Big three page piece in the NY Times about a previously undisclosed phone conversation between Rove and Novak:
Karl Rove, the White House senior adviser, spoke with the columnist Robert D. Novak as he was preparing an article in July 2003 that identified a C.I.A. officer who was undercover, someone who has been officially briefed on the matter said.
Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist the name of the C.I.A. officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq, the person said.
After hearing Mr. Novak’s account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist: “I heard that, too.”
The previously undisclosed telephone conversation, which took place on July 8, 2003, was initiated by Mr. Novak, the person who has been briefed on the matter said.
Six days later, Mr. Novak’s syndicated column reported that two senior administration officials had told him that Mr. Wilson’s “wife had suggested sending him” to Africa. That column was the first instance in which Ms. Wilson was publicly identified as a C.I.A. operative.
The column provoked angry demands for an investigation into who disclosed Ms. Wilson’s name to Mr. Novak. The Justice Department appointed Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a top federal prosecutor in Chicago, to lead the inquiry. Mr. Rove said in an interview with CNN last year that he did not know the C.I.A. officer’s name and did not leak it.
The person who provided the information about Mr. Rove’s conversation with Mr. Novak declined to be identified, citing requests by Mr. Fitzgerald that no one discuss the case. The person discussed the matter in the belief that Mr. Rove was truthful in saying that he had not disclosed Ms. Wilson’s identity.
On Oct. 1, 2003, Mr. Novak wrote another column in which he described calling two officials who were his sources for the earlier column. The first source, whose identity has not been revealed, provided the outlines of the story and was described by Mr. Novak as “no partisan gunslinger.” Mr. Novak wrote that when he called a second official for confirmation, the source said, “Oh, you know about it.”
That second source was Mr. Rove, the person briefed on the matter said. Mr. Rove’s account to investigators about what he told Mr. Novak was similar in its message although the White House adviser’s recollection of the exact words was slightly different. Asked by investigators how he knew enough to leave Mr. Novak with the impression that his information was accurate, Mr. Rove said he had heard parts of the story from other journalists but had not heard Ms. Wilson’s name.
Maybe it is just me, but I felt this was an extraordinarily confusing write-up, and it makes it difficult to understand how many people are involved here. By my reading, the following are involved:
3.) The ‘no partisan gunslinger’
4.) The person ‘briefed on the matter’
Now, some questions and observations:
– Is this just a case of Rove pointing to Novak and Novak pointing back? That could explain why Rove has been called three times to the Grand Jury, as Fitzgerald is probably getting pissed. This would also validate Victoria Toensing’s speculation yesterday that this was “a ‘Martha Stewart case’ ” involving perjury or obstruction of justice.”
– Who is the other unnamed source?
– This conversation was on 8 July, pushing the time line forward to only two days after the Wilson op-ed before the campaign to discredit him/refute him really began in earnest.
And finally, since cynical and skeptical neutrality is probably a decent way to go through life but no way to run a blog, let me make a guess about who the ‘no partisan gunslinger’ source might be- I nominate Colin Powell.
Why? Well, we know all the following- Colin Powell is no partisan gunslinger, at least as viewed by most in the media, and certainly Novak would characterize Powell as something less than fiercely partisan.
– We know that Colin Powell had access to the CIA reports that had Plame’s name involved (the same ones lefties are using to claim that Cheney told Rove and Cheney is the source of the leak).
– Powell, if anyone, would have motive to squelch what he believed were false or vastly overstated statements coming from Wilson regarding WMD, considering Powell’s access and presentation to the UN is what solidified the WMD argument.
– Powell would have access to Plame’s transition to the State department.
– Powell was/is a notoriously tough behind the scenes fighter.
– Powell has also been before the grand jury at the request of Fitzgerald.
– Powell and Novak have been operators for years, traveling in similar circles for a long time. Novak has profiled Powell several times.
So there you go- here is my tin-foil hat wingnuttery for the day. Powell, off the record, relays his disgust about Wilson to Novak in the immediate aftermath of the Wilson op-ed, and sketches the background of what really happened regarding Wilson’s trip to Niger. Powell has also been part of working groups within the White House, where Plame’s status may have been discussed, but not her name (Joseph Wilson’s wife works for the CIA, etc.) Rove would not view Powell as a source, as he would view him as one of the insiders planning strategy to refute/discredit Wilson. Novak does some digging, finds out Plame’s name and calls back to Rove and blurts out her name. Rove confirms. Rove then feels free to shop the information to other reporters, as the name is out there and it isn’t classified info, because ‘everyone knows Jo Wilson’s wife works for the CIA.’ Rove also feels free to respond to reporters such as Cooper, and ward them off the story because he believes it is nonsense and Plame’s name is already out there.
How is that for crazed, unfounded speculation? So much for skeptical neutrality. If anything, this should point out how baseless all this speculation is- we don’t know anything, and should just wait for the Fitzgerald investigation to end.