Is Isikoff Laundering Information for Karl Rove Again?

As you’ll recall from the Plame case, Michael Isikoff helped Karl Rove stay out of jail in at least three ways:

  • After the WaPo published the damaging 1X2X6 article, Isikoff published an article appearing to–but not entirely–refuting it (Isikoff tried again in Hubris, claiming that the 1X2X6 story only got printed due to an editorial error, an attempt that Swopa quickly shredded).
  • When he called Luskin for comment on the fact that Rove was Matt Cooper’s source for Plame’s identity, Isikoff (by his own admission) read Luskin the entire email from Cooper to his editor, alerting Rove’s lawyer to everything that appeared in one of the main pieces of documentary evidence that incriminated Rove.
  • Just before the inquiry, Rove someone at the White House prodded Isikoff to ask Woodward about his "bombshell," probably forcing Woodward to come clean that Armitage had leaked Plame’s identity to him in June 2003, thereby ruining what little value Armitage would have had in a perjury case against Rove.

Laundering information through journalists is a common Rove tactic. For example, someone conveniently launched a false campaign insinuating Ari Fleischer was one of the Novak’s for Plame’s identity; by coincidence (ha!) that campaign was launched the day that Luskin attempted to manage the revelation that Rove was one of Novak’s sources. Even going way back to his days in Texas Rove laundered leaks through the press to attack Jim Hightower and Ronnie Earle.

But in recent years–certainly during the CIA Leak case–Isikoff has been one of Rove’s key information conduits.

In the last couple of months, Rove seems to have been attempting–with no apparent success–to goad reporters covering the Siegelman case to serve as similar information conduits. His surrogates in the AL GOP tried to demand information from CBS and MSNBC about what evidence there is implicating Karl, all while refusing to give up their own information. More recently, Rove has launched a pissing contest with Dan Abrams, attacking Abrams’ journalism, apparently in an attempt to force him to reveal information about evidence against him. Yet with Rove out of the White House, his ability to use journalists to his own ends seems to have diminished.

Except, perhaps, with Isikoff.

The other day, I noted that the news that the revelation of Bob Kjellander’s discussions about firing Patrick Fitzgerald with Rove was an unsurprising move from Fitzgerald. Read more

Fitz v. Rove, Part VI

The suggestion that Bob Kjellander was working with Rove to have Fitz fired is not new.

In a hearing before court began, prosecutors said they hoped to call Ali Ata, the former Blagojevich administration official who pleaded guilty to corruption yesterday, to the stand.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Carrie Hamilton said she believed Ata would testify to conversations Ata had with his political patron, Rezko, about working to pull strings to kill the criminal investigation into Rezko and others when it was in its early stages in 2004.

"[Ata] had conversations with Mr. Rezko about the fact that Mr. Kjellander was working with Karl Rove to have Mr. Fitzgerald removed," Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve.

Back in the days when there was question whether Fitzgerald would be ousted in 2006 (before the USA purge broke), Chicago commentators regularly noted how badly Chicago pols–and Kjellander in particular–wanted to see Fitzgerald gone.

And there’s good reason to think he might be [fired], aside from the president’s non-assurance. One of the chief practitioners of Illinois establishment politics is Republican operative Bob Kjellander, who brags (whether true or not) about his friendship with Bush chief political strategist, Karl Rove. Despite Kjellander’s engineering Bush defeats in Illinois and other Midwest states, the White House (Rove?) thought he was pretty hot stuff and brought him to the Beltway where he is engineering who knows what political disaster.

Kjellander also will be credited with the coming GOP election disaster in Illinois, thanks to his help in selecting state Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka to run against incumbent Blagojevich. She’s a dear lady, a treasured "moderate," but not a gusty independent willing to stand up to the political establishment.

The point is that Kjellander (pronounced Shelander), a Republican national committeeman who has received $800,000 in unexplained fees through a state bond-borrowing deal engineered by Democrat Blagojevich, is no fan of Fitzgerald’s either. No one, in other words, in the political establishment in Chicago or Washington, is pushing for Fitzgerald’s reappointment. [my emphasis]

And after news broke last year that Fitzgerald had been on the firing list, at least one Chicago commentator predicted that Kjellander was the reason, and not the Plame case. Read more

Novak’s Shield

I was rather more fascinated by Novak’s column on the journalist shield law than Jane was. While I’m blathering about why, see if you can figure out how this column differs from almost all of Novak’s columns. I’ll provide the answer below.

