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Context of 'June 12-13, 2006: Reporter Claims Rove Indictment Still under Seal, Stands by Story'

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Syndicated columnist Robert Novak discusses former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s journey to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see Late June 2003). Novak asks Armitage, “Why in the world did [the CIA] send Joe Wilson on this?” and Armitage answers by revealing what he has learned from a State Department intelligence memo (see June 10, 2003) that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, is a CIA agent who works with the issue of weapons of mass destruction. “I don’t know,” Armitage says, “but his wife works out there.” Armitage also tells Novak that Plame Wilson “suggested” her husband for the Niger trip. [Fox News, 9/8/2006; Wilson, 2007, pp. 256; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007] Novak has already learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see July 7, 2003). Either later this day, or sometime during the next day, Novak also learns of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from White House political adviser Karl Rove (see July 8 or 9, 2003). Novak will publicly reveal Plame Wilson’s CIA status in his next column, apparently as part of an effort to discredit her husband (see July 6, 2003 and July 14, 2003). [New York Times, 7/15/2005; New York Times, 7/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Karl C. Rove, Richard Armitage, Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, Robert Novak

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House political strategist Karl Rove returns a telephone call from conservative columnist Robert Novak. Rove has prepared for the call, assembling talking points and briefing materials (see July 7-8, 2003), some drawn from classified government personnel files provided by White House political director Matt Schlapp and other staffers. None of the materials directly involve Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent who Novak will “out” in a soon-to-be-published column (see July 14, 2003). Instead, Rove is preparing to discuss Frances Fragos Townsend, the newly appointed deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. It is unclear whether Rove speaks with Novak on the evening of July 8 or during the day of July 9. [National Journal, 12/16/2005; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007]
Combating 'Rearguard' Effort to Undermine Townsend - President Bush has asked Rove to counter what he believes to be a “rearguard” effort within his own administration—led by senior members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff—to discredit Townsend and derail her appointment, perhaps because she was once a senior attorney in the Justice Department under then-President Clinton. Novak has been calling other White House officials about Townsend, and Rove intends to give him the White House slant on her: that President Bush, CIA Director George Tenet, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice all have full confidence in her. Part of the conversation is completely off the record, while other parts are on background, freeing Novak to quote Rove as a “senior administration official.” Novak will write his material on Townsend much as Rove lays it out for him. Reporter Murray Waas will later learn that opposition to Townsend within Cheney’s office is so intense that Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, contemplates leaking damaging material about her to the press in an attempt to disrupt her appointment. Waas will write, “Libby’s tactics against Townsend appear to have paralleled those he took around the same period of time in attempting to blunt [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson’s criticism of the administration’s use of prewar intelligence.” Libby will indeed leak information on Townsend to selected Republicans in Congress, and they in turn will use that information to criticize her appointment. [National Journal, 12/16/2005]
Novak Broaches Subject of Plame Wilson - It is after they finish discussing Townsend that the submect of Valerie Plame Wilson comes up. Novak and Rove will both tell federal prosecutors that it is Novak who broaches the subject of Plame Wilson, saying he had heard that “Wilson’s wife” had been responsible for sending her husband on a CIA mission to Niger (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, and October 17, 2003). According to later published accounts, Rove replies, “I heard that too.” Novak’s version of events will be slightly different, with him claiming Rove says, “Oh, you know about it.” Novak has already learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see July 7, 2003) and from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see July 8, 2003). Novak tells Rove that he is still going to write a negative column on Townsend, but implies that he will also write about Wilson and his wife. “I think that you are going to be unhappy with something that I write,” he tells Rove, “and I think you are very much going to like something that I am about to write.” Novak’s July 10 column will attack Townsend as an “enemy within,” a Democratic partisan who will likely not be loyal to the Bush administration. Four days later, he will write his column exposing Plame Wilson as a CIA agent as part of his attack on Wilson’s credibility as a war critic. Investigators will be unable to independently verify that Novak, not Rove, first brought up the subject of Plame Wilson during their conversation; for his part, Rove will deny leaking Plame Wilson’s name to any reporter, and will deny even knowing who she is. [New York Times, 7/15/2005; New York Times, 7/16/2005; National Journal, 12/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Murray Waas, Joseph C. Wilson, Frances Townsend, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Matt Schlapp, Robert Novak, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House political adviser Karl Rove, leading the White House’s damage control operation to recoup the losses from Joseph Wilson’s recent op-ed about the fraudulent Iraq-Niger documents (see July 6, 2003), speaks to Time reporter Matthew Cooper. Rove has already discussed Wilson with columnist Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003).
