Rove’s lawyer knew client might be leak

During much of 2004, Karl Rove’s lawyer was on notice that his client, a senior aide to President Bush, might have disclosed Valerie Plame’s CIA status to a Time magazine reporter.

It wasn’t until Time’s Matt Cooper was under intense pressure from investigators to reveal his source that Rove, Bush’s top political adviser, corrected his grand jury testimony, telling Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald of the conversation he said he’d forgotten.

The timeline of the Rove camp’s early knowledge emerged Sunday in a first-person account by Time reporter Viveca Novak.

Novak said she passed along the information to Rove attorney Robert Luskin when he said, in effect, that “Karl doesn’t have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt,” Novak wrote. “I responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin me.”

Novak said she told Luskin “something like, ‘Are you sure about that? That’s not what I hear around Time.’ He looked surprised and very serious” and at the end of their discussion that day said, “Thank you. This is important.”

Novak said the conversation with Luskin occurred anywhere from January 2004 to May 2004; she thinks it was perhaps in March.

It was not until October 2004 _ sometime between five and nine months after Novak’s conversation with Luskin _ that Rove disclosed his conversation with Cooper to the prosecutor.

That disclosure followed Luskin’s discovery of a White House e-mail from July 11, 2003. The message, from Rove to then-deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley, referred to Rove’s conversation earlier that day with Cooper.

It is not known publicly what steps Luskin took after hearing the information from Novak. Nor is it publicly known whether Fitzgerald’s investigators had the e-mail all along and simply overlooked it or whether the White House had not given it to the prosecutor.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Rove’s legal team, said Rove has cooperated fully with prosecutors.

“The integrity of the investigation requires that we not discuss the substance of any communications with the special counsel,” Corallo said in a statement. “Out of respect for the investigative process, we have abided by that rule and will continue to withhold comment on our interactions with the special counsel.”

Six weeks ago, in a so-far successful effort to avert Rove’s indictment, defense attorney Luskin disclosed his conversation with Novak to prosecutor Fitzgerald. Rove remains under investigation.

Novak wrote that Luskin clearly thought that disclosing their discussion “was going to help Rove, perhaps by explaining why Rove hadn’t told Fitzgerald or the grand jury of his conversation with my colleague Matt Cooper.”

Fitzgerald questioned Novak under oath Thursday, the day after he began presenting evidence to a new grand jury considering evidence in the leak investigation.

The prosecutor is investigating the Bush administration’s leaking of Plame’s CIA status to the news media in 2003, as her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused officials of manipulating prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, is under indictment in Fitzgerald’s probe on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. He has denied the charges.


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