Jim VandeHei, who tends to serve as a Luskin's most faithful stenographer, tells us Rove spent most of his three hour chat yesterday talking about Matt Cooper.
Rove's testimony focused almost exclusively on his conversation about Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in 2003 and whether the top aide later tried to conceal it, the source said. Rove testified, in essence, that "it would have been a suicide mission" to "deliberately lie" about his conversation with Cooper because he knew beforehand that it eventually would be revealed, the source said. Lawyers involved in the case said yesterday that they expect a decision on Rove's fate soon.
But I don't think Fitzgerald was thinking solely about whether he'll charge Turdblossom with perjury and obstruction, or just with perjury. I think the testimony directly relates to larger conspiracy charges.
First, consider this little detail VandeHei tells us:
His grand jury appearance, which was kept secret even from Rove's closest White House colleagues until shortly before he went to court yesterday, suggests that prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald remains keenly interested in Rove's role in the case.
There's a reason no one knew about Karl's fifth grand jury appearance. It's because someone--either Rove or Fitzgerald--wanted to keep it quiet. I can see why Rove might want to keep it quiet, what with Josh Bolten frantically firing and demoting people. But what if Fitzgerald wanted him to keep it quiet, so other suspects in the case didn't find out?
Why would he want to keep it quiet that he's asking further questions about the Matt Cooper mystery? Well, consider how Libby's Nixon lawyer portrayed the substance of the Libby's original lies in February in a court hearing,
MR. JEFFRESS: Your Honor, the indictment in this case alleges that Mr. Libby lied about a conversation with Mr. Tim Russert in which Mr. Libby recalled that Tim Russert told him, mentioned the wife to him and said all the reporters know it. Mr. Libby also testified that he was hearing that reporters were mentioning to the White House as opposed to vice versa that Ms. Wilson worked at the CIA. Mr. Libby in the grand jury identified two particular people from the press who he recalled had given that information either to him from someone else in the White House who had passed it on to him. The government says that he is wrong about Mr. Russert, who was one of those two people, and indeed that he lied about the conversation. But the indictment also alleges that there is someone who did tell Mr. Libby about this who Mr. Libby didn't remember when did testify at the grand jury, and that is Mr. Cooper and that's alleged in the indictment. [emphasis mine]
Jeffress is basically saying "Well, what Libby said in his testimony is that he heard from two reporters who said they had heard from other people in the White House or other reporters about Plame. Libby said Russert was one of these people, and that he forgot who the other one was. Now the government is saying he lied about Russert and that Cooper is the one he forgot about."
As I described in my earlier post on this, if that is the substance of Libby's lie as Libby understands it (or the lie he's now telling to get out of lying in the past) it suggests he was trying to tell a story based on a grain of truth. He had heard from a reporter who had spoken to other people in the White House, but that reporter was Judy and she apparently first found out from him. And he had heard from a reporter, later in the week, who had been told by someone else in the White House about Plame, but he obscured who that reporter was.
That reporter, of course, was Matt Cooper. Cooper told Libby on July 12 that he had heard that Plame worked at the CIA and was involved in getting Joe Wilson sent to Niger. And, according to the indictment at least,
LIBBY confirmed for Cooper, without qualification, that LIBBY had heard that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA;
Now, curiously, this discrepancy (whether Libby told Cooper or Cooper told Libby) is not the basis for the perjury and false statements charge. The basis for that is whether or not Libby told Cooper that he had been hearing this from journalists and whether or not he knew it was true. And whether he told Cooper that he didn't know whether Wilson had a wife or not. Now, it's not entirely clear from the indictment--because Fitzgerald doesn't highlight it or mention it in the substance of the perjury charge--whether Libby testified he told Cooper or rather just confirmed something Cooper presented to him. But the language cited from Libby's FBI interviews seems to suggest Libby testified to telling Cooper, not to confirming Cooper's story:
Q. And it's your specific recollection that when you told Cooper about Wilson's wife working at the CIA, you attributed that fact to what reporters –
Q. – plural, were saying. Correct?
A. I was very clear to say reporters are telling us that because in my mind I still didn't know it as a fact. I thought I was – all I had was this information that was coming in from the reporters.
. . . .
Q. And at the same time you have a specific recollection of telling him, you don't know whether it's true or not, you're just telling him what reporters are saying?
