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What Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, told TIME

RAW STORY

From the (paid-restricted) TIME Magazine, by reporter Matt Cooper, who testified to the grand jury about his conversations with Karl Rove about outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson earlier this week. " So here's what happened last Wednesday," he starts. Excerpts.

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Before going into the grand jury room at 9:30 a.m., my lawyers and I met briefly with Fitzgerald, a couple of his attorneys and the lead FBI agent in the case. It was, to say the least, unsettling sitting there in the federal courthouse in Washington with the man who, for months, had tried to get me to testify or he would put me in jail. Fitzgerald counseled me that he wanted me to answer completely but didn't want to force any answers on me or have me act as if I remembered things more clearly than I did. "If I show you a picture of your kindergarten teacher and it really refreshes your memory, say so," he said. "If it doesn't, don't say yes just because I show you a photo of you and her sitting together."

Cooper describes the grand jury.

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"A grand jury, the old maxim goes, will indict a ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it of them," he writes. "But I didn't get that sense from this group of grand jurors. They somewhat reflected the demographics of the District of Columbia. The majority were African American and were disproportionately women."

The questions center around the week leading up to the outing of Plame Wilson.

"Virtually all the questions centered on the week of July 6, 2003, he writes. "As it happens, that week was a big one at the White House. On that Sunday, the New York Times had published former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's now infamous Op-Ed describing his mission to Niger. Wilson said he had found no evidence of that and was confounded as to why the President would claim otherwise in his 2003 State of the Union address."

"I was curious about Wilson when I called Karl Rove on Friday, July 11. As I told the grand jury--which seemed very interested in my prior dealings with Rove--I don't think we had spoken more than a handful of times before that."

He called Rove.

"I recall saying something like, "I'm writing about Wilson," before he interjected. "Don't get too far out on Wilson," he told me. I started taking notes on my computer, and while an e-mail I sent moments after the call has been leaked, my notes have not been.

Double-secret background? Cooper says it's from 'Animal House' -- not top-secret journalistic lingo.

"The grand jury asked about one of the more interesting lines in that e-mail, in which I refer to my conversation with Rove as being on "double super secret background," a line that's raised a few eyebrows ever since it leaked into the public domain. I told the grand jury that the phrase is not a journalistic term of art but a reference to the film Animal House, in which John Belushi's wild Delta House fraternity is placed on "double secret probation."

"Rove went on to say that Wilson had not been sent to Niger by the director of the CIA and that Dick Cheney didn't send him either. Indeed, the next day the Vice President's chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, told me Cheney had not been responsible for Wilson's mission."

Cooper fills in what we already know about his conversation with Rove.

"As for Wilson's wife, I told the grand jury I was certain that Rove never used her name and that, indeed, I did not learn her name until the following week, when I either saw it in Robert Novak's column or Googled her, I can't recall which. Rove did, however, clearly indicate that she worked at the "agency"--by that, I told the grand jury, I inferred that he obviously meant the CIA and not, say, the Environmental Protection Agency. Rove added that she worked on "WMD" (the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction) issues and that she was responsible for sending Wilson. This was the first time I had heard anything about Wilson's wife.

Perhaps most notable, is one line Cooper recalls that he said 'has been in my memory for two years.'

"I have a distinct memory of Rove ending the call by saying, 'I've already said too much,'" he wrote. "This could have meant he was worried about being indiscreet, or it could have meant he was late for a meeting or something else. I don't know, but that sign-off has been in my memory for two years."

This was actually my second testimony for the special prosecutor. In August 2004, I gave limited testimony about my conversations with Scooter Libby. Libby had also given me a specific waiver, and I gave a deposition in the office of my attorney. I have never discussed that conversation until now. In that testimony, I recounted an on-the-record conversation with Libby that moved to background. On the record, he denied that Cheney knew about or played any role in the Wilson trip to Niger. On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or words to that effect. Like Rove, Libby never used Valerie Plame's name.

Where's the case going?

"Did Fitzgerald's questions give me a sense of where the investigation is heading? Perhaps," he pens. "Maybe Fitzgerald is interested in whether Rove knew her CIA ties through a person or through a document."

And he sums up.

"So did Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert?" he scores. "No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the "agency" on "WMD"? Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me. At this point, I'm as curious as anyone else to see what Patrick Fitzgerald has."

Originally published on Sunday July 17, 2005.

 


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