Novak doesn’t directly call for passage of the journalist shield law in the column. Rather, he presents the case from Congressman Mike Pence’s perspective, weighing the wins and losses for Pence’s bill this week.

The bad news last week for conservative Republican Rep. Mike Pence was private confirmation that his proposed law protecting journalists from runaway judges was opposed by President George W. Bush himself, not just inflexible Justice Department lawyers. The good news this week for Pence was an unexpected endorsement by Bush’s successor heading the Republican Party, John McCain.

After framing the argument in terms of Pence, Novak goes on to give a journalistic-centric view of the shield law. As Jane has pointed out, Novak does put Patrick Fitzgerald at the center of this debate, at one point making a seemingly unsubstantiated claim that Fitzgerald views journalists "as adversaries":

Justice Department opposition to a shield was fueled by prosecutors such as Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, who view journalists as adversaries.

I’ve asked Fitzgerald’s office whether Novak verified that assertion with Fitzgerald before he printed it–I will let you know if the most silent spokesperson in public view gives me an answer (update: well that was a mighty quick "no comment" from Randy Samborn).

But Novak also puts Toni Locy–whom Steven Hatfill has subpoenaed for her sources naming him a person of interest in the anthrax investigation–at the center of the debate.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton of Washington had just levied fines against former USA Today reporter Toni Locy, escalating to $5,000 a day, for failing to reveal her confidential sources in reporting on the 2001 anthrax attacks. Walton’s decision, which is under appeal, stipulated that neither USA Today nor anybody else could help pay the fines for Locy, now a journalism professor making $75,000 a year. Pence told the House that Walton’s conduct showed the need to protect "the one time-tested way of holding the government accountable" and "ensuring the free flow of information to the American people."

I find Novak’s focus on Locy more interesting than his focus on Fitzgerald. Read more

Fitzgerald Testifies Before HJC

He’s just answering questions–no statement.

Sanchez Do you think a President should consult with a Special Counsel on commutation.

PF The President has the power to pardon or commute.

Sanchez: Could you go whereever the evidence brought you?

PF No, I couldn’t go outside the scope. The subject matter jurisdiction was given to me, but I could follow the facts in terms of what I was investigating.

Sanchez: If Durham is given the same authority, would it be proper or improper to investigate underlying conduct.

PF I don’t feel comfortable opining about decisions others make.

Sanchez: You and your team expended significant time and energy. Should you have been required to submit a report to AG?

PF I was not required to submit a report. The AG was recused. Because a charge resulted, people learned a fair amount about what we did. I believe, I think it’s appropriate that when a GJ is used, we expect people to be candid, but we owe it back to people to respect the secrecy of the GJ. I don’t think a public report was allowed nor should it have been called for.

Sanchez: A report to Congress?

PF The executive branch has to have space in which it can conduct business and space for prosecutors to make decisions. I see the concerns on both sides, from my narrow POV we can’t break GJ rules.

Read more

No Wonder Fitzgerald Never Officially Closed His Investigation

There were actually a number of notable revelations in today’s oversight hearing on the missing emails, supplemented by the report released by the committee. For example, the hearing made it clear that the National Archives has been trying to get some answers about where the missing emails went since May 2007, to no avail. And that even as late as fall 2006–a year after the White House had discovered the missing emails–the White House did not reveal the missing emails to the National Archives.

Similarly, the hearing revealed that as of yesterday, the White House has done nothing to start retrieving the missing RNC emails.

Most alarming, though, are two details that may explain why Fitzgerald never formally closed his investigation. It’s still not clear he has all the missing emails.

First, the hearing and the report revealed that until 2005, the email "archives" were available to anyone within EOP.

Until mid-2005, the system that the White House used for preserving e-mails had serious security flaws. According to Mr. McDevitt, "ln mid-2005 … a critical security issue was identified and corrected. During this period it was discovered that the file servers and the file directories used to store the retained email … were accessible by everyone on the EOP network." Mr. McDevitt informed the Committee that the "potential impact" of this security flaw was that there was "[n]o verification that data retained has not been modified."

To understand why this is important, consider the famous Rove-Hadley email recording Matt Cooper’s call. The email said,

Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he’s got a welfare reform story coming, 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.

