Rove and Fitzgerald Play Monopoly

How many more get-out-of-jail free cards does Karl Rove get? Eat your heart out Martha Stewart. You should have tried playing Monopoly with the G-Men.

On October 28 2005, the office of the Special Prosecutor released a press statement which stated in part:

“A major focus of the grand jury investigation was to determine which government officials had disclosed to the media prior to July 14, 2003, information concerning Valerie Wilson’s CIA affiliation, and the nature, timing, extent, and purpose of such disclosures, as well as whether any official made such a disclosure knowing that Valerie Wilson’s employment by the CIA was classified information.”

Somebody needs to inform Fitzgerald that “we got em.” Kind of like Bush in Poland when he announced finding two trailers in Iraq and said that they had found the WMDs that Colin Powell had referred to in his speech at the UN.

Hey Mr Fitzgerald, as for those government officials you’ve been looking for, we found em. Surprise, surprise, its Scooter Libby and Karl Rove.

When reading the criminal indictment against Libby, its clear that Karl Rove and Libby each told reporters about Valerie Plame’s status as a CIA agent before Novak’s column was published, albeit Libby did it first on June 23, 2003, when he told Judy Miller from the New York Times.

That is, first as far as we know anyways, because after close to a 3-year tax dollar funded investigation, it has since been revealed that Bob Woodward, of the Washington Post, was told of Valerie’s CIA status reportedly before Libby and Rove made the revelations to Miller, Cooper or Novak.

But as the law applies to Libby and Rove, it doesn’t matter who leaked first, because they still violated the “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,” Form SF-312, that they signed as a condition of employment which prohibits even confirming or repeating classified information already leaked. The briefing book that comes with the form states in relevant part:

Before confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not, confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure.

By now, a lot of people are wondering why it is that Libby is arrested and Rove is not. It’s probably due to a variety of reasons.

On August 13, 2005, journalist, Murray Waas, reported that back in 2003, officials from the Justice Department and the FBI recommended the appointment of a special prosecutor because they felt that Rove had not been truthful about his conversation with Cooper, nor in claiming that he had first heard of Valerie’s identity from a reporter whose name he could not remember.

At the time, Rove maintained that he had only spoken about Valerie to reporters after her identity had already become public. But we now know that Rove and Libby were the sources for Cooper’s article in Time Magazine, published 3 days after Novak’s column which cited unnamed government officials, when describing Valerie as a “CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

So again why is Libby the only one arrested? His only variation from the agreed upon talking points was when he added the name Tim Russert to “the reporter-told-me” story, while Rove stuck to the line that he could not remember the reporter,s name.

For one thing, when the investigation began, I suspect that it’s highly unlikely that Libby had any of the top dogs at the Justice Department in his back pocket. Whereas Rove reportedly raked in over $750,000 in consulting fees for working on prior campaigns for John Ashcroft, the reigning Attorney General at the time, and with a political hatchet man like Rove involved, who knows how many skeletons could be buried along those campaign trails.

Ashcroft is said to have been briefed on at least one of Rove’s interviews with the FBI. That briefing probably led to the first get-out-of-jail-free card for Rove.

But even with the FBI breathing down his neck, in February 2004, Rove twice went before the grand jury and lied through his teeth. He refused to admit that he had spoken to Novak about Valerie before she was outed, and he denied talking with Cooper period.

However, on December 2, 2005, the New York Times, reported that a conversation between Rove’s lawyer and “a journalist for Time magazine led Mr. Rove to change his testimony last year to the grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case.”

Which means Rove received another get-out-of-jail-free card in this instance.

According to Time Magazine journalist, Viveca Novak’s article titled, “What Viveca Novak Told Fitzgerald,” on December 10, 2003, her visits and conversations Attorney Robert Luskin began innocently enough.

“In October 2003, as we each made our way through a glass of wine, he asked me what I was working on,” she wrote. “I told him I was trying to get a handle on the Valerie Plame leak investigation,” Viveca said.

“Well,” Luskin reportedly told her, “you’re sitting next to Karl Rove’s lawyer.”

“I began spending a little more time than usual with Luskin as I tried to keep track of the investigation,” Viveca explained.

Sometime during the week of October 18, 2005, which Viveca refers to as “indictment week,” she says, Luskin “phoned me and said he had disclosed to Fitzgerald the content of a conversation he and I had had at Cafe Deluxe more than a year earlier and that Fitzgerald might want to talk to me.”

According to Viveca, she did meet with Fitzgerald on November 10, 2005, for about two hours after her attorney advised Fitzgerald that she would discuss only her interactions with Luskin that were relevant to the conversation in question, with no “fishing expeditions, no questions about my other reporting or sources in the case,” she wrote.

Fitzgerald agreed to the conditions, she said, and advised her lawyer that he wanted to “remove the chicken bone without disturbing the body.”