Cooper Digging for White House Smear Details - According to Cooper’s notes, an e-mail from Cooper to his bureau chief, Michael Duffy, and Cooper’s later testimony (see July 13, 2005), Cooper is interested in the White House’s apparent smear attempts against Wilson (see March 9, 2003 and After and May 2003). “I’m writing about Wilson,” Cooper says, and Rove interjects, “Don’t get too far out on Wilson.” Rove insists that their conversation be on “deep background,” wherein Cooper cannot quote him directly, nor can he disclose his identity. Rove tells Cooper that neither CIA Director George Tenet nor Vice President Dick Cheney sent Wilson to Niger, and that, Cooper will later write, “material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson’s mission and his findings.”
Outing Plame Wilson - Rove says that it is Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame Wilson “who apparently works at the agency [CIA] on wmd issues who authorized the trip… not only [sic] the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. [Rove] implied strongly there’s still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger.” Rove does not identify Plame Wilson, only calling her “Wilson’s wife,” but Cooper has no trouble learning her name. Rove ends the call with a cryptic teaser, saying, “I’ve already said too much.” Cooper will recall these words two years later when he testifies to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak (see January 2004). [Cooper, 7/11/2003 pdf file; New York Times, 7/16/2005; Time, 7/17/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 311-312] Later, Cooper will write: “I have a distinct memory of Rove ending the call by saying, ‘I’ve already said too much.’ 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.” [Time, 7/17/2005] Cooper will later testify that Rove never told him about Plame Wilson’s covert status. [National Journal, 10/7/2005]
Call Not Logged - Rove asks his personal assistant, Susan Cooper, to ensure that Cooper’s call does not appear on the White House telephone logs. [CounterPunch, 12/9/2005]
Cooper E-mails Editor - After hanging up, Cooper sends an e-mail to his editors at Time about the conversation (see 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003).
Conversation with Deputy National Security Adviser - After the conversation with Cooper, Rove sends an e-mail to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, saying he “didn’t take the bait” when Cooper suggested that Wilson’s criticisms had been damaging to the administration (see After 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003).
White House Getting Message Across - Author Craig Unger later notes that while the conversation is on background, the White House is getting across its message that something about Wilson’s trip is questionable, and it has something to do with his wife. Unger writes, “And a White House press corps that relied heavily on access to high level administration officials was listening intently and was holding its fire.” [Cooper, 7/11/2003 pdf file; New York Times, 7/16/2005; Time, 7/17/2005; National Journal, 10/7/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 311-312] Rove later testifies that his references to “Niger,” “damaging,” and Bush being “hurt” all referred to the potential political fallout from Wilson’s allegations. As for the statement that “If I were him I wouldn’t get that far out in front of this,” Rove will say he merely wanted to urge Cooper to use caution in relying on Wilson as a potential source. [National Journal, 10/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Stephen J. Hadley, Joseph C. Wilson, Matthew Cooper, Bush administration (43), Michael Duffy, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Craig Unger, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Patrick Fitzgerald.Patrick Fitzgerald. [Source: US Department of Justice]Citing potential conflicts of interest, Attorney General John Ashcroft formally recuses himself from any further involvement in the investigation of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see September 26, 2003 and September 30, 2003). The Justice Department names Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney for the Chicago region, to handle the investigation. In a letter to Fitzgerald authorizing the position, Deputy Attorney General James Comey writes: “I hereby delegate to you all the authority of the attorney general with respect to the department’s investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity, and I direct you to exercise that authority as special counsel independent of the supervision or control of any officer of the department.” Many believe that Ashcroft’s continued involvement has become politically untenable, and that the investigation has reached a point where his potential conflicts of interest can no longer be ignored. The White House steadfastly denies that any of its officials leaked Plame Wilson’s name to conservative columnist Robert Novak, who first outed Plame Wilson in his column (see July 14, 2003), or any other member of the press. The FBI has already spoken to White House political adviser Karl Rove, suspected of being one of Novak’s sources; Rove has close political ties to Ashcroft. Upon Ashcroft’s recusal, the investigation was given over to Comey, who immediately named Fitzgerald to head the investigation. Fitzgerald and Comey, himself a former Manhattan prosecutor, are close friends and colleagues. [Office of the Deputy Attorney General, 12/30/2003 pdf file; Associated Press, 12/30/2003; New York Times, 12/31/2003]
