Here's the lede of Murray Waas' latest, in which he reports that Karl and Novak chatted on September 29, 2003, about the Plame investigation.
On September 29, 2003, three days after it became known that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, columnist Robert Novak telephoned White House senior adviser Karl Rove to assure Rove that he would protect him from being harmed by the investigation, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the federal grand jury testimony of both men.
The date. Waas doesn't tell us in which grand jury appearance Karl discussed the Novak meeting. In fact, Waas never mentions in which appearance Karl discussed this meeting with "the" grand jury, nor with which grand jury:
Rove also told the grand jury, according to sources,
Rove told the grand jury
Rove has testified
Asked during his grand jury appearance
Novak and Rove have testified
Rove has testified
Rove has testified
Now, apparently Rove revealed the conversation to the FBI, so it's clear he revealed some of these details back in Fall 2003.
Rove, according to attorneys involved in the case, volunteered the information about the September 29 call during his initial interview with FBI agents in the fall of 2003.
But as to Rove's grand jury testimony, in which Waas describes Rove providing a great deal of detail, Waas provides no clue about timing.
Rove testified to the grand jury that during his telephone call with Novak, the columnist said words to the effect: "You are not going to get burned" and "I don't give up my sources," according to people familiar with his testimony. Rove had been one of the "two senior administration" officials who had been sources for the July 14, 2003, column in which Novak outed Plame as an "agency operative." Rove and Novak had talked about Plame on July 9, five days before Novak's column was published.
Rove also told the grand jury, according to sources, that in the September 29 conversation, Novak referred to a 1992 incident in which Rove had been fired from the Texas arm of President George H.W. Bush's re-election effort; Rove lost his job because the Bush campaign believed that he had been the source for a Novak column that criticized the campaign's internal workings.
This is an important detail with regards to both Rove and Novak, since Rove has testified five times, and Novak reportedly testified again sometime after the Libby indictment. Now, perhaps it doesn't matter. Perhaps they testified about this conversation back in March 2004 and Fitzgerald has just given up on indicting them for corroborating their testimony, as some of Waas' sources suggest.
As of now, it appears unlikely that Fitzgerald will bring charges related to the September 29 conversation, according to Richman and other legal experts. Even if the prosecutor and his investigative team conclude that Rove and Novak did indeed devise a cover story to protect Rove, it is simply too difficult to prove what happened in a private conversation between two people.
A longtime friend of Rove, who doesn't have firsthand knowledge of the CIA leak case but who knows both Rove and Novak well, doubts that Fitzgerald could get a conviction -- "as long as neither [Novak nor Rove] breaks, and there is no reason for them to, no matter how much evidence there is. These are two people who go way back, and they are going to look out for each other."
But there are two more possibilities. It is possible that Fitzgerald just renewed his inquiry regarding this Rove-Novak call again, since November, and therefore Rove has had to testify about it (and, presumably, someone in Rove's camp has revealed that he had to testify about it). Or, it's possible that Rove's relationship to the case has changed and it is now in his best interest to be more forthcoming about this call. Imagine, for example, if Rove had made a plea bargain, testimony on the cover-up for just perjury and false statements charges. Then Rove might feel the need to be forthcoming about issues he had not revealed in the past.
Frankly, I don't know what to make of it--except that it reinforces my long-held belief that Novak's October 1, 2003 column should have shared a byline with Turdblossom. And I'll point out one more detail of timing. The Rove-Novak conversation took place on October 29, 2003, one day after the 1X2X6 article came out. I'd bet a quarter that Rove and Novak talked about more than their own July conversation. I'd bet money they also talked about that article, about how they would respond to it.
Finally, one more potentially important detail. According to Rove, he and Libby talked about the Novak conversation on July 11, 2003.
Rove told the FBI that on July 11, 2003, two days after his conversation with Novak, he spoke privately with Libby at the end of a White House senior staff meeting. According to Rove's account, he told Libby of his conversation with Novak, whereupon Libby told him that he, too, had heard the same information from journalists who were writing about the Niger controversy.
Anyone know what time senior staff meetings take place? Do they take place before or after 11 am? Because if they take place after 11 am, it suggests Libby and Rove spoke after Rove's conversation with Cooper, in which case it would be probable they also spoke about Cooper. Which would make it improbable that both of them forgot that Rove had spoken to Cooper, and both of them would magically testify as if Rove's Cooper conversation never happened.