I don't know whether Rove and Libby will ever go to jail for outing Valerie Plame. But the investigation has already done one important thing--it has demonstrated in stark terms the pathetic state of political journalism. Judy Miller has been exposed as a sycophantic liar. Bob Woodward as an addict for access. And now, with her tell-all, Vivnovka has revealed that journalism hasn't yet moved beyond its gossipy roots.
In her story, Vivnovka offers little details that help us understand the story. She doesn't even know when her conversation with Luskin occurred, be it January, March, or May. But there are some details we can squeeze out of this story.
First, Vivnovka offers validation of something that had previously been nothing more than a Luskin leak. The Vivnovka strategy was one of the things that Luskin threw at Fitzgerald to forestall a Rove indictment.
Sometime during [indictment] week, Luskin, who was talking at length with Fitzgerald, phoned me and said he had disclosed to Fitzgerald the content of a conversation he and I had had at Cafe Deluxe more than a year earlier and that Fitzgerald might want to talk to me.
Geez, she can't even get this date correct? She does offer a few more details about the timing of Fitzgerald's investigation of the Vivnovka story.
I clung to Luskin's word might, but the next week he told me Fitzgerald did indeed want to talk to me, but informally, not under oath. I hired a lawyer, Hank Schuelke, but I didn't tell anyone at TIME. Unrealistically, I hoped this would turn out to be an insignificant twist in the investigation and also figured that if people at TIME knew about it, it would be difficult to contain the information, and reporters would pounce on it--as I would have. Fitzgerald and I met in my lawyer's office on Nov. 10 for about two hours.
So it took about a week and a half to first get Vivnovka in for an interview. And that interview appeared before Woodward's bombshell (Woodward testified on November 14). Then, it took another week before Fitzgerald figured it made sense to have Vivnovka (and presumably Luskin) testify under oath. This timing is important. Fitzgerald isn't going to have Luskin testify to help Rove's case. Either the testimony will help him prove an indictable offense or it won't. He must have believed before he spoke to Vivnovka a second time that Luskin would do Rove more harm than good. In other words, something didn't check out.
Perhaps it is the discrepancy of dates. Fitzgerald obviously learned somehow that there had been a third conversation between Luskin and Novak, in addition to the January and the May ones Novak admitted to.
Fitzgerald had asked that I check a couple of dates in my calendar for meetings with Luskin. One of them, March 1, 2004, checked out. I hadn't found that one in my first search because I had erroneously entered it as occurring at 5 a.m., not 5 p.m.
I'm not sure what to make of this. Did Novak save records of her first searches? And did Fitzgerald cue her to look at the March date the first time around, only to have her curiously mis-enter the time? It certainly sounds like she tried, but failed, to find the search the first time around. Certainly enough reason to be suspicious if you're Fitzgerald.
There a few more details on timing. Novak tells us that Luskin is, in fact, claiming that her comment caused him to do a search for records of the Cooper-Rove conversation. In which case, either reports that Luskin turned over the email in Fall 2004 are incorrect, or this revelation still isn't going to help Karl out too much. Why would it take six months (from the possible March meeting) or four months (from the possible May meeting) to do a search of email? Further, the question raises the stakes on when Rove's mysterious second appearance before the grand jury appeared (his first was in February 2004 and what is thought to be his third was in October 2004); was there a time after the possible March conversation when Karl should have 'fessed up that he had talked to Cooper?
Vivnovka suggests some timing in her account of her conversation with Luskin.
Toward the end of one of our meetings, I remember Luskin looking at me and saying something to the effect of "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt." I responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, "Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around TIME." He looked surprised and very serious. "There's nothing in the phone logs," he said. In the course of the investigation, the logs of all Rove's calls around the July 2003 time period--when two stories, including Matt's, were published mentioning that Plame was Wilson's wife--had been combed, and Luskin was telling me there were no references to Matt.
Note what Luskin said closely. "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem." He didn't say, "Karl's safe on this" or "Karl didn't talk to anyone;" he mentioned Cooper directly. Well, how did he know to raise the issue of Cooper? When records of conversations with Cooper were subpoenaed in January 2004, he was named along with several other Time reporters. So there'd be no way for Luskin to know, independently, that Cooper was the one who had received the WH leak. It wouldn't be until May 2004, when Cooper was subpoenaed, that Luskin could independently say, "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem" as a way to spin Karl's innocence.
Which means one of two things happened. Either the conversation occurred in May and Luskin was responding to the Cooper subpoena. Or Vivnovka revealed to Luskin that Cooper had received all of the WH leaks on Wilson. I'm not putting anything past her on this one. (Note, the date of her conversation in January is probably still critical here; if Vivnovka told Luskin who had received the leaks at Time, she is much more likely to have done so after that January subpoena, perhaps in response to a question about which of the several journalists subpoenaed had received the leak. So if their conversation preceded that subpoena, it might still provide clear evidence she didn't mention Cooper in January.)
That's what I'm seeing right away. But I suspect there's more. Because Luskin didn't want Vivnovka to reveal even this much.
Luskin is unhappy that I decided to write about our conversation, but I feel that he violated any understanding to keep our talk confidential by unilaterally going to Fitzgerald and telling him what was said.
Maybe Luskin was happier giving conflicting leaks to journalists about when this conversation took place. Or maybe Luskin just doesn't want to admit that, at the latest, it occurred in May. But Luskin, who knows what he was trying to pull here, didn't want even these sparse details revealed.