Novak again asserted that Armitage's role in leak case exonerates Rove

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

In a column discussing Karl Rove's resignation, Robert D. Novak asserted that "[a]lthough [special counsel Patrick] Fitzgerald knew from the start that not Rove but the politically nondescript Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was my primary source in identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA employee, the prosecutor came close to indicting Rove for perjury or obstruction of justice." However, Rove confirmed the information Armitage divulged, as Novak himself has admitted.

In an August 14 column discussing Karl Rove's announcement that he is resigning as White House deputy chief of staff, syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak asserted that "[a]lthough [special counsel Patrick] Fitzgerald knew from the start that not Rove but the politically nondescript Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was my primary source in identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA employee, the prosecutor came close to indicting Rove for perjury or obstruction of justice." But as Media Matters for America has noted, while Armitage was Novak's primary source for Plame's identity, Rove confirmed the information Armitage divulged, as Novak himself has admitted. He did not mention that fact in the August 14 column.

Novak wrote in his column:

Rove had always been a happy warrior, self-confident in building a broad-based Republican majority. But his political joy was diminished by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of him in the CIA leak case. Although Fitzgerald knew from the start that not Rove but the politically nondescript Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was my primary source in identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA employee, the prosecutor came close to indicting Rove for perjury or obstruction of justice. Rove rivaled Bush as a hate figure for left-wing politics.

Joseph Wilson did not know the identity of my source when he talked about "frog-marching" Rove into jail, setting a mindless pattern soon followed by bloggers and politicians alike. A talkative juror, after convicting Scooter Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice, expressed sorrow that it was not Karl Rove.

The desire to get Rove has outlived the Plame case, with Democratic lawmakers trying to make him the target in the firings of U.S. attorneys. Since there will be no impeachment proceedings against the president, Rove has been the best available surrogate.

As Media Matters has noted, in a July 12, 2006, column, Novak disclosed that one of his sources for Plame's identity was Rove. He wrote that Fitzgerald presented him with two waivers of confidentiality before he testified: "One was by my principal source in the Valerie Wilson column, a source whose name has not yet been revealed. The other was by presidential adviser Karl Rove, whom I interpret as confirming my primary source's information. In other words, the special prosecutor knew the names of my sources." He later confirmed that the other source was Armitage in a September 14, 2006, column.

As Media Matters has documented, Fitzgerald has explained why he continued his investigation of the case after learning of the identity of the leakers to Novak and indicted former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements. In a sentencing memorandum filed May 25, following Libby's conviction on four of the five charges, Fitzgerald responded to "Mr. Libby's friends and associates" who "assert that his prosecution was unwarranted, unjust, and motivated by politics":

[I]t is undisputed but of no moment that it was known early in the investigation that two other persons (Richard Armitage and Karl Rove) in addition to Mr. Libby had disclosed Ms. [Plame] Wilson's identity to reporters, and that Messrs. Armitage and Rove were the sources for columnist Robert Novak's July 14, 2003 column, which first publicly disclosed Ms. Wilson's CIA affiliation. The investigation was never limited to disclosure of Ms. Wilson's CIA affiliation to Mr. Novak; rather, from the outset the investigation sought to determine who disclosed information about Ms. Wilson to various reporters, including -- but not limited to -- Mr. Novak.

[...]

To accept the argument that Mr. Libby's prosecution is the inappropriate product of an investigation that should have been closed at an early stage, one must accept the proposition that the investigation should have been closed after at least three high-ranking government officials were identified as having disclosed to reporters classified information about covert agent Valerie [Plame] Wilson, where the account of one of them was directly contradicted by other witnesses, where there was reason to believe that some of the relevant activity may have been coordinated, and where there was an indication from Mr. Libby himself that his disclosures to the press may have been personally sanctioned by the Vice President. To state this claim is to refute it. Peremptorily closing this investigation in the face of the information available at its early stages would have been a dereliction of duty, and would have afforded Mr. Libby and others preferential treatment not accorded to ordinary persons implicated in criminal investigations.

Moreover, as Media Matters has repeatedly noted, during an October 2005 press conference announcing Libby's indictment, Fitzgerald said that Libby's obstruction had prevented the special counsel's office from determining whether an underlying crime had been committed. Fitzgerald reiterated this point in his sentencing memorandum, writing that "the reasons why Mr. Libby was not charged with an offense directly relating to his unauthorized disclosures of classified information regarding Ms. Wilson included, but were not limited to, the fact that Mr. Libby's false testimony obscured a confident determination of what in fact occurred."

This is not the first time Novak -- and other media figures -- have suggested that Rove was not involved in the leaking of Plame's identity. As Media Matters noted, on the July 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, during a discussion of the CIA leak case with Novak, host Joe Scarborough falsely suggested that Rove was not involved in the leak. On the July 19 edition of the show, on which Novak again appeared, Scarborough claimed that Media Matters was "very upset because of my interview yesterday with Bob Novak, talking about the narrative that the left wing had for a very long time that this whole Valerie Plame leak was a diabolical plot hatched by Karl Rove." Introducing Novak, Scarborough said he was "[h]ere to clear that up and talk about his book, Prince of Darkness" [Crown Forum, July 2007]. In response to questioning from Scarborough, Novak acknowledged that Rove was his confirming source. Nonetheless, the two continued to push the false claim that Fitzgerald "knew that no crime, no underlying crime had been committed," in Scarborough's words, and yet persisted with the investigation that resulted in Libby's conviction.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Person
Robert Novak
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
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