Appearance of Conflict of Interest - Comey tells the press: “The attorney general, in an abundance of caution, believed that his recusal was appropriate based on the totality of the circumstances and the facts and evidence developed at this stage of the investigation. I agree with that judgment. And I also agree that he made it at the appropriate time, the appropriate point in this investigation.” Comey says that while Ashcroft denies an actual conflict of interest exists, “The issue that he was concerned about was one of appearance.” White House officials say that President Bush had no role in the decision; some White House and law enforcement officials were surprised upon learning of Comey’s decision.
Investigation Reaching into White House? - Some Democrats believe that Ashcroft’s recusal is an indication that the investigation is moving into the White House itself. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says of Comey’s decision, “This isn’t everything that I asked for, but it’s close.” In regards to Fitzgerald, Schumer says, “I would have preferred to have someone outside the government altogether, but given Fitzgerald’s reputation for integrity and ability—similar to Comey’s—the glass is three-quarters full.” Governor Howard Dean (D-VT), a leading Democratic contender for the presidency, says Ashcroft’s decision “is too little, too late.” For the last three months, the investigation has been run by John Dion, the Justice Department’s chief of counterespionage. Whether Fitzgerald will ask Dion or other Justice Department investigators to remain on the case remains to be seen. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought maybe he ought to keep some or all of the career folks involved,” says Comey. Fitzgerald has the authority to issue subpoenas and grant immunity on his own authority, Comey confirms. “I told him that my mandate to him was very simple. Follow the facts wherever they lead, and do the right thing at all times. And that’s something, if you know this guy, is not something I even needed to tell him.” [New York Times, 12/31/2003]
Fitzgerald's 'Impressive Reputation' - Fitzgerald has earned an “impressive reputation,” in Plame Wilson’s words, as a government prosecutor. In 1993, he won a guilty plea from Mafia capo John Gambino, and a conviction against Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see July 3, 1993). He put together the first criminal indictment against Osama bin Laden. In 2003 he indicted former Illinois Republican governor George Ryan on fraud and conspiracy charges; in 2005, he indicted several aides of Chicago Democratic mayor Richard Daley on mail fraud. He brought charges of criminal fraud against Canadian media tycoon Conrad Black. As Plame Wilson will write, “Fitzgerald was not easily intimidated by wealth, status, or threats.”
'Belated Christmas Present' - In 2007, Plame Wilson will write: “It was a belated but welcome Christmas present. Ashcroft had clearly given some thought to his extensive financial and personal ties to Karl Rove, who even then was believed to have had a significant role in the leak, and made the right decision.” She will also add that several years after the recusal, she hears secondhand from a friend of Ashcroft’s that Ashcroft was “troubled” and “lost sleep” over the administration’s action. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 174-175]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Karl C. Rove, US Department of Justice, John Dion, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, James B. Comey Jr., Bush administration (43), Charles Schumer, Howard Dean, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calls upon the White House to strip political adviser Karl Rove of his security clearance, referring to Rove’s involvement in leaking the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 10, 2005). Reid says that the administration should have done so long ago, but instead has refused to discuss Rove’s involvement and attacked its critics. “This is what is known as a cover-up,” Reid says. “This is an abuse of power.” In response, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) accuses Democrats of resorting to “partisan war chants.” [Associated Press, 7/15/2005] Shortly after Reid’s statement, the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Rove has, apparently, violated the strictures of the federal government’s Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement (Standard Form 312), and that those strictures call for the removal of Rove’s security clearance. The organization goes on to note that with few exceptions, the mainstream media has repeated Democratic calls for Rove to lose his clearance without mentioning Rove’s violation of the Nondisclosure Agreement. According to the Agreement, “dissemination” or “confirmation” of classified information constitutes an “unauthorized disclosure,” even after that information has been published in a “public source.” [Media Matters, 7/19/2005] In October, Rove will admit to having leaked Plame Wilson’s name to two reporters (see October 14, 2005).

