Analysis: Telling FBI the Truth Saved Rove

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 13, 2006; 2:07 PM

WASHINGTON -- The decision not to charge Karl Rove shows there often are no consequences for misleading the public.

In 2003, while Rove allowed the White House to tell the news media that he had no role in leaking Valerie Plame's CIA identity, the presidential aide was secretly telling the FBI the truth.

It's now known that Rove had discussed Plame's CIA employment with conservative columnist Robert Novak, who exposed her identity less than a week later, citing two unidentified senior administration officials.

Rove's truth-telling to the FBI saved him from indictment.

And by misleading reporters, the White House saved itself from a political liability during the 2004 presidential campaign.

While the president and the vice president underwent questioning by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in 2004, Rove's role never surfaced. The lone blip on the radar screen was a one-day flurry of news stories the month before Election Day when Rove was brought before a federal grand jury _ one of his five grand jury appearances in the probe.

The extent of Rove's involvement didn't become official until Oct. 28 of last year, when Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, was indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI about how he learned of Plame's CIA identity and what he told reporters about it.

The indictment recounted Rove's conversation with Novak about the CIA officer, as Rove later related it to Libby.

For nearly three years, the White House has refused to discuss the Plame investigation, citing the fact that it is still under way.

"The ability of this White House to stiff the press is probably better than any previous administration," said presidential scholar Stephen Hess, a former speechwriter for President Eisenhower and an adviser to Presidents Ford and Carter. "Clearly if there are no leaks, there's no damage."

Hess said Tuesday the Plame case is an example of the news media being complicit in the White House's conduct.

"I'm saying that there was a handshake and Bob Novak was honorable to the handshake" by refusing to publicly identify his sources, said Hess. "It's not quite a deal with the devil because these people are our elected and appointed officials, but it's a question of how much you want to let them off the hook."

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