There's a fascinating detail in Novak's self-hagiography about his break-up with his BFF Karl Rove during the CIA Leak investigation. In the middle of a longish description of their relationship, Novak describes missing Rove's company--as well as his leaks--during the three years when he and Rove didn't talk.
Indeed, in fourty-four years as a Washington reporter, I never had better access to a White House as I did to start the George W. Bush administration. Karl Rove was a grade A-plus source. While he did not dispense state secrets, confidential political plans, or salacious gossip, Rove always returned my phone calls. He knew everything, and while he did not tell me all that he knew, he never lied or misled me and often steered me away from a bad tip.
Geraldine and I were guests of the Roves at a small dinner party in his Washington home, and he came to breakfast at my apartment. He was a regular speaker at the Evans-Novak Political Forum, and always attended my annual dinner party at the Army and Navy Club the night before the spring Gridiron dinner. We shared an interest in American political history, agreeing on a preference for William McKinley over Theodore Roosevelt.
When our relationship ended abruptly and completely for three years because of the CIA leak case, I missed him as a fascinating conversationalist as well as my best Bush administration source.
At least according to Novak, this warm relationship ended one day, presumably after September 29, 2003, and Novak and Rove didn't speak for three years.
You'd think the reason would be legal--as two key witnesses to the case, it might be considered obstruction for the two to talk (putting their September 29, 2003 conversation aside). So, they put their relationship on a hiatus for the entire time Rove was under investigation. Right?
Rove received the sorta-all clear from Fitzgerald on June 13, 2006. But Novak and Rove did not resume their BFF relationship until three months later, in September.
On September 19, I received a telephone call from Karl Rove to volunteer some information about a column he heard I was about to write. That broke a three-year absence of substantive conversation between us that had been imposed by Rove's lawyers. I doubted that our intimacy ever could be restored, but his unsolicited call confirmed that the case was closed.
There are three reasons I can think of why Rove would wait three months before reaching out to his mouthpiece. First (and least probably), he only reached out when he had a story he needed to plant. While Rove could have been a source for any of the three articles Novak wrote in the week following their un-break-up (a column on Bolton's difficulties getting approved by the Senate, a general column on the election, a column on Republican defections regarding the Military Commissions Act), the election column is not detailed enough to require Rove's input and the MCA is not necessarily Rove's gig. Further, these aren't stories of greater magnitude than any other story since June.
Alternatively, Rove's lawyers may have held off on allowing him to speak to Novak until Armitage came forward on September 7. While many reports had made clear that Armitage wouldn't be charged before that point, perhaps they wanted to hold off until they were sure that Armitage would not be charged.
I'm most interested, though, in a third possibility--that Rove and Novak's un-break-up was tied not to Armitage coming forward as it was to Novak's responding to Armitage's public statements. Novak ties the two closely in his book. This is the paragraph that precedes the one where Novak describes his un-break-up with Rove.
I had to write one more column about the case, on September 14, because of Armitage's false accounts of his answer to me when I asked why the CIA sent Wilson to Niger: "I don't know, but I think his wife worked out there." I related what he really told me ("His wife works at CIA, and she suggested that he be sent to Niger." "His wife works at CIA?" I asked. "Yeah, in counterproliferation.") I concluded: "Armitage's silence for ... 2 1/2 years caused intense pain for his colleagues in government and enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source. ... Armitage's tardy self-disclosure is tainted because it is deceptive."
While the sequence of the paragraphs doesn't mean there's a connection, I do think it possible that Rove reached out to Novak not because Armitage came forward, but because Novak made a public refutation of Armitage's claims. Most specifically, Novak refuted Armitage's version of whether Armitage mentioned that Valerie Wilson worked at counterproliferation department.
The detail would be interesting because Novak's statements about who told him about CPD are one part of his story that has changed the most--a problem that continues to Novak's book itself. And the different versions of whether Armitage told Novak that Valerie worked in CPD (or even WMD) was one of the discrepancies that the FBI and Fitzgerald were still pursuing as late as Fall 2004. Add in Novak's vagueness about when he and Rove spoke about Valerie, and it's possible the CPD might serve as a marker that Rove spoke to Novak earlier than he and Novak say he did--and that Rove, not Armitage, was the source of Novak's blabbing about CPD with Wilson's friend. Furthermore, if anyone shared the CPD detail with Novak, it would mean that person should have known it was very likely that Valerie was covert.
Did Rove hold out on his BFF Novak until he was sure that Novak had protected him in his testimony?