The email has been puzzling on two levels. First, why wasn’t it discovered? Since the trial, there are some potential explanations for this, not least that the White House may have searched on "Matthew Cooper" and "Joe Wilson" but not "Matt Cooper." Read more

Plame Investigation and Missing Emails: Analysis on Emails

This is the post I promised, in which I’ll analyze what the timeline of the missing dates shows. As I said in that post, this exercise makes several assumptions, some of which clearly are not true:

  • It assumes all the missing emails have some tie to the Plame leak; we know this is not true because of the volume of email missing from offices uninvolved in the leak, and there is at least one period when no archive of OVP email exists for which I can think of no Plame leak correlation.
  • It assumes we’re seeing all the missing emails; we’re not. There’s a bunch of dates on which there is a very small amount of email archived, and if we were to do this analysis properly, we’d need to know those dates, too.
  • It assumes the email archives were destroyed deliberately to hide legally dubious acts. While that might be a fair assumption with this administration, we don’t know for sure that is true, so by trying to find correlations between missing emails and known events, we may end up imagining motivations on the part of the White House that didn’t exist.

So understand that this is as much a thought experiment as useful analysis. It basically tries to answer the question, "Assuming most of the WH and OVP email gaps during this period relate to the Plame investigation, why might the WH have been deleting archives? What were they trying to hide?"

Also, consider some limits about the content of the email. We’re assuming the email was dangerous enough to make it worthwhile to delete. Yet, given that Fitzgerald got at least 250 pages of the missing OVP emails (and presumably a similar amount of missing WH emails), one of the following must be true:

  • The emails were not damaging enough to support an indictment for anyone beyond Libby. Only one of these emails was ever even introduced at Libby’s trial–and it was nowhere near the most incriminating piece of evidence. So the emails Fitzgerald received, at least, either contain no smoking gun or he chose not to pursue the smoking gun. Read more

Plame Investigation and Missing Emails Timeline

Okay, what follows is an uber-timeline, matching the dates for which OVP and WH don’t have any email archives to the Plame investigation, as well as laying out further details on how the investigation proceeded over time. Before you read further, a couple of important comments:

  • It would be completely irresponsible to assume that the email losses are entirely related to the Plame investigation. The large number of emails missing from CEQ, CEA, OMB, and OTR shows that, even if the emails were disappeared deliberately (which is a big assumption), they were disappeared for a myriad of reasons, many of them completely unrelated to the Plame investigation. That’s part of the reason I did the Medicare Part D post–while that post, like this one, is completely speculative, it shows there may be any number of explanations for the missing emails.
  • This post relies on information about the investigation revealed during the Libby trial. With one exception (the WHIG subpoena), those materials cover only subpoenas to OVP. There are undoubtedly subpoenas to the White House that we don’t know about that may pertain to these dates.
  • Remember that, in addition to the days for which no email archives exist for a given office, there are a large number of days for which offices don’t have archives of all the emails (that is, days when an archive includes vastly fewer emails than the office would have sent). So this timeline probably leaves out a large number of days which might be interesting or pertinent, because some significant number of emails are missing from the archives.
  • Even if all the connections you could might draw from this timeline were valid, they still wouldn’t explain all the funkiness with email pertaining to the Plame investigation. It still doesn’t describe possible funkiness with the Rove-Hadley email, and the search terms used to find emails may have led to further funkiness.
  • I will do a speculative post on some of the connections we might draw (probably tomorrow or Monday, I’m toast). But understand that this whole examination is one big experiment, which has the potential of drawing completely bogus conclusions. By looking solely at two discrete events, we presume a connection between them that ignores the complexity of the White House, or even the sheer number of potential scandals! Read more

Henry’s Dates: Two Data Points from the Plame Investigation

Update: We’re getting increasingly strong confirmations that the missing emails were discovered as part of the Plame matter, such as this line the AP’s coverage of the story today:

The White House says the e-mail matter arose in October 2005 in connection with the Justice Department’s CIA leak probe.

I promised I would consider the significance of the dates of missing email archives wrt the Plame investigation. But first of all, I wanted to look at two data points to establish what these dates offer us. As a reminder, here are the dates for which an entire White House office is missing email archives.

