By Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 9, 2005
A special prosecutor questioned Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak under oath yesterday about a conversation she had with the attorney for presidential adviser Karl Rove that has become part of the CIA leak investigation, according to a top editor at the magazine.
In another twist, the lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, was deposed on the same issue last Friday, a source close to the case said.
Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's questions in both sessions focused on the same subject: the conversation that Luskin and Novak, longtime friends, had over drinks sometime in the first half of 2004 about Rove's potential exposure in the probe.
Fitzgerald's decision to delve into the once-removed chat between a reporter and the lawyer for the top Bush political adviser comes as the prosecutor considers whether to charge Rove. For more than a year after the investigation began, Rove failed to reveal to the FBI and the grand jury that he had privately told another reporter for Time, Matthew Cooper, about the CIA role of undercover operative Valerie Plame.
Novak was deposed a day after Fitzgerald spent three hours meeting with a new grand jury in the leak inquiry. A previous grand jury investigating the case indicted Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on Oct. 28 and then disbanded. At the time, Fitzgerald warned Luskin that Rove remained under investigation, and he said in public filings that he would probably present information to a new grand jury.
Fitzgerald has spent two years investigating whether White House officials leaked Plame's name in the summer of 2003 to discredit allegations made by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, that the Bush administration twisted intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.
Viveca Novak is not related to columnist Robert D. Novak, who disclosed Plame's identity in July 2003.
According to sources familiar with Rove's status, Luskin persuaded Fitzgerald in late October to postpone indicting Rove by alerting Fitzgerald to Luskin's previous conversation with Novak, among other things. Luskin argued that these private discussions helped show Rove did not intentionally conceal his conversation with Cooper from investigators. Rove has argued he forgot about the chat he had with Cooper on the phone in the summer of 2003.
Sources familiar with their conversations say Novak's and Luskin's accounts to Fitzgerald appear to conflict on when they spoke.
The timing of Rove's actions since the leak investigation began in September 2003 have been of keen interest to Fitzgerald, according to sources familiar with the prosecutor's questions. Rove did not mention his contact with Cooper to the FBI during interviews in 2003, or to the grand jury in February 2004.
He revealed to the grand jury that he spoke with Cooper on Oct. 15, 2004. That was one month after Fitzgerald subpoenaed Cooper to testify about his confidential conversations with administration sources other than Libby. It also came two days after a federal judge ordered that Cooper cooperate.
Viveca Novak and Luskin refused to comment yesterday. Fitzgerald and his spokesman have declined to comment on the Novak-Luskin conversation.
A source familiar with Novak's account said she believes the conversation took place in March or May, and definitely took place after February 2004, when Rove first testified before the grand jury.
But one person close to the case said the conversation took place before Rove's first grand jury appearance in February. This person said the conversation was not the event that led Rove to change his testimony.
Time's managing editor, Jim Kelly, said yesterday that the magazine will publish Novak's account of her testimony in its Monday edition, and it will be available in an online edition Sunday. Kelly said he did not yet know and could not comment on the full details of Novak's testimony or Fitzgerald's questions because he had not spoken with the reporter.
Novak was traveling from Washington to New York yesterday afternoon, he said, and planned to brief him and other Time editors at the magazine's headquarters about her testimony.
"To be fair, I need to speak with Viveca now that she has testified under oath," he said. "We felt it important to let Viveca prepare for her testimony. Now we'll be looking at the questions that have been raised by this whole incident."