prosecutor investigating the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson is
trying to determine whether Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove lied to
the FBI when he was first interviewed by agents about his role in the case in
October 2003, attorneys close to the case said.
News reports in
recent weeks have suggested that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has
narrowed his criminal inquiry into whether Rove purposely failed to tell the
grand jury hearing evidence in the case that he spoke with Time Magazine
reporter Matthew Cooper in July 2003 and revealed the identity of the
undercover CIA agent.
hasn't resolved another important element in the case: what appears to be
misleading statements Rove made to FBI investigators on Oct. 8, 2003, less than
two weeks after the Justice Department announced that it had launched a
criminal probe into Plame's outing, the attorneys said.
Those close to the
case say that Rove was caught up in a game of semantics when he was questioned
by FBI investigators, insisting to federal agents that he was not the
individual who had leaked Plame-Wilson's identity to conservative columnist
Robert Novak. Novak was the first to make public her name and CIA status in a
July 14, 2003, column.
investigators that he merely passed along information about Plame-Wilson to
other journalists and White House officials after it had already appeared in
Novak's column, the attorneys said. He maintained, they added, that it was
entirely within his right to do so being that Plame-Wilson's husband, former
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was publicly criticizing the Bush administration and
had claimed in a New York Times op-ed that it had "twisted" prewar
intelligence to build public support for a preemptive military strike against
lawyers, Rove did not tell FBI investigators in 2003 that he had spoken with
Novak prior to his column being published and had been one of the two "senior
administration officials" cited in Novak's column as having confirmed
Plame's identity and CIA employment.
Rove was named as
"Official A," the person who confirmed Plame's CIA status for Novak,
in the 22-page indictment against Vice President Cheney's erstwhile chief of
staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Fitzgerald is now
trying to piece together evidence as to whether Rove obstructed the
investigation into Plame's outing, a felony, during that first interview he had
with the FBI, as well as allegedly lying to the federal agents, the attorneys
A Mar. 8, 2004,
story in the American Prospect related to Rove's testimony noted that,
"Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the
administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA
operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July."
Indeed. An American
Prospect report published in March 2004 said that Rove told the FBI that the
White House undertook an aggressive campaign to undercut Wilson's credibility
by leaking disparaging information about Wilson and his wife to the press. Rove
disclosed that the administration enlisted conservative interest groups and the
Republican National Committee to get the job done, suggesting that perhaps
dozens more individuals than previously known were aware of Plame-Wilson's
classified CIA status. Still, Rove did not reveal to investigators that he
spoke with Novak before his column was published, the lawyers said.
Fitzgerald has been
working tirelessly over the past two weeks examining Rove's grand jury
testimony and interviews Rove had with the FBI to determine if there is
evidence that Rove knowingly made false statements to officials investigating
the case, the sources said.
attorney, Robert Luskin, is laboring to convince Fitzgerald that any
information related to Plame's outing that Rove may have not been forthcoming
about was the result of an innocent bout of forgetfulness on the part of his
client. Luskin has spoken to Fitzgerald at least once over the phone about
Rove's legal position since Libby's indictment, the attorneys said.
spokesman Randall Samborn said he could not comment on the specifics of the
investigation or whether there would be any public announcement when the probe is
According to the
attorneys close to the case, the chips are still stacked against Rove, unless
he decides to cut a deal before the probe wraps up. Fitzgerald is also
investigating whether Rove withheld another important element from investigators
during that very first interview on Oct. 8, 2003, and from the grand jury
during the three times he testified: that he'd had a conversation with Time
magazine reporter Matthew Cooper-on background-about Plame-Wilson just three
It would be nearly
two years after Rove was questioned by the FBI in October 2003 that his
attorney, Robert Luskin, contacted Fitzgerald to say that Rove had recalled the
conversation he'd had with Cooper about Plame-Wilson and her husband, Joseph.
It was only after Cooper had been forced to testify about his conversation with
Rove this past summer that Rove recalled the interview, even though the
conversation had taken place just three months before the October 2003
interview with the FBI.
� 2005 Jason Leopold
Jason Leopold is the author of the explosive
memoir, "News Junkie," to be released in the spring of 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit
Leopold's website at www.jasonleopold.com for updates.