For the White House Office: December 17, 2003, December 20, 2003, December 21, 2003, January 9, 2004, January 10, 2004, January 11, 2004, January 29, 2004, February 1, 2004, February 2, 2004, February 3, 2004, February 7, 2004, and February 8, 2004.

For the Office of the Vice President: September 12, 2003, October 1, 2003, October 2, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 5, 2003, January 29, 2004, January 30, 2004, January 31, 2004, February 7, 2004, February 8, 2004, February 15, 2005, February 16, 2005, February 17, 2005, May 21, 2005, May 22, 2005, May 23, 2005.

The first, more simple data point I want to look at is the Mayfield-Martin email exchange that took place on October 1, 2003, but which wasn’t printed out until February 2, 2006. When Jeff first saw the date and the Bates number on the email exchange, he concluded that the email was probably one of the 250 pages worth of emails turned over to Patrick Fitzgerald on February 6, 2006–the emails that had not been archived properly. (Incidentally, we’ve only got two pages of the email, but it was apparently 13 pages when printed out, so presumably that leaves 237 more pages of emails that weren’t discovered in earlier searches.)

Waxman’s list appears to validate Jeff’s conclusion: October 1 is indeed one of the days for which there were no OVP email archives.

Furthermore, the rest of the emails submitted as trial exhibits reinforce this argument. There’s an October 1 email from Laura Mylroie to Mayfield passing on an awful Cliff May’s "Valerie wasn’t covert" column–but that email was printed out on October 1, kept in a file, then turned over as a hard copy. All other emails introduced as evidence come from earlier–when there are no complete days without email archives.

So Waxman’s list explains the very limited set of emails entered into evidence at the trial. It does not, however, explain the other big email anomaly from the investigation, the seeming non-discovery of the Rove-Hadley email until Rove turned it over when he testified in October 2004. After all, the email was written on July 11, 2003, well before the earliest complete day when there was no archived White House email. So even though the White House was reusing all their backup tapes (so therefore there is no backup file of emails form July 11), there was still an archive of emails from that period, as the presence of emails from Cathie Martin written on July 11, but discovered in February 2004, apparently from the archived copy, shows.

That leaves several possibilities:

The email was turned over, and the prosecution team just never realized what it was. I still think this is unlikely, since the FBI was focusing on Rove from early on, was focusing on Time from early on, and Fitzgerald’s willingness to let Cooper limit his first testimony appearance to his conversation with Libby, which suggests he didn’t know about the Rove-Cooper conversation at all.

The email was sent to and from RNC email addresses, and was destroyed by the RNC’s "document retention" policy of purging all emails every 30 days, but the email remained on Rove’s computer, but not Hadley’s. Here’s what Rob Kelner told Waxman about the RNC email retention practice.

According to Mr. Kelner, the RNC had a policy, which the RNC called a "document retention" policy, that purged all e-mails from RNC e-mail accounts and the RNC server that were more than 30 days old. Read more

Disappearing White House Emails Timeline

Jeff kicked my arse on a timing related issue yesterday, so I thought I better lay out the disappearing White House email timing all nice and neat like. Much of the detail on emails relies on some very cool work Jeff did on the emails.

I’ll move this over into a permanent timeline after you guys tell me what I’m missing (Jeff, I’m looking at you).

February 26, 2001: Gonzales informs White House staff they must preserve their email.

April 2001: GAO report on problems with ARMS and emails from the VP’s office in the Clinton Administration.

June 4, 2001: Bush announces plan to name CIO to manage and monitor email.

2001, unknown date: Susan Ralston prints off Rove email in response to Enron inquiry, gives that email to Alberto Gonzales, presumably alerting him to Rove’s use of RNC servers for official emails.

Late 2001 to early 2002: White House deactivates ARMS system put in place by Clinton Administration to archive emails.

Between 2002 and 2003: White House converts from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange.

March 2003: Starting date of period during which White House has incomplete archives for emails.

July 11, 2003: Rove writes Hadley email immediately after his call with Matt Cooper.

September 26, 2003: DOJ starts an investigation into Plame leak.

September 29, 2003, morning: Scottie McClellan claims ignorance of a DOJ investigation into the leak.

September 29, 2003, evening: John Ashcroft informs Alberto Gonzales of investigation.

September 30, 2003, morning: Alberto Gonzales informs White House staff of investigation.

September 30, 2003, 6:15 PM: Alberto Gonzales informs White House what to retain.

