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Murray Waas Says VandeHei Can Take a Victory Lap


Murray Waas has a new article up at the National Journal that appears to clear much of the murkiness up about what Rove testified to in his fifth appearance before the grand jury.  It seems that in the Shuster/VandeHei Steel Cage Death Match, VandeHei might be the winner.  But I for one am having an awfully difficult time putting together a chronology of events based on this account, and if this is all Rover’s got, it’s looking like Orange Jumpsuit Time.

It also looks like it’s going to turn into Rove versus Cooper:

In several hours of testimony, Rove was again asked how he learned three years ago that Plame worked for the CIA, and the circumstances of how he relayed that information to Cooper, according to people familiar with his testimony.

Rove also testified to the grand jury that when he told Cooper that Plame worked at the agency, he was only passing along unverified gossip.

In contrast, Cooper has testified that Rove told him in a phone conversation on July 11, 2003, that Plame worked for the CIA and played a role in having the agency select her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, to make a fact-finding trip to Niger in 2002.

Cooper has also testified that Rove, as well as a second source — I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney — portrayed the information about Plame as accurate and authoritative. Cooper has testified that based on his conversations with Rove and Libby, he felt confident enough about the information to identify Plame as a CIA officer in a July 17 Time story.

As I mentioned last night, it appears that Libby initially testified that he was the first one to tell Cooper about Plame (when in fact Rove spoke with Cooper on July 11, 2003 then Libby confirmed on July 12) and it’s quite possible Libby was covering for Rove in some sort of coordinated story.

Rove and his attorney, Robert Luskin, have also argued that it would have been foolhardy for Rove to lie, knowing that Cooper might someday testify against him, and that other evidence might surface showing that the two had talked about Plame.

Rove’s initial lies to the FBI came in October 2003 when John Ashcroft was still in charge of the case as Attorney General, receiving daily briefings.  Ashcroft had previously hired Rove to work on his campaigns and had paid him the sum of $746,000.  Cooper was not subpoenaed until January of 2004 when Fitzgerald was appointed as Special Counsel by James Comey after Ashcroft recused himself.  This makes no sense. [Note:  As Anonymous Liberal points out in the comments, the White House was subpoenaed about all contact with Cooper in January of 2004; Cooper himself was not subpoenaed until May 21, 2004 — JH.]

Fordham University law school professor Dan Richman, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, said that Fitzgerald’s decision to summon Rove before the grand jury repeatedly "reflects the importance that prosecutors-and ultimately juries-place on motive in [potential] perjury or obstruction cases."

Such cases are typically difficult to bring, Richman said, because "in many instances you almost have to literally take the jury inside a defendant’s head… to demonstrate their intent."

I can see Fitzgerald wanting to give the grand jury a look at Rove.  As Christy said this morning, it would probably become quickly apparent what an inveterate ratfucker he is.

Then we come to the meat of the matter:

More recently, Luskin provided evidence to prosecutors about his own contacts with another Time reporter, Viveca Novak, in an attempt to show that Rove has testified as honestly as he could to the federal grand jury.

Luskin told prosecutors that Novak told him prior to Rove’s first grand jury appearance that she had heard from colleagues at Time that Rove was one of the sources for Cooper’s story about Plame. Luskin in turn said that he told Rove about this, but Rove still did not disclose to the grand jury that he had ever spoken to Cooper about Plame.

On Wednesday, Rove reportedly testified to the federal grand jury that earlier he had no reason to hide that he had spoken to Cooper, if indeed he recalled the conversation, because he already knew from Luskin that Novak and others at Time were saying they had been told that Rove had been a source for Cooper. Another reason, Rove said, is that he knew Cooper might himself one day testify in the case.  (my emphasis)

This makes even less sense.  As Paul Lukasiak noted the other day, if Rove was getting ready to testify before the grand jury in February ’04 and he heard from own his lawyer that the recently subpoenaed Matt Cooper considered Rove to be his source, the logical thing to do would be to pick up the phone, call Cooper and say "WTF?"   

It wouldn’t, of course, if you were counting on Cooper to remain silent in the situation, something he would have to do if you wouldn’t grant him a confidentiality waiver.  Which is exactly what Rove did.

In her own sworn testimony in the case, however, Novak could not pinpoint the date that she had her conversation with Luskin, telling prosecutors that she was not sure wheter it was before or after the first time Rove testified before the grand jury.

Now here’s where it gets all weird.  Fitz is getting ready to indict Libby in late October 2005 and in order to save his client from the gallows Luskin offers up his conversation with Viveca Novak in January, 2004 as proof that Rove didn’t change his story just because he knew Cooper was finally going to have to testify.

According to Viveca’s version of events, Luskin calls her and says "hey, I need you to provide cover for my client so I’m ratting you out."  Does he tell her what he hopes she will confirm, that he had a conversation with her regarding Matt Cooper in January, 2004?  Because that doesn’t appear to be what Viveca Novak recalled.  She went in to talk with Fitzgerald on November 10, and says:

Fitzgerald wanted to know when this conversation occurred. At that point I had found calendar entries showing that Luskin and I had met in January and in May. Since I couldn’t remember exactly how the conversation had developed, I wasn’t sure. I guessed it was more likely May.