During the meeting, Fitzgerald asked if Luskin had ever talked to Viveca about whether Rove was Cooper’s source on the topic of Wilson’s wife.

“That was the “chicken bone” Fitzgerald had referred to,” Viveca wrote.

Here is what happened according to her first-person account of her visits with Luskin as to what was discussed about Rove and Cooper:

“Toward the end of one of our meetings,” she said, “I remember Luskin looking at me and saying something to the effect of “Karl doesn’t have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt.”

“I responded instinctively,” Viveca wrote, “thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, “Are you sure about that? That’s not what I hear around TIME.”

“He looked surprised and very serious,” she said. “There’s nothing in the phone logs,” Luskin told Viveca.

“In the course of the investigation, the logs of all Rove’s calls around the July 2003 time period,” Viveca wrote, “had been combed, and Luskin was telling me there were no references to Matt.”

Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, its apparent that Rove realized the importance of covering his tracks while he was leaking to reporters in the summer of 2003. Here lies the missing link to this puzzle.

In a November 28, 2005, article in Raw Story, Jason Leopold and Larisa Alexandrovna, who have doggedly investigated this matter, reported that Rove,s former personal assistant, Susan Ralston, whose job it was to screen Rove,s phone calls at the White House, had previously testified that Cooper,s call to Rove was not logged in because Cooper had called through the White House switchboard and was transferred to Rove,s office, as opposed to calling Rove,s office directly.

But citing “those close to the probe, the Raw Story article noted, “that Fitzgerald obtained documentary evidence showing that other unrelated calls transferred to Rove,s office by the switchboard were logged.

In addition, in a July 25, 2005, Time Magazine article titled, “What I Told The Grand Jury,” Cooper recounts his recollection of what happened when he called the White House.

“I recall calling Rove from my office at TIME magazine,” Cooper wrote, “through the White House switchboard and being transferred to his office.”

“I believe a woman answered the phone and said words to the effect that Rove wasn’t there or was busy before going on vacation,” he said.

“But then, I recall,” Cooper said, “she said something like, “Hang on,” and I was transferred to him.”

“I recall,” Cooper wrote, “saying something like, “I’m writing about Wilson,” before he interjected, “Don’t get too far out on Wilson.”

No doubt in light of these discoveries, Fitzgerald invited Ms Ralston for a return engagement with the grand jury.

According to Raw Story, while testifying the second time, Ralston said that Rove instructed her not to log in the call from Cooper and she also provided information about other calls between Rove and reporters, including Robert Novak.

It should be noted here that Ms Ralston was hired by Rove after she came highly recommended from his good friend: Jack Abramoff, for whom Ms Ralston performed similar duties “– that is until Abramoff realized she’d be far more useful embedded in the West Wing,” according to Rolling Stone Magazine.

After his chat with Viveca, Attorney Luskin reportedly orchestrated a search for any record of a conversation between Rove and Cooper and low and behold, an e-mail from Rove to senior White House official, Stephen Hadley surfaced, that provided detail of a conversation between Rove and Cooper that took place before Valerie was outed by Robert Novak.

There has been much speculation about when the Rove-Hadley email was found and when it was turned over to Fitzgerald. In her December 19, article, Viveca claims that she did not find out until the fall of 2005, that her remark to Luskin had led to a search for evidence that Rove and Cooper had talked.

“According to Luskin,” Viveca wrote in the article, “he turned the e-mail over to Fitzgerald when he found it, leading Rove to acknowledge before the grand jury in October 2004 that he had indeed spoken with Cooper.”

The fact that Rove was not charged on the spot for this slick trick, shows that he got another get-out-of-jail-free card because he had been ordered to turn over all emails to the special prosecutor just like everyone else in the White House.

“On October 3, 2003,” according to a memo authored by Andy Card, then White House Chief of Staff, “every employee in the Executive Office of the President received instructions from Counsel’s office about obligations to search for and provide documents that may be related to the Justice Department’s investigation.”

In addition, the subpoenas issued by Fitzgerald to the White House called for, among other things:

1) All documents from February 1, 2002 through 2003 related to Plame, Wilson’s trip to Niger, or to contacts with journalists.

2) All documents from July 6 to July 21, 2003 from the White House Iraq Group (of which Libby, Hadley, and Rove were members).

3) All documents relating to conversations with Matt Cooper of Time Magazine.

According to reporter, Jason Leopold, neither Hadley nor Rove disclosed the communication about Valerie when they were questioned by the FBI, or testified to the grand jury.

Rove said that he found out about Valerie from reporters, and, “Hadley testified that he recalled learning about Plame Wilson when her name was published in a newspaper column,” Leopold said.

As it turns out, the email to Hadley was sent within minutes after Rove spoke to Cooper on July 11, 2003, and included the comments: “Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he,s got a welfare reform story coming. When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger. Isn,t this damaging? Hasn,t the president been hurt? I didn,t take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn,t get Time far out in front on this.

