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Profile: Jason Leopold
Jason Leopold was a participant or observer in the following events:
White House political strategist Karl Rove, upon concluding a phone conversation with Time reporter Matthew Cooper in which Rove divulged the CIA status of Valerie Plame Wilson (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), e-mails Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the conversation. “Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he’s got a welfare reform story coming,” Rove writes. “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.” According to the Associated Press, this is the first indication that an intelligence official knew Rove talked to Cooper before Cooper’s Time article about Plame Wilson and the White House effort to discredit her husband, war critic Joseph Wilson (see July 17, 2003). Rove will testify about the e-mail to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson leak in 2004 (see October 15, 2004 and October 14, 2005), telling the jury that he never intended to leak Plame Wilson’s identity, but rather wanted to warn Cooper about some of the allegations Wilson was making about the White House’s use of intelligence to bolster its case for war with Iraq. Rove is aware that conservative columnist Robert Novak, whom he has already spoken to about Plame Wilson (see July 8, 2003 and July 8 or 9, 2003), is planning an article on the Wilsons (see July 14, 2003). He also knows that CIA Director George Tenet is planning to take responsibility for the false Iraq-Niger uranium claims made by President Bush and other White House officials (see July 11, 2003 and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003). [Associated Press, 7/15/2005; Washington Post, 12/3/2005] In 2005, investigative reporter Jason Leopold will note that Rove’s version of the conversation as he recounts it to Hadley is substantially different from the material Cooper records in his notes. Most notably, Rove fails to tell Hadley about his outing of a CIA official. Leopold will write, “It is unclear whether Rove was misleading Hadley about his conversation with Cooper, perhaps, because White House officials told its staff not to engage reporters in any questions posed about Wilson’s Niger claims.” [CounterPunch, 12/9/2005]
The lawyer for White House official Karl Rove, Robert Luskin, speaks with Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak, about the Plame Wilson leak investigation. Novak informs Luskin that a colleague of hers at Time, Matthew Cooper, may have learned Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from Rove (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). [New York Times, 12/2/2005] According to Novak’s later recollection, Luskin says something along the lines of: “Karl doesn’t have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt.” Novak isn’t convinced by Luskin’s words, and asks: “Are you sure about that? That’s not what I hear around Time.” Luskin, she will recall, “looked surprised and very serious,” and says, “There’s nothing in the phone logs,” referring to the White House telephone logs from July 2003, when Rove discussed Plame Wilson’s identity with Cooper, and when Cooper and other Time reporters published stories regarding the White House’s attempts to damage the credibility of Plame Wilson’s husband, Joseph Wilson (see July 17, 2003). Novak later notes that Cooper called Rove through the White House switchboard, which may explain the lack of phone logs. Novak is surprised at Luskin’s response. “I had been pushing back against what I thought was his attempt to lead me astray,” she will later write. “I hadn’t believed that I was disclosing anything he didn’t already know. Maybe this was a feint. Maybe his client was lying to him.” Novak immediately begins wishing she had not said anything to Luskin. Reporters don’t, as a rule, tip off people involved in investigations. “Thank you,” Luskin says as he walks her to her car. “This is important.” [Time, 12/11/2005] In 2005, investigative reporter Jason Leopold will posit that Novak may have been trying to convince Luskin that she knew more about Cooper’s source than she did. According to Leopold, Novak is repeating a months-old rumor that Rove leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to Cooper, a rumor that has swirled throughout the Washington journalistic community. Leopold’s sources will bolster Novak’s claim that she had no intention of “tipping off” Luskin to anything. [CounterPunch, 12/9/2005] The press will later report Novak’s meeting with Luskin as taking place in the late summer or fall of 2004, and Novak will initially tell special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that it took place in May 2004, but according to her final testimony, the meeting occurs on March 1 (see December 8, 2005). [New York Times, 12/2/2005; Time, 12/11/2005] Leopold will date the Novak-Luskin conversation to “the summer of 2004.” [CounterPunch, 12/9/2005] Upon the conclusion of his conversation with Novak, Luskin will immediately prompt Rove to begin searching for documentation of his conversation with Cooper (see March 1, 2004).
