The Secrets Novak Brings to the Grave

I tried to say nothing when news of Novak’s announcement came. I had nothing good to say, though my own father died of brain cancer and I empathize with Novak and his family for that–it is a horrible way to die, particularly for someone whose identity was tied with his intellect.

But I couldn’t resist a snark on twitter: 

Cue Woodward claiming he got deathbed confession about what really happened during the 7/9/03 conversation Novak & Libby hid.

Perhaps Woodward will–as he did with Reagan’s CIA Director and Iran-Contra co-conspirator, Bill Casey, who also died of brain cancer–make dubious claims about deathbed conversations with Novak.

But the fact is that Novak died with most of his role in the Plame outing still shrouded in secrecy. That’s partly true because of the significant changes in Novak’s story over time. All of the following Novak claims changed as the stage of the investigation suited:

  • Whether he understood the leak was intended to seed a story or it was an offhand remark
  • From whom he learned the name "Plame," changing from "they" (his sources, then in the plural, not "two"), to possibly Who’s Who, to definitely Who’s Who
  • From whom he learned that Valerie Wilson worked in counterproliferation and whether that person made it clear this meant she was covert
  • His use of the word "operative" and whether he really confused Valerie Wilson with someone running a congressional campaign in Wyoming (really! he claimed to have–and other journalists bought it!) 
  • From whom he learned that Joe Wilson had learned that an "Iraqi delegation had tried to establish commercial contacts"–a detail that was in the CIA report on Wilson’s trip (which remained classified until after Novak spoke to his claimed sources for the story), though Novak used the wrong date for it
  • When he spoke to Rove–which changed from July 9 to maybe July 8 or 9

On all those details, Novak’s story changed repeatedly. And then there’s one I’ve never heard anyone ask: from whom Novak got the talking point, "The White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, and not just Vice President Cheney, asked the CIA to look into it," a talking point that shows up in Libby’s note from Cheney on Plame’s identity and may appear in Judy Miller’s notes.

Yet today, most journalists assume Novak’s final answers–the ones that eventually shielded Rove and Libby and Cheney from most consequences–were truthful, and believe they know what happened.

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Karl Rove: That’s Why They Call It a Limited Hang-Out

Corn and Isikoff took to Hardball today to treat the information that Luskin selectively leaked as credible and complete information on Rove’s role in the US Attorney firings (to Isikoff’s credit, he makes it clear that all this–including the emails–did come from Luskin), opining based on that information that Turdblossom’s probably not in any legal trouble.

Meanwhile, a number of people finally noted–after I kept insisting on this all afternoon–that the WaPo and NYT stories yesterday were just big spin from Luskin.  Some even judged that NYT got spun much worse than the WaPo (IMO they both got spun badly, and at least NYT made Luskin’s centrality to the story explicit–my favorite comparison, btw, was from a lawyer or law professor that I’ve since misplaced).

But few people seem all that interested in why. Why–after claiming, implausibly, that Rove couldn’t speak publicly for years–Luskin arranged this nice limited hang-out just in time to pre-empt anything from HJC. Luskin went to some trouble to orchestrate yesterday’s media blitz. Don’t you think that suggests he’s got something to pre-empt or distract from? Don’t you think that ought to be the story, the proper response to such a transparent ploy from a defense attorney?

Now, there are, I think, three factors here. First–note two things Isikoff and Corn don’t mention, taking as they did the scope laid out by Luskin. They don’t mention the Don Siegelman case (which was big news in the negotiations over this testimony). And they don’t mention the two sworn witnesses (plus another witness talking to the press) who said Rove was going to fire Pat Fitzgerald (which didn’t get much coverage, but for which Isikoff has been very accommodating to Luskin on in the past). Both were within the scope of questions permitted to be asked by HJC.

I don’t guarantee that either of these will come to any fruition in the HJC inquiry. I think GregCraig pretty much set up the Siegelman inquiry to go nowhere (thanks GregCraig). And I think the timing of the attempt to fire Fitzgerald may not work out, given the scope of the HJC inquiry (that is, much of the effort took place in 2004, before the scope of HJC’s questions were permitted). But they are two areas of potential questioning that Luskin left out of yesterday’s limited hang-out.

And then there’s this, from Scott Horton (who also compares the NYT and WaPo coverage of Luskin’s blitz and finds the latter appropriately skeptical).

