...Covering the story...
Not surprisingly, when David Gregory had Karl Rove on Meet the Press this morning, he never called Rove on any of Rove's misrepresentations. That's par for the course, on NBC. When Russert had Bob Novak on, he didn't call him on any of the misrepresentations, either. (Though to NBC's credit, they had Matt Cooper on to smack Karl around after Karl was gone.) Of course, both Russert (as Libby's fictional source for Plame's identity) and Gregory (as one of the people whom Ari Fleischer leaked Plame's identity to) are key players in this story. They're not exactly reporting from a position of comfort or clarity.
So it falls to me to do what Gregory ought to have done while he had Karl in front of him. Here's the transcript, with my annotations:
MR. GREGORY: Let me talk about the CIA leak case, of which you were obviously a, a central part. This is what the president said in 2003 after the identity of Valerie Plame was divulged in a Robert Novak column. Watch.
(Videotape, September 30, 2003)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: If there’s a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated laws, that person will be taken care of.
MR. GREGORY: Robert Novak, who divulged Valerie Plame’s name in his column, appeared on this program with Tim Russert back in July, and Tim asked about his book. Watch.
(Videotape, July 15, 2007)
MR. RUSSERT: Then you go on to say, in the book, “Senior White House adviser Karl Rove returned my call late that afternoon [July 8th, 2003],” the same day. “I mentioned I had heard that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA in the counterproliferation section and that she had suggested Wilson be sent to Niger. I distinctly remember Rove’s reply, ‘Oh, you know that, too.’ Rove and I also discussed other aspects of Wilson’s mission, but since he never has disclosed them publicly, neither have I.” So you considered Rove’s comments, “Oh, you know that, too,” as a confirmation?
MR. ROBERT NOVAK: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: Were you a confirming source for Robert Novak?
Note, Gregory didn't focus on the Administration's earlier claims that Karl was not involved in the leak. Rather, he sets the bar higher, with Bush's quote that he would "take care of" (and how--can you say commutation?) anyone who "violated laws."
MR. ROVE: No. And I, I remember it slightly differently. I remember saying, “I’ve heard that, too.” Let, let me say this. There is a civil lawsuit filed by Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame. It has been tossed out at the district court level. They’ve announced their intention to appeal. I think it is better that I not add anything beyond what is already in the public record until that suit is resolved. But, as I’m—my recollection is that I said, “I heard that, too.” We—I would point you to...
MR. GREGORY: Where, where had you heard that?
Ah, the ongoing legal proceedings dodge. You'd think, at a minimum, Gregory would have pushed Rove for a commitment to come clean after the dismissal is held up on appeal.
But the more important question would be, "Karl, that line, 'I've heard that too,' exactly parallels the line that Scooter Libby claims to have used with journalists, that he had simply 'heard this news from journalists.' Is it just a freakish coincidence that your story about your involvement in this leak so perfectly resembles Libby's story--a story that a jury has already determined to be a deliberate lie?"
MR. ROVE: You’ll have to wait.
MR. GREGORY: But that’s an important distinction, because the—you—“I heard that, too,” suggests that you heard it from somebody else rather than knowing it yourself.
MR. ROVE: That’s correct.
MR. GREGORY: But he, he took those notes down just as you said them.
Notes? Novak has notes? In spite of the fact he has in the past Novak said he didn't have notes?
MR. ROVE: Well, but I—my recollection is, “I’ve heard that, too.” So—but the point is, if, if, if a journalist had said to me, “I’d like you to confirm this,” my answer would have been, “I can’t. I don’t know. I’ve heard that, too.”
Again, the appropriate follow-up would be, "There you are again, Karl, a story that perfectly mirrors Libby's felonious perjury." And this--not later, after Karl has safely hidden in his dark little world--would be the appropriate time to raise the fact that Rove leaked this information to Cooper with no caveats.
MR. GREGORY: It, it, it’s important to point out that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, declined to bring any criminal charges against you. But given the president’s emphatic statement about getting to the bottom of this, were you ever held to account by the president for what you did?
MR. ROVE: You know, I acted in an appropriate manner, made all the appropriate individuals aware of, of, of my contact. I met with the FBI right at the beginning of this, told them everything. You’re right, the special prosecutor declined to take any action at all. I was never a target. In fact, it’s—what’s interesting to me is that the person who did give the name, Richard Armitage, we found out at the end of the process, did, did have the conversation with Novak, took no action against him either.
Two appropriate follow-ups. First, "Are you saying that you told Bush that you leaked to Matt Cooper and confirmed the story for Bob Novak?"
And after Rove doesn't answer that, you ask "Did the story you told the FBI in October 2003 resemble the story you told in your fifth (FIFTH!?!?!?!) grand jury appearance in April 2006?"
And finally, you point out that, in fact, even Bob Novak doesn't claim Richard Armitage gave him "the name"--that that remains one of the items in Novak's column that had a virgin birth. [To be more specific: As Jeff points out, Novak and Armitage dispute whether Armitage gave Novak Valerie's first name, but neither claims Armitage gave Novak the name "Plame," which is the true virgin birth in Novak's column.]