According to a United Press International (UPI) report, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has sought and received documentation on the Iraq-Niger forgeries (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, Late September 2001-Early October 2001, October 15, 2001, December 2001, February 5, 2002, February 12, 2002, October 9, 2002, October 15, 2002, January 2003, February 17, 2003, March 7, 2003, March 8, 2003, and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003) from the Italian government. UPI reports, “Fitzgerald’s team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair, which started when an Italian journalist obtained documents that appeared to show officials of the government of Niger helping to supply the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with [y]ellowcake uranium.” (In November, that parliamentary report will be shown not to exist—see July 2005.) According to reporter Jason Leopold, the information about the Iraq-Niger documents being provided to Fitzgerald comes from NATO sources. Leopold’s reporting will later be shown to be less than reliable (see June 19, 2006). [Raw Story, 10/24/2005; Global Research, 10/29/2005; CounterPunch, 11/9/2005]
Time reporter Viveca Novak testifies under oath in the Plame Wilson leak investigation, in an interview at her lawyer Hank Schuelke’s office. Novak has already spoken with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (see November 10, 2005) about her conversations with Robert Luskin, the lawyer for White House aide Karl Rove (see March 1, 2004), but did not inform her editors of either her conversations with Luskin or her discussion with Fitzgerald until after Fitzgerald asked her to testify under oath. In late November, she informed Time bureau chief Jim Carney, who informed managing editor Jim Kelly. As Novak will later write, “Nobody was happy about it, least of all me.” Before her testimony, various leaks about her involvement in the investigation began appearing in the press, making her “feel physically ill.” Novak also rechecked her notes and found that she had misinformed Fitzgerald about the date of her conversation with Luskin concerning Rove: it was most likely March 1, 2004 and not May 2004. Novak will later write that the second interview is “more focused” than the first one, and her responses are, if anything, even more confused and vague than during her first interview. “I was mortified about how little I could recall of what occurred when,” she will later write. Fitzgerald again focuses on her exchanges with Luskin, sticking to their previous agreement “not to wander with his questions.” [Associated Press, 12/8/2005; Time, 12/11/2005] The leaks about Novak apparently began with Luskin, who told Fitzgerald that Novak inadvertently alerted him last year that her colleague, Matthew Cooper, would have to testify that Rove was his source for an article about Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, Joseph Wilson (see July 17, 2003). Investigative reporter Jason Leopold writes that it seems Luskin is trying to derail a potential criminal indictment of Rove (see December 7, 2005). [CounterPunch, 12/9/2005]
Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Jason Leopold, Hank Schuelke, Jim Carney, Joseph C. Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame Wilson, Jim Kelly, Matthew Cooper, Viveca Novak, Robert Luskin
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Investigative reporter Jason Leopold notes that, according to his sources, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald does not believe the story that White House political strategist Karl Rove and his lawyer, Robert Luskin, are telling about the fortuitous discovery of an internal e-mail that led Rove to admit that he told Time reporter Matthew Cooper about Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity. In March 2004, Time reporter Viveca Novak told Luskin that she was sure Rove outed Plame Wilson to Cooper; that information prompted Luskin to have Rove search the White House e-mail archives for information bearing out Novak’s assertion, and Rove found an e-mail he had sent to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about his conversation with Hadley (see March 1, 2004). Novak testified yesterday about her conversation with Luskin (see December 8, 2005). “Fitzgerald is said to be suspicious about the chain of events that led up to the discovery of the email,” Leopold writes. “Moreover, he is said to be convinced that Rove had changed his story once it became clear that Cooper would be compelled to testify about the source—Rove—who revealed Plame Wilson’s CIA status to him.” Luskin has said that his client, Rove, initially forgot about his conversation with Cooper in his first testimonies before Fitzgerald’s grand jury, and claimed he was not Cooper’s source (see October 8, 2003). According to Leopold’s sources, some of which are inside the Fitzgerald team, Fitzgerald does not find Rove and Luskin’s assertions “believable.” [CounterPunch, 12/9/2005]
