Rove Worrier

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, April 28, 2006 1:52 PM

It's all highly speculative and ambiguously sourced -- but it sure sounds like Karl Rove could be in big trouble.

David Shuster reports for MSBNC: "While his supporters continue to put a good face on his lengthy grand jury testimony, other sources close to Karl Rove say the presidential adviser is now more worried, not less, that he's going to get indicted. The sources say Rove was surprised by some of the questions he was asked, and by the fact the session stretched on for three and a half hours. . . .

"By all accounts, volunteering to testify to a grand jury is a risky proposition. Lawyers say it is usually done when there is nothing else that may stop an indictment."

Shuster says that Fitzgerald's grand jury is meeting again today.

CNN's John King reports: "Publicly, Karl Rove has been quite optimistic including today when he arrived and talked to his staff. But behind the scenes, some people view this as quite ominous. Other people who have been subjects of this investigation, witnesses before the grand jury, have had their own conduct looked into by the special counsel. When they have been essentially cleared, some have had to meet with him to tie up some loose ends.

"They have done that in person, usually at their lawyer's office. Karl Rove's attorneys hoped that that's where they were at this stage of the investigation. They had hoped to answer any remaining questions Mr. Fitzgerald had and then move on and hopefully get from him a clean bill of health.

"But Mr. Fitzgerald said, 'I will ask my questions before the grand jury. If you will answer them, you must come before the grand jury.' Many people view that as an ominous sign. I will say though, Karl Rove has told his staff, 'Look ahead, be optimistic, get about the business.'

"One of their most urgent priorities now is moving. He lost his office in the White House staff shake-up. He's moving across the hall. They have to move the computers, move the desks, move the staff and all that. But he's also said, 'Book me an aggressive fundraising schedule for Republicans and start reaching out to candidates who might be in trouble, might need some advice. Let me meet with them, try to help them.' So he says let's do our job, this will be OK. But behind the scenes, people are a little bit nervous about this."

Elisabeth Bumiller and David Johnston write in the New York Times: "Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case, is expected to decide in the next two to three weeks whether to bring perjury charges against Karl Rove, the powerful adviser to President Bush, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday. . . .

"Lawyers in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald would spend the coming days reviewing the transcript of Mr. Rove's three hours of testimony on Wednesday and weigh it against his previous statements to the grand jury as well as the testimony of others, including a sworn statement that Mr. Rove's lawyer gave to the prosecutor earlier this year. . . .

"In his February 2004 testimony, Mr. Rove acknowledged talking to the columnist Robert D. Novak about Ms. Wilson, but he did not tell the grand jury about a second conversation he had about her with Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter. Mr. Novak revealed her name and C.I.A. employment in a column on July 14, 2003. . . .

"Mr. Rove later voluntarily told the grand jury about the conversation with Mr. Cooper, and said that he had forgotten about it in the rush of his daily business. But Mr. Fitzgerald has long been skeptical of Mr. Rove's account of his forgetfulness, lawyers in the case say. On Wednesday Mr. Fitzgerald questioned Mr. Rove about how he came to remember his conversation with Mr. Cooper."

Richard Keil writes for Bloomberg: "Rove testified Wednesday for the fifth time before a federal grand jury probing the case, and [people familiar with the case] cited potentially ominous signs for him. Among other things, they said, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald declined to give him any assurance after his testimony that he won't be charged. . . .

"Sometime in the first five months of 2004, Rove's attorney Robert Luskin was alerted to Rove's contact with Cooper during a discussion with another Time reporter, Viveca Novak. Luskin later found and turned over to prosecutors an e-mail written by Rove to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley shortly after Rove's talk with Cooper. In it, Rove wrote that he tried to wave the Time reporter away from following the Wilson story. . . .

"Rove testified Wednesday he still doesn't recall having spoken with Cooper, the people familiar said."

Firedoglake blogger Jane Hamsher does a nice job of analyzing the two conflicting reports of how Rove is using the Novak-Luskin conversation in his defense.