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Bill Frist, Harry Reid, Karl C. Rove, Media Matters

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Karl Rove discusses his testimony with his lawyers outside the grand jury chambers.Karl Rove discusses his testimony with his lawyers outside the grand jury chambers. [Source: CNN / ThinkProgress]White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove testifies before special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury for a fifth time. Rove partially waives his attorney-client privilege with his attorney, Robert Luskin, to allow Luskin to testify about conversations he had with Rove concerning Rove’s knowledge of the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity. Rove is also questioned extensively about the contradictions between his previous testimony and the testimony of Time reporter Matthew Cooper regarding Rove and Cooper’s July 2003 conversation about Plame Wilson (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), and his conversations with conservative columnist Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and July 14, 2003). [Washington Post, 4/27/2006; National Journal, 4/28/2006; Washington Post, 7/3/2007] According to Luskin, Rove “indirectly” confirmed Plame Wilson’s CIA status to Novak. [Washington Post, 7/15/2006]
Changing Stories - Rove is asked how he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status, and the circumstances surrounding his leaking of that information to Cooper. Rove tells the jury that when he told Cooper that Plame Wilson was a CIA agent, he was merely passing along unverified gossip. Cooper has testified that Rove told him that Plame Wilson was a CIA agent, and that she played a role in sending her husband, Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding mission to Niger in 2002 (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Cooper has testified that both Rove and Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, portrayed the information about Plame Wilson as definitive. It was because of their definitive statements, Cooper testified, that he identified Plame Wilson in a July 2003 story for Time (see July 17, 2003). In his first interview by the FBI, Rove failed to tell the investigators that he had talked to Cooper at all (see October 8, 2003); he again failed to disclose the conversation during his early appearances before the grand jury (see February 2004). Later, Rove testified that he did indeed speak with Cooper, and that his earlier failures to disclose the information were due to lapses in his memory (see October 15, 2004). In his fourth appearance before the grand jury, Rove testified that he revealed Plame Wilson’s identity to the reporter (see October 14, 2005), a recollection prompted by the discovery of an e-mail Rove sent to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley soon after his leak to Cooper (see March 1, 2004). Rove has also testified that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from a journalist or journalists, a claim strongly contradicted by evidence. He has said in previous testimony that he may have learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from Novak, who outed Plame Wilson in a July 2003 column (see July 14, 2003). Novak, however, has testified that he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from Libby and Rove. A person with first-hand knowledge of the grand jury proceedings will later comment, “If you believe both of them, Novak was saying that Rove was his source, and Rove was saying that Novak was his source.” [Washington Post, 4/27/2006; National Journal, 4/28/2006] Rove says that he still doesn’t remember talking to Cooper, though he does not dispute the e-mail he sent to Hadley. [Bloomberg, 4/28/2006] He argues that it would have been foolish for him to attempt to lie to the FBI and to the grand jury, because he knew that whatever lies he might have chosen to tell would have eventually been exposed, and he would then risk going to jail. [Washington Post, 4/27/2006] It is difficult to reconcile Rove’s “indirect” confirmation of Plame Wilson’s identity for Novak with his earlier claims that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Novak.
Lawyer's Statement - Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin says in a written statement: “Karl Rove appeared today before the grand jury investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent’s identity. He testified voluntarily and unconditionally at the request of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to explore a matter raised since Mr. Rove’s last appearance in October 2005 (see October 14, 2005). In connection with this appearance, the special counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Mr. Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges. At the request of the special counsel, Mr. Rove will not discuss the substance of his testimony.” [CNN, 4/26/2006; Washington Post, 4/27/2006]
Difficulties in Proving Intent - Law professor and former federal prosecutor Dan Richman says that while Fitzgerald may well be trying to build a case against Rove for either perjury or obstruction of justice, it may be quite difficult to prove Rove intended to lie to the grand jury. Rove’s subsequent appearances before the jury might “prove to be an obstacle to any [potential] obstruction or perjury case in that the person ultimately cooperated and told what he knew,” Richman says. [National Journal, 4/28/2006]

Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, Matthew Cooper, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Robert Luskin, Karl C. Rove, Valerie Plame Wilson, Dan Richman, Robert Novak, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Stephen J. Hadley

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Jason Leopold.Jason Leopold. [Source: CrooksAndLiars (.com)]Investigative reporter Jason Leopold reports that White House political strategist Karl Rove has informed President Bush and other high-level White House officials that he will be indicted as a result of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation, and will resign his position in the Bush administration when special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald makes the indictment public. Leopold says his sources include “a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.” Rove has been stripped of his policy duties and is no longer deputy chief of staff, though White House officials claim the move is to allow him to focus completely on the 2006 midterm elections. Leopold’s sources say that a public announcement by Fitzgerald is not imminent, “despite the fact that Fitzgerald has already presented the grand jury with a list of charges against Rove. If an indictment is returned by the grand jury, it will be filed under seal.” Rove is said to have told White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten that he will be charged with perjury, stemming from his alleged lying under oath to Fitzgerald’s grand jury (see October 15, 2004, October 14, 2005, and April 26, 2006). “We need to start fresh and we can’t do that with the uncertainty of Karl’s case hanging over our heads,” Leopold quotes one unnamed White House aide as saying. “There’s no doubt that it will be front page news if and when [an indictment] happens. But eventually it will become old news quickly. The key issue here is that the president or Mr. Bolten respond to the charges immediately, make a statement, and then move on to other important policy issues and keep that as the main focus going forward.” [Truthout (.org), 5/12/2006] Leopold’s reporting is incorrect; a month later, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Republican National Committee, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Jason Leopold, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Joshua Bolten

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

In an article printed on the progressive news Web site Truthout, reporter Jason Leopold claims that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has indicted White House political strategist Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak case. Leopold writes that on Friday, May 12, Fitzgerald served indictment papers on Rove through the law firm of Patton Boggs, which represents Rove. According to Leopold, Fitzgerald has charged Rove “with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 business hours to get his affairs in order.” Leopold credits “high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting” for the story. Leopold’s sources also say that Rove spent most of the day in consultation with his lawyer, Robert Luskin, and that Fitzgerald is likely to include an obstruction of justice charge. Leopold has reported that Rove has already informed White House officials, including President Bush, of his upcoming indictment (see May 12, 2006). [Truthout (.org), 5/13/2006] Rove spokesman Mark Corallo flatly denies the story. He tells conservative columnist Byron York that Fitzgerald did not come to Patton Boggs on May 12, did not meet or communicate with Rove’s lawyers or other representatives, and did not inform Rove’s lawyers or representatives that Rove had been indicted. [National Review, 5/14/2006] Leopold’s story causes a storm of controversy, celebration, and uncertainty among many progressives and critics of the Bush administration, with many questioning why other, more mainstream news sources have not picked up on or verified Leopold’s story (see May 15, 2006). [Daily Kos, 5/14/2006] Leopold’s reporting is incorrect; a month later, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Patton Boggs LLC, Jason Leopold, Byron York, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Truthout (.org), Robert Luskin, Mark Corallo

