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On the October 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity echoed the White House's reported defense of Karl Rove by trivializing special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the alleged outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame and reducing it to a focus on contradictions in Rove's grand jury testimony purportedly resulting simply from failed memory. But contrary to Hannity's suggestion, the purpose behind Fitzgerald's reported scrutiny of Rove is not to punish memory lapses. Rather, according to the October 21 New York Times article upon which Hannity's comments were evidently based, Fitzgerald was focusing on Rove's conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to determine whether Rove's "lack of a recollection" was part of an effort to "conceal [his] actions and mislead prosecutors."
Hannity was apparently referring to an October 21 New York Times article titled "Cover-Up Issue Is Seen as Focus in Leak Inquiry." The Times reported that Fitzgerald is investigating whether Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, "sought to conceal their actions and mislead prosecutors." According to the article: "Among the charges that Mr. Fitzgerald is considering are perjury, obstruction of justice and false statement -- counts that suggest the prosecutor may believe the evidence presented in a 22-month grand jury inquiry shows that the two White House aides sought to cover up their actions, the lawyers said." The Times further reported that Fitzgerald focused partly on a July 11, 2003, conversation between Rove and Cooper, in which they discussed Plame's CIA status. Rove reportedly did not inform the grand jury of his conversation with Cooper "until months into the leak investigation." According to the Times:
Later, Mr. Rove said he had not recalled the conversation with Mr. Cooper until the discovery of an e-mail message about it that he sent to Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser. But Mr. Fitzgerald has remained skeptical about the omission, the lawyers said.
Cooper, in his grand jury testimony, identified Rove as his source who identified Plame as a CIA employee.
Hannity claimed the Times reported that Fitzgerald's investigation "is about a lack of a recollection of a conversation with Matt Cooper and Karl Rove" and questioned the legitimacy of an inquiry based on an "omission" or a "lack of a recollection." Hannity's comments echoed the White House's response to Fitzgerald's alleged focus on Rove. According to the New York Daily News, the White House maintains that Rove "simply got tripped up on his recollections of whom he talked to."
During a segment featuring Democratic strategist Maryanne Marsh and radio host and former Nixon administration official G. Gordon Liddy (who served four and a half years in prison following convictions for conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping in connection with the Watergate scandal), Hannity claimed that "what The New York Times is reporting, what Reuters is reporting, is that we've gone away from the outing of Plame, and now the realm here, as The New York Times is saying, that they are focused on something that Karl Rove didn't tell the grand jury." Hannity later questioned the legitimacy of such a focus, asking Marsh: "If The New York Times is right, and this is about a lack of a recollection of a conversation with Matt Cooper and Karl Rove, for example, from two and a half years prior, does that not seem legitimate to you?"
Hannity's comments echoed the White House's reported stance on Fitzgerald's scrutiny of Rove. The New York Daily News reported on October 25: "An emerging theme in the Bush war room is arguing that his top political aide, Karl Rove, simply got tripped up on his recollections of whom he talked to and what he told them when questioned about the outing of CIA spy Valerie Plame. He shouldn't be indicted simply because of contradictory grand jury testimony, a source said." According to the New York Daily News, the White House's defense of Rove is part of a "sophisticated war room offensive to fight back against possible indictments in the CIA leak probe."
From the October 24 edition of Fox News's Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: Hey, G. Gordon, what The New York Times is reporting, what Reuters is reporting, is that we've gone away from the outing of Plame, and now the realm here, as The New York Times is saying, that they are focused on something that Karl Rove didn't tell the grand jury.
HANNITY: Maryanne Marsh, let's get to some of the specifics. If The New York Times is right, and this is about a lack of a recollection of a conversation with Matt Cooper and Karl Rove, for example, from two and a half years prior, does that not seem legitimate to you?