It's a little complicated, but in the version of the defense team's argument related by related by Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post, the Viveca Novak tip took place before Rove's first grand jury appearance. In this sequence of events, for Rove to lie to the grand jury about his conversation with Cooper would have been suicidal -- because he already knew that people at Time were going to tell Fitzgerald he was Cooper's source. So since Rove isn't suicidal, there's no other logical explanation for his testimony except that he honestly didn't remember.

In the version of the defense team's argument related by Shuster , the Viveca Novak tip came after Rove's first grand jury appearance and led to Luskin finding the e-mail. Then Rove, faced with the evidence, went back to the grand jury and acknowledged that the conversation must have taken place.

Novak herself has said he doesn't remember exactly when she met with Luskin.

Rove's New Spokesman

Mark Corallo's name is suddenly popping up as Rove's spokesman.

Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig wrote in The Washington Post in October that Rove was "making contingency plans, which included having allies begin to assemble a legal and political team in case he is eventually indicted.

"Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, would be part of the public relations defense team, according to a person familiar with the plan. Corallo is no stranger to high-profile defenses. He was spokesman for former representative Bob Livingston (R-La.), who was forced to step aside as the incoming speaker of the House in 1998 after admitting an extramarital affair."

Corallo specializes in "crisis management" now. Here's his bio .

Corallo told me this morning that he was hired by Luskin in October.

Libby Case Not Dismissed

Toni Locy writes for the Associated Press: "A federal judge refused Thursday to dismiss charges against I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, the former top White House aide who was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges last year in the CIA leak scandal.

"In a 31-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton turned down a motion by lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney's one-time top assistant, who challenged the authority of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to handle the case. . . .

"Walton said Thursday he did not need to 'look far' in the law to reject the claim by Libby's defense team."

Here's the Here's the opinion and the order.

Fox Fight

Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times: "The naming of the Fox News commentator Tony Snow as White House press secretary this week seemed to have created new tension on Thursday with reporters who cover the president."

Ken Herman of Cox News Service blogs all the details: "The controversy du jour aboard Air Force One today was one near and dear to the hearts of many otherwise happy couples: Command and control of the TV tuner.

" 'It's come to my attention that there's been requests -- this is a serious question -- to turn these TVs on to a station other than Fox, and that those have been denied,' Washington Post reporter Jim VandeHei told Press Secretary Scott McClellan. 'My question would be, is there a White House policy that all government TVs have to be tuned to Fox?'

" 'Never heard of any such thing,' said McClellan, soon to be replaced by Tony Snow of Fox News, long viewed as an operation that enjoys most favored network status in the Bush White House. . . .

" 'Well,' said VandeHei, 'they always seem to be tuned to Fox.'

"He went on.

" 'And these are paid for by taxpayer dollars. And my understanding is that you guys have to watch Fox on Air Force One. Is that true?'

"No way, said McClellan."

Herman notes that "the record will show that -- other than when the movie of reporters' choice is showing (and that frequently invites a gender-based battle over what to watch), Fox is showing on the screens in the press cabin of Air Force One.

"As McClellan and VandeHei talked TV channels, Agence France Presse photographer Tim Sloan volunteered that he was the one who raised the issue.

" 'I was the Fox victim,' he said, 'and I was told, the quote was, "No," when I asked for CNN. . . . I was told, "We don't watch CNN here. You can only watch Fox." ' "

Here's the official gaggle transcript.

As CNN reports: "Eighteen minutes after VandeHei raised the issue, McClellan had resolved it.

" 'We just called up. They're going to be changing it, at your all's request, to the channel that you requested, which is CNN -- from the press corps.' "

Fox anchor Brit Hume addressed the issue on the Fox News Web site, under the header: "Can't Handle FOX News?"

Fox Party

Why oh why would anyone think the White House and Fox are particularly cozy?

Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts write in The Washington Post about the "Fox News Sunday" 10th anniversary bash Wednesday night where Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes was joined by "most of the Bush administration, including Karl Rove, Josh Bolten, Karen Hughes, Dan Bartlett and former Fox host Tony Snow, just hours after he was named the new Bush spokesman. 'Ten years ago we could have never gotten the White House press secretary to come to this party,' joked Ailes."

