Grand Jury Hears Evidence Against Rove
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
Just as the news broke Wednesday about Scott McClellan resigning as White House press secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove shedding some of his policy duties, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case and introduced additional evidence against Rove, attorneys and other US officials close to the investigation said.
The grand jury session in federal court in Washington, DC, sources close to the case said, was the first time this year that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove.
In an interview Wednesday, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove remains a "subject" of Fitzgerald's two-year-old probe.
"Mr. Rove is still a subject of the investigation," Luskin said. In a previous interview, Luskin asserted that Rove would not be indicted by Fitzgerald, but he was unwilling to make that prediction again Wednesday.
"Mr. Fitzgerald hasn't made any decision on the charges and I can't speculate what the outcome will be," Luskin said. "Mr. Rove has cooperated completely with the investigation."
Fitzgerald is said to have introduced more evidence Wednesday alleging Rove lied to FBI investigators and the grand jury when he was questioned about how he found out that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA and whether he shared that information with the media, attorneys close to the case said.
Fitzgerald told the grand jury that Rove lied to investigators and the prosecutor eight out of the nine times he was questioned about the leak and also tried to cover-up his role in disseminating Plame Wilson's CIA status to at least two reporters.
Additionally, an FBI investigator reread to jurors testimony from other witnesses in the case that purportedly implicates Rove in playing a role in the leak and the campaign to discredit Plame Wilson's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose criticism of the Bush administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence lead to his wife being unmasked as a covert CIA operative.
Luskin said Rove has not discussed any plea deal with Fitzgerald.
"Mr. Rove's cooperation is not contingent on any plea agreement with the prosecutor," Luskin said. "He has always cooperated voluntarily and unconditionally."
Luskin would not discuss the substance of his most recent communication with Fitzgerald nor would he say whether Rove would testify against his former White House colleague, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, who was indicted in the leak case for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Luskin wouldn't comment on whether the investigation of Rove continues to center on alleged misleading statements to which Rove testified regarding a July 2003 conversation he had about Plame Wilson with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.
Sources close to the investigation, however, confirmed that is exactly what Fitzgerald has continued to focus on and what he discussed with the grand jury Wednesday.
Luskin said that Rove simply forgot about his conversation with Cooper when he testified before the grand jury because Rove had been dealing with other pressing matters, such as Bush's reelection campaign.
Rove's story began to unravel when Fitzgerald discovered the existence of an email Rove sent to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley after he spoke with Cooper on July 11, 2003.
Rove did not disclose the existence of the email during his first two appearances before the grand jury. Rove testified that he found out about Plame Wilson after her identity was disclosed in several news stories.
"I didn't take the bait," Rove wrote in the email to Hadley immediately following his conversation with Cooper. "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."
Hadley, sources said, is also a subject of the investigation.
In December, Luskin made a desperate attempt to keep his client out of Fitzgerald's crosshairs.
Luskin revealed to Fitzgerald that Viveca Novak - a reporter working for Time magazine who wrote several stories about the Plame Wilson case - inadvertently tipped him off in early 2004 that her colleague at the magazine, Matt Cooper, would be forced to testify that Rove was his source who told him about Plame Wilson's CIA status.
Novak - who bears no relation to syndicated columnist Robert Novak, the journalist who first published Plame Wilson's name and CIA status in a July 14, 2003, column - met Luskin in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2004, and over drinks, the two discussed Fitzgerald's investigation into the Plame Wilson leak.
Luskin assured Novak that Rove learned Plame Wilson's name and CIA status after it was published in news accounts and that only then did he phone other journalists to draw their attention to it. But Novak told Luskin that everyone in the Time newsroom knew Rove was Cooper's source and that he would testify to that in an upcoming grand jury appearance, these sources said.
According to Luskin's account, after he met with Viveca Novak he contacted Rove and told him about his conversation with her. The two of them then began an exhaustive search through White House phone logs and emails for any evidence that proved that Rove had spoken with Cooper. Luskin said that during this search an email was found that Rove sent to Hadley immediately and it was subsequently turned over to Fitzgerald.
Still, Rove's account of his conversation with Cooper went nothing like he described in his email to Hadley, according to an email Cooper sent to his editor at Time magazine following his conversation with Rove in July 2003.
"It was, KR said, [former Ambassador Joseph] Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized [Wilson's] trip," Cooper's July 11, 2003, email to his editor said.