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

As a firestorm of controversy and doubt surrounds reports of White House strategist Karl Rove’s imminent indictment for perjury (see May 12, 2006 and May 13, 2006), investigative reporter Jason Leopold defends his reporting; in an interview with syndicated commentator Ian Masters, Leopold says if his story is wrong, he will reveal the identities of his sources. “I will reiterate,” he tells Masters, “these sources that I have had on this story know full well that leading me astray… I would no longer be obliged to keep their identities secret.” Leopold has written that his sources include “a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.” [Mike Stark, 5/15/2006] Leopold’s reporting was indeed incorrect; a month later, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006). Leopold will later back away from his stated intention to reveal his sources (see June 12-13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Jason Leopold, Ian Masters, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Anne Marie Squeo of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff examines recent reporting by progressive Internet news and opinion publication Truthout.org, which published an article claiming White House political strategist Karl Rove would be indicted as a part of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see May 13, 2006). Squeo writes, “With more people turning to the Internet for news, bloggers have blurred the lines with traditional media and changed both the dynamics of the reporting process and how political rumors swirl.” No evidence supporting the Truthout story has yet surfaced, Squeo notes, and Rove’s lawyer and spokeman have denied the story (see May 15, 2006). Squeo notes that some observers believe Truthout reporter Jason Leopold was a victim of “White House disinformation,” but she focuses on the often-rushed and often-inaccurate reporting that takes place on the Internet. She quotes blogger and journalism professor Jay Rosen, who says, “The system for keeping unverifiable reports out of the news is totally broken down when you look at the online world.” Instead of verifying news reports before publication, Rosen says, the tendency is to publish first and correct afterwards. Rosen believes that philosophy works for news blogs and other Web-based publications, but says it is not a practice that major news organizations could or should adopt. “Blog journalism” came into vogue in 1998, Squeo writes, when right-wing blogger Matt Drudge broke the news that then-President Clinton had had an affair with an intern [Wall Street Journal, 5/16/2006] (Squeo fails to tell her readers that Drudge was given the information by conservative gossip and socialite Lucianne Goldberg, who was working with Republicans and fellow conservatives to bring impeachment charges against Clinton.) [Committee of Concerned Journalists, 10/20/1998] After Drudge went public with the now-infamous story of the semen-stained blue dress, “news blogging” became increasingly popular, “in large part fueled by a desire to push particular political arguments and a growing feeling that the mainstream media had become too close with the establishment it purported to cover.” Squeo continues: “Politics, and the arguments it stirs, lends itself to the Internet. Bloggers have the latitude to issue one-sided analysis that makes leaps to connect the dots in ways that more guarded news organizations couldn’t. The CIA leak investigation, which has hit the highest echelons of the Bush administration, has become a favorite topic for many of these sites.” Such “news blogs,” on both the left and right of the political aisle, can focus strongly on a single issue, Rosen says, and devote a tremendous amount of time and effort covering and analyzing it, far more than mainstream news organizations are often willing to do. Journalism professor Mark Feldstein says that current “blog journalism” is reminiscent of the old “tabloid press,” which used to be the same sort of “news incubator” for reporting and analysis of stories that weren’t ready for mainstream reporting. The Internet, Feldstein says, makes blogs “much more ubiquitous and instantaneous” than the old tabloid publications ever could be. [Wall Street Journal, 5/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Jason Leopold, Bush administration (43), Truthout (.org), Anne Marie Squeo, Karl C. Rove, Wall Street Journal, Mark Feldstein, Jay Rosen

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Marc Ash, the publisher of the progressive news Web site Truthout (.org), distances his publication from a recent report that White House political strategist Karl Rove has been indicted for perjury (see May 13, 2006). On Truthout’s public Internet forum, Ash writes in part: “The time has now come, however, to issue a partial apology to our readership for this story. While we paid very careful attention to the sourcing on this story, we erred in getting too far out in front of the news-cycle. In moving as quickly as we did, we caused more confusion than clarity. And that was a disservice to our readership and we regret it. As such, we will be taking the wait-and-see approach for the time being. We will keep you posted” (see May 21, 2006). [News Hounds, 5/19/2006] Truthout’s reporting was indeed incorrect; in June, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Marc Ash, Truthout (.org)

