Early this morning, Robert Luskin, Karl Rove’s lawyer, told reporters that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had sent him a letter stating that Rove would not be indicted in the CIA leak case. In a statement, Luskin declared, “We believe that the Special Counsel’s decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove’s conduct.”
Bush administration (and Rove) advocates will spin this news as vindication for the mastermind of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. But there is no need for baseless speculation to conclude that Rove was involved in the leak and that the White House misled the public about his participation and broke a pledge to fire anyone who had leaked information about Valerie Wilson, the CIA officer married to former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the administration.
Here is what is known about Rove and the leak.
On July 9, 2003–three days after Joe Wilson published a New York Times op-ed piece disclosing that he had been sent to Niger by the CIA to check out the allegation that Iraq had been seeking to purchase uranium there and had reported back that such a transaction was highly unlikely–Rove confirmed to columnist Robert Novak that Joe Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. By this point in time, the White House–particularly Dick Cheney’s office and Scooter Libby–had been gathering information on Wilson, his wife, and his trip for weeks. (In May and June, stories had appeared in the media quoting an unnamed ambassador who had gone to Niger and found nothing to substantiate the uranium-buying charge, which Bush had alleged in his 2003 State of the Union address.) And when Rove spoke to Novak–who had first heard about Valerie Wilson from another administration official–the White House was engaged in an effort to discredit Wilson. Cheney and others believed that if Wilson’s mission to Niger could be depicted as a junket or boondoggle arranged by Wilson’s wife, Wilson and his findings would be undermined. Spending a week in one of the poorest countries in the world for no pay would hardly qualify as a junket, but the White House was trying to use whatever they could.
Two days after Rove spoke to Novak and gave the columnist the confirmation he needed to proceed with a piece that would out Valerie Wilson as an undercover CIA officer working on weapons of mass destruction, Rove spoke to Matt Cooper of Time. According to an email Cooper wrote immediately after this conversation, Rove told him that Joe Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and had sent Wilson to Niger. This conversation occurred three days before the Novak article appeared.
So Rove spoke to two reporters about Valerie Wilson. Her employment status at the CIA was classified. Rove was not merely gossiping, he was disseminating secret information, whether he realized it or not.
After the leak appeared in Novak’s column on July 14, 2003, Scott McClellan, who had just taken over as White House press secretary, said of the leak, “That is not the way this President or this White House operates.”