December 14, 2005,
There have been rumors flying around Washington in the last few days that Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, might soon be indicted in the CIA leak investigation. At least for now, the rumors appear to be based on someone hearing that someone else had heard something, or that someone had gotten a sense that something was about to happen and told someone else. Are there any facts to back up such gossip and guessing? No one seems to know.
But it is true that there is growing nervousness among people who support Rove's side in the case. They know that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, in addition to presenting some new evidence to a new federal grand jury, has also re-presented previously-gathered evidence to that grand jury. To most observers, that suggests Fitzgerald could be planning to indict someone.
Rove's supporters also know that the time is about right for something to happen. Back in late October, when Fitzgerald indicted Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief-of-staff Lewis Libby, he refrained from taking action in Rove's case because of a new argument made by Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin. That new argument, everyone agreed, would take a while to check out and assess. Now, it seems likely that enough time has passed; Fitzgerald has either found Rove's and Luskin's case persuasive or he hasn't.
If Rove were to be indicted and for all anyone on the outside knows, there might be someone else in Fitzgerald's sights most people knowledgeable about the case believe charges would stem from the presidential adviser's testimony about his brief July 11, 2003, conversation with Time magazine's Matthew Cooper.
Rove has appeared before Fitzgerald's grand jury four times. Before that, he was interviewed once by FBI agents assigned to the investigation. The problem, if there is one, apparently involves the first two appearances the FBI interview and the first grand jury testimony. In both those instances, apparently, Rove did not tell investigators about his conversation with Cooper. By the time Rove appeared for a second time before the grand jury, he had discovered evidence an internal White House e-mail showing that he did indeed talk to Cooper. He gave the evidence to Fitzgerald, who then questioned him about it at length.
Rove is thought to have testified that he simply did not remember the Cooper conversation Cooper himself described the talk as being about two minutes long and occurring right as Rove was leaving on vacation until he discovered the e-mail. Supporting Rove's contention is the fact that Rove, apparently, testified from the very beginning that he talked to columnist Robert Novak, which suggests he was not trying to hide his involvement in the case from Fitzgerald.
As far as anyone outside the investigation knows, Fitzgerald does not have a problem with testimony from Rove's second, third, and fourth appearances before the grand jury. In addition, it appears that Rove, like Libby, would not be charged with violating any of the underlying laws in the case either the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act. So for now, the agonizing question for Rove's supporters is whether Fitzgerald believes Rove's earlier testimony involving Cooper constituted the crimes of making false statements (in the case of the FBI interview) or perjury (in the grand jury testimony).
Rove's supporters believe it would be a weak case, a good deal weaker than the perjury and obstruction case Fitzgerald has made against Libby, which itself was somewhat undermined when it turned out that there was at least one significant part of that story Libby's conversations with the Washington Post's Bob Woodward that Fitzgerald didn't know about at the time he indicted Libby. Still, it's possible Fitzgerald will forge ahead, in part because his much-publicized, two-year investigation has so far produced relatively meager results. After intense probing, and working with virtually unlimited power and discretion, the hard-charging prosecutor has succeeded in indicting one person, Libby, although not for an underlying offense, and disrupting or marring the careers of journalists Judith Miller, Cooper, Woodward, and, most recently, Time's Viveca Novak. Some Fitzgerald watchers find it difficult to believe that he will close up shop and go home with a record like that.
Byron York, NR's White House correspondent, is the author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time.