Shortly after the press learns that White House counsel Alberto Gonzales has withheld White House e-mails from the Fitzgerald investigation (see February 15, 2006), the White House turns over some 250 pages of e-mails from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office. The e-mails were sent during the spring of 2003 by senior Cheney aides, and pertain to the leak of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert identity to the press. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald reveals the “discovery” of the missing e-mails in court. According to reporter Jason Leopold, the contents of the e-mails are “explosive, and may prove that Cheney played an active role in the effort to discredit Plame Wilson’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s pre-war Iraq intelligence.” According to Leopold’s sources, the e-mails could also prove that Cheney lied to FBI investigators when he was interviewed about the leak in early 2004 (see May 8, 2004). Cheney told investigators that he knew nothing of any effort to discredit Wilson or to expose his wife’s undercover status to reporters. However, the e-mails indicate that Cheney led an effort to discredit Wilson that began in March 2003, and used the CIA to dig up information on Wilson that could be used to dirty his reputation in the press (see March 9, 2003 and After). Some of the e-mails refer to Plame Wilson’s identity and CIA status, and reference the US military’s inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The e-mails also contain suggestions from Cheney’s senior aides, and from staffers of the National Security Council, as to how the White House should respond to Wilson’s criticisms of the administration’s pre-war Iraq intelligence. Fitzgerald has been attempting to secure the “missing” e-mails since late January (see January 23, 2006). Gonzales is still refusing to turn over some of the e-mails, citing “executive privilege” and “national security” concerns. [Truthout (.org), 2/24/2006; Associated Press, 2/27/2006] On February 28, the Wall Street Journal will write that the e-mails have been in the Libby team’s possession since February 6, and that they contain nothing pertinent to the trial (see February 6, 2006).
Lewis Libby’s defense team files a response to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s rejection of its demands for more classified documents (see April 5, 2006).
Defense Lawyers Intend to Subpoena Wilson, White House Officials - In the filing, Libby’s lawyers indicate that they intend to call for testimony a number of people involved in the Plame Wilson leak, including former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002 and July 6, 2003), White House political strategist Karl Rove (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), State Department official Marc Grossman (see June 10, 2003), former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see July 7, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, and 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003), and former CIA Director George Tenet (see June 11 or 12, 2003, July 11, 2003 and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003). The defense would consider Wilson a “hostile witness” if they indeed subpoena his testimony. Many of these potential witnesses were also disclosed by the Libby team a month earlier (see March 17, 2006).
Limiting Document Requests - The defense also agrees to limit its future document requests “to documents that are currently in the actual possession of the OSC [Office of Special Counsel] or which the OSC knows to exist.”
Libby Claims No Memory of Key Conversation - Libby’s lawyers also assert that Libby remembers nothing of conversations he had with Grossman, in which Grossman has testified that he told Libby of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status (see May 29, 2003, June 10, 2003, 12:00 p.m. June 11, 2003, and October 17, 2003). [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 4/12/2006 ; Truthout (.org), 4/14/2006] However, sources close to the case say that “a half-dozen witnesses” have testified as to the accuracy of Grossman’s claims. A former State Department colleague of Grossman’s says: “It’s not just Mr. Grossman’s word against Mr. Libby’s. There were other people present at the meeting at the time when Mr. Grossman provided Mr. Libby with details about Ms. Plame’s employment with the agency. There is an abundance of evidence Mr. Fitzgerald has that will prove this.” Investigative reporter Jason Leopold observes: “The meeting between Libby and Grossman is a crucial part of the government’s case against Libby. It demonstrates that Libby knew about Plame Wilson a month or so before her name was published in a newspaper column and proves that Libby lied to the grand jury when he testified that he found out about Plame Wilson from reporters in July 2003.” [Truthout (.org), 4/14/2006]
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).
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).
