Is it Karl Rove?
This past weekend, a pundit and a journalist each reported that Rove, Bush’s uber-strategist (and now, officially, the deputy White House chief of staff), was a source for Time magazine’s Matt Cooper, who has resisted cooperating with a court order to reveal his sources to Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the Bush administration leak that revealed undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame. (Plame, a.k.a Valerie Wilson, is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a Bush administration critic). Last week, after the Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal from Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller (who also was subpoenaed by Fitzgerald for her sources), Time magazine decided to cooperate with Fitzgerald and turn over Cooper’s notes and emails. (Cooper said he disagreed with–but understood–his employer’s decision; Miller and the Times vowed to continue resisting.) Appearing on The McLaughlin Group–which was taped on Friday–commentator Lawrence O’Donnell said that the documents handed over byTime to Fitzgerald would reveal that Rove had been Cooper’s source. The next day, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek posted a piece that reported,
The e- mails surrendered by Time Inc., which are largely between Cooper and his editors, show that one of Cooper’s sources was White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, according to two lawyers who asked not to be identified because they are representing witnesses sympathetic to the White House. Cooper and a Time spokeswoman declined to comment. But in an interview with NEWSWEEK, Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for the article.
O’Donnell’s comment and Isikoff’s report set off a wave of reaction. I received numerous emails proclaiming “Rove is it, he’s the [deleted] who revealed Plame’s identity.” But a careful reading of the available facts leads to this unsatisfying conclusion: not so fast.
The issue at hand is the identity of who told conservative columnist Robert Novak that Plame was an undercover CIA official working on counterproliferation (that is, anti-WMD) matters. On July 14, 2003, Novak published a piece that was essentially a conveyor belt for White House criticism of Joseph Wilson. A week earlier, Wilson had written a much-noticed op-ed piece in The New York Times that argued that George W. Bush had misled the nation in his January 2003 State of the Union speech by claiming that Iraq had been shopping in Africa for uranium to be used in a nuclear weapons program. In his article, Wilson revealed for the first time that he had been dispatched to Niger in February 2002 to investigate rumors of such Iraqi activity and had reported back that it was highly unlikely that Iraq was procuring weapons-related uranium there. Wilson’s article–which followed his previous criticism of the administration for launching the war in Iraq–placed him in the line of fire. Republican and conservative allies of the White House blasted away. In the course of this attack, Novak wrote the piece that outed Wilson’s wife and suggested that Wilson’s trip to Niger had been a nepotistic junket of some sort.