The NY Times has a good news / bad news story about the case against Karl Rove.
(a) Fitzgerald is no longer looking at some of the more dramatic charges, such as conspiracy or lying to the President;
From the Times:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 - The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case has narrowed his investigation of Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, to whether he tried to conceal from the grand jury a conversation with a Time magazine reporter in the week before an intelligence officer's identity was made public more than two years ago, lawyers in the case said Thursday.
The special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has centered on what are believed to be his final inquiries in the matter as to whether Mr. Rove was fully forthcoming about the belated discovery of an internal e-mail message that confirmed his conversation with the Time reporter, Matthew Cooper, to whom Mr. Rove had mentioned the C.I.A. officer.
At the heart of the remaining investigation into Mr. Rove are the circumstances surrounding a July 11, 2003, telephone conversation between Mr. Rove and Mr. Cooper, who turned the interview to questions about a 2002 trip to Africa by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, who was sent by the C.I.A. to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to be buy uranium ore from Niger.
In his testimony to the grand jury in February 2004, Mr. Rove did not disclose the conversation with Mr. Cooper, saying later that he did not recall it among the hundreds of calls he received on a daily basis. But there was a record of the call. Mr. Rove had sent an e-mail message to Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, which confirmed the conversation.
No news yet, but here we go:
One lawyer with a client in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald could be skeptical of Mr. Rove's account because the message was not discovered until the fall of 2004. It was at about the same time that Mr. Fitzgerald had begun to compel reporters to cooperate with his inquiry, among them Mr. Cooper. Associates of Mr. Rove said the e-mail message was not incriminating and was turned over immediately after it was found at the White House. They said Mr. Rove never intended to withhold details of a conversation with a reporter from Mr. Fitzgerald, noting that Mr. Rove had signed a waiver to allow reporters to reveal to prosecutors their discussions with confidential sources. In addition, they said, Mr. Rove testified fully about his conversation with Mr. Cooper - long before Mr. Cooper did - acknowledging that it was possible that the subject of Mr. Wilson's trip had come up.
It is now known that Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury have questioned Mr. Rove about two conversations with reporters. The first, which he admitted to investigators from the outset, took place on July 9, 2003, in a telephone call initiated by Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist.
In February 2004, when Mr. Rove testified about his conversations with reporters, he recalled the Novak conversation, but no other interviews with reporters - an omission that Mr. Fitzgerald has investigated as a possible false statement or perjury. Mr. Rove said he had forgotten the discussion with Mr. Cooper, the lawyers said.
Mr. Fitzgerald did not learn of the Cooper conversation until months later when a search of Mr. Rove's e-mails uncovered the e-mail that he had sent to Mr. Hadley. "Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he's got a welfare reform story coming," Mr. Rove wrote in the message to Mr. Hadley that was first disclosed in July by the Associated Press.
"When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger," Mr. Rove wrote. "Isn't this damaging? Hasn't president been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn't get Time far out on this."
It is not publicly known why Mr. Rove's e-mail message to Mr. Hadley was not turned over earlier, but a lawyer in the case said that White House documents were collected in response to several separate requests that may not have covered certain time periods or all relevant officials. Mr. Rove had no role in the search for documents, which was carried out by an administrative office in the White House.
Mr. Rove corrected his testimony in a grand jury appearance on Oct. 14, 2004, after which Mr. Luskin said Mr. Rove had answered all questions truthfully.
Well. "Mr. Rove had no role in the search for documents, which was carried out by an administrative office in the White House" suggests that either this is a far-reaching cover-up, or a plausible screw-up.
Now, timing is everything - under the perjury statute, a person can correct their testimony during the term of the grand jury, as long as they were not in imminent danger of discovery. So, did Karl Rove come in under his own power, or was the jig nearly up?
As to timing: Per TIME (and Cooper's original account), Matt Cooper was subpoenaed in May 2004. One would think, since DoJ guidelines require subpoenas to reporters to be quite narrow, that this subpoena related to Lewis Libby. In any case, Cooper gave a deposition on Aug 23, 2004, and a week later, got a new subpoena related to a second official, now known to be Karl Rove.
So, if Fitzgerald knew enough to subpoena Cooper's evidence about a conversation with Rove in late August, what do we take from this Times report that "the [email] message was not discovered until the fall of 2004"?
This certainly suggests that Fitzgerald had independent evidence of the conversation between Cooper and Rove. But from whom? Might Hadley, as recipient of the email, have found it to be memorable? But if Hadley remembered, why did the author of the email forget? Was Rove really that much busier than Hadley?
Also troubling is this unconvincing speculation as to the delay:
...a lawyer in the case said that White House documents were collected in response to several separate requests that may not have covered certain time periods or all relevant officials.
In Rove's favor - he disclosed his brief talk with Novak immediately. Presumably, his lawyers argued that, since media titans such as Russert and Novak cooperated, it was not plausible to think that Rove expected Cooper to hold out and protect him - does Matt Cooper really look like the "go to jail" type?
And presumably, Fitzgerald did not uncover compelling evidence that contradicted the "I forgot" theory. But if that email was discovered *after* Fitzgerald knew about Cooper, I can see where Fitzgerald might have been suspicious, especially when coupled with Libby's memory challenges.
Also, the Times is quite specific that Rove did not mention the Cooper conversation when he testified in Feb 2004. However, per TIME we see that Rove's third grand jury appearance was October 15 2004. However, this AP story said the following:
Cooper's contact with Rove did not come up in Rove's first interview or grand jury appearance, but he volunteered the information and provided the email during a second grand jury appearance.
The date of his second appearance continues to elude me, but its significance has gone up a bit. And yes, this contradicts the Times report that he corrected his testimony in an October 14/15 appearance. Maybe the AP was being spun a bit? On the other hand, since the Times is confused about dates, they have confused me.
MORE: I am close to giving up on the anniversary issue - from the Times archive, we find this:
By DAVID JOHNSTON (NYT) 898 words
Published: October 16, 2004
President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, testified on Friday to a federal grand jury investigating whether it was anyone at the White House who had illegally disclosed the name of a C.I.A. undercover officer to a newspaper columnist, a lawyer for Mr. Rove said.
''He answered fully and truthfully every one of their questions,'' the lawyer, Robert Luskin, said.
The Luskin paraphrase in the current story - "Mr. Luskin said Mr. Rove had answered all questions truthfully" - might have been torn from the archives.
Well, I still want a correction.
UPDATE: A very good job by the Anon Lib, who provides complementary evidence that the Cooper-Rove chat was revealed pretty late in the process - apparently, Fitzgerald was surprised to learn, during Matt Cooper's August 2004 deposition about his talk with Libby, that Cooper had another source.
Left unanswered - didn't the second subpoena to Cooper name an official, and how did Fitzgerald get a name within a week? The apparent answer, after checking the court briefs at Fitzgerald's website - Cooper's second subpoena did not name an official.
An alternative theory is that this story is self-serving spin served up by Rove's team. Self-serving? Well, yes, because of the good news / bad news elements mentioned at the top. Armed with this new story, Rove's defenders can go forth and respond to critics with the news that Karl just had a little memory glitch. That will distract us from contemplating more ghastly scenarios (mine is sketched out in this comment).
FILED UNDER: "Where Are We Headed?": Special Counsel Fitzgerald's DoJ website has supplanted the Ella Fitzgerald website at the top of the Google rankings.
This too shall pass (As Karl himself said a few weeks back). Check again in five years.