Media outlets reporting on Karl Rove's resignation omitted key facts in their discussion of Rove's involvement in the leak of Valerie Plame's identity -- that Rove in fact leaked Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak and another reporter, that then-White House spokesman Scott McClellan initially denied that Rove was involved in the leak, and that Rove would not have been able to leave "on his own terms" had the White House fulfilled a pledge to fire anyone "involved" in the Plame leak.
Several news outlets reporting on the announcement by White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove that he will resign effective August 31 omitted key facts in their discussion of Rove's involvement in the leak of the identity of then-CIA operative Valerie Plame. In particular, several media reports noted that Rove was not indicted in the investigation, but did not report that Rove leaked Plame's identity to conservative columnist Robert D. Novak and then-Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper and that then-White House spokesman Scott McClellan initially denied that Rove was involved in the leak. McClellan, in fact, said the idea of Rove's involvement was "totally ridiculous." Media reports also noted White House claims that Rove was leaving at "the right time," "on his own terms," "at the time of his own choosing" and that Rove was not "decid[ing] whether to stay or go based on what the mob wants," but those same reports then did not mention that Rove would not have been able to leave "on his own terms" if the White House had fulfilled a pledge to fire anyone "involved" in the Plame leak. Nor did media note that, despite his leaking of classified information, the White House did not strip Rove of his security clearance, and, indeed, renewed it.
For example, an August 13 online New York Times article reported only that Rove was "a focus" of the Plame investigation and that he had "survived" and "emerged from the cloud of the investigation" to work on the 2006 midterm election effort, The article, however, reported Rove's "surviv[al]" and his comment that it was his intention to leave when he wanted to and not "based on whether it pleases the mob" without providing key facts concerning his involvement in the Plame case:
His standing had already diminished considerably. Since the midterm elections, Mr. Bush's political problems have mounted in Iraq, his pursuit of a new immigration policy failed in Congress and the White House has had to defend its actions in the dismissals of United States attorneys, among other issues. Mr. Rove, 56, survived an investigation into the leak of the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative only to face a flurry of subpoenas from Democratic-controlled committees on Capitol Hill that he has so far rebuffed, citing executive privilege.
He has been the focus in the Congressional investigations into the firings last year of several federal prosecutors, and he was until last year a focus of the C.I.A. leak case investigation that led to perjury charges for Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby.
Mr. Rove emerged from the cloud of the investigation to try to stave off Republican defeats last fall. The subsequent failure was his biggest political loss during his tenure at the White House.
Mr. Rove said he knew that some people might suspect he was leaving office to avoid scrutiny but said, "I'm not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob."
Similarly, on the August 13, 10 a.m. edition of MSNBC Live, NBC White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell reported only that Rove "has been under incredible scrutiny over the last few years in the CIA leak case where he was appearing before the grand jury five times" and that he was "never charged in that case." About a half-hour later, O'Donnell reported that "part" of the reason Rove and others thought now would be a "good time" to resign is that "Rove gets to leave on his own terms" after "[h]e got through the CIA leak case, where he was under intense scrutiny," and was "[n]ot forced out at that time." She then stated that "by walking out now, there is a little bit less intense glare on him, and he's able to walk out the door, he says, in a time of his own choosing."
Likewise, on the August 13 broadcast of NBC's Today, O'Donnell reported only that Rove "was implicated but never charged in the CIA leak case." Earlier, during the report, she stated that, according to unnamed "advisers," "while there's never a good time [for Rove to leave], this was the right time."
And on the August 13 broadcast of CBS's The Early Show, White House correspondent Bill Plante reported that he thinks Rove left at this time because "the threat from the special counsel has ended." Without reporting any further details about the "threat" from the "special counsel" - or even that the "special counsel" was investigating the CIA leak case -- Plante then, like the New York Times article, uncritically reported that Rove said "he's not going to decide whether to stay or go based on what the mob wants," which Plante said was "another swipe at the Democrats." Plante also reported that Rove "counseled the president on everything from Supreme Court nominees to Social Security reform to national security issues," but still did not mention Rove's leaking of Plame's identity, the White House's initial denials, its pledge to fire the leaker, or the renewal of Rove's security clearance.
In addition, while both the Associated Press and washingtonpost.com reported on August 13 that Rove did leak Plame's identity, neither reported Bush's pledge to fire anyone "involved" in the Plame leak or the fact that Rove's security clearance was renewed despite the leak. The AP also did not report that the White House had initially denied that Rove was involved in the leak, a fact that the washingtonpost.com article did note. From the AP article:
A criminal investigation put Rove under scrutiny for months during the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's name but he was never charged with any crime. In a more recent controversy, Rove, citing executive privilege, has refused to testify before Congress about the firing of U.S. attorneys.
Rove testified before a federal grand jury in the investigation into the leak of the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA officer whose husband was a critic of the war in Iraq. That investigation led to the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of lying and obstructing justice. Plame contends the White House was trying to discredit her husband.
Attorneys for Libby told jurors at the onset of his trial that Libby was the victim of a conspiracy to protect Rove. Details of any save-Rove conspiracy were promised but never materialized.
The most explicit testimony on Rove came from columnist Robert Novak, who outed Plame in a July 2003 column. He testified that Rove, a frequent source, was one of two officials who told him about Plame. Libby, with whom he seldom spoke, was not a source.
Rove, though, was not indicted after testifying five times before the grand jury, occasionally correcting misstatements he made in his earlier testimony.
