In today's news we find out that Karl Rove did indeed discuss Valerie Plame with Matt Cooper.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove spoke with at least one reporter about Valerie Plame's role at the CIA before she was identified as a covert agent in a newspaper column two years ago, but Rove's lawyer said yesterday that his client did not identify her by name.
Rove had a short conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper on July 11, 2003, three days before Robert D. Novak publicly exposed Plame in a column about her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson had come under attack from the White House for his assertions that he found no evidence Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger and that he reported those findings to top administration officials. Wilson publicly accused the administration of leaking his wife's identity as a means of retaliation.
The leak of Plame's name to the news media spawned a federal grand jury investigation that has been seeking to find the origin of the disclosure. Cooper avoided jail time last week by agreeing to testify before the grand jury about conversations with his sources, while New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for refusing to discuss her confidential sources.
To be considered a violation of the law, a disclosure by a government official must have been deliberate, the person doing it must have known that the CIA officer was a covert agent, and he or she must have known that the government was actively concealing the covert agent's identity.
Cooper, according to an internal Time e-mail obtained by Newsweek magazine, spoke with Rove before Novak's column was published. In the conversation, Rove gave Cooper a "big warning" that Wilson's assertions might not be entirely accurate and that it was not the director of the CIA or the vice president who sent Wilson on his trip. Rove apparently told Cooper that it was "Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip," according to a story in Newsweek's July 18 issue.
Rove's conversation with Cooper could be significant because it indicates a White House official was discussing Plame prior to her being publicly named and could lead to evidence of how Novak learned her name.
Going back to September 29, 2003 we find this White House press briefing with Scott McClellan:
Q All right. Let me just follow up. You said this morning, "The President knows" that Karl Rove wasn't involved. How does he know that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place. I saw some comments this morning from the person who made that suggestion, backing away from that. And I said it is simply not true. So, I mean, it's public knowledge. I've said that it's not true. And I have spoken with Karl Rove --
Q But how does --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into conversations that the President has with advisors or staff or anything of that nature; that's not my practice.
Q But the President has a factual basis for knowing that Karl Rove --
MR. McCLELLAN: I said it publicly. I said that --
Q But I'm not asking what you said, I'm asking if the President has a factual basis for saying -- for your statement that he knows Karl Rove --
MR. McCLELLAN: He's aware of what I've said, that there is simply no truth to that suggestion. And I have spoken with Karl about it.
And then today there is this would-be humorous if it wasn't serious exchange;
Q: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliot Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, "I've gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this"?
MCCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that, as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we're not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.
Q: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you've decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?
MCCLELLAN: I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation...
Q: (inaudible) when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish.
Q: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?
MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.
Q: Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?
MCCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.
QUESTION: You're in a bad spot here, Scott... because after the investigation began -- after the criminal investigation was under way -- you said, October 10th, 2003, "I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this," from that podium. That's after the criminal investigation began.
Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?
MCCLELLAN: No, that's not a correct characterization. And I think you are well aware of that.....
And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this. Because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.
I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I'm just not going to do that.
Q: So you're now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore and since then you haven't.
MCCLELLAN: Again, you're continuing to ask questions relating to an ongoing criminal investigation and I'm just not going to respond to them.
Q: When did they ask you to stop commenting on it, Scott? Can you pin down a date?
MCCLELLAN: Back in that time period.
Q: Well, then the president commented on it nine months later. So was he not following the White House plan?
MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your questions. You can keep asking them, but you have my response.
Q: Well, we are going to keep asking them. When did the president learn that Karl Rove had had a conversation with a news reporter about the involvement of Joseph Wilson's wife in the decision to send him to Africa?
MCCLELLAN: I've responded to the questions.
Q: When did the president learn that Karl Rove had been...
MCCLELLAN: I've responded to your questions.
Q: After the investigation is completed, will you then be consistent with your word and the president's word that anybody who was involved will be let go?
MCCLELLAN: Again, after the investigation is complete, I will be glad to talk about it at that point.
Q: Can you walk us through why, given the fact that Rove's lawyer has spoken publicly about this, it is inconsistent with the investigation, that it compromises the investigation to talk about the involvement of Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, here?
MCCLELLAN: Well, those overseeing the investigation expressed a preference to us that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it's ongoing. And that was what they requested of the White House. And so I think in order to be helpful to that investigation, we are following their direction.
Q: Does the president continue to have confidence in Mr. Rove?
MCCLELLAN: Again, these are all questions coming up in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation. And you've heard my response on this.
Q: So you're not going to respond as to whether or not the president has confidence in his deputy chief of staff?
MCCLELLAN: You're asking this question in the context of an ongoing investigation, and I would not read anything into it other then I'm simply going to comment on an ongoing investigation.
Q: Has there been any change, or is there a plan for Mr. Rove's portfolio to be altered in any way?
MCCLELLAN: Again, you have my response to these questions....
My own previous remarks about the Plame case:
His (John Kerry's) core values also involve not compromising U.S. security by trumping up charges about WMD's in countries where they don't exist. They involve not risking national security or destroying a persons life by breaking the law, breaching security, and revealing the name of a covert CIA operative which was done in retribution by the White House against the wife of Joseph Wilson --because he had " publicly disclosed that he had investigated and debunked intelligence linking Iraqi nuclear ambitions to the African nation of Niger. Wilson's investigation concluded in March 2002, nearly a year before Bush made the assertion that Iraq sought uranium in Africa during his 2003 State of the Union. Days after Wilson went public, columnist Robert Novak revealed that his wife was a CIA operative. The Washington Post reported that "a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife," CIA operative Valerie Plame. [Washington Post, 9/28/03]"
To which Bush responded "I have no idea if we'll find out who the leaker is." If he can't even find out who a leaker is in his own administration -- how is he going to find terrorists halfway around the globe?
The irony here is that Judith Miller sits in jail protecting an anonymous source she didn't use for a story she didn't print, who's objective wasn't to blow the whistle on government corruption but to personally destroy two patriotic government employees.