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Truthout.org publisher Marc Ash issues a lengthy statement concerning the recent controversy stirred up by his publication’s claim that Karl Rove would be indicted as a part of the Plame Wilson leak investigation (see May 13, 2006). Two days before, Ash issued a statement saying that while he stands behind the story, he and his publication may have gotten “too far out in front of the news-cycle” (see May 19, 2006). Ash now writes that he and investigative reporter Jason Leopold have three independent sources confirming that Rove’s attorneys “were handed an indictment either late in the night of May 12 or early in the morning of May 13.” The sources are knowledgeable, says Ash. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has refused to comment on the report. Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin and his spokesman Mark Corallo have categorically denied that Rove was indicted (see May 15, 2006), but Ash says, “we have information that directly contradicts Luskin and Corallo’s denials.” Ash says that two news networks stationed crews outside the building that houses the law firm of Patton Boggs, where Luskin works, and that the fourth floor of that building, where Patton Boggs’s offices are, was “locked down all day Friday and into Saturday night,” May 12 and 13. No one has asked Truthout to retract its story. And the White House has refused to comment. Ash notes that much of Truthout’s reporting depends on confidential sources. “We know that a report based solely on information obtained from confidential sources bears some inherent risks,” he writes. “We know that this is—by far—the biggest story we have ever covered, and that we are learning some things as we go along. Finally, we know that we have the support of those who have always supported us, and that must now earn the support of those who have joined us as of late.” Ash then writes of what he, Leopold, and the Truthout editors believe, but cannot prove. They believe Rove, through Luskin and Corallo, is working with Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz to “spin” the story in a disfavorable light for Truthout and Leopold. He notes that many conservative media outlets have attacked Truthout, Leopold, and the Fitzgerald investigation in general, and writes: “We believe that rolling out that much conservative journalistic muscle to rebut this story is telling. And we believe that Rove’s camp is making a concerted effort to discredit our story and our organization.” Ash concludes by saying he, Leopold, and the Truthout editors believe, but cannot document their belief, that Rove may be cooperating with the Fitzgerald investigation. “We suspect that the scope of Fitzgerald’s investigation may have broadened—clearly to [Vice President Dick] Cheney—and according to one ‘off the record source’ to individuals and events not directly related to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame [Wilson]. We believe that the indictment which does exist against Karl Rove is sealed. Finally, we believe that there is currently a great deal of activity in the Plame investigation.” [Truthout (.org), 5/21/2006] A month later, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Jason Leopold, Karl C. Rove, Marc Ash, Mark Corallo, Robert Luskin, Truthout (.org), Patton Boggs LLC

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Investigative journalist Jason Leopold, who in May reported for the progressive news Web site Truthout (.org) that White House political strategist Karl Rove was indicted for perjury in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see May 13, 2006), defends his story, saying that the indictment remains under seal in the US District Court for the District of Columbia “under the curious heading of Sealed vs. Sealed.” Leopold says that the grand jury handed down the indictment “the week of May 10th,” and adds: “The case number is ‘06 cr 128.’ On the federal court’s electronic database, ‘06 cr 128’ is listed along with a succinct summary: ‘No further information is available.’” Leopold says that neither he nor any other journalist has seen the indictment “06 cr 128,” but adds, “[T]he fact that this indictment was returned by the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case on a day that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury raised a number of questions about the identity of the defendant named in the indictment, whether it relates to the leak case, and why it has been under seal for a month under the heading Sealed vs. Sealed.” Leopold notes that “the grand jury in the CIA leak case also meets to hear evidence on other federal criminal cases, including at least one other high-profile case—crimes related to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.” He quotes unnamed “legal experts” as saying it is not unusual to keep such an indictment as Rove’s “under seal for weeks or months… if an investigation, such as the CIA leak probe, is ongoing.” [Truthout (.org), 6/12/2006; Raw Story, 6/13/2006] Both Leopold and Truthout publisher Marc Ash continue to stand by the story; although Leopold told an interviewer in May that if his story was wrong, he would reveal his high-level sources (see May 15, 2006), he now refuses, telling progressive radio host Ed Schultz: “I’m standing by that what we were told was accurate. Certainly if some bad information was given, we’ll decide what the appropriate thing to do [is].… But if something did happen four weeks ago, [and] something happened in the past four weeks in Karl Rove’s favor… how does that make me wrong?” Leopold acknowledges that Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, has repeatedly claimed that Rove will not be indicted, but says that his sources still insist Rove has indeed been indicted. [Truthout (.org), 6/12/2006] Ash posts on his Web site’s forum that he and Leopold are sure the “06 cr 128” indictment was returned by the Fitzgerald grand jury, and filed around May 10, just days before Leopold reported that Rove had been indicted. He and Leopold believe, without being able to verify their beliefs, that the indictment is “directly related” to the Plame Wilson leak investigation. “That’s based on a single credible source and the information discussed above.” Ash also states that he and Leopold believe Rove is cooperating with Fitzgerald’s investigation: “That is based, again, on a single credible source, and background information provided by experts in federal criminal law.” [Steve Gilbert, 6/12/2006] The same day that Leopold gives an interview to Schultz, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald informs Rove that he does not plan on charging him with any crimes (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Marc Ash, Jason Leopold, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Bush administration (43), Robert Luskin, Karl C. Rove, Edward Andrew (“Ed”) Schultz, Truthout (.org)

