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Questions for Karl
From American Progress Action Fund
Over the weekend, McLaughlin Group panelist Lawrence O'Donnell revealed (and Newsweek confirmed) that one of the PlameGate sources being protected by Time reporter Matt Cooper is none other than President Bush's senior adviser, the Mayberry Machiavelli himself, Karl Rove. Of course, we have known for some time that Rove played a leading role in the coordinated smear campaign against former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame, the outed CIA operative. (Shortly after Plame's identity was revealed, MSNBC's Chris Matthews famously told Wilson: "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game.") Yet the new revelations, confirmed by Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin, are important. Not only do they provide first-hand confirmation of Rove's role in the Plame case (contradicting previous claims from the White House), but they represent what O'Donnell calls "the first hole in the Rove two-year wall of silence about the case." Below, a few questions for Mr. Rove.
WHY WON'T YOU JUST COME CLEAN?: On Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called on Karl Rove to publicly disclose the full details of his involvement in the Plame case. "I think the American people would feel a whole lot better if Karl Rove himself got up and made a statement that he did not leak the information, nor did he order anybody else to leak the information,'' Schumer said on ABC's This Week. "That would totally clear his name." Schumer is correct. A simple, clear statement by Rove would do much to end speculation about his role in any potential wrongdoing. Yet Rove is refusing to answer questions about the case, and, more suspiciously, his attorney is justifying his silence with the specious claim that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has "asked us not to talk about what Karl has had to say." As Lawrence O'Donnell points out, "Prosecutors have absolutely no control over what witnesses say when they leave the grand jury room. Rove can tell us word-for-word what he said to the grand jury and would if he thought it would help him." The only thing that prevents him from doing so, O'Donnell adds, is "a good lawyer who is trying to keep him out of jail."
WHEN DID YOU FIRST SPEAK TO JOURNALISTS ABOUT PLAME?: Though Rove's involvement in the smear campaign against Wilson and Plame is well known, the timeline is still uncertain. The new statements from Rove's lawyer only further muddy the picture. In October 2003, Rove reportedly admitted to the grand jury "that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding [Plame] with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists," part of an "aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife." According to investigative journalist Murray Waas, Rove told the grand jury that "he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in [Robert] Novak's column." But according to Rove's attorney Robert Luskin, "Rove spoke to Cooper three or four days before Novak's column appeared." What, then, did Rove share with Cooper?
WHAT EXPLAINS THE SUSPICIOUS WORDING OF YOUR LAWYER'S STATEMENT?: In interviews with Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, Robert Luskin repeated two points: that 1) Rove "never knowingly disclosed classified information" and 2) that "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." The wording of this explanation itself raises questions. If point #2 is the whole truth, and Rove never did tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, Luskin would have no need to state point #1, that Rove had not "knowingly disclosed classified information." So why have Luskin's statements -- which were crafted with the utmost sensitivity, one can be sure -- worded the way that they are?
WHO FAILED TO TELL THE TRUTH -- YOU OR SCOTTIE?: Rove's acknowledgement of his role in spreading information about Wilson and Plame seems to clearly contradict a claim in October 2003 by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who said that "those individuals [Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams, and Lewis Libby] assured me they were not involved with this." So, did Karl Rove and his White House colleagues knowingly deceive Scott McClellan, or did Scott McClellan knowingly deceive the American people?