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Rove Lawyer Has a Pet Peeve

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 22, 2006

Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's lawyer, says he spent most of the day on May 12 taking his cat to the veterinarian and having a technician fix his computer at home.

He was stunned, therefore, when journalists started calling to ask about an online report that he had spent half the day at his law office, negotiating with Patrick Fitzgerald -- and that the special prosecutor had secretly obtained an indictment of Rove.

The cat's medical tests, Luskin says, found that "the stools were free of harmful parasites, which is more than I can say for this case."

The claim that President Bush's top political strategist had been indicted in the CIA leak investigation was written by a journalist who has battled drug addiction and mental illness and been convicted of grand larceny. That didn't stop more than 35 reporters -- from all the major newspapers, networks and newsmagazines -- from calling Luskin or Rove's spokesman, Mark Corallo, to check it out.

The reports appeared on the liberal Web site Truthout.org, run by Marc Ash, a former advertising man and fashion photographer in California. Jason Leopold, the author of the stories, directed inquiries to Ash, who says that "we stand by the story. We have multiple points of independent confirmation of what we originally reported. Our problem is, the prosecutor's office is under no obligation to go public."

Leopold acknowledges in a new book, "News Junkie," that he is a past liar, convicted felon and former alcoholic and cocaine addict. An earlier version of the book was canceled by publisher Rowman & Littlefield last year.

Salon retracted a 2002 piece by Leopold involving Thomas White, then secretary of the Army. The online magazine apologized, saying it had been unable to confirm the authenticity of an e-mail that Leopold attributed to White. Leopold, a onetime reporter for the Los Angeles Times and Dow Jones, accused the online magazine of being "wimpy" and caving to pressure.

"Jason is a character, but he's been straight with me and I've checked him out very carefully," Ash says.

In an interview with liberal radio host Ed Schultz, Leopold said his sources had given him "detailed information" about the alleged marathon meeting at Luskin's law office that he said was attended by Rove and a Secret Service detail. Leopold said that while "I totally look like I'm wrong," he still believes the indictment story is true.

Rove has testified five times in Fitzgerald's investigation of White House officials' leaking to the press that Valerie Plame, the wife of an administration critic, was a covert CIA operative. Fitzgerald is examining whether Rove misled investigators by initially failing to recall that he had discussed Plame with Time reporter Matthew Cooper.

Leopold's May 12 report said Rove had told the president and top administration officials that he would be indicted and planned to resign. The next day, a Saturday, Leopold reported that Fitzgerald had handed Rove's attorneys an indictment of their client on charges of perjury and lying to investigators, and that an announcement was expected the next week.

Luskin calls the reports "absolutely bizarre. I'm waiting for him to tell me whether Fitzgerald had the chicken or the pasta. . . . There was no meeting, no communication with Fitzgerald's team of any kind."


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