MR. GREGORY: Was it an inappropriate investigation?
MR. ROVE: It’s entirely appropriate to look into these kind of things, sure.
MR. GREGORY: Should Armitage have come forward sooner, do you think, to the administration?
Ug, David? Coming forward on October 1 in an investigation that was publicly announced on September 29 ... that's pretty early in the process, don't you think? Or are you asking whether Armitage should have 'fessed up publicly to his involvement earlier? Because that would be a downright breathtaking question from the one journalist known to have received a leak of Plame's identity, who has not yet come forward with his story of that leak.
MR. ROVE: That’s—that was his decision, and those are the people who were advising him. That’s fine.
MR. GREGORY: The president seemed frustrated that he didn’t.
You mean the President--the guy whom then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales worked and still works for? Because Armitage offered to tell him all the details, but Gonzales refused.
MR. ROVE: I, I’m, I’m going to leave it there.
Ah, I see. Bush really did know, and like Libby, you're just covering up for his involvement in these leaks...
MR. GREGORY: Do you think you owe Valerie Plame an apology?
MR. ROVE: No.
MR. GREGORY: You do not?
MR. ROVE: No.
Shorter Rove: If I apologized, that lawsuit would get put back into play faster than you can say "Valerie Plame is a CIA spy."
MR. GREGORY: You considered her fair game in this debate?
MR. ROVE: No. And you know what? Fair game, that wasn’t my phrase. That’s a phrase of a journalist. In fact, a colleague of yours.
This is a really fascinating dodge. We know from Fitzgerald's fall 2004 affidavits that Rove claimed Tweety wrongly characterized this comment--that was one of the many reasons why Fitzgerald suspected Rove was lying his ass off, he was even trying to deny these post-Novak leaks. But he doesn't deny that he said something to this effect, here. Just that Tweety made up the phrase.
MR. GREGORY: Was she an appropriate target in this debate?
MR. ROVE: No.
MR. GREGORY: She was not.
Watch this closely, ladies and gentlemen, because this is as close as Karl Rove will ever come to admitting he was wrong for leaking Plame's identity.
Okay, this next bit will require a multi-step debunk:
MR. ROVE: No. Look, her husband wrote a op-ed that we now know by—in a statement issued on July 11th by the director of the CIA, backed by a report by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, was misleading and inaccurate. The vice president, the White House and the director of the CIA did not send Mr. Wilson to Africa to look into—to the question of uranium cake from Niger to Iraq.
Okay, check for yourself. Does Joe Wilson say--anywhere in the op-ed--that the vice president, the White House or the director of the CIA sent Joe Wilson? Here's the exact quote:
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.[my emphasis]
Wilson said that "agency officials" asked him to go to Niger, not Cheney, Tenet, or the White House. And in fact, Tenet's statement doesn't refute this scenario, either--it completely supports it. Rove's statement is just a shameless lie--and Gregory likely knows that, too, since he was critical of all the White House prevaricating the week of the leak.
We also know that he did—he came—the information he came back with was not dispositive, was not conclusive, did not disprove the British intelligence finding that the Iraqis had attempted to acquire uranium cake. In fact, we now know that he brought back information not disclosed in his article that added to the belief, that confirmed the British intelligence report that the Iraqis had attempted to acquire uranium cake.
This is actually some pretty admirable Rovian jujitsu. It's jujitsu because Wilson's trip could not have been an attempt to confirm the British report--which was published on September 24, 2002, since he went on the trip in February 2002. More importantly, Rove is pretending that Wilson was sent to confirm or deny the story that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Iraq, which is a blatant lie. In fact, Wilson was sent to confirm whether Niger had signed a contract with Iraq to deliver uranium, a claim the administration gave up about the time of the British report. Moreover, the SSCI report that Rove has just cited claims that Wilson's report was never used to confirm or deny the case for uranium (though that, too, is deceiving, since it was used after the IAEA had debunked the forgeries to sustain the case).
He brought back information about a previously unknown contact where the Iraqis, working through a third party, attempted to bring and did bring to Niger a trade delegation.
This, I believe, is a case of Rove believing his own (or Libby and Cheney's) propaganda). Baghdad Bob--the "trade delegation" in question--never went to Niger. Rather, the meeting in question happened in Algeria, on the margins of another meeting. But BushCo likes to claim that the meeting happened in Niger because it confuses the issue and plays into their propaganda.
And since the only thing Niger had to sell was uranium cake that was on a U.N. sanctions list, they declined to do any business. He brought back information that affirmed the, the British intelligence report. After this all came out, the British did a study, did a review, appointed a commission to review their intelligence finding and came back and confirmed that they stood by their original assessment that, that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium yellow cake from Niger in—and exactly as was in the president’s speech.
Uh huh. And yet subsequent reports have proved that the British were still relying on the same crappy forgeries the Bush Administration was. I'd say that's cause to start a war.
So Rove has exonerated himself precisely how? So Rove, after admitting Valerie Wilson was not an appropriate target (forgive me, he's probably thinking, I got carried away!!!), basically can't even lay out a factual case against Joe Wilson either? No wonder they ended up going after Valerie.