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003), informs White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove that he does not plan to file charges against him in conjunction with the leak. [Associated Press, 6/13/2006; Washington Post, 7/3/2007]
'No Deal' - Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin says that he negotiated no deals with Fitzgerald to spare his client from prosecution: “There has never, ever been any discussion of a deal in any way, shape, or form.” [Jeralyn Merritt, 6/13/2006]
'A Chapter that Has Ended' - The decision follows months of wrangling between Fitzgerald’s team and Luskin. Neither Fitzgerald nor Luskin give any details about the issues and actions behind the decision, but Luskin says, “We believe that the special counsel’s decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove’s conduct.” Rove spokesman Mark Corallo says that Rove made no deals with Fitzgerald to cooperate with the investigation, and that the decision is based solely on Fitzgerald’s findings. President Bush says of the news: “It’s a chapter that has ended. Fitzgerald is a very thorough person. I think he’s conducted his investigation in a dignified way. And he’s ended his investigation.… There’s still a trial to be had. And those of us involved in the White House are going to be very mindful of not commenting on this issue.” Christopher Wolf, a lawyer for Plame Wilson and her husband, Joseph Wilson, says that the couple is considering filing a civil suit against Rove. “The day still may come when Mr. Rove and others are called to account in a court of law for their attacks on the Wilsons,” Wolf says. [New York Times, 6/13/2006; Associated Press, 6/13/2006]
Rove 'Elated' - Corallo describes Rove as “elated” over the news. Legal analyst Andrew Cohen says: “Prosecutors have ethical obligations not to indict someone when they don’t think they can win at trial and I suspect that may be what happened here. For whatever reason Fitzgerald the prosecutor didn’t believe he could take a case against Rove to a jury and win it.” [CBS News, 6/13/2006]
A Variety of Responses - Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean says of Rove: “He doesn’t belong in the White House. If the president valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove, Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago. So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but it’s not very good news for America.” [Associated Press, 6/13/2006] “The notion of the leak and the overall White House involvement, that ain’t over,” says Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). “Obviously, we know that ‘Scooter’ Libby is not Karl Rove. But you have the vice president of the United States involved, or at least his office was involved.” Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) says that Fitzgerald’s decision not to prosecute Rove should trigger a Congressional investigation into whether Rove mishandled classified information when he discussed Plame Wilson with reporters. Though Fitzgerald conducted a “narrow” criminal invesigation, Waxman says, Congress should examine the broader issue of whether Rove deserved to keep his high-level security clearance (see July 13, 2005). [Los Angeles Times, 6/14/2006] The Republican National Committee (RNC) circulates quotes from Democratic lawmakers attacking Rove under the headline of “Wrong Again: Prejudging Karl Rove Is Latest Example of Democrats’ Overheated Rhetoric and False Statements.” “What you had in this case was an unbelievable example of misjudgment for political purposes by leading Democrats,” says RNC chairman Ken Mehlman. He adds that the entire Rove imbroglio is just an example of how Democrats “rush to judgment.” Democratic leaders “owe [Rove] an apology,” Mehlman says. [Washington Post, 6/13/2006; Los Angeles Times, 6/14/2006] Plame Wilson and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, are deeply disappointed at the decision. In 2007, Plame Wilson will write: “It was hard to process that someone who had appeared before a grand jury five times (see April 26, 2006), and had admitted that he had spoken to Robert Novak and Matt Cooper in the week before my name was published (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), would face no consequences for his actions.… While our faith in Fitzgerald’s skills and integrity remained unshaken, we couldn’t help but wonder, along with everyone else, what the special prosecutor had received or heard from Rove to prompt his decision.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 250] Criminal defense lawyer Jeralyn Merritt, writing for the progressive blog TalkLeft, writes that she believes Rove has “cooperated with Fitzgerald by testifying to the grand jury five times and providing whatever information he had without a safety net. Without a 5k. Without assurances he would not be indicted. That’s a hell of a risk, but Luskin pulled it off. My hat’s off to Luskin.