Indeed, the headline tells the whole story: “Rove Says His Role in Prosecutor Firings Was Small.” Read more

WaPo: Rove Spins His Role in US Attorney Firings

Rove has, apparently, just finished up his second interview with the House Judiciary Committee on his role in the US Attorney firings. That apparently frees the WaPo to reveal–and debunk–details of an interview Rove had with the NYT and WaPo earlier this month to spin his role in the firings.

In an hour-long interview with The Post and the New York Times this month, Rove described himself as a "conduit" of grievances from lawmakers and others about the performance of home-state prosecutors. The interview was conducted on the condition that it not be released until Rove’s House testimony concluded. He said he did not recall several events in the timeline because of his busy job and asserted that he had done nothing to influence criminal cases, an allegation by Democrats that has dogged him for years.

Hmm. He was so busy he forgot. Where have I heard that excuse before? Oh yeah: Rove’s co-leaker, Scooter Libby, in the CIA Leak case.

It’s not entirely clear where the emails the WaPo got came from–they may well have come from Rove, too, in an attempt to pre-empt whatever leaks will come out of his HJC interview. The story includes a predictable quote from Robert Luskin, the guy who used this kind of pre-emptive leak to great advantage during the CIA Leak case. And while they do provide new levels of detail, they don’t tell us anything we didn’t already assume.

The emails WaPo received show Scott Jennings passing on Pete Domenici’s request that David Iglesias be fired directly to Rove.

Complaints about Iglesias began at least a year before he was relieved of his job, according to documents reviewed by The Post. Then-Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), his chief of staff, Steve Bell, and GOP lawyers in the state lobbied aggressively to oust the prosecutor. But the activity accelerated in fall 2006.

In an Oct. 10, 2006, e-mail from White House political affairs aide Scott Jennings to Rove, Jennings reported:

"I received a call from Steve Bell tonight. . . . Last week Sen. Domenici reached the chief of staff and asked that we remove the U.S. Atty. Steve wanted to make sure we all understood that they couldn’t be more serious about this request."

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Anyone Having 2006 Flashbacks?

Because I am.

I find myself writing long weedy posts about Cheney’s role in the CIA Leak Case. And Karl Rove spent a long day answering questions about his role in a crime. (h/t fatster)

Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove was deposed Tuesday by attorneys for the House Judiciary Committee, according to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the panel’s chairman.

Rove’s deposition began at 10 a.m. and ended around 6:30 p.m, with several breaks, Conyers said.

Conyers would not comment on what Rove told congressional investigators, what the next step in the long-running Judiciary Committee investigation would be or whether Rove would face additional questioning.

“He was deposed today,” Conyers said in an interview. “That’s all I can tell you.”

Eight and a half hours? That’s a lot of questions.

Supposedly, there will be transcripts produced, Harriet and Karl will review them, and then we’ll all get our greedy little hands on them. Given that it’s summertime in our nation’s capital, it’ll take at least a few weeks for all that to transpire.

But we might get a Karl transcript before we get a Cheney interview.

Cheney Interview: The New Jon Stewart-Worthy Excuses

As I mentioned, DOJ did one crappy-ass job of trying to give Emmet Sullivan a better reason they can’t turn over Dick Cheney’s interview materials than that Jon Stewart would embarrass poor Dick. They trot out the same canard about needing cooperation from high level officials in the future. But there two big problems with their argument.

The Release of a Late-Investigation Interview of the Target of that Investigation Will Hurt Early Investigative Cooperation

First, they’re basically forced to argue that they won’t be able to get information early in an investigation if VPs and the like worry that their interviews with Special Counsels will eventually be made public.

For example, obtaining information through interviews early in an investigation “often assists law enforcement agents in obtaining important background information,” “help[s] law enforcement investigators determine where to concentrate or focus the investigation,” and may “obviate the need to convene a grand jury at all or circumscribe the focus of the grand jury’s inquiry.” Breuer Decl. ¶ 6. “A law enforcement investigation based upon interviews subject to an expectation of confidentiality also benefits from senior officials more inclined to provide identifiable leads, name percipient witnesses, offer credibility assessments of the accuser or other witnesses, and even articulate inferences, insight or hunches that can be invaluable to a law enforcement investigator.”

But of course this interview wasn’t about "obtaining important background information" about "where to concentrate or focus the investigation" that might "obviate the need to convene a grand jury." Neither Bush nor Cheney gave an interview at that early stage of the process. Rather, this was an interview conducted while there was an active grand jury, at a time when all major witnesses save journalists had already been interviewed.

