Um, yeah. David Corn was right about the Newsweek story: Matt Cooper’s source.
Rove told Cooper that Wilson’s trip had not been authorized by “DCIA” – CIA Director George Tenet – or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, “it was, KR said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.”
The part in quotes there was from Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper’s email, sent to his editors on July 11, 2003 — three days before the Robert Novak column that outed Plame.
So, the outlines of this, at least in terms of the political dimension, are getting clearer:
- Rove has been parsing his public utterances really carefully from the beginning. For example, the above Newsweek article quotes him speaking on CNN last year, saying, “I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name.” Well, right; that appears to be hypertechnically true, based on Cooper’s email. He didn’t leak her name. But he did blow her cover. And for the bad guys, the difference between learning that “Joe Wilson’s wife works for the CIA on WMD nonprofileration,” and learning that “Joe Wilson’s wife, whose name is Valerie Plame, works for the CIA on WMD nonproliferation” really isn’t significant. Once you have the first piece of information, it’s a very short step to the second.
- It seems increasingly likely that Rove is going to seek legal cover in ignorance: The federal statue making it a crime to out an intelligence agent requires that you do so knowingly. So if Rove can raise a reasonable doubt about whether he knew Plame was undercover, the law can’t touch him. Note, though, that this defense requires Rove to basically assert a profound level of incompetence, reckless irresponsibility, and blatant misuse of classified information for political purposes. I mean, you’d like to think that one of the president’s closest advisors wouldn’t go around blabbing stuff like that to reporters, even on accident.
- Speculation persists that the prosecutor, Fitzgerald, might be going after Rove on a perjury charge. Rove testified before the grand jury, and perhaps what he said can’t easily be reconciled with Cooper’s email. To the extent the appearance of consistency is a concern for the Bush-supporting set, their previous enthusiasm for pursuing perjury by political figures (e.g., Clinton/Lewinsky) could come back to haunt them.
So, where does this go next? Good question. One thing I’d expect is that if things start looking really iffy for Rove, in the sense that the media is running with the story and the public seems to be putting two and two together, we can expect some really spectacular piece of misdirection from the Bush team. Maybe that bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities they’ve been saving for a rainy day?