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Federal Prosecutors Decide Not to Indict Karl Rove in CIA Leak Case

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

the administration's mindset, we see that Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby and Karl Rove and others, were very concerned with undermining Joe Wilson because, you know, while a lot of the other indications that they had misled or had exaggerated the intelligence before the war were coming out in anonymous leaks from the C.I.A. Joe Wilson was very public, getting a lot of attention and was -- had really become the point of the spear in the attack on the administration.

Federal prosecutors have decided not to charge President Bush’s top advisor Karl Rove with any crimes in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has made no official statement but Rove’s attorney said early this morning that Fitzgerald announced the decision in a letter to him on Monday. [includes rush transcript]


Rove had been at the center of the investigation for over two years and had been forced to testify on five occasions to a federal grand jury on his role in the outing of Plame, who was the wife of Iraq war critic Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

To date only one person in the Bush administration has been indicted in the leak case – Lewis Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

  • David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation magazine. He runs a blog at He is writing a book about the selling of the Iraq war and the CIA leak case.

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, David.

DAVID CORN: Good to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, can you talk about this latest news?

DAVID CORN: The latest news is that Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, released a statement very early this morning saying that yesterday he had received a letter from special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald saying that Fitzgerald did not expect to bring any charges against Karl Rove. Presuming that Luskin is not completely fabricating something, which would be a disbarring event, it seems clear then that Fitzgerald has, indeed, cut Rove loose.

He's been spending a good part of the last year and a half trying to determine whether Karl Rove had misled his Grand Jury and F.B.I. agents when he said he didn't remember a particular conversation he had with Matt Cooper of Time magazine in which he told Matt Cooper that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and had something to do with sending him on that famous trip to Niger. Fitzgerald was very skeptical about Rove's explanation for his memory lapse there and the fact that Rove did not acknowledge the conversation until an e-mail mentioning it turned up, that is, once there was physical proof, physical evidence that he had had this conversation.

But after trying, you know, I think, for a year and a half, to see whether he could make a case against Karl Rove on what would have been a perjury, obstruction of justice charge or something along those lines, Fitzgerald has concluded -- and I think we can assume, that it's a good faith conclusion on his part that he didn't have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Karl Rove had purposefully misled his Grand Jury.

AMY GOODMAN: David Corn is Washington editor of the Nation magazine. David, today in a piece in the New York Times, “Rove Won't be Charged in CIA Leak Case,” it says, “A series of meetings between Mr. Luskin and Mr. Fitzgerald and his team proved pivotal in dissuading the prosecutor from bringing charges. On one occasion, Mr. Luskin himself became a witness in the case, giving sworn testimony that was beneficial to Mr. Rove.” Can you comment on this?

DAVID CORN: Yeah, it's fairly convoluted. People might remember the story of Viveca Novak, no relation to Robert Novak, a Time magazine reporter who got dragged into this because Luskin told Fitzgerald that he had conversations with her in which she had hinted that she knew, being at Time -- or that other people knew at Time as well, that Karl Rove had been Matt Cooper's source for the leak about Valerie Wilson.

Luskin claimed that that was news to him, meaning that it was also news to his client, indicating that his client had indeed forgotten about it and that it was because of that conversation that he went and did this search for the e-mails, and that's what triggered Rove's recollection, even though the e-mail was produced before his first grand jury appearance, but he didn't see it until afterwards. I mean, it's very convoluted. That's how Luskin got dragged in here.

Now, we can go through all of these points. But it's important to remember a few things: In Washington, not everything that is legal -- not everything that is legal or that's not illegal is right, or correct, or proper. The Bush White House first response to the leak was: Anyone involved in this would not work in this administration. And then, you know, when Karl Rove's name came out, they said Karl Rove was not involved.

So you have two sort of two false, disingenuous statements here. Karl Rove, beyond a reasonable doubt, was involved. His lawyer has admitted that he spoke to Matt Cooper and Bob Novak about the leak. We have Matt Cooper's e-mail indicating what Rove told him about Valerie Wilson's job at the CIA, which was -- again this is now undeniable -- I know conservatives like to debate the point, but it was undeniable that Valerie Wilson had a classified, undercover position at the CIA. He blew her cover to Matt Cooper and confirmed that to Bob Novak as Bob Novak's second source. So he was involved. He did -- he and the White House did lie about it. So those things should be wrong in and of themselves whether or not Patrick Fitzgerald can make a case, a legal case on a perjury or obstruction of justice charge.

AMY GOODMAN: David Corn, you're writing a book about the selling of the Iraq war and the CIA leak case. Can you link the two and also talk about what this means for those who dissent, like Ambassador Joseph Wilson?

DAVID CORN: Well, on the first point -- it's important to remember that the whole reason the leak happened was because in July -- early July, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, former ambassador, wrote an op-ed piece basically outing himself and saying that he had been -- and this ambassador, went to Niger and came back with information that he believed undermined, you know, not -- maybe not the pivotal, but a key part of the administration case for war. That is, the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa, meaning they were developing nuclear weapons.