In February 2006, Fitzgerald informed Libby’s attorneys that the White House had turned over about 250 pages of previously undisclosed e-mails from the Cheney’s office, which have no doubt provided hours of interesting reading for the prosecutor’s team.

With his feet to the fire, on October 15, 2004, Rove marched back into the grand jury to change his story and say that he must have discussed Valerie with Cooper after all, because the e-mail established that he had in fact had a conversation with Cooper.

That day, Viveca Novak wrote a web exclusive for Time and quoted her drinking buddy, Luskin as saying: “My client appeared voluntarily before the grand jury and has cooperated with the investigation since it began.”

In the article, Viveca mentions a question to which she knows the answer but doesn’t share it with her readers. “Fitzgerald is trying to find out who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative married to former ambassador Joe Wilson, to several journalists in July 2003,” she wrote.

In December 2005, Luskin testified that his meeting with Viveca where he learned about the Rove-Cooper connection, took place in late January or early February 2004, the same month in which Rove had reportedly testified twice and Fitzgerald had sought the authority to prosecute officials if they were found to have obstructed his investigation.

However the problem is that Viveca, says she thinks the conversation took place in either March or May 2004.

But a more pressing dilemma for Viveca personally, has turned out to be that she continued to write articles on the leak case without informing her boss at Time Magazine about her insider knowledge of the facts.

According to the April 27, 2006, New York Times, Viveca no longer works for Time. “She left the magazine after a dispute over her role in the case,” the NYT’s said, “taking a buyout package last month.”

So it looks like another journalist bites the dust in the wake of the illegal conduct by the White House. After a 20-some year tenure, Judy Miller got the boot from the New York Times for not revealing her involvement with the Libby to her boss. Bob Novak got hot under the collar when asked a question about his part in the case and walked of a live broadcast on CNN and got canned, and even Bob Woodward is said to have fallen off his pedestal at the Washington Post.

Yet as the body-count rises, Karl Rove is always seen smiling like a cat that just ate a canary and knows he got away with it.

Why Rove waited some five or six months to correct his testimony with the grand jury is said to be a mystery but it may simply be that when Luskin gave him the news that he was busted, Cooper was still refusing to identify Rove as his source and so he decided to run out the clock and bet the farm.

What could he lose? The odds were good. The Supreme Court had certainly demonstrated its allegiance to the Bush team in the past.

When the lower court ordered Cooper to testify, just as expected, Time appealed the decision all the way to the High Court but was unsuccessful.

But in this case, Rove had the most to lose.

On July 13, 2005, Cooper appeared before the grand jury and informed the panel that Rove was the official who told him that Valerie was employed at the CIA, and the panel already knew that Libby was the other source.

According to Cooper, his conversation with Rove was the first time he had heard anything about Wilson,s wife. In addition, Rove had told Cooper that more information that would discredit Wilson and his findings in Niger would soon be declassified.

In a July 25, 2005, article discussing his testimony, in Time Magazine, Cooper wrote: “Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson’s wife worked at the C.I.A. and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes.”

“Did Rove say that she worked at the ‘agency’ on ‘W.M.D.’? Yes,” he said.

“When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don’t know,” Cooper wrote.

Cooper also told the grand jury that he had a distinct memory of Rove ending the phone call by saying, “I,ve already said too much.

Over this time period, Rove got dealt a whole deck of get-out-of-jail-free cards.

After it became known that Rove was indeed Cooper’s secret source, on July 15, 2005, ninety-one Democrats in Congress signed a letter to Bush calling for Rove to explain his role in the leak, or to resign and 13 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee called for hearings on the matter.

When the Libby indictment was issued, and it became known that Rove had definitely participated in blowing Valerie’s cover, 16 former CIA and military intelligence officials petitioned Bush to suspend Rove’s security clearance and Bush refused to grant their request.

Karl Rove still has security clearance to this very day.

The granting of this free pass becomes all the more obvious when compared to what happened to former Clinton advisor, Sandy Berger, in 2003, when he took classified documents from the National Archives, to prepare to testify before the 9/11 Commission. In order to settle the case, Berger had to plead guilty to mishandling of documents in violation of the Espionage Act, and his security clearance was suspended for 3 years.

In the grand jury sessions, press aides were reportedly confronted with internal White House documents, mainly e-mails and telephone logs, between White House aides and reporters and were questioned about conversations with reporters.

According to the New York Times, the set of documents that prosecutors repeatedly referred to in their meetings with White House aides are extensive notes compiled by none other than Scooter Libby.

The logs indicate that several White House officials talked to Novak shortly before the appearance of his July 14 column, the Washington Post reported.

That said, it should be interesting to see how many more get-out-of-jail-free cards Fitzgerald has up his sleeve and how they get distributed.

EVELYN PRINGLE is an investigative reporter. She can be reached at: