Reporting that Rove avoided indictment, broadcast networks left out his, White House's false statements during CIA leak investigation

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

Broadcast networks covering the news that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald reportedly told White House senior adviser Karl Rove that he does not anticipate charging Rove in connection with the CIA leak investigation left out key information concerning Rove's conduct and the false and misleading information put out by the White House concerning the matter. Rove's history of falsely claiming that he was not involved in disclosing CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity was ignored or downplayed, as was the White House's false denials of Rove's role.

Broadcast networks covering the news that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald reportedly told White House senior adviser Karl Rove that he does not anticipate charging Rove in connection with the CIA leak investigation left out key information concerning Rove's conduct and the false and misleading information put out by the White House concerning the matter. June 13 reports on NBC's Nightly News and the CBS Evening News failed to note that Rove falsely told reporters during the course of the investigation that he was not involved in disclosing CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to reporters or that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan also relayed Rove's false claim to reporters. While ABC's World News Tonight aired footage of Rove denying he leaked Plame's name, it was portrayed as being offset by Rove returning to the grand jury and "saying he had forgotten the conversation" with a reporter; ABC also did not note the repeated denials by Rove and the White House. By contrast, reports in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press all included Rove's falsehoods in their June 14 reports.

AP staff writer Pete Yost noted that "[t]he decision not to charge Karl Rove shows there often are no consequences for misleading the public." Yost further noted that, "by misleading reporters, the White House saved itself from a political liability during the 2004 presidential campaign":

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.

[...]

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.

Rove denied having any involvement in the leak of Plame's identity at least twice in public statements, first in footage aired during a September 29, 2003, ABC News broadcast of a statement Rove gave as he walked to his car, then during an August 31, 2004, interview with CNN national correspondent John King. During a September 16, 2003, White House press briefing, McClellan dismissed as "totally ridiculous" the idea that Rove was involved in leaking Plame's identity.

In his June 13 report on ABC's World News Tonight, ABC senior national correspondent Jake Tapper aired footage of the 2003 ABC News clip of Rove, while walking to his car, denying he had leaked Plame's name, but Tapper did not mention the subsequent denial by Rove and the White House. Tapper followed the footage of Rove's denial by saying that after Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper "testified Rove had been one of his sources, Rove returned to the grand jury saying he had forgotten the conversation. The grand jury apparently believed him."

From the June 13 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS (anchor): There's another major news story today. The prosecutor in the CIA leak case told Karl Rove's lawyer that Karl Rove won't be -- that he, the lawyer, won't be charging the president's top adviser with a crime. President Bush on his way back from Iraq called prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, quote, "a very thorough person who conducted his investigation in a dignified way." The story tonight from NBC News senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers.

MYERS: Today the president's closest aide was described as elated and relieved. Rove's team said he got the good news last night just before a fiery political speech in New Hampshire, hammering Democrats on the Iraq war.

ROVE: They are wrong and profoundly wrong in their approach.

MYERS: In Chicago today, special prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald provided no explanation about why he opted not to prosecute after hauling Rove before a grand jury five times. At issue legally, did Rove deliberately lie when he initially failed to tell prosecutors about a conversation with a Time magazine reporter about CIA operative Valerie Plame? Rove claimed he simply forgot the conversation. Fitzgerald either accepted that explanation or did not have enough evidence to prove otherwise. The chairman of the Republican Party says Democrats owe Rove an apology.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE [video clip]: Mr. Rove, are you going to resign?

KEN MEHLMAN (Republican National Committee chairman): People that prejudged his guilt were wrong to, were wrong to say that he ought to have his security clearance taken away, that he ought to lose his job.

MYERS: But Democrats insist this does not mean Rove did nothing wrong.

HOWARD DEAN (Democratic National Committee chairman): That does not excuse his real sin, which is leaking the name of an intelligence operative during a time of war.

MYERS: Prosecutors maintain that the White House tried to retaliate against Iraq war critic Joe Wilson by leaking the fact that his wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA. Documents and various witnesses indicate that Rove discussed Wilson's wife with two reporters but do not suggest Rove knew she was a covert operative. Rove's team insists the Fitzgerald decision was not the result of any deal with prosecutors. And this is not the end of the CIA leak case. The vice president's former chief of staff [I. Lewis] "Scooter" Libby is scheduled to go on trial next year on perjury charges. Rove still could be called as a witness. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.

From the June 13 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:

CHARLES GIBSON (anchor): And back in the United States, there was a huge sigh of relief at the White House and across the Republican Party today. The president's closest political adviser, Karl Rove, learned that he will not be indicted in the leak of a CIA officer's name. This lifts a major cloud shadowing the President and Republicans in a crucial election year. Here is ABC's senior national correspondent, Jake Tapper.

TAPPER: Karl Rove was on his way to this New Hampshire Republican Party fundraiser when his lawyer e-mailed him the news. Special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald would not indict him in the investigation into who leaked the name of CIA operative, Valerie Plame, wife of ambassador Joe Wilson, a forceful critic of the war in Iraq. Rove and his supporters are elated.

MEHLMAN: Not only has Karl Rove done nothing wrong, but he in fact did everything right in cooperating with the investigation.

TAPPER: After the name of covert agent, Valerie Plame was leaked to reporters, a grand jury began investigating who was responsible for the leak. Twice before the grand jury in February 2004, Rove did not disclose that he told Time magazine's Matthew Cooper about Plame.

REPORTER: Do you have any knowledge or did you leak the name of the CIA agent to the press?

ROVE: No.

TAPPER: After Cooper testified Rove had been one of his sources, Rove returned to the grand jury saying he had forgotten the conversation. The grand jury apparently believed him, as well as believing Rove's claim that he had not known Plame was covert agent at that time, a crucial part of the relevant law. The investigation has already resulted in one indictment, former White House adviser Scooter Libby. And some Democrats and some in the media wrongly predicted Rove would be next.

DAVID SHUSTER (NBC News correspondent): I am convinced that Karl Rove will, in fact, be indicted.

TAPPER: Today, Democrats said that while Rove may not have violated the letter of the law, he may have violated a sacred trust.

DEAN: Karl Rove does not belong in the White House. He has done something that is counter to the interest of the American national security, and I can't believe the president of the United States can't recognize that.

TAPPER: Tonight, a senior adviser to the White House tells ABC News, with the death of Zarqawi and Rove exonerated, it's a welcome week of solid good news for the administration. Jake Tapper, ABC News, Washington.

From the June 13 broadcast of the CBS Evening News:

BOB SCHIEFFER (anchor): The president's top political aide, Karl Rove, just got some good news. Rove has been under investigation in the case involving who leaked the name and blew the cover of the CIA agent who just happened to be married to an administration critic. Well, the special prosecutor has sent word that Rove will not be charged in the case. Our national political correspondent Gloria Borger has been following all this from the start. Gloria, this really is more than the usual inside Washington baseball. It is significant news, not just for Karl Rove, but, I guess, for the White House as well.

BORGER: Yes, it's very good news, and it's very important news for the White House, Bob. Not only is Karl Rove a top presidential adviser, somebody who's known the president since the old Texas days, but he's also the White House point man on the upcoming 2006 midterm elections. If he had been indicted, Bob, this had--would have been beyond an embarrassment. It really would have played into the Democrats' hand, who are talking about what they call `the culture of corruption' in a Republican Washington. So this is good news.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thank you very much, Gloria.

From the June 14 edition of The Washington Post:

Rove does not emerge from the investigation unscathed, however. His credibility took a hit inside and outside the White House when he allowed then-Bush spokesman Scott McClellan to tell reporters that he had no role in the unmasking of Plame, the CIA officer at the center of the leak scandal. The investigation has shown that, in a one-week period in 2003, Rove spoke to two reporters about Plame and her CIA role, then reported back to other senior White House officials, according information publicly released by Fitzgerald and by sources familiar with the case.

The episode left McClellan and a few other White House aides upset that they were initially misled by Rove, according to several administration sources. Other White House officials said the case seemed to distract Rove at times and compounded Bush's political problems since his 2004 reelection victory.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
CBS, NBC
Person
Lisa Myers, Jake Tapper
Show/Publication
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
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