The jury in Libby's trial did not hear that testimony, nor did it hear that Rove is credited as an architect of Republican political victories and has been accused by opponents of playing dirty tricks.
All that jurors heard is that Rove leaked Plame's identity and, from the outset, got political cover from the White House. He was never charged with a crime.
From the washingtonpost.com article:
Rove was investigated for his role in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative whose husband publicly criticized the administration's handling of prewar intelligence. Although White House spokesman Scott McClellan initially spoke with Rove and publicly denied that Rove had anything to do with the leak, the investigation later determined that he had in fact divulged or confirmed Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.
Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald brought Rove before the grand jury multiple times and considered charging him in the case but ultimately decided not to. Fitzgerald did indict I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators, although Bush later commuted his sentence. Libby's attorney asserted at his trial that he was being sacrificed to protect Rove.
From the August 13 broadcast of NBC's Today:
O'DONNELL: This is the biggest departure from the Bush inner circle. Karl Rove tells me this morning that he is leaving at the end of the month, and senior advisers here say he will be a great loss because he is a brilliant mind.
Why now? Well, the chief of staff here has told top key players that if they stay beyond Labor Day, they are obligated to stay for the rest of the president's term; that's about 17 months. So advisers tell me that Rove and the president have been talking about this for a long time, more than a year, and while there's never a good time, this was the right time, they say.
He decided to stay after Democrats took hold of Congress and because of the immigration debate and, of course, the Iraq war. Now he wishes to spend more time with his wife, Darby, and their college-age son. Now, Rove is the best known White House staffer for both good and not-so-good reasons. He is credited with helping the president win his White House victories, but he's also been a repeated target of scrutiny. He was implicated but never charged in the CIA leak case. He was most recently subpoenaed in the inquiry about the firing of U.S. attorneys. Advisers here say he will remain one of the president's greatest friends.
From the 10 a.m. ET hour of the August 13 edition of MSNBC Live, with host Mika Brzezinski:
O'DONNELL: People inside the White House have called him brilliant. His critics have said he has at times been ruthless, and as you know, he has been under incredible scrutiny over the last few years in the CIA leak case where he was appearing before the grand jury five times -- never charged in that case -- where he was subpoenaed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, to try to get him to answer questions about the firing of U.S. attorneys. So Rove has had lots of legal bills over the last few years, and a very big imprint on what the president has been doing, especially on domestic policy -- Mika.
BRZEZINSKI: Kelly, given the way analysts have chewing up this information all morning long, do you expect any tweaks on the spin of this?
O'DONNELL: Well, I think people will dissect this for a while, and they'll try to get a sense of what it all means for the president and for this administration going forward and what sort of role Karl Rove has played in all of this. So there's plenty of time to think about that and get a sense of really how he should be judged: as "brilliant," as some in the White House have described him, or "ruthless," as some of his political opponents have viewed him. Today, I would expect speak in favorable, positive, maybe even glowing terms about his friendship with Rove, which advisers point out will continue. So it's not as if Rove is going off the reservation, out of reach of this president. They can still be in touch, but he won't be here 16, 18 hours a day, five, six, seven days a week any longer.
BRZEZINSKI: Kelly I'm just wondering, in terms of the White House reporters there, did this news come as a surprise to everyone there? I know it broke through The Wall Street Journal this morning. And do you think his influence will continue, just long distance?
O'DONNELL: Well, a lot of people thought Karl Rove would be what is referred to as an "eight-year man," staying all the way through two full terms. So to the extent that he would leave at all, that is surprising to some, not surprising to White House insiders. They say that this conversation has been going on for more than a year. Rove himself said to me today that he has been talking to the president about this for a long time and decided with his family and Josh Bolten, chief of staff, and the president that this time, August, would be a good time to go. Part of it is that Rove gets to leave on what's referred to as his own terms. He got through the CIA leak case, where he was under intense scrutiny -- not forced out at that time. And he also gotten through the change of Congress now being in the hands of Democrats. So by leaving now, there is a little bit less intense glare on him, and he's able to walk out the door, he says, in a time of his own choosing.
BRZEZINSKI: Hmm. Very nice. Kelly O'Donnell at the White House. Thank you very much.
From the August 13 broadcast of CBS' The Early Show, with host Harry Smith:
PLANTE: Karl Rove was more than the architect of the Bush victories. He was a longtime confidante and the primary shaper of the Bush political strategy. Rove and the president have known each other for more than 30 years. He first got involved in Republican politics back in the 1970s. Known as a shrewd political strategist and a thorn in the side to Democrats, Rove counseled the president on everything from Supreme Court nominees to Social Security reform to national security issues. His influence at the White House touched everything. Rove was involved in almost all major decisions, including the firing of those nine U.S. attorneys, which he defended even as he dismissed the criticism of Democrats.
ROVE [video clip]: To my mind, it's a lot of politics. I understand that's what Congress has a right to play around with, and they're going to do it.
PLANTE: Rove says he thinks it's time to move on and tells The Wall Street Journal he plans to return to Texas to spend more time with his family.
SMITH: Here's the question of the hour: Why now?
PLANTE: Because, Harry, I think the threat from the special counsel has ended. Rove is thumbing his nose at congressional Democrats who, of course, want him to come and testify. He said that he's not going to decide whether to stay or go based on what the mob wants -- another swipe at the Democrats. He says he's also going to write a book. That should be interesting.
SMITH: That should be interesting.