Also in attendance: Cheney, who, as the Smoking Gun Web site illustrated last month, requires all televisions in his hotel suites to be preset to Fox.

Conservatives to Snow: Get Tough

Here's Deroy Murdock 's advice for Snow in the National Review:

"* Showcase the media's shortcomings. . . .

"* Correct journalists' mistakes. . . .

"* Don't leak; speak. . . .

"* Stop helping media foes. The New York Times does not deserve leaks, exclusives or anything beyond its subscription fees. . . .

"* Cultivate friendly media outlets. Share exclusive interviews, presidential essays, and special news alerts with sympathetic and fair journalists. President Bush's next article should appear on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Make the New York Times's reporters gnash their teeth as they quote from the president's exclusive interview with New York Post correspondent Deborah Orin. Chuckle as incoming CBS newsreader Katie Couric airs footage of the President's tête-à-tête with Fox News Channel's Wendell Goler. By favoring the center-right media, the president will enhance their prestige while the anti-Bush establishment media play catch-up."

Here's what Fred Barnes suggests in the Weekly Standard:

"Be willing to be disliked. . . .

"Don't address old columns. . . .

"Don't fall for the old advice that the key to recovery is giving the press more access to president--then they'll learn to like him and cover him more favorably. Hogwash. Every president in trouble has tried this and it's never worked. So don't waste the president's time."

Is Snow Just a Flurry?

Michelle Cottle writes in The New Republic: "Insomuch as journalists are longing for someone to deliver more entertaining sound bites as he spins them silly and to stroke their famously fragile egos even as he stonewalls them through the next three years, then, yeah, Snow should dramatically improve media relations. But beyond that, I'm not sure anyone should get all that excited about the new era of openness at the Bush bunker.

"Admittedly, the storyline the White House is feeding journalists is genius in its appeal to their sense of self-importance and wounded pride: We're so sorry we were mean to you. We know better now. Give us another chance and we'll be ever so much more open and honest and respectful of your needs. See! We're even bringing in one of your own to tell us how to make this relationship work.

"But coming from this administration, such sweet talk is about as credible as that of an abusive husband trying to woo back his serially battered bride."

Snow's Politics

Is Snow actually a radical pick for the White House?

Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review unearthed a December 2005 phone interview with Snow:

"Q: A few years ago when I talked to you, you called yourself more libertarian than Republican. Is that still true?

"A: Yeah, I think so."

Disaster Disaster

Ron Hutcheson writes for Knight Ridder Newspapers: "In a scorching account of government failure, a bipartisan Senate committee on Thursday blamed the botched response to Hurricane Katrina on a failure of leadership that stretched from the White House to the mayor's office in New Orleans. . . .

"Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the panel's top Democrat, was even more critical of the president. . . .

"'Despite the clear warnings before landfall that Katrina would be catastrophic, the president and the White House staff were not sufficiently engaged and failed to initiate a sufficiently strong and proactive response,' Lieberman wrote. 'After the hurricane, the White House continued to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the catastrophe.'

"He also accused the Bush administration of stonewalling the panel's investigation."

Here's the report: Here's the report: Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared .

Jim VandeHei writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush on Thursday wrapped his arm around a symbol of the devastation and hope of this ravaged city: Ethel Williams, one of the thousands of people who lost almost everything to Hurricane Katrina.

"Making his 11th trip here since the deadly storm and floods, this time to the obliterated Ninth Ward, Bush came here on National Volunteer Day to implore more Americans to help Williams and others like her. His motorcade wound through the deserted, storm-damaged streets that offered stark reminders of the work that lies ahead: shuttered houses, littered lawns, lifeless roads."

Bush also did a short, newsless interview with NBC anchor Brian Williams .

Can't Get a Break?

John Roberts reports on CNN: "You know, you might get the sense that President Bush just can't get a break these days. He was in New Orleans today, hurricane reconstruction, but all Washington could talk about was how unprepared the government is for the next hurricane season. Yesterday, he was trying for a bright moment with Tony Snow, his new press secretary, when Karl Rove got called to that grand jury for a fifth time. . . .