A. Yes, that's correct, sir. And I said, reporters are telling us that, I don't
know if it's true. I was careful about that because among other things, I wanted to be clear I didn't know Mr. Wilson. I don't know – I think I said, I don't know if he has a wife, but this is what we're hearing. [my emphasis]
And again from grand jury testimony:
Q. And let me ask you this directly. Did the fact that you knew that the law could turn, the law as to whether a crime was committed, could turn on where you learned the information from, affect your account for the FBI when you told them that you were telling reporters Wilson's wife worked at the CIA but your source was a reporter rather than the Vice-President?
A. No, it's a fact. It was a fact, that's what I told the reporters.
Q. And you're, you're certain as you sit here today that every reporter you told that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, you sourced it back to other reporters?
A. Yes, sir, because it was important for what I was saying and because it was – that's what – that's how I did it.
. . . .
Q. The next set of questions from the Grand Jury are – concern this fact. If you did not understand the information about Wilson's wife to have been classified and didn't understand it when you heard it from Mr. Russert, why was it that you were so deliberate to make sure that you told other reporters that reporters were saying it and not assert it as something you knew?
A. I want – I didn't want to – I didn't know if it was true and I didn't want people – I didn't want the reporters to think it was true because I said it. I – all I had was that reporters are telling us that, and by that I wanted them to understand it wasn't coming from me and that it might not be true. Reporters write things that aren't true sometimes, or get things that aren't true. So I wanted to be clear they didn't, they didn't think it was me saying it. I didn't know it was true and I wanted them to understand that. Also, it was important to me to let them know that because what I was telling them was that I don't know Mr. Wilson. We didn't ask for his mission. That I didn't see his report.
Basically, we didn't know anything about him until this stuff came out in June. And among the other things, I didn't know he had a wife. That was one of the things I said to Mr. Cooper. I don't know if he's married. And so I wanted to be very clear about all this stuff that I didn't, I didn't know about him. And the only thing I had, I thought at the time, was what reporters are telling us.
. . . .
Well, talking to the other reporters about it, I don't see as a crime. What I said to the other reporters is what, you know – I told a couple reporters what other reporters had told us, and I don't see that as a crime.
Still totally ambiguous. Did Libby testify that he told Cooper about Plame, or that he confirmed the story about Plame? Fitzgerald doesn't reveal that part of the testimony to us. But Jeffress says Libby forgot who had told him about Plame, that he forgot that Matt Cooper had been one of the journalists who told him about Plame. And Libby must have testified that he told Cooper--otherwise Fitzgerald wouldn't have agreed in August 2004 to limit his questions for Matt Cooper to his conversation with Scooter Libby.
I'm suggesting--as I suggested in my earlier testimony--that in addition to lying about journalists and so forth, Libby also lied about whether Cooper told him or he told Cooper. I'm suggesting that Libby told the FBI and grand jury that he--Libby--told Cooper, not the other way around. I'm suggesting that Libby did so to hide the evidence that someone in the White House had told Cooper about Plame already.
If I'm right, then Fitzgerald is interested in more than just when Vivnovka told Luskin that she knew Rove was Cooper's source. He's interested in how Rove's changing story lines up with Libby's attempts to hide the fact that Karl Rove had already told Cooper of Plame's identity when Libby confirmed it for him on July 12.
The lie I suspect Libby told--that he was the first to inform Cooper of Plame's identity, survived until August 2004, when Cooper testified that Libby was not his source for Plame's identity. Only then, apparently, did Luskin "discover" an email proving that Karl Rove had talked to Cooper beforehand. Up until then, though, a number of people must have conspired to hide the evidence of Rove's conversation with Cooper: the person who altered the phone log, the person who hid the emails, and Libby, who lied about what he said to Cooper.
Here's the story Rove is still trying to tell about his lies:
Rove testified, in essence, that "it would have been a suicide mission" to "deliberately lie" about his conversation with Cooper because he knew beforehand that it eventually would be revealed, the source said.
Yes, it would be a suicide mission. But he still might lie if there was a reason why everyone at the White House was hiding evidence about the conversations with Matt Cooper. Why is the Cooper conversation so important, besides the fact that it proves Rove was an active leaker in this process? I'm not sure. But several reports of the July 12 strategy session aboard Air Force Two suggest Libby and Cheney were trying to figure out how to respond to Cooper. So this conspiracy, as so many others, may lead right back to Dick.