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Rove Testifies 5th Time On Leak

Rove, who recently gave up his role in White House policy as part of a staff shake-up, testified only hours after Bush named Tony Snow as his new press secretary. Snow replaces Scott McClellan, who has come under fire for initially telling the media that Rove was not involved in the Plame leak.

In grand jury appearances and other conversations with federal investigators, Rove has testified that he discussed Wilson's wife briefly with columnist Robert D. Novak and Cooper before she was publicly unmasked in July 2003, according to lawyers in the case. Fitzgerald zeroed in on Rove's contact with Cooper yesterday, according to the source who provided Rove's version of events.

The source said Rove testified in February 2004 that he did not recall discussing Plame with Cooper. Rove told the prosecutor that at the time he had no recollection of that short conversation with one of the scores of reporters he talks to in his job.

Cooper later testified and then a wrote a first-person account that Rove told him that Wilson's wife was in the CIA and had authorized her husband's CIA mission.

Rove would later tell the grand jury that he had forgotten that conversation and remembered it only after his legal team unearthed a crucial e-mail. The e-mail -- written by Rove to then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley shortly after the Cooper conversation -- shows Rove saying he waved the Time reporter off Wilson's claim. Luskin found the e-mail as part of a document search he conducted before Rove testified a second time in October 2004, telling the grand jury that the conversation must have taken place.

All the while, Fitzgerald suspected that Rove was acknowledging what had happened only because new evidence was surfacing, according to lawyers in the case. But Rove and his lawyer have presented an alternative explanation: that Rove genuinely did not remember his conversation with Cooper, and testified to that effect even though he was aware of rumors that he was one of Cooper's sources.

The new information Luskin cited in his statement yesterday relates to this part of the saga. After agreeing to a partial waiver of attorney-client privilege, Rove testified yesterday about a conversation Luskin had with former Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak, the source said. (Viveca Novak is not related to Robert Novak, the columnist who first revealed Plame's identity in 2003.) Luskin had informed Fitzgerald about that conversation last October, a few days before Libby was indicted, in a last-ditch effort to save Rove from the same fate.

Luskin told the prosecutor that Viveca Novak had informed him that she had heard from other Time reporters that Rove was Cooper's source for a July 2003 story on Plame. Luskin shared this information with Rove -- before Rove testified that he did not recall his conversation with Cooper.

Yesterday, Rove told the grand jury that it would make no sense for him to lie in February, knowing that all of this would soon be public, the source said.

But the timing of that Luskin-Novak conversation is in dispute. Novak has said she testified that the conversation took place between January and May of 2004 -- which could place it either before or after Rove's initial grand jury testimony. Moreover, Rove did not know at that point that Cooper would later be forced to testify and reveal him as a source, according to lawyers who follow the case.

Rove also testified that he was aware that several aides had been subpoenaed in the case before that first grand jury appearance and that they would be forced to turn over documents.

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