. (Interesting aside: Jason called Corallo after 10 pm Virginia time, the time Luskin had told me was inappropriately late to call someone in Washington.) Jason said Corallo answered his call (and was wide awake) and told him his article was false, that it bordered on defamation, that Fitzgerald was not in Washington on Friday and that Luskin was not in his office on Friday.

On Sunday, during their first conversation, Jason says Corallo changed his account from Luskin was not in the office on Friday to Luskin was only not in his office Friday morning. As Jason stated on the radio Sunday (and e-mailed me Saturday night) Fitzgerald arrived at Luskin's office at about 11:30 a.m.

During their second conversation Sunday, Corallo told Jason he wasn't sure that Fitzgerald had not been in D.C. Friday, it was just what he had been told.

4. Josh Gerstein told Jason that after speaking with Corallo he called Russell Samborn, Fitz's media guy, to ask if Fitzgerald had been in D.C. or Chicago Friday. Samborn reportedly said, "No Comment."

5. Jason said he is sure of his sources and he has multiple sources for his article. He continues to maintain there was a meeting at Luskin's office Friday with Fitzgerald that began around 11:30 am and that Fitzgerald gave Luskin a copy of the charges and said Rove had 24 hours (which everyone present understood to be business hours since the courts are closed on the weekend) to get his affairs in order. Jason's sources said the Indictment was already voted on by the grand jury.

6. Jason says he was told the meeting lasted 14 1/2 hours and Rove was present with Secret Service detail. Jason did not ask the sources whether Fitzgerald or Rove was there the whole time. In other words, Rove and his lawyers may have met for hours after Fitzgerald left to discuss an offer from Fitzgerald. Jason believes the offer was ultimately rejected by Rove.

7. Jason does not believe his sources are setting him up. He thinks Corallo is not being truthful with York and Gerstein.

8. Jason thinks the announcement of Rove's indictment will come any time after Tuesday of this week.

I'm wondering: Did Jason's sources understand the difference between Fitzgerald handing over a copy of the charges he said Rove would be indicted on if he refused the offer Fitz was making and an already voted-on Indictment? Was the "24 business hours" reference regarding Rove's window to finalize his affairs really a warning that if Rove didn't accept Fitzgerald's offer by Monday it would be too late for Rove to do anything but make arrangements to surrender on the anticipated Indictment?

From a legal standpoint (and keep in mind Jason, and for all I know, his sources are not lawyers) it makes more sense to me that Fitz would want a final answer from Rove Monday so that he could prepare his final argument for the grand jury on Tuesday and seek its approval of the Indictment Wednesday. Even if Fitz submitted charges to the grand jury last week for its consideration, it doesn't mean they actually voted on them. Perhaps they began discussion last week and continued deliberations until they met again this week.

I say this because legally, I just can't understand how Fitz would not be violating Rule 6(e) pertaining to disclosures of matters before the grand jury by sharing a returned (voted on) Indictment with Luskin before it was filed or unsealed. Unless, as one lawyer commenter in an earlier TL thread noted, Fitz also filed a motion and obtained a court order to share it with Luskin and Rove. I've never seen such an order in my practice, but I also don't see any reason why a Judge couldn't grant such a motion at the request of a prosecutor.

Then again, perhaps Jason's sources have it exactly right.

Bottom line: I believe Jason's sources told him what he reported. Were the sources accurate? Were they basically right but just mistaken on a few of the legal technicalities due to an unfamiliarity with the jargon? Time will tell. If they lied, Jason has promised to disclose their identities.

I would just caution everyone not to be impatient. Let it play out.

If the return of the Indictment is made public this week,then regardless of whether Fitz was at Luskin's office for one hour or many hours this past Friday, or whether the Indictment was voted on last week or this week, I think it proves Jason's sources, and his reporting, substantially correct.

On the other hand, should it turn out that Fitzgerald was not in D.C. at all on Friday, that he was not at Luskin's office and neither was Rove, then Jason will disclose his sources and we can discuss whether Jason was set up and why.

One last note on former CIA Analyst Larry Johnson's comment on Democratic Underground that Joseph Wilson received the same information as Jason: Some have questioned whether Larry really wrote the comment, or whether it was an imposter. I e-mailed Larry, and he responded, indeed it was him. He added,

Joe heard the same things but not from Jason. If these multiple sources are lying then I certainly hope Jason outs their a*s.


Update: 5/15: My subsequent conversation with Mark Corallo refuting the contents of Jason's article is here.

< Byron York: Corallo Denies Leopold's Rove Article | My Conversation With Mark Corallo Re: Leopold on Rove >
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    My gramma woulda called this "Shakespearean".

