The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

ROVE TALKED TO NOVAK

Three days before talking to Cooper:
Karl Rove, the White House senior adviser, spoke with the columnist Robert D. Novak as he was preparing an article in July 2003 that identified a C.I.A. officer who was undercover, someone who has been officially briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist the name of the C.I.A. officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq, the person said.

After hearing Mr. Novak's account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist: "I heard that, too."

The previously undisclosed telephone conversation, which took place on July 8, 2003, was initiated by Mr. Novak, the person who has been briefed on the matter said.

Six days later, Mr. Novak's syndicated column reported that two senior administration officials had told him that Mr. Wilson's "wife had suggested sending him" to Africa. That column was the first instance in which Ms. Wilson was publicly identified as a C.I.A. operative.

(...)

On Oct. 1, 2003, Mr. Novak wrote another column in which he described calling two officials who were his sources for the earlier column. The first source, whose identity has not been revealed, provided the outlines of the story and was described by Mr. Novak as "no partisan gunslinger." Mr. Novak wrote that when he called a second official for confirmation, the source said, "Oh, you know about it."

That second source was Mr. Rove, the person briefed on the matter said. Mr. Rove's account to investigators about what he told Mr. Novak was similar in its message although the White House adviser's recollection of the exact words was slightly different. Asked by investigators how he knew enough to leave Mr. Novak with the impression that his information was accurate, Mr. Rove said he had heard portions of the story from other journalists, but had not heard Ms. Wilson's name.

(...)

The conversation with Mr. Novak took place three days before Mr. Rove spoke with Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter, whose e-mail message about their brief talk reignited the issue. In the message, whose contents were reported by Newsweek this week, Mr. Cooper told his bureau chief that Mr. Rove had talked about Ms. Wilson, although not by name.

After saying in 2003 that it was "ridiculous" to suggest that Mr. Rove had any role in the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's name, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, has refused in recent days to discuss any specifics of the case. But he has suggested that President Bush continues to support Mr. Rove. On Thursday Mr. Rove was at Mr. Bush's side on a trip to Indianapolis.
Okay, this throws out any possibility that Rove talked to Cooper after seeing Novak's completed column. It also means that at the time Rove talked to Cooper, Rove knew Valerie Plame's name. He has given televised interviews, to CNN for instance, in which he said the exact opposite ("I didn't know her name, I didn't leak her name"). So, yeah, he lied.

If Rove gave a shit about national security, doesn't he have a responsibility to say to Novak, "Hey, are you sure you should be going forward with this? She might be covert, you know." Remember, the column Novak wrote identified Plame as an "operative", and it appears Rove did not dispute this. The NYT article doesn't discuss this angle one way or another.

If the press was pissed at McClellan for lying to their faces before ("ridiculous" to suggest that Rove was involved), they're really gonna gnash their teeth now. Tomorrow's gaggle should be fun, even though Scotty will no doubt give his same stock answer.

Also in the article, a little trip down memory lane regarding Karl and Novak:
This is not the first time Mr. Rove has been linked to a leak reported by Mr. Novak. In 1992, Mr. Rove was fired from the Texas campaign to reelect the first President Bush because of suspicions that he had leaked information to Mr. Novak about shortfalls in the Texas organization's fund-raising. Both Mr. Rove and Mr. Novak have denied that Mr. Rove was the source.
And now we wait for sensible Republicans to jump ship...

UPDATE: Ahh, hackery from the Drudge Report (but what's new?). The fedora'd deliverer of roses to David Brock put up a banner headline saying that the New York Times had a big scoop on Rove/Plame... and when the NYT puts their story up... he links to an AP story apparently using a different source, discussing the gist of Rove's grand jury testimony (which is an interesting story, no doubt).
Presidential confidant Karl Rove testified to a grand jury that he learned the identity of a CIA operative originally from journalists, then informally discussed the information with a Time magazine reporter days before the story broke, according to a person briefed on the testimony.

The person, who works in the legal profession and spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, told The Associated Press that Rove testified last year that he remembers specifically being told by columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, the wife of a harsh Iraq war critic, worked for the CIA.

(...)

Rove told the grand jury that by the time Novak had called him, he believes he had similar information about Wilson's wife from another reporter but had no recollection of which reporter had told him about it first, the source said.

When Novak inquired about Wilson's wife working for the CIA, Rove indicated he had heard something like that, according to the source's recounting of the grand jury testimony.
(boldface mine) Yeeeeeah, I'm gonna have to call bullshit on that one. Unless Rove is a complete idiot -- and he's not -- there is no way he can possibly use the Reagan defense here. The information involved -- and the way it was systematically peddled to journalists -- does not suggest such a casual situation.

Frankly, even though he's quoted in the article, I wouldn't be surprised if Luskin, Rove's lawyer, was the anonymous source for it as well.

Still, Rove's strategy in his testimony doesn't change the facts. He confirmed Plame to Rove. He didn't consider if there were any national security implications in doing so. He talked to Novak and Cooper, and somebody (perhaps Rove) talked to Judy Miller.

--

LAST UPDATE: Remember, the sources in both of the above stories are sources sympathetic to Rove. Thus, the above is the best, best, best possible spin they could put on a wrinkle of the story they could not hide any longer... a wrinkle either Karl Rove or Scott McClellan (or both) have seen fit to lie about and cover up until it got out tonight. The principle fact is that Rove and Novak talked about Valerie Plame and Rove confirmed her identity. Also the sources for both of these stories are contradicted by Novak's original account from 2003 of how he got Plame's name. (see the post above this one for more)

This is a big, big stink. I can't imagine Scotty is sleeping well, or at all, tonight.

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