Rove-Plame: The Word from Aspen
By Arianna Huffington
How is it that the second most powerful man in America is about to take a fall and the mainstream media are largely taking a pass? Could it be that the fear of Karl Rove and this White House is so great that not even the biggest of the media big boys are willing to take them on? Does the answer to that one go without saying?
Chatter about the Rove story has come to dominate the downtime at the Aspen Institute's five-day Ideas Festival. Whenever participants are not in sessions, they're gathering in small groups and dissecting, analyzing, and speculating about the outcome of this surprisingly slow-breaking scandal.
One such discussion took place just after David Gergen had finished a conversation with Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, which has sold 25 million copies in hardback! A cluster of high-powered media insiders quickly switched over to "The Gossip-Driven Reality." The well-informed suppositions were flying faster than the peloton at the Tour de France. I can tell you what was said, I just can't tell you who was saying it (Just look at it as an anonymous twist on the HuffPost BozBlog).
According to the players, the key to whether this story has real legs -- and whether it will spell the end of Rove -- is determining intent. And a key to that is whether there was a meeting at the White House where Rove and Scooter Libby discussed what to do with the information they had gotten from the State Department about Valerie Plame being Joe Wilson's wife, and her involvement in his being sent on the Niger/yellowcake mission. If it can be proven that such a meeting occurred, then Rove will be in deep trouble -- especially if it is established that Rove made three phone calls leaking the info about Plame and her CIA gig… one to Matt Cooper, one to Walter Pincus, and one to Robert Novak.
Other than intent, the other big legal question raised was: will Rove be able to get away with claiming that he did not know Plame was an undercover agent?
We all know what happened after Rove placed those calls. The question is, what will happen now?
From the way they've acted so far, the mainstream media would rather this scandal just go away (bloggers take note).
Just look at the way Newsweek handled the Rove-outed-Plame story in this week's edition. The editors obviously knew they had a hot story and could have pushed it hard. Instead, it's clear that they lawyered it within an inch of its life -- a bunch of legal eagles with faint hearts removing any juice and most of the meat from it.
As one of the Aspen wags put it: "Once Newsweek flushed the Koran down the toilet, you can bet they'll think twenty times before they pull down the handle again."
Want another example? Just look at how the White House press corps is dealing with the story: by avoiding it completely.
Today's press gaggle took place aboard Air Force One on the way to Scotland. Now, given that Rove may or may not be the subject of a federal investigation, one would think that our intrepid White House reporters might, you know, ask the White House spokesman about that.
But if you do a text search for the word "Rove," you'll see that not a single press person thought that the fact that the President of the United States' most trusted advisor is, at the very least, a key player in a criminal investigation was worth a single question to Scottie McClellan. Not a one.
This is all the more significant because of the role McClellan may eventually play in Rove's fate. As Newsweek reported and I blogged about, when this story began heating up, McClellan went out of his way to defend Rove -- saying that he'd been "assured" that Rove was not involved in the leaking.
"Rove will have no compunction about lying through his teeth to save himself, counting on the fact that Cooper's e-mails are, apparently, not cut and dried," one of the group said. And it doesn't hurt that Rove's underlings would rather fall on their swords than tell the truth... which, in the Bush White House, is seen as selling out. All of which would leave McClellan to "take one for the team and eat major crow about all the assurances he'd given the press." Of course, if they continue to avoid asking him about it, he may not even have to do that.
As the group started walking to the next seminar, my mind turned back to the Gergen-Warren conversation. Near the end, a woman stood up, identified herself as Jewish and asked Warren if she would be saved. He told her that he believed that you can only be saved through Jesus Christ. I only wished I had stood up and asked Warren: What will it take for Karl Rove to be saved?
The One Very Good Reason Karl Rove Might Be Indicted
By Lawrence O'Donnell
Two years ago, when I first read the federal law protecting the identities of covert agents, my reaction was the same as everyone else who reads it -- this is not an easy law to break. That's what I said on Hardball then in my first public discussion of the outing of Valerie Plame, and that's what I said on CNN the other night. Let's walk through the pieces that would have to fall into place for Karl Rove to have committed a crime when he revealed Plame's identity to Matt Cooper.
First, and most obviously, Valerie Plame had to be a covert agent when Rove exposed her to Cooper. It's not obvious that she was. The law has a specific definition of covert agent that she might not fit -- an overseas posting in the last five years, for example. But it's hard to believe the prosecutor didn't begin the grand jury session with a CIA witness certifying that Plame was a covert agent. If the prosecutor couldn't establish that, why bother moving on to the next witness?
Second, Rove had to know she was a covert agent. Cooper's article refers to Plame as "a CIA official." Most CIA officials are not covert agents.
Third, Rove had to know that the CIA was taking "affirmative measures" to hide her identity. Doesn't seem like the kind of thing a political operative would or should know.
Fourth, Rove had to be "authorized" to have classified information about covert agents or at least this one covert agent. Doesn't seem like the kind of security clearance a political operative would or should have.
I'll be surprised if all four of those elements of the crime line up perfectly for a Rove indictment. Surprised, not shocked. There is one very good reason to think they might. It is buried in one of the handful of federal court opinions that have come down in the last year ordering Matt Cooper and Judy Miller to testify or go to jail.
In February, Circuit Judge David Tatel joined his colleagues' order to Cooper and Miller despite his own, very lonely finding that indeed there is a federal privilege for reporters that can shield them from being compelled to testify to grand juries and give up sources. He based his finding on Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which authorizes federal courts to develop new privileges "in the light of reason and experience." Tatel actually found that reason and experience "support recognition of a privilege for reporters' confidential sources." But Tatel still ordered Cooper and Miller to testify because he found that the privilege had to give way to "the gravity of the suspected crime."
Judge Tatel's opinion has eight blank pages in the middle of it where he discusses the secret information the prosecutor has supplied only to the judges to convince them that the testimony he is demanding is worth sending reporters to jail to get. The gravity of the suspected crime is presumably very well developed in those redacted pages. Later, Tatel refers to "[h]aving carefully scrutinized [the prosecutor's] voluminous classified filings."
Some of us have theorized that the prosecutor may have given up the leak case in favor of a perjury case, but Tatel still refers to it simply as a case "which involves the alleged exposure of a covert agent." Tatel wrote a 41-page opinion in which he seemed eager to make new law -- a federal reporters' shield law -- but in the end, he couldn't bring himself to do it in this particular case. In his final paragraph, he says he "might have" let Cooper and Miller off the hook "[w]ere the leak at issue in this case less harmful to national security."
Tatel's colleagues are at least as impressed with the prosecutor's secret filings as he is. One simply said "Special Counsel's showing decides the case."
All the judges who have seen the prosecutor's secret evidence firmly believe he is pursuing a very serious crime, and they have done everything they can to help him get an indictment.
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