The Fifth Visit

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, April 27, 2006; 3:04 PM

Karl Rove has a long history of doing his best work when he's facing disaster, and that's where he was again yesterday as he made a startling fifth appearance before grand jurors investigating the leak of a CIA agent's identity.

Was he able to clear up the contradiction in his previous sworn testimony? Or did he provide the grand jurors with further evidence of perjury or obstruction?

The tea-leaf reading is at a fever pace.

But there's so much we still just don't know. For instance, everything we're hearing this morning about what happened inside the courthouse yesterday is coming from Rove's camp, and is therefore presumptively spin. Even if Rove's people were out-and-out lying, grand jury secrecy rules would prohibit special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald from publicly setting the record straight.

The central motivation behind Rove's fifth visit remains unclear. Was it Rove trying desperately to avoid indictment -- even at the risk of possibly adding to the conflicting statements that could be held against him should he come to trial? Or was it Fitzgerald just trying to tie up a few loose ends with Rove's help, so he could get back to prosecuting former vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby?

Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, released a statement yesterday saying that "Karl Rove appeared today before the grand jury investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity. He testified voluntarily and unconditionally at the request of the Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to explore a matter raised since Mr Rove's last appearance in October 2005. . . .

"In connection with this appearance, the special counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Mr. Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges," Luskin said.

But reading between those carefully crafted lines, it still seems possible that yesterday's session was Rove's idea, and that he is still very much in danger of being indicted.

The Coverage

Jim VandeHei writes in The Washington Post: "White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove sought to convince a federal grand jury yesterday that he did not provide false statements in the CIA leak case, testifying for more than three hours before leaving a federal courthouse unsure whether he would be indicted, according to a source close to the presidential aide.

"In his fifth appearance before the grand jury, Rove spent considerable time arguing that it would have been foolish for him to knowingly mislead investigators about his role in the disclosure of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media, the source said. His grand jury appearance, which was kept secret even from Rove's closest White House colleagues until shortly before he went to court yesterday, suggests that prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald remains keenly interested in Rove's role in the case. . . .

"Rove's testimony focused almost exclusively on his conversation about Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in 2003 and whether the top aide later tried to conceal it, the source said. Rove testified, in essence, that 'it would have been a suicide mission' to 'deliberately lie' about his conversation with Cooper because he knew beforehand that it eventually would be revealed, the source said. Lawyers involved in the case said yesterday that they expect a decision on Rove's fate soon."

Rove reportedly testified that he remembered talking to Cooper only after he found an e-mail that mentioned the conversation. That was also, coincidentally or not, after it started to look like Cooper would testify.

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