October 2003 (unknown date): White House CIO stops "recycling" backup tapes.

October 1, 2003: Mayfield to Martin email passing on transcript from that day’s Press Gaggle; the email was not apparently turned over until February 2006, presumably among the emails "not archived properly."

October 2, 2003: DOJ requests White House turn over materials relating to Wilson, his Niger trip, Novak, Royce, and Phelps.

October 3, 2003: Gonzales informs White House to turn over materials by October 7.

October 5, 2003: Date on which Martin to Fleischer email printed out, apparently by Martin. It was originally written on July 7, 2003 and contained OVP talking points on Wilson for Fleischer to use in his press briefing, including the words, "Niger" and "Joe Wilson." Probably turned over to DOJ on October 9, 2003.

October 7, 2003: Reporter asks Scottie McClellan whether White House officials have to turn over emails they’ve deleted.

Q No, I understand that. I’m just saying how would this work? Let’s say I remember — I’m an official, I remember sending some email about this, but I’ve long since deleted it. How —


Q I just want to be clear, though, the White House is obligated to provide emails that may have been deleted by the individual but are still archived by the White House —

MR. McCLELLAN: Look back — it said what is in the possession of, I believe, in the White House, the employees and staff.

October 13, 2003: Date on which July 11, 2003 Martin to Michael Anton email printed out. The email was apparently discovered in a search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Niger" and "Wilson."

November 25, 2003: Per Hubris, date on which Rove aide B.J. Goergen prints out Rove-Hadley email (eventually turned over on October 14, 2004). The email mentions "Cooper" and Niger."

November 26, 2003: Oldest Rove email preserved by RNC.

February 2, 2004: Addington drafts a letter to Keith Roberts, Acting General Counsel, Office of Administration, listing the new terms for a search of the OVP domain. If "Joe Wilson" or "Niger" were mentioned in the October 1 gaggle, the October 1 Martin to Mayfield email should have been found in this search.

February 11, 2004: Date on which June 11, 2003 Martin to Mayfield email printed out. The email was apparently discovered in a search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Pincus" and "Niger."

February 11, 2004: Date on which July 11, 2003 Martin and Cooper email exchange printed out. The email was apparently discovered in search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Cooper" and "Niger." Cooper’s initial email was printed out, probably on July 11 or 12, though it has no date; Libby wrote notes on it on how he would respond to Cooper.

March 2004: FBI begins probe into Abramoff scandal.

March 24, 2004: Fitzgerald asks Libby about email, suggesting Fitzgerald was surprised by the lack of email he received as evidence.

Q. You’re not big on e-mail I take it?

A. No. Not in this job. I was in my prior job.

May 8, 2004: Date on which Abramoff-Susan Ralston email using the RNC server printed out by Greenberg-Traurig. This may have been the first public indication that White House employees (Ralston) were using the RNC server to bypass the more public White House server.

June 2004: Senate Indian Affairs Committee issues its first subpoena in its investigation into Abramoff scandal.

August 2004: In response to "unspecified legal inquiries," RNC stops its automatic email destruction policy. Read more

Waxman Still after Fitz’s FBI Files

Well, it turns out that Waxman has been no happier than we are about Bush obstructing justice pardoning commuting Libby’s sentence. Turns out he asked Fitzgerald for his FBI files (that is, testimony not before the Grand Jury and therefore not subject to secrecy laws) back in July, not long after the commutation. But Bush won’t let him have the files. So now Waxman has sent Mukasey a letter asking for some help getting the files.

I’ll update this shortly, once I make sure the new digs are working…

[Shew, they’re working]

So here’s the key detail from Waxman–defining what he wants, and what he has already gotten:

Transcripts, reports, notes, and other documents relating to any interviews outside the presence of the grand jury of any of the following individuals:

  • President George W. Bush
  • Vice President Dick Cheney
  • Andrew Card
  • Stephen Hadley
  • Karl Rove
  • Dan Bartlett
  • Scott McClellan

Since the Committee’s letter was sent on July 16, Mr. Fitzgerald and his staff have cooperated with the Committee’s investigation and have produced a number of responsive documents to the Committee. Among the documents that Mr. Fitzgerald has produced to the Committee are "FBI302 reports" of interviews with CIA and State Department officials and other individuals.

Read more