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#2)
    by profmarcus on Mon May 15, 2006 at 01:20:44 AM EST
    let me say, one more time, that i do not wish ill or bad times for anyone... i have closely followed karl rove for a little less than two years... i suppose it's accurate to say that he has occupied as much of my political bandwidth as any other member of the bush cabal except, perhaps, for george himself... in the course of my observations, i have come to an inescapable conclusion... karl rove is a major source of fear and darkness in this world... he has carefully and meticulously cultivated his considerable abilities in those two areas and has succeeded, very nearly single-handedly, in twisting our national discourse in ways unimaginable 20 years ago... we desperately need to have karl rove permanently removed from any centers of power, not only in the united states but in the world... maybe karl will take the opportunity, at some point in whatever years he has remaining to him, to realign himself with the forces of good... i sincerely hope that he does... in the meantime, if this week sees an announcement of his indictment and resignation, i, for one, will be dancing in the street...

    If it turns out to be true, then Jason will be a hero. Corallo, York and Gerstein will be known as total patsies for the right.

    If it turns out to be false, Corallo, York and Gerstein will be the heroes; and Jason will be the jerk (in which case, Jason should certainly out the people who gave him the misinformation.) In any case, we all shall know by Wednesday, I guess.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#4)
    by scribe on Mon May 15, 2006 at 04:56:46 AM EST
    It souns to me like Jason has tried assiduously to multiple-source his reporting, and that Corallo is just tryin to spin things. Big surprise, that. Corallo's threat of "being near to defamation" or similar is properly read as a threat to sue the reporter. I opine such threats are usually "hollow" in two senses. First, if the reporter has been reporting on a public figure and on an issue of public concern, then existing First Amendment precedent pretty well immunizes the reporter against civil liability. So, the reporter can proceed with little fear of ultimate liability (but not of huge lawyers' bills in the interim). Assuming Jason has some form of insurance to cover his defense costs, not a problem. Second, if Rover were to sue for defamation, he would be opening every dark corner of his life up to under-oath discovery. In such a context - Rover brings a civil defamation suit as a plaintiff - he has no Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and a hard time invoking any other privilege against non-disclosure. He could wind up spending days testifying in deposition. Getting at the nitty-gritty of someone's life through discovery when they sue for libel can arguably be easier than going there through a grand jury subpoena.... Conclusion - I think it's pretty likely Corallo's trying to put up a brave front, but the cat's out. We'll see....

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#5)
    by Molly Bloom on Mon May 15, 2006 at 05:27:46 AM EST
    I said this on the previous thread, but it bears repeating. If Jason outs his sources, it will be he said, she said and noting will be proven to anyone's satisfaction. Leopold's history would make him a good patsy in a classic film noir or perhaps a real live Danny O'Brien. I say all of this hoping I am wrong and Leopold is right and that he is vindcated (and if so, that he doesn't rest on his laurels).

    Very very small minor question. What is "24 business hours?" I have never heard that phrase before. Near as I can imagine it would be three 8 hour business days.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#7)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Mon May 15, 2006 at 06:15:56 AM EST
    I think Leopold is a very good investigative reporter. If he were suckered, it wouldn't be the first time an investigative reporter was. I think he'll survive this. I don't think Rove will.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Mon May 15, 2006 at 06:43:31 AM EST
    If Jason Leopold has so seriously rattled the cages that they feel the need to set him up so they can smear him, it's a feather in his cap. He's got them running scared and reacting to him... He deserves the Medal of Freedom for it.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#9)
    by orionATL on Mon May 15, 2006 at 06:56:07 AM EST
    thanks talk left this little saga has been a lot of fun to follow. tl's blow-by-blow, or call-by-call as it were, to ferret out the truth of a rumor. would a nytimes reporting team reveal the details of their info gathering? probably not. personally, i thin the comment "be patient and let things play out". that makes sense. somethings bubbling, for sure as for whether leopold is right or not, personally i don't care. in the news business, sometimes the reporter is right-on; sometimes way off. expecting this is just part of reading the news. i can imaging though, that a reporter would be very anxious about getting things right, because doing so is an important norm in his professional community. right now my excitement is focused on the date and time of the frogmarch.

