Did Karl Rove fib to Charlie Rose?
Is the Bush administration preventing Congress from further investigating Rove's role in the Valerie Plame leak case and doing the same regarding the White House?
The answers: Yes, and it seems so.
Let's start with the first question. On November 21, Charlie Rose conducted an interview with Rove during which Rove claimed disingenuously that congressional Democrats in 2002, not the Bush White House, pushed for a pre-election vote on a resolution authorizing George W. Bush to attack Iraq. This comment kicked up a controversy. But in one portion of the Rose interview cut out of the TV-edit that appeared, Rove tossed out another whopper. This excerpt was posted by the Charlie Rose show on YouTube, and it covers questions Rose posed to Rove regarding former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's recent hullabaloo-causing statement about a key episode in the CIA leak case. If you just awoke from a coma, McClellan said,
I...publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. There was one problem. It was not true. I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration "were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself.
Rove claimed to Rose that McClellan had emailed him a few notes maintaining that these few sentences had been misinterpreted. Rove added that he would not have anything else to say on this until a "more full disclosure" appears in McClellan's book, which is scheduled to be published next spring. But Rove went on to insist that he had not misled McClellan, and he claimed total innocence:
I did not knowingly disclose the identity or name of a CIA agent.
Wait a minute. Let's look at an email (first disclosed by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek) that Matt Cooper, then a Time correspondent, sent to his editors on July 11, 2003--three days before the name and CIA employment of Valerie Plame Wilson was first disclosed in a column by Robert Novak.
In this note, Cooper wrote:
Spoke to Rove [this morning] on double super secret background for about two mins before he went on vacation...his big warning...don't get too far out on [Joe] Wilson...says that the DCIA [Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet] didn't authorize the [Wilson] trip [to Niger to check out the allegation Saddam Hussein had shopped for uranium there] and that Cheney didn't authorize the trip. It was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues, who authorized the trip.
Given that neither Cooper nor the American public knew at this time that former Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA--where she was operations chief for a classified unit searching for intelligence on Iraq's WMDs--Rove was indeed disclosing to a reporter that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. Perhaps he did not know precisely what her position was at the CIA. But he was outing her to Cooper as a CIA employee. It just so happened that Cooper ended up being scooped by Novak.
But don't forget this: though Novak first learned of Valerie Wilson's CIA employment from Richard Armitage, then the No. 2 at the State Department, Novak confirmed this tantalizing piece of information with--who else but?--Rove. So Rove did help Novak reveal Valerie Wilson's CIA identity.
It was wrong for McClellan to have declared publicly that Rove was not involved in the leak, and now, five years later, Rove has misled Rose on the same point.
On to the question of the White House's continuing effort to spin this scandal. Today, Representative Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House oversight committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, complaining that the Bush White House has blocked his committee from receiving information regarding the White House and the CIA leak case. Waxman writes:
The Special Counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, has been cooperating with the Committee's investigation [of the leak case]. Over the summer, Mr. Fitzgerald agreed to provide relevant documents to the Committee, including records of interviews with senior White House officials. Unfortunately, the White House has been blocking Mr. Fitzgerald from providing key documents to the Committee.
I hope you will not accede to the White House objections. During the Clinton Administration, your predecessor, Janet Reno, made an independent judgment and provided numerous FBI interview reports to the Committee, including reports of interviews with President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and three White House Chiefs of Staff....
I have been careful in my dealings with Special Counsel Fitzgerald to narrow the Committee's request to documents that would not infringe on his prosecutorial independence or intrude upon grand jury secrecy....Mr. Fitzgerald's staff agreed that the Committee's request was appropriate and has already produced a number of the requested documents relating to CIA and State Department officials and other individuals. To date, however, Mr. Fitzgerald has been frustrated in his attempts to transmit documents relating to White House officials to the Committee.
The arrangment Waxman worked out with Fitzgerald covered transcripts and notes related to interviews Fitzgerald and his investigators conducted outside the grand jury room with Bush, Cheney, Rove, McClellan, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, former White House chief of staff Andy Card, and former presidential counselor Dan Bartlett. Yet the White House is preventing Fitzgerald from handing over this material to Waxman. It's more stonewalling from a White House that, even McClellan now acknowledges, put out a false story about the leak case--and is still trying to stick with it.