This was an interview of the ultimate target of the investigation, not a mere bystander.

Meanwhile, the DOJ wants to pretend that a grand jury investigation of top White House officials might thwart an investigation.

Additionally, if a senior White House official were to require the investigators to go through the grand jury process, “[s]uch a decision could impose considerable practical difficulties and burdens upon investigators and prosecutors that at best could prolong investigations and at worst thwart investigations.”

Tell that to Karl Rove and his five grand jury appearances. Turdblossom couldn’t get enough of the grand jury (and he’s been before a grand jury since). Read more

Who Accessed the Rove Email Search on July 26, 2005?

As I explained in my last post, one of the documents turned over to CREW shows evidence of email searches done in 2004, presumably as part of the Plame investigation (and kudos, again, to WO for noticing these searches). Pages 44 through 46 show a search conducted on November 9, 2004 for Cooper and Rove and NSC emails. This search is almost certainly in response to a Fitzgerald request after Rove turned over his email to Hadley before he testified on October 15, 2004. Presumably, after Fitz got an email that hadn’t been turned over as evidence, he asked the White House to redo the search, which they got around to doing after making sure Bush won the election.

Interestingly, it appears there were almost no results for NSC files on July 14, 2003, the day Novak’s column came out.

There are two more interesting details about this search.


On the bottom of page 45, in the last column, it shows three files were last opened on different dates than others.

Two files named WHO_2003_0309_26272829.pst and WHO_2003_930+923.pst were both last opened on July 28, 2004. This was a search for email mentioning Matt Cooper, apparently.

And a file named Rove Final.pst was opened on July 26, 2005.

Now, as to the first two searches last opened in July 2004, they may have been searches done in response to Judge Hogan’s decision that Matt Cooper would have to testify. Or, just as likely, they might be searches in response to Colin Powell’s testimony on July 16; recall the story of a Principals meeting in late September at which the leak was discussed. But both of those stories would be weird: if the files were in preparation for Cooper’s testimony, then why search on September 23 and 30, specifically–particularly since both of those dates come after Cooper’s welfare article (for which Rove was a source) was published earlier in September? Alternately, if the search was a response to Powell’s testimony, then why focus on Cooper in particular? And were those files just renamed later that year when the more expansive searches were done?

Then there’s the other file: a search for Rove’s emails completed in November 2004, but last opened on July 26, 2005. That says the search was done, but someone went back to see what the search was. The file was opened a few weeks after Matt Cooper testified about the leak from Rove. It was also just days before Rove aides Susan Ralston and Israel Hernandez testified and was in the same month that Robert Luskin offered to have Rove testify again (for what would be the fourth time). Read more

Rove Has a Date with HJC–He Just Doesn’t Want to Tell Fox News That

As I noted earlier, Fox reported yesterday that Miers had testified before HJC, but there was not yet an agreement to have Rove testify.

But that’s not right. According to a status report filed in the HJC suit against the White House over ten days ago, Rove has a date to appear.

Pursuant to the Court’s order dated March 5, 2009, the parties respectfully submit this joint status report.

Since the last status report, the parties have made substantial progress towards fulfilling their obligations under the Agreement Concerning Accommodation. The Committee has now been provided access to all of the documents covered by the Agreement, and the parties have agreed to a schedule for interviews with Harriet Miers and Karl Rove, to take place under the agreed terms and conditions.

Miers, Rove, and the documents!?!?! What a novelty. Oversight–just two years in the making.

If Harriet Can Appear Before HJC, Why Not Rove, Yet?

Fox is reporting that Harriet Miers snuck into HJC for a deposition yesterday. It’s all very nice that–two years after she was subpoenaed, Harriet is just now getting around to showing up before Congress. (h/t fatster)

But I’m more troubled by Fox’s report that there still isn’t an agreement for Rove to testify.

In March, Miers and former Bush adviser Karl Rove agreed to testify under oath.

Miers testified today behind closed doors. It remains unclear when Bolten could be deposed. But a senior House Democrat familiar with the inquiry described Bolten as “a tasty little morsel.” The senior lawmaker indicated to FOX that Rove ”is really the big catch.” But there is still no agreement for Rove to appear.

It has been, by my count, 114 days since Greg Craig and HJC finalized the plan to have Turdblossom (and Miers) testify. Yet he still–according to Fox, which ought to know–hasn’t shown his face for his deposition.