At which point Luskin freaks out and starts waving his arms around, crying "no, no!" I suppose, and Fitzgerald allows him to make a statement about his tete-a-tete with Viveca.  Says Waas:

In a highly unusual move, Rove waived attorney-client privilege in a limited way, so that Luskin could testify that he remembered the conversation with Novak having occurred earlier than she had.

Fine.  So we’re supposed to believe that Luskin goes in and makes a statement under oath to the effect that their conversation happened in January.  Because what happens next makes absolutely no sense to me.  Fitzgerald contacts Time Magazine and says he wants to have Viveca make a statement under oath about conversations she had with Luskin starting in May 2004:

Fitzgerald has now asked a second reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau, Viveca Novak, to testify under oath about conversations she had with Robert Luskin, Rove’s attorney, starting in May 2004, while she was covering the Plame inquiry for TIME.

If Luskin had been claiming January all along, wouldn’t Fitzgerald have wanted to ask Viveca about that particular time period?  Why would he bother to bring Viveca in, put her under oath and then not ask her about something Rove’s new defense depended upon?  It feels like there is some big piece of something missing here. 

By the time Viveca was actually questioned under oath, it appears that Fitzgerald got some kind of independent confirmation about her meetings with Luskin and seems to have zeroed in on a March date that  certainly did not corroborate the narrative Luskin was trying to sketch (coming a month after Rove’s first appearance before the grand jury in February 2004).  According to Viveca:

A new meeting with Fitzgerald was arranged for Dec. 8. Leaks about my role began appearing in the papers, some of them closer to the mark than others. They all made me feel physically ill. Fitzgerald had asked that I check a couple of dates in my calendar for meetings with Luskin. One of them, March 1, 2004, checked out. I hadn’t found that one in my first search because I had erroneously entered it as occurring at 5 a.m., not 5 p.m.

 When Fitzgerald and I met last Thursday, along with another lawyer from his team, my attorney, a lawyer from Time Inc. and the court reporter, he was more focused. The problem with the new March date was that now I was even more confused – previously I had to try to remember if the key conversation had occurred in January or May, and I thought it was more likely May. But March was close enough to May that I really didn’t know. "I don’t remember" is an answer that prosecutors are used to hearing, but I was mortified about how little I could recall of what occurred when.

She’s Rove’s great white hope?  Oh she’s just going to make a bang-up witness. 

It was not clear from Viveca’s story exactly how Luskin was trying to sculpt Rove’s defense, but she did offer up one bit of information that is placed in a bit more context by the new Waas article:

I didn’t find out until this fall that, according to Luskin, my remark led him to do an intensive search for evidence that Rove and Matt had talked. That’s how Luskin says he found the e-mail Rove wrote to Stephen Hadley at the National Security Council right after his conversation with Matt, saying that Matt had called about welfare reform but then switched to the subject of Iraq’s alleged attempt to buy uranium yellowcake in Niger. According to Luskin, he turned the e-mail over to Fitzgerald when he found it, leading Rove to acknowledge before the grand jury in October 2004 that he had indeed spoken with Cooper.

David Shuster has been reporting that Fitzgerald was having a hard time getting around a 7 month gap — from March, 2004 to October of that year — between the time Viveca tipped Luskin off tuntil the time the Hadley email was produced and Rove got his memory back.  Now it turns out Luskin claims his conversation with Viveca happened in January, so we’re looking at a 9 month gap.   This is not looking good for the Boy Wonder.

Then Waas rolls Novakula’s coffin back onto the stage:

Novak and Rove have both testified that in their July 9 conversation Rove briefly said that he had heard the same information about Plame that Novak had heard. But Novak has also testified that as a result of the July 9 conversation, he used Rove as a second source for his July 14 column outing Plame as an "agency operative."

"If you believe both of them, Novak was saying that Rove was his source, and Rove was saying that Novak was his source," said one person with first-hand knowlege of the grand jury accounts of both men.

Which may explain Anne Kornblut’s weird comment in the NYT yesterday:

Mr. Novak has testified to the grand jury since Mr. Rove’s last appearance in October 2005.

Now I just do not believe that.  Kornblut also says that: "Since Mr. Libby’s indictment, Mr. Fitzgerald has summoned both Ms. Novak and Mr. Luskin to provide grand jury testimony about their conversations."  They haven’t.  They testified under oath but not before the grand jury, so I assume that she’s just being sloppy in her reporting.  Some time around the summer of 2004 Judge Hogan ruled that there would be no more smuggling witnesses into the grand jury via secret elevator, they had to walk in the front door.  I cannot imagine a set of circumstances where Robert Novak got anywhere near the grand jury without some kind of media meltdown occuring.  But it does make sense that if it’s turning into Novakula v. Rove, Fitz would haul in the bloodless one for another round of questioning.

It’s looking like Scooter might just have been a light appetizer in a veritable Turdblossom feast. 

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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