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Fourth Time Is a Charm
It all started three years ago today. On October 7, 2002, President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati "in which he made the case for war." According to Condoleezza Rice, "a line had been there about the uranium issue and Saddam Hussein seeking uranium in Africa. And Director Tenet had called Steve Hadley and he told him... I don't think you should put that in the president's speech." The reference was removed from his speech that day, but famously reappeared in a 16-word sentence three months later during the President's State of the Union address. (Bush: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.") On July 6, 2003, former ambassador Joe Wilson wrote a column indicating that the Bush administration knew the claim was bogus in advance of the speech. The following day, the administration was forced to publicly acknowledge the President was wrong. The incident set into motion an aggressive effort at the White House to "slime" Wilson that culminated in a Robert Novak column which outed his wife, undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame. A criminal investigation followed involving numerous administration officials, and it is expected to conclude this month. Yesterday, we learned that Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove -- who is "now genuinely concerned he could face [criminal] charges" -- is scheduled to make his fourth appearance before the grand jury to answer questions about his involvement in the smear campaign.
THE LETTER OF THE LAW: The Washington Post reported on 7/3/05 that "[Rove's attorney] Robert Luskin said, Fitzgerald assured him in October and again last week that Rove is not a target of his investigation." Yesterday, Luskin unveiled a new talking point: "I can say categorically that Karl has not received a target letter from the special counsel." Luskin is trying to leave the impression that Rove still isn't a target. But the USDOJ Attorney's Manual does not require a target to be notified with a letter. Criminal attorney Jeralyn Merritt explains:"In a nutshell, Fitzgerald may be planning on indicting Karl Rove; he doesn't have to tell Luskin; if he chooses to tell Luskin, he doesn't have to do it by letter." Luskin's word parsing suggests that Rove is indeed a target.
LUSKIN RUNNING OUT OF TALKING POINTS: Luskin also stressed that Fitzgerald has "made no decision on whether to charge Karl." But Luskin is just stating the obvious. The decision to charge someone comes in the form of an indictment. No indictments have been issued, yet.
LUSKIN SAID ROVE HAD ALREADY SHARED EVERYTHING RELEVANT: Previously, Luskin had claimed Rove didn't have anything left to say to the grand jury. Yet Luskin told the Los Angeles Times on 7/16/05: "[Rove] has shared with the special prosecutor everything he knows that is relevant to the investigation." That statement no longer appears to be operative.
HIGH RISK MOVE FOR ROVE: Rove's reappearance "is a risky legal move because it opens him up to making statements that are inconsistent." Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, said bringing Rove back for a fourth time "suggests Fitzgerald has learned new information that is tightening the noose." Rove's last ditch effort may be motivated by something other than legal strategy. The LA Times notes, "The case is troublesome for the White House not only because of the possibility of indictments against top officials, but because it raises questions about the rationale the administration used in going to war with Iraq, and about the tactics it uses against political enemies."
WHAT IS MIERS' ROLE?: The leak investigation is wrapping up"at a time when the White House counsel, Harriet E. Miers, who would normally coordinate the legal response to the indictment of a White House official, is preoccupied with her nomination to the Supreme Court." Questions: Is Miers still functioning as White House counsel? What was her involvement in the leak case in the past? How would her involvement affect her ability to rule on cases that result from a potential criminal prosecution?