Now perhaps Rove’s interim engagement with Nora Dennehy, in May, explains the delay. After all, HJC might be willing to postpone their chat with Rove to allow a federal prosecutor to grill him first.

But otherwise, what’s the delay? Is it that he’s just more scared of Congress than Harriet Miers?

What’s in Feeney’s File on Rove?

In my post on the dead-enders doing Dallas, I briefly noted an exchange between Rove and a former Tom Feeney staffer. The eye-popping part was Rove’s admission that he has a file on Feeney’s perceived disloyalty to Bush.  But just as interesting was the staffer, Jason Roe’s reminder to Rove that Bush owed his presidency to Feeney, the speaker of the FL House of Representatives during the 2000 recount.

Roe walked over to the table, "I’m Jason Roe."

Rove: "Oh, the famous Jason Roe."

Roe: "I don’t know that I’m famous, but I’m Tom Feeney’s former chief of staff, and I’m offended by your comments on Fox about Tom. You guys wouldn’t be in the White House without Tom. And you made these really degrading comments about him that offended a lot of people."

(Sidenote: Tom Feeney was the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives during the whole Bush/Gore 2000 recount.)

Rove: "Well, I have a file on the things Tom Feeney said about George Bush."

Roe: "That says more about you than me that you kept a file on Tom Feeney. This guy was so restrained in his desire to criticize the president — even against this staff’s advice." 

Rove: "I have a file."

Along with a bunch of other people, I nagged Brad Friedman, who has covered allegations that Feeney contracted with asked a software company in 2004 to rig touchscreen voting machines, to comment on the Roe reference. Brad separated out Feeney’s known role in 2000…

But as to the "You guys wouldn’t be in the White House without Tom" line, we don’t have any hard evidence of anything newly nefarious in that, given what is already on the public record concerning Feeney’s helping hand to Bush during the FL 2000 democracy abortion.

Amidst the 36 day battle following Election Day 2000 in the Sunshine State, Feeney, who was then Speaker of the FL House and arguably the second most powerful politician in the state (after Dubya’s brother Jeb, who was Governor at the time), made it clear that he was prepared to pass legislation in the Republican Florida House to grant all of Florida’s electors to George W. Bush no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court ended up deciding. As the state’s Constitution grants the power to determine Presidential Electors to the legislature, and that power has been passed on by them to the voting electorate, Feeney was prepared to take that power back Read more

The Dead-Enders Do Dallas

There are two notable details about this article on the reunion of the Bush dead-enders in Dallas to plan W’s legacy.

Dick Doesn’t Do Dallas

The first is the absence Peter Baker does note; apparently, Dick’s not doing Dallas.

Not coming to next week’s session is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who in the final days of the administration argued with Mr. Bush about his failure to pardon Mr. Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., who was convicted of perjury and other counts for his role in the leak of Valerie Wilson’s employment with the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Cheney later went on television to air his grievances with Mr. Bush, while also accusing Mr. Obama of endangering the country.

That is an approach Mr. Bush has rejected, telling aides that for now he is intent on giving his successor room to govern without criticism from him. Besides, he says, he is too busy in his own new life.

While I’m all in favor of flogging the "Cheney in a huff over Scooter" story (maybe it’ll spark some interest in why Cheney feels so strongly?), Cheney’s absence is more interesting, IMO, given his apparently recent decision to keep his records–and the loot he received as gifts while serving as the Fourth Branch–in the National Archives in DC rather than in the Bush Library.

Last fall, an architect for Bush’s library indicated that Cheney’s records and artifacts would be coming soon, but that apparently was a mix-up. Cheney wants them to remain in Washington as he writes his memoirs.


During talks last year, the National Archives suggested that Cheney’s artifacts – like a set of gold Murano glass candlesticks and bowls from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – be sent to the Bush library. That way they could be displayed with Bush’s items, including the 9 mm pistol that Saddam Hussein held when captured by American soldiers in Iraq.

"The VP preferred to have the VP artifacts remain with the records," said Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for presidential libraries.

Plans for the Bush library at SMU include space for new collections, including Cheney’s archives. His official and personal records would need an estimated 6,000 cubic feet, according to the National Archives.

Last fall, e-mails between Bush architects and the archives, which ensures that the library meets federal standards, signaled that Cheney’s records would be coming to Dallas.

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