… I’m ready to put this to bed. Karl Rove walked. He’s one of the rare subjects of an investigation who was able to talk his way out of an indictment.” [Jeralyn Merritt, 6/13/2006] Former prosecutor and blogger Christy Hardin Smith, writing for the progressive blog FireDogLake, writes: “If Luskin is coming out and saying publicly that they got a letter from Pat Fitzgerald which says that Rove will not be charged, there are two things that I want to see and know: (1) what does the letter actually say, word for word; and (2) does it say something along the lines of ‘Please thank Karl for his cooperation in this matter.’” Smith adds: “Patrick Fitzgerald and his team are career professionals. You do not charge someone with a criminal indictment merely because they are scum. You have to have the evidence to back up any charges—not just that may indicate that something may have happened, but you must have evidence that criminal conduct occurred and that you can prove it. You charge the evidence you have, you try the case you can make, and you don’t go down a road that will ultimately be a waste of the public’s money and time once you have ascertained that the case is simply not there. It doesn’t mean that you don’t think the SOB that you can’t charge isn’t a weasel or guilty as hell, it just means that you can’t prove it. (And, fwiw [for what it’s worth], those times are the worst of your career, because you truly hate to let someone go when you know in your gut they’ve done something wrong.)” [Christy Hardin Smith, 6/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Henry A. Waxman, Valerie Plame Wilson, Republican National Committee, Andrew Cohen, Christopher Wolf, George W. Bush, Christy Hardin Smith, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Luskin, Mark Corallo, Howard Dean, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Joseph C. Wilson, Jeralyn Merritt, Ken Mehlman, Karl C. Rove, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Freelance journalist Joe Lauria writes of his involvement in the false reports that White House political strategist Karl Rove had been indicted in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see May 13, 2006). Lauria says that the real story centers around investigative reporter Jason Leopold, whom he describes as “a troubled young reporter with a history of drug addiction whose aggressive disregard for the rules ended up embroiling me in a bizarre escapade—and raised serious questions about journalistic ethics.” Lauria says he met Leopold once, three days before the first Rove story ran (see May 12, 2006), to discuss Leopold’s upcoming memoir News Junkie, which details Leopold’s history of childhood abuse, drug addiction, a felony conviction, and what Lauria calls “deception in the practice of journalism.” Lauria writes that he felt for the “vulnerable” Leopold, told Leopold that he freelanced for the Sunday Times of London, and gave the reporter his cell phone number. Lauria even sent Leopold a congratulatory e-mail on the Rove “scoop.” On a progressive blog called TalkLeft, Lauria found that Rove spokesman Mark Corallo had spoken to someone identifying himself as “Joel” someone from the “Londay [sic] Sunday Times,” and was given a cell phone number nearly identical to Lauria’s. Lauria confirmed the story by speaking with Corallo, who told him he thinks he has never spoken to Leopold, and the person he spoke to said that he had confirmation from a spokesman for special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald that the indictment was real. Lauria called Leopold, who “gave [him] a profanity-filled earful” and said that Corallo had called him to denounce the story. Lauria accused Leopold of pretending to be him in the phone call Corallo cited in the blog, and, according to Lauria, Leopold retorted, “Joe, I would never, ever have done something like that.” Lauria then writes: “Except that he has done things like that. His memoir is full of examples.” Lauria writes that he, like Corallo, believes Leopold simply made up the entire story, most likely to generate attention for himself. He writes: “These days it is about the reporter, not the story; the actor, not the play; the athlete, not the game. Leopold is a product of a narcissistic culture that has not stopped at journalism’s door, a culture facilitated and expanded by the Internet.” [Washington Post, 6/18/2006] The next day, CBS News reporter Brian Montopoli characterizes Lauria’s story as “somewhat vindictive,” and adds that while Leopold’s ethics and conduct in the matter are questionable at best, Lauria’s attempt at character assassination does him little credit. Montopoli also hints that Leopold may have been misinformed by his sources, saying, “[A]s Leopold has learned all too well, if you are willing to lie to your sources, they have every reason to lie to you.” [CBS News, 6/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Mark Corallo, Brian Montopoli, Jason Leopold, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Joe Lauria, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Marc Ash, the publisher of the progressive news Web site Truthout (.org), attempts to distance his publication from reports it provided that asserted, falsely, that White House political strategist Karl Rove had been indicted (see May 13, 2006 and June 13, 2006). Ash says that because of the “hysteria” surrounding the reports—including an unsubstantiated report that Truthout reporter Jason Leopold had impersonated another reporter in the course of his reporting (see June 18, 2006)—Truthout is “going to stand down on the Rove matter at this time.” Truthout will instead “defer… to the nation’s leading publications,” which have never verified Leopold’s reporting. “We are expressly endeavoring to mitigate hysteria,” Ash says. At the same time, he adds, “There is no indication that Mr. Leopold acted unethically… we stand firmly behind Jason Leopold.” Ash says he is not convinced that the story of Leopold’s posing as another reporter is true: that story, he says, “originated with Mark Corallo,” Rove’s spokesman. “Corallo seems to think that Jason Leopold misrepresented himself as Joe Luria [sic]… as an attempt to get Corallo on the telephone.… I haven’t gotten anything to back that up.” [TPM Muckraker, 6/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Jason Leopold, Truthout (.org), Marc Ash, Mark Corallo

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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