That’s the question to ask after both The New York Times and The Washington Post published front-page articles that reported that Karl Rove did speak to conservative columnist Bob Novak before Novak wrote an article revealing the CIA identity of Valerie Wilson and that Rove had confirmed to Novak that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA.
Each account is attributed to a single unnamed source. The Times identifies its sourced as “someone who has been officially briefed on the matter.” The Post cited “a lawyer involved in the case.” And the account provided is one that apparently would help Rove fend off a criminal charge. Both newspapers say that Novak called Rove on July 8, 2003 (six days before Novak published the piece that outed Valerie Wilson), that Novak said he had learned that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA (he referred to her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame), and that Rove confirmed that he had heard that, too. Each story says its source claimed that Rove had learned about Valerie Wilson’s CIA position from other journalists.
The point here is to show that Rove was not peddling the information, that he had not received it from a classified source, and that he did not have reason to know that Valerie Wilson was working at the CIA under cover. Under the relevant law–the Intelligence Identities Protection Act–it is only a crime for a government official to disclose identifying information about a covert US intelligence officer if the government official received that information from a classified source and is aware that the officer is a clandestine employee of the CIA. Consequently, Rove defenders can cite the account planted in the Times and the Post and claim that he did not violate the law because he had heard about Valerie Wilson from a journalist (not a classified source) and because there is no indication he knew of her covert status.
This might work. But, of course, it is up to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to determine if Rove or anyone else (remember Novak cited two sources) broke the law or engaged in perjury or obstruction of justice. And there is no telling if this account is indeed accurate. But this new disclosure does lead to an obvious conclusion: somebody has lied.
A week after Novak wrote this column, he told Newsday that his sources came to him with the information: “I didn’t dig it out, it was given to me,” he said. “They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.” Was Novak lying when said that? And before the infamous Matt Cooper email was revealed by Newsweek days ago, Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, told Newsweek that Rove “did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.” Now, the official pro-Rove line is that he confirmed for Novak that Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA. Was Rove’s lawyer lying when he said that?
Don’t forget about DAVID CORN’s BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Rove and the Plame/CIA leak and other in-the-news subjects.
But the more significant question is, who lied at the White House? As has been much noted, in 2003, press secretary Scott McClellan repeatedly said that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak. Confirming the leak for Novak would certainly count as involvement (as would passing it on to Cooper three days later but when this classified information was still not public).
So who didn’t tell the truth at 1600 Pennsylvania? Did McClellan know of Rove’s involvement and knowingly peddle a false story? McClellan has claimed he talked to Rove before publicly clearing him of involvement. Does that mean that Rove lied to McClellan? Perhaps. McClellan is not considered to be a true member of the White House’s inner circle. But who else did Rove talk to about this in the White House? If anyone else knew of his involvement, then that aide stood silent while McClellan misled the public. Moreover, did Rove tell George W. Bush? If so, Bush then allowed McClellan to lie for Rove. If not, then Rove disregarded Bush when Bush said he wanted to know what had happened.
Here’s the bottom line (based on the Rove-friendly leaks): Rove permitted the White House to lie for him. What’s unknown is who else in the White House realized the Rove-was-not-involved line was a lie. And the latest accounts also show that Rove did share classified information–Valerie Wilson’s employment status with the CIA was classified–with two reporters. Bush has previously said he would fire anyone who leaked classified information. Rove has practically admitted leaking classified information. What Bush will do about that?
This story put on Friday may help Rove avoid a criminal charge. But it still causes (or should cause) serious problems for him and the White House. It indicates that both misconduct and a cover-up of unknown size did occur. Rove or his legal team must have concluded he was in a rather bad spot if they needed to pass this account to the media, for it supports a hard-to-deny conclusion: Rove leaked and then hid behind a lie.
Now I’m Smeared as the Leaker: To see how I was sideswiped by an absurd and stupid conservative attack (meant to defend Novak and Rove), visit www.davidcorn.com. You won’t believe how low a rightwinger will sink.
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