WASHINGTON — During much of 2004, Karl Rove's lawyer was on notice that his
client, a senior aide to President Bush, might have disclosed Valerie Plame's
CIA status to a Time magazine reporter.
It wasn't until Time's Matt Cooper was under intense pressure from
investigators to reveal his source that Rove, Bush's top political adviser,
corrected his grand jury testimony, telling Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald
of the conversation he said he'd forgotten.
The timeline of the Rove camp's early knowledge emerged yesterday in a first-person
account by Time reporter Viveca Novak.
Novak said she passed along the information to Rove attorney Robert Luskin
when he said, in effect, that "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a
source for Matt," Novak wrote. "I responded instinctively, thinking he was
trying to spin me."
Novak said she told Luskin "something like, 'Are you sure about that? That's
not what I hear around Time.' He looked surprised and very serious" and at the
end of their discussion that day said, "Thank you. This is important."
Novak said the conversation with Luskin occurred anywhere from January 2004
to May 2004; she thinks it was perhaps in March.
"I wish I had told my bureau chief about the exchange," Novak wrote of her
conversation with Luskin.
It was not until October 2004 — sometime between five and nine months after
Novak's conversation with Luskin — that Rove disclosed his conversation with
Cooper to the prosecutor.
That disclosure followed Luskin's discovery of a White House e-mail from July
11, 2003. The message, from Rove to then-deputy national security adviser
Stephen Hadley, referred to Rove's conversation earlier that day with
It is not known publicly what steps Luskin took after hearing the information
from Novak. Nor is it publicly known whether Fitzgerald's investigators had the
e-mail all along and simply overlooked it or whether the White House had not
given it to the prosecutor.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Rove's legal team, said Rove has cooperated
fully with prosecutors.
"The integrity of the investigation requires that we not discuss the
substance of any communications with the special counsel," Corallo said in a
statement. "Out of respect for the investigative process, we have abided by that
rule and will continue to withhold comment on our interactions with the special
Six weeks ago, in a so-far successful effort to avert Rove's indictment,
defense attorney Luskin disclosed his conversation with Novak to prosecutor
Fitzgerald. Rove remains under investigation.
Novak wrote that Luskin clearly thought that disclosing their discussion "was
going to help Rove, perhaps by explaining why Rove hadn't told Fitzgerald or the
grand jury of his conversation with my colleague Matt Cooper."
Fitzgerald questioned Novak under oath on Dec. 8, the day after he began
presenting evidence to a new grand jury considering evidence in the leak
The prosecutor is investigating the Bush administration's leaking of Plame's
CIA status to the news media in 2003, as her husband, former U.S. Ambassador
Joseph Wilson, accused officials of manipulating prewar intelligence on
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby,
is under indictment in Fitzgerald's probe on five counts of perjury, obstruction
of justice and lying to the FBI. He has denied the charges.
Meanwhile, Time disclosed yesterday that, without telling her editors,
Novak underwent a lengthy interview by Fitzgerald a month ago.
Writing a first-person account of her experience as a witness in the criminal
investigation, Novak becomes the latest reporter to be swept up in the
The magazine said Novak is now on a leave of absence by mutual agreement with
The investigation and Novak's role in it are "pretty serious stuff and the
whole incident led Viveca and me to conclude that a leave of absence was wise,"
said Time's managing editor, Jim Kelly. "She and I will have a fuller
discussion of this."
Fitzgerald interviewed Novak for two hours on Nov. 10.
"I hired a lawyer ... but I didn't tell anyone at Time," Novak wrote of the
days leading up that interview. "Unrealistically, I hoped this would turn out to
be an insignificant twist in the investigation and also figured that if people
at Time knew about it, it would be difficult to contain the information, and
reporters would pounce on it."
Eight days after Fitzgerald interviewed her, Novak was writing a story about
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's newly emerging role in the Plame
saga when she was told by her lawyer that Fitzgerald wanted her to testify. She
informed her bureau chief, who called the magazine's managing editor.
"Nobody was happy about it, least of all me," Novak wrote.