CBS News notes the storm of controversy surrounding the recent report by investigative journalist Jason Leopold that White House political strategist Karl Rove has been indicted (see May 12, 2006 and May 13, 2006). CBS columnist Vaughn Ververs notes: “Had either of these stories appeared on the front page of the New York Times, or in Newsweek magazine, we would be in the throes of a media feeding frenzy. The Sunday show slates would have been hurriedly rearranged to capitalize on this new ‘bombshell’ and America would have woken up this morning to watch Rove make the quick walk-and-duck from his front door to his waiting car. But so far, Leopold’s story stands alone.”
Flat Denials - No mainstream media Web site has yet confirmed Leopold’s reporting, which he has claimed includes statements from “a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee,” and White House officials, along with Rove’s lawyers and spokesmen, are flatly denying the reports: Rove’s spokesman Mark Corallo tells journalists, “The story is a complete fabrication,” and calls it “both malicious and disgraceful.” Ververs notes Leopold’s unusual step of promising to reveal his sources if the story turns out not to be true (see May 15, 2006). [CBS News, 5/15/2006; New York Sun, 5/15/2006]
Rove's Lawyer Not at Office, but at Veterinarian - Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin tells a reporter that, instead of spending May 12 at his offices dealing with an indictment, he spent that day at the veterinarian’s office having his cat treated. The cat’s medical tests, Luskin says, found that “the stools were free of harmful parasites, which is more than I can say for this case.” Leopold’s report is “bizarre,” Luskin adds. “There was no meeting, no communication with Fitzgerald’s team of any kind.” Washington Post reporter and media observer Howard Kurtz notes that many in the media are beginning to report on Leopold’s past, which includes drug addiction, a felony conviction, and previous inaccurate reporting. Leopold’s publisher at Truthout.org, Marc Ash, tells Kurtz, “Jason is a character, but he’s been straight with me and I’ve checked him out very carefully.” [Washington Post, 5/22/2006]
Defending Leopold - Progressive author and blogger Joshua Frank, who describes himself as a friend of Leopold’s, notes that Leopold has become a target for Bush and Libby supporters. Leopold has written candidly about what Frank calls his “checkered” past—misrepresenting himself to gain a position at the Los Angeles Times, stealing from a New York record company to support a cocaine habit—but Leopold never served jail time, unlike some press reports claimed, and Frank considers him a reliable reporter. “Had Jason broke his latest story for the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, it’s unlikely he’d be subject to the same ridicule,” Frank writes. “But when an indy writer gets a major scoop before anybody in the mainstream major media does, animosity is sure to follow. And that’s why the outcome of this saga will either legitimize independent media, or devastate it.” Frank notes that Truthout.org has said that three “reporters from mainstream media” have “shared with us off-the-record confirmation and moral support.” Leopold himself says: “I am amazed that the blogosphere would lend credence to the statements of people who have consistently lied about Rove’s role in this case. This is a White House that denied Rove’s involvement in the leak. This is a White House that has lied and lied and lied. And yet the first question that people ask is ‘why would Rove’s spokesman lie?’ Because they can, because they do, and because they have. This is an administration that has attacked and discredited their detractors. I am amazed that not a single reporter would actually do any real investigative work and get to the bottom of this story. Surely, there must be another intrepid reporter out there that has sources beyond a spokesman.” [Joshua Frank, 5/17/2006]
Orchestrated Response? - Truthout’s Ash will later write that he believes it was Corallo who gave Ash’s phone number to the Post’s Kurtz for Kurtz’s story (see May 21, 2006); Corallo knew Kurtz was writing a story about how, in Corallo’s words, the mainstream media had to “follow up on the lunacy and these frauds who are passing themselves off as legitimate journalists.” Both Ash and criminal lawyer Jeralyn Merritt believe that Corallo is working with Kurtz, to some extent, to orchestrate the Post’s response to the Rove indictment story. [Jeralyn Merritt, 5/21/2006]
Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Howard Kurtz, CBS News, Bush administration (43), Jason Leopold, Joshua Frank, Vaughn Ververs, Mark Corallo, Marc Ash, Jeralyn Merritt, Robert Luskin
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).
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]
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).
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).
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]
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]
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