Give the Man a Beer
Tim Grieve in Salon, who always writes with superb accuracy about the Plame matter:
Karl Rove seems to be done testifying before the grand jury — at least for today — and his lawyer is throwing some cold water on the indictment watch. In a statement distributed to the press, Robert Luskin says that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has advised Rove that he is "not a target" of his investigation.
"Target" is a term of legal significance here. The U.S. Attorneys’ Manual defines a "target" as someone "to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant." If Rove isn’t a "target," what is he? Scooter Libby’s lawyers have said that Rove is a "subject," and Luskin has all but confirmed as much in the past. A "subject," the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual says, is a person "whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation."
So what was this subject doing before the grand jury today? Luskin says his client returned to the grand jury to "explore a matter raised since Mr. Rove’s last appearance in October 2005." That would suggest that Rove testified today about news that broke at the end of last year: the revelation that a Bush administration official leaked Valerie Plame’s identity to Bob Woodward in June 2003 or the word that Time’s Viveca Novak tipped off Luskin in early 2004 to the fact that Rove had leaked Plame’s identity to Matthew Cooper.
But before reading too much into Luskin’s statement, let us say this about that. We know a little bit about federal grand juries, and we’ve never heard of anyone — particularly anyone in legal jeopardy — going before a grand jury to "explore" anything. People testify before grand juries because they have to or because they think doing so will get them out of whatever jam they’re in. Which description describes Rove? Luskin’s statement was pretty circumspect; he said that his client testified "voluntarily" and "unconditionally" today, but he also said that he did so at Fitzgerald’s request. Our translation: Rove and Luskin, eager to show Fitzgerald and the world that they’re "cooperating," didn’t insist that the prosecutor serve them with a subpoena in order to compel Rove’s appearance.
Fitzgerald has told Rove’s legal team recently that he has not made any decision on whether to charge the presidential aide and Rove hasn’t received a target notification that would indicate he is likely to be indicted, said people familiar with the case, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy.
His grand jury appearance comes a week after Rove, the architect of Bush’s election victories, gave up his policy duties at the White House as part of an administration remake to return to a full-time focus on politics.
Wednesday’s session is believed to be only the second time Fitzgerald has met with the grand jury examining questions left unanswered in the Plame affair. The only other day Fitzgerald was seen going before the new panel was Dec. 7.
I see no reason to revise my earlier estimation of the situation — David Schuster had reported that defense attorneys said there was activity on the Grand Jury front now that Fitzgerald has the Ryan case behind him. Rove resigned the position he would have lost if his security clearance was revoked as a preventive measure — he’s got no idea what Fitzgerald is going to do, either.
Fitzgerald will proceed as he sees fit. Which will ultimately factor in many things that neither we nor Karl Rove nor all his merry spinners know anything about.