UPDATE: The Newsweek story I described below is out. Reporter Michael Isikoff has obtained a copy of an email that Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper sent his bureau chief, Michael Duffy, on July 11, 2003--three days before conservative columnist Bob Novak first published the leak that outed CIA officer Valerie Wilson/Plame. In that email, Cooper wrote that he had spoken to Rove on "double super secret background" and that Rove had told him that Joseph Wilson's "wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues." "Agency" means CIA. Read the full Newsweek piece here, and read the item below for why it is so important.
Time to get ready for the Karl Rove frog-march?
I don't usually blog on Saturday evenings. But I've received information too good not to share immediately. It was only yesterday that I was bemoaning the probability that -- after a week of apparent Rove-related revelations--it might be a while before any more news emerged about the Plame/CIA leak. Yet tonight I received this as-solid-as-it-gets tip: on Sunday Newsweek is posting a story that nails Rove. The newsmagazine has obtained documentary evidence that Rove was indeed a key source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper and that Rove--prior to the publication of the Bob Novak column that first publicly disclosed Valerie Wilson/Plame as a CIA official -- told Cooper that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife apparently worked at the CIA and was involved in Joseph Wilson's now-controversial trip to Niger.
To be clear, this new evidence does not necessarily mean slammer-time for Rove. Under the relevant law, it's only a crime for a government official to identify a covert intelligence official if the government official knows the intelligence officer is under cover, and this documentary evidence, I'm told, does not address this particular point. But this new evidence does show that Rove -- despite his lawyers claim that Rove "did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA" -- did reveal to Cooper in a deep-background conversation that Wilson's wife was in the CIA. No wonder special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pursued Cooper so fiercely. And Fitzgerald must have been delighted when Time magazine -- over Cooper's objection--surrendered Cooper's emails and notes, which, according to a previous Newsweek posting by Michael Isikoff, named Rove as Cooper's source. In court on Wednesday, Fitzgerald said that following his receipt of Cooper's emails and notes "it is clear to us we need [Cooper's] testimony perhaps more so than in the past." This was a clue that Fitzgerald had scored big when he obtained the Cooper material.
This new evidence could place Rove in serious political, if not legal, jeopardy (or, at least it should). If what I am told is true, this is proof that the Bush White House was using any information it could gather on Joseph Wilson -- even classified information related to national security -- to pursue a vendetta against Wilson, a White House critic. Even if it turns out Rove did not break the law regarding the naming of intelligence officials, this new disclosure could prove Rove guilty of leaking a national security secret to a reporter for political ends. What would George W. Bush do about that?
On September 27, 2003 -- after the news broke that the Justice Department, responding to a request from the CIA, was investigating the Plame/CIA leak -- White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of the Plame/CIA leak, "That is not the way this White House operates, and no one would be authorized to do such a thing." He also declared that the allegation that Rove was involved in this leak was "a ridiculous suggestion, and it is simply not true." Days later, Bush issued a straightforward statement about the Plame/CIA leak:
There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. If there's leaks out of my administration, I want to know who it is, and if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of.
Perhaps Bush won't have to "take care of" Rove if this new evidence does not lead to a prosecutable violation of the law. But Bush also called on any government official with knowledge of the leak to "come forward and speak out." Has Rove done so? No. So it seems he violated a presidential command. Would Bush be obliged to fire him for insubordination? And there's another key point to consider: whether Rove told the truth when he testified to Fitzgerald's grand jury. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, has acknowledged that Rove appeared before the grand jury, and Luskin has said that Rove did speak to Cooper prior to the publication of the Novak column. But what did Rove tell Fitzgerald and the grand jury about this conversation with Cooper? And -- here's the big question -- does Rove's account jibe with the new documentary evidence that Newsweek is scheduled to disclose? If it does not, Fitzgerald would have a good start on a perjury charge against Rove.
At a public meeting in the summer of 2003, Joseph Wilson, responding to a question about the leak, quipped that it would be interesting "to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." He then had to pull back from that comment and concede he had no evidence to support his hunch that Rove was one of the leakers. (By the way, Novak cited two unnamed Bush administration officials when he published the Plame/CIA leak.) With Newsweek's latest article, we may be getting closer to frog-marching time.
By the way, for other recent pieces I've written on the Plame/CIA leak case, please check out my own blog at www.davidcorn.com.