Josh Marshall has a brief, sarcastic take on yesterday’s news stories, apparently the result of anonymous leaking by Rove’s Lawyer, Robert Luskin, of what is alleged to be Rove’s testimony before the grand jury in the Plame-outing case: It’s amazing how much can happen…
Oddly enough, I’m told, this version of events from the Rove camp apparently absolves him of any wrongdoing in the whole affair.
Marshall links to some detailed speculation on the meaning of the leaked Rove testimony by reporter Murray Waas: Front page fronts:
The coverage underscores the secrecy surrounding Fitzgerald’s grand-jury investigation. The few leaks that constitute public knowledge of the investigation’s progress have largely come from one side: the defense attorneys’. And what they have to say is oftentimes self-serving, misleading, and in some cases untrue. Their all-too-willing collaborators have been the nation’s leading newspapers.
In the meantime, however, what has propelled the investigation — and led to the extraordinary jailing of the Times’ Judith Miller — has been the strong belief by federal investigators that Rove, Novak, and others may have misled them and the public, and that one or more of the participants may have devised a cover story with others to avoid public or legal culpability.
What follows is my personal opinion. I’m not saying it’s provably true. It’s simply my best take on what’s really happening behind the scenes on this, based on the hints and nuances in all that’s been going on, and the various parties’ track records in similar circumstances in the past.
I don’t think this latest batch of stories is credible. The leaks and on-the-record statements by Luskin, Robert Novak’s own frequently-changing story, the talking points from the Republican National Committee, the pattern of statements (and then non-statements) from Bush and Scott McClellan; they all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. They are the result of a conscious, coordinated effort by the White House (by which I mean, Rove acting in close consultation and concert with Bush and to a lesser extent with the entire Republican Party apparatus) to win the public relations war in a case where the facts are clearly and overwhelmingly damning.
That basically characterizes the initial Plame outing by Novak, as well as the recent response to the events triggered by Matt Cooper’s email. This is also very reminiscent of the pattern we saw when Richard Clarke blew the whistle on Bush’s pre-9/11 ball-dropping on al Qaeda, and is consistent with Rove’s trademark character-assassination efforts in previous political contests.
Rove outed Plame, with Robert Novak serving as the mouthpiece. Rove may not have specifically known that Plame was an undercover operative at the time he conspired with Novak to out her; I don’t think he cared very much either way. When he’s in spin mode I don’t think the truth matters much at all to him, except to the extent that the public’s knowledge of it serves to constrain his options.
For my part, I think Rove and Bush have been working together on this from day one, that the Plame outing was a conscious smear attempt, meant not to retaliate against Wilson, as Wilson has alleged, but simply to undercut his criticisms by calling into question his qualifications, and his selection by the CIA as the person to go to Africa and check out the Nigerian yellowcake allegations.
To repeat what I’ve said before, everything at this point depends on Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. I think it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that he possesses evidence that top officials in the White House, including Rove (and conceivably extending even to Bush, though I think it would be uncharacteristically sloppy by Rove/Bush if they had let such evidence come into existence) engaged in the possibly-illegal leaking of Plame’s identity, as well as a certainly-illegal criminal conspiracy to concoct a false cover story about the event and tell it to the grand jury.
So, assuming he has that evidence, what does he do with it? Does he go up against the most-powerful political machine I’ve seen operating in this country in my lifetime? If so, we could be in for the most spectacular character-assassination attempt by Karl Rove yet: The destruction, through political smear tactics and backroom Machiavellian maneuvering, of an opponent not simply in an election campaign, but in a criminal prosecution in which he, Rove, is the direct target.
Hell; if Rove can pull that off, he probably deserves to run the country.
Let me go one step farther in my hypothetical speculation. Let’s assume Fitzgerald does decide to prosecute Rove. The trial is under way, and it’s increasingly clear that Rove is going to be convicted. What does Bush do?
Rove isn’t called “Bush’s brain” for no reason. The two of them are the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a dual presidency; certainly much moreso than Bill and Hillary. Even in that scenario, I think Bush would be as unwilling to fire him as he would be to cut off his own arm. The Bush/Rove machine would continue to spin things as long as it could, until, when no other option was available, Rove would resign, and Bush would promptly pardon him. And the Republican spin machine would go into high gear (indeed, probably would already be in high gear) praising this noble act of protecting someone who had been the victim of an unfair and dishonest prosecution by the left-leaning, mentally unstable child molester who had somehow managed to sneak his way into the role of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.