    Thank you for sorting this out; I really appreciate that you're trying to keep us all grounded, legally.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#11)
    by Edger on Mon May 15, 2006 at 07:04:13 AM EST
    John DiIulio, who used to head the WH Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:
    "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you've got is everything--and I mean everything--being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."
    In this White House, the buck stops at Karl Rove:
    Who heads up the political arm? Karl Rove. Yet we're to believe from Rove and his attorney that Rove not only didn't see the State Department memo about Ambassador Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, but that Rove had never even heard of it. Really? In the Bush White House, the day after Joe Wilson writes a blistering attack on the president in the NYT, calling into question the entire WMD justification for going to war, Colin Powell is walking around Air Force One with a memo about - who else? - Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame - and NO ONE ever tells Karl about the memo, doesn't show it to him, nothing. We are to believe that Karl Rove was totally out of the loop on the Joe Wilson WMD "sixteen words" gate. Uh huh. Sure. No one thought of letting Karl know that there was a State Dept memo about the very people the White House was furious at, the White House wanted to take down. The Secretary of State even has the memo with him on Air Force one, and nobody tells Karl. Because, apparently, Karl never told anyone to get him everything they had on Wilson after the article ran. Right. All roads lead to Rove.
    If I was Rove, Jason Leopold would make me very nervous...

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#12)
    by cynicalgirl on Mon May 15, 2006 at 07:23:21 AM EST
    I heard Rove just cancelled his speech today at the American Enterprise Institute. One more reason to believe Jason's reporting.

    For what it's worth... I'm not a lawyer, but I AM a writer. And I saw a world of difference between this statement from Byron York and the one he used to bat down the last Rove-indictment rumor that had everyone all excited a couple of weeks ago. York's tone at that time was smug, amused, condescending. He didn't even bother to name a source, just levelled taunts... "I could say more, but suffice it to warn the giddy kids they'd be well-advised to keep their champagne on ice..." It was the tone of a man utterly confident in his facts and his proximity to the primary source. Thsi statement is much more nuanced. "I spoke to Carvallo and he said..." "It appears there is nothing to the story, certainly not enough to cause other reporters to pick up on it..." As I said, nuance. AND deniablity. I think Leopold is right, and Rove is in big trouble, and his friends know it by now.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#15)
    by Punchy on Mon May 15, 2006 at 08:15:24 AM EST
    I heard Rove just cancelled his speech today at the American Enterprise Institute. One more reason to believe Jason's reporting. I think he's giving the speech right now.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#16)
    by fireback on Mon May 15, 2006 at 08:15:47 AM EST
    24 business hours would typically start in the morning Monday and end the morning Tuesday. I'll repeat what I said yesterday, if Leopold is accurate, one of the worst things that could happen for Rove is for that news to get out prior to Bush's speech tonight. Can you imagine that, primetime discussions about Rove's indictment. Corallo has many reasons to be untruthful. Second point, when it comes to standards of ethics, lawyers are held to a much higher standard than PR people (whether they follow it or not is another question). Curiously, Luskin has yet to unambiguosly deny the charges.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#17)
    by scribe on Mon May 15, 2006 at 08:16:30 AM EST
    Y' know, when I earlier said:
    Conclusion - I think it's pretty likely Corallo's trying to put up a brave front, but the cat's out. We'll see....
    I had no idea Corallo would literally try to use Luskin's cat as an alibi:
    3. There was no meeting or communication between Luskin and Fitzgerald on Friday. Bob was not in the office on Friday at all. He was home, taking care of a sick cat.
    This keeps getting stranger....

    Wayne Madsen says he was camped out at the Federal Courthouse on Fri and saw the following: a little after noon, a lg motorcade of black & green SUV, several police cars and a motorcycle sped into the street behind the courthouse. 2 SUV's split from motorcade and went into underground garage. Wayne had guessed that this might be the arrival of Gonzales taking the opportunity to meet with GJ as he had with Libby to review charges and ask questions if he had any ... busy day. If this wasn't Rove gaggle it makes one wonder what other person/s who travel in motorcades are up to at the GJ?

    Cynicalgirl turn on Cspan and you can hear Rove's speech. Maybe they will come and get him in handcuffs during the speech! You eman you cant get CSPAN on that tinfoil hat? Try adjusting the verticla hold button.

    Mainsail: Whe sez Abu got to review the charges before the Grand Jury -- 'at's news to me and mighty implausible on its face to boot. And wile the motorcade info is tantalizing if true, it doesn't mean anything necessarily. There's a lot more than a single grand jury in the D.C. federal courthouse. Sixteen trial judges hold court there (plus three magistrates), and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sits there as well. These courts deal with a disproportionate amount of cases involving the federal government. In short, lots of alternative reasons why someone in a motorcade would drop by.

    Re: Leopold Responds to Corallo's Denial of Fitzg (none / 0) (#21)
    by Kewalo on Mon May 15, 2006 at 02:09:40 PM EST
    Just a note to thank you for keeping us in the loop.