At the time the piece came out, this was a few months after the invasion of Iraq. It was a time when people were starting to say, 'Where are those weapons of mass destruction?' Nothing had been found, nothing even close, and it seemed like Bush's primary rationale for the war was totally falling apart. Joe Wilson was really addressing only one sliver of that case. But to the administration's mindset, we see that Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby and Karl Rove and others, were very concerned with undermining Joe Wilson because, you know, while a lot of the other indications that they had misled or had exaggerated the intelligence before the war were coming out in anonymous leaks from the C.I.A. Joe Wilson was very public, getting a lot of attention and was -- had really become the point of the spear in the attack on the administration.

Thus, they had a tremendous motivation to discredit him and tamp down however they could, this burgeoning controversy of the WMD, and part of the way of discrediting him was to make it seem as if his trip had been a nepotistic junket set up by his wife, which was not true, but in the course of doing that, they end up blowing his wife's cover. So, you know, if you want to draw a larger point about dissent here, I know people have said that this was purposely done to, you know, sort of punish Joe Wilson. I think it was quite -- It was a little bit different. I don't think they sat around and said, 'How can we hurt this guy?' I think they went into complete, you know, damage control, throw whatever you can against the enemy mode. And that meant trying to spin the trip to something that wasn't, and in the course of doing so, they ended up destroying Valerie Wilson's career, exposing her, and we still don't quite know, perhaps exposing or hurting national security operations that were related to thwarting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

AMY GOODMAN: David Corn, Craig Unger in Vanity Fair reports that the Italian secret service likely concocted the Saddam-Niger forgery to bolster Bush's case for war, and the article raises questions about the involvement of a prominent White House-connected neocon, Michael Ledeen, in a black ops operation.

DAVID CORN: You know, I'm going to disappoint you a little bit here. I read that piece. I didn't find it absolutely compelling. The problem with trying to spin a conspiracy -- I don't mean that in a negative sense -- but talking about a plot surrounding the Niger documents, or that they are so badly and amateurishly forged that it took literally the IAEA investigator in charge of Iraq 15 minutes to prove that they were forged. It gets me thinking that any intelligence agency that wanted to sort of do this right would have done a better job. And so if you want to -- claim that these -- that there's a diabolical cabal out there trying to set the path to war, then you have to argue that they're also not very bright in how they were doing this and that they had to know that either the forgeries were so lousy, so lousy that somehow it would fool the CIA, while actually when they came in, State Department analysts looked at it and immediately concluded they were bad.

So that's Craig's piece -- and I, you know, I respect his work -- doesn't take that into account so I don't find it, right now, compelling. I mean, the key thing is -- even you know, the Niger charge was used by the White House, but they were using the aluminum tubes, they were using the trailers. You know, they had a whole Chinese menu of charges which now -- I mean, it's kind of stunning if you just take a step back and think about it -- everything they said was wrong. Everything that Colin Powell -- not like just most of it, but everything he said about weapons of mass destruction at the U.N. In February of 2003 was absolutely wrong. Charles Duelfer's final report said that Iraq had no nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons program after either 1991 to 1996. Nothing, so there was no need even for yellow cake, so all the debate about that is moot and pointless.

So, I don't think we need to go looking for black ops and other parts. What -- how Dick Cheney and George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice and Colin Powell, how they mischaracterized and pushed the intelligence to suit their policy ends, which has been written about now by people within the CIA, to me that's enough of a controversy to keep all of us happy or outraged.

AMY GOODMAN: David Corn -- I wanted to end where a lot of this began. In that year of 2003, this was August, and this was Ambassador Joseph Wilson. That famous comment he made at a speech, I believe it was in Washington State.

    JOSEPH WILSON: At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.

AMY GOODMAN: Your final comment, David Corn?

DAVID CORN: Well, it seems like that's not going happen because this White House doesn't keep its word. As I noted earlier, the White House said that anyone involve in this would no longer work in this administration. Well, that's what Scott McClellan said when it first broke, and Bush reinforced that sentiment. They said, "This is not the way the White House works." Well, it turns out, they're wrong. Karl Rove did leak this information. It was how the White House worked, and after all of this time, they've put off, you know, the final reckoning. They got past the re-election campaign without this turning into a big issue because they didn't fully cooperate with the investigation and they didn't come forward and tell the public what was true, and, you know -- so it's a little bit too late in the day, I think, for it to -- for this leak to do any real harm to the White House. But it does show once again that they -- that you can't take them at their word when they claim to be above board.

AMY GOODMAN: David Corn, I want to thank you for being with us, Washington editor of the Nation magazine, runs a blog at

DAVID CORN: My pleasure, Amy

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.

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