Plame, By Any Other Name

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Monday, July 11, 2005; 1:21 PM

There is no longer any question that top presidential adviser Karl Rove is a key player in the Valerie Plame case.

In fact, what Rove told Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about Plame is apparently one of the last things special prosecutor Patrick J.Fitzgerald is trying to determine before he wraps up his investigation into whether Plame was illegally outed as a CIA agent.

Newsweek yesterday described e-mails from Cooper relating his July 2003 interview with Rove. Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, told The Washington Post yesterday that his client spoke to Cooper, but did not identify Plame by name. Luskin also said Fitzgerald has told him that Rove is not a target of the probe.

But let's look at what we can conclude from all this:

· The latest news reports indicate that Rove is the source who Cooper was trying to protect until last week -- and that Rove tipped Cooper about Plame three days before Robert Novak published his now-famous column exposing Plame's identity.

· Fitzgerald has asserted in his court filings that testimony from Cooper and now-jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller is all he needs to wrap up his investigation into whether a crime was committed. So what Rove said about Plame would therefore appear to be either one of two things -- or the only thing -- that Fitzgerald is still trying to nail down.

· Rove and his lawyer's denials that he was involved in telling reporters about Plame now appear to be at best based on Clintonian hairsplitting about whether he literally used her name and identified her as covert or he simply described her as the CIA-employed wife of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, the administration critic that White House was eager to discredit at the time.

· President Bush and press secretary Scott McClellan's denials that Rove was involved in the Plame matter now appear to be at best based on the position that their responses to broad questions about Rove and Plame were met with narrowly constructed responses specifically about whether Rove leaked "classified information." Or is it possible Rove lied to them?

· And McClellan's frequent implication that, if Rove talked to reporters about Plame it was only after Novak's column had already come out, now appears suspect.

If Karl Rove, Bush's top political strategist, longtime friend and deputy chief of staff is actually indicted by Fitzgerald -- which now appears to be a possibility -- it would be an enormous blow to Bush's second term. Until Fitzgerald wraps up his highly secretive investigation, however, that's all just speculation.

So let's ask ourselves some more practical questions instead:

· Does Rove's current position pass the smell test?

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company