Rove Confirmed Plame Indirectly, Lawyer Says
Friday, July 15, 2005
White House senior adviser Karl Rove indirectly confirmed the CIA affiliation of an administration critic's wife for Robert D. Novak the week before the columnist named her and revealed her position, a lawyer involved in the case said last night.
The operative, Valerie Plame, is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who had publicly disputed the White House's contention that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy uranium from Niger for possible use in a nuclear weapon.
The lawyer, who has knowledge of the conversations between Rove and prosecutors, said President Bush's deputy chief of staff has told investigators that he first learned about the operative from a journalist and that he later learned her name from Novak.
Rove has said he does not recall who the journalist was who first told him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, or when the conversation occurred, the lawyer said.
The New York Times reported the conversation between Rove and Novak in its Friday editions. The lawyer confirmed that account and elaborated on it. The account suggests that Rove could not have been Novak's original source but may have been a secondary source. Novak has refused to comment about his sources or to say whether he has cooperated with prosecutors.
The lawyer said that Novak showed up on a White House call log as having telephoned Rove in the week before the publication of the July 2003 column, which has touched off a two-year federal investigation and led to the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who has refused to testify about her conversation with a source involved in the case.
The White House turned over call logs relating to the case, along with stacks of printed e-mails, at the request of federal investigators.
Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has been investigating the leak of Plame's name, which could be a felony under certain circumstances, such as if the person who leaked her name did so knowing that the government was working to keep her identity a secret.
The new account means that Rove talked to both of the journalists who are known to have published original accounts about Plame. Rove's representatives have said that he mentioned the issue in the most general terms and did not name Plame. Democrats say he was trying to fuel stories that would punish an administration critic.
The lawyer said Novak had telephoned Rove to discuss another column, about Frances Fragos Townsend, who had been named deputy national security adviser for terrorism in May 2003. That column ran in Novak's home paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, on July 10, 2003, under the headline "Bush sets himself up for another embarrassment."
At the end of that 15- or 20-minute call, according to the lawyer, Novak said he had learned that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.
"I heard that, too," Rove replied, according to the lawyer, confirming the Times account.