Rove/Plame: KR told grand jury that Novak told him

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Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's difficulties in building a conspiracy case against the Bush White House for leaking the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame make a little more sense today, in light of published reports (AP, NYT) that the White House may have first heard the information from columnist and Beltway fixture Bob Novak. The story circulating now is that Rove told the grand jury (per AP) that "he originally learned about the operative from the news media and not government sources."


For what it's worth, this does comport with the language of Novak's infamous July 14, 2003 column. Novak doesn't claim that the White House told him Plame was undercover. It goes this way:


Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.

This in no way absolves the White House on the broader question of promoting the disclosure of Plame's identity; remember that a number of other journalists have been implicated in talks with the administration about Wilson/Plame and in the subsequent investigation. Besides Novak, Judith Miller, and Matt Cooper, they include Tim Russert and Andrea Mitchell of NBC, Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, and Chris Matthews of MSNBC.

Whether Fitzgerald's investigation yields indictments or not, it has certainly given us fresh perspective on the day-to-day chumminess of government officials and the tone-setters at the top of the DC press corps' food chain. There will be much navel-gazing by the press when this matter concludes, but you can be sure that almost none of it will go to this point.


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