I knew what not to ask Karl Rove: Are you about to be indicted in the CIA leak case?
His answer would be predictable: My lawyer has asked me not to discuss the investigation while it is still ongoing.
But he had just finished a speech on economic policy at the American Enterprise Institute–the hotbed of prowar neoconservatism–and during the Q&A period none of the reporters were addressing the big elephant in the room: the recent chatter in Washington–fueled in part by Rove’s recent return to the grand jury room (for his fifth appearance)–that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was getting closer to indicting George W. Bush’s master strategist.
I’ve been trying not to be drawn into the rumor vortex. (A friend emailed to say that a lawyer involved in the leak case speculated that Rove would be indicted this coming Friday.) But a pending indictment–or non-indictment–has been the talk of the town. Still, there was Rove mouthing White House talking points on how swell the economy is, and a roomful of reporters (and lobbyists and policy wonks) were not addressing what was on the mind of many. After all, who yearns to hear Rove explain why the Bush administration is the model of fiscal responsibility?
So I raised my hand.
To his credit, Christopher DeMuth, the president of AEI, called on me. (Introducing Rove, DeMuth had hailed his “strength of character,” his “disciplined serenity,” and his refusal to complain about the “flagrant unfairness” of the attacks levied upon him.) But as DeMuth was surveying the crowd at the AEI’s conference room, Rove jokingly asked him not to call on John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal and then, as DeMuth pointed at yours truly, Rove said, “Don’t call on him either.”
The microphone was handed to me. “Too late,” I said to Rove, and I put a simple query to the man:
On a different subject, Scott McClellan told the White House press corps–many are here today–that he had spoken to you and you were not involved in the CIA leak. Can you explain why the American public…two and a half years later hasn’t been given an explanation? Don’t you think it deserves one, for it does seem that you were to some degree–though it may be disputed–involved in that leak?
My attorney, Mr. [Robert] Luskin, made a statement on April 26. I refer you to that statement. I have nothing new to add to it.