"It has been a year of missteps and miscues -- the ports deal, the vice president's adventures in hunting, the Libby indictment, the Rove investigation, the Myers nomination, the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. . . .

"Mojo. The president used to have it in spades, and approval ratings soared along with it. But the steady drumbeat of bad news from Iraq, Republicans say, is the prism through which all else is seen, magnifying small stumbles into massive falls. . . .

"So, how does the president get his mojo back, change his karma? The White House staff shuffle may help. But ultimately, say advisers, President Bush may need to look inside himself."

Emissions

Steven Mufson and Shailagh Murray write in The Washington Post: "President Bush sought to show that he was responding to calls for action in the face of rising gasoline prices. While visiting a gasoline station in Biloxi, Miss., Bush renewed his call for Congress to give him the authority to 'raise' mileage standards for all passenger cars. White House officials said later, however, that they didn't know when or how the president would use that authority.

"Congress has the authority to approve changes in mileage standards for passenger cars, and the executive branch can set them for light trucks without approval from Congress. But neither Congress nor the administration has shown much interest in raising passenger car standards, which were set in the 1970s and haven't changed since 1985."

Domestic Spying Watch

Walter Pincus and Charles Babington writes in The Washington Post: "New expressions of frustration over how little information the administration has shared about the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on Americans flared yesterday in the Senate, one day after House Republicans barred amendments that would have expanded oversight of the controversial program.

"Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said yesterday that he will file an amendment to block the NSA program's funding -- but said he will not seek a vote on it at this time -- in hope of stirring greater debate on the warrantless surveillance, part of the agency's monitoring of alleged terrorists.

" 'Where is the outrage?' asked Specter, who has chaired hearings that questioned the NSA program's constitutionality."

Well, I have my own question: Where are the newspaper stories? Where is the investigative reporting on this story? Where is the continued drumbeat of revelations?

Azerbaijan Watch

The Bush Doctrine: Freedom trumps stability -- but oil trumps freedom?

Tom Raum -- writes for the Associated Press: "Searching for energy supplies and allies against Iran, the Bush administration is reaching out to leaders who rule countries that are rich in oil and gas but accused of authoritarian rule and human rights violations.

"The presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Equatorial Guinea are all getting special attention. The effort sometimes seems at odds with President Bush's stated second-term goal of spreading democracy. . . .

"Bush meets Friday at the White House with the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev. Vice President Dick Cheney next week visits the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan and its leader President Nursultan Nazarbayev."

David S. Hilzenrath and Bradley Graham write in The Washington Post that "court documents filed by the Justice Department mention members of the Azerbaijani leader's family in describing a nearly decade-old scheme to sell a state-owned oil company to private investors in return for bribes."

Dubai Redux?

Jim Rutenberg and David E. Sanger write in the New York Times: "President Bush is expected on Friday to announce his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for American military vehicles and aircraft, say two administration officials familiar with the terms of the deal."

Drumheller (Non) Watch

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Dick Polman , in his blog, tries to fathom why so much of the media is ignoring former CIA official Tyler Drumheller's public statements (first on CBS's 60 Minutes , then on MSNBC's Hardball ) in which he describes how the real failure in the run-up to war in Iraq was not in the intelligence community but in the White House.

Here's Polman's best guess: "Bush's credibility on Iraq is at such a low ebb (check even the Fox News poll) that it's no longer considered 'news' when his WMD stance is publicly contested by credible people who are adding new facts to the historical record. A majority of Americans have already concluded that Bush was selling a bill of goods, so much of the press reaction to Drumheller is basically, 'Yeah, tell us something we don't know already.' "

Robert Scheer writes in The Nation that it was a version of this 60 Minutes story that CBS so famously suppressed before the November election.

Cartoon Watch

Slate's Today's Cartoons feature focuses on Tony Snow, and includes these gems from Mike Luckovich and Stuart Carlson .

Jon Stewart Watch

From "The Daily Show" last night: "The long-rumored merger between Fox News and the White House was made official this week, with the hiring of Fox News commentator Tony Snow to serve as the press secretary. A rebranding is in the works, and the new company will be called: 'Integralux; The New Way to Govern.' The company is expected to go public -- never."

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