Libby & Rove, Sitting In A Tree

They were all in on it.

WASHINGTON – The vice president’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, was a source along with the president’s chief political adviser for a Time story that identified a CIA officer, the magazine reporter said Sunday, further countering White House claims that neither aide was involved in the leak.

In an effort to quell a chorus of calls to fire deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, Republicans said that Rove originally learned about Valerie Plame’s identity from the news media. That exonerates Rove, the Republican Party chairman said, and Democrats should apologize.

But it is not clear that it was a journalist who first revealed the information to Rove.

A lawyer familiar with Rove’s grand jury testimony said Sunday that Rove learned about the CIA officer either from the media or from someone in government who said the information came from a journalist. The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity because the federal investigation is continuing.

In a first-person account in the latest issue of Time magazine, reporter Matt Cooper wrote that during his grand jury appearance last Wednesday, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald “asked me several different ways if Rove had indicated how he had heard that Plame worked at the CIA.” Cooper said Rove did not indicate how he had heard.

The White House’s assurance in 2003 that Rove was not involved in the leak of the CIA officer’s identity “was a lie,” said John Podesta, White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration. He said Rove’s credibility “is in shreds.”

Until last week, the White House had insisted for nearly two years that Libby and Rove had no connection to the leak. Plame’s husband is Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq at the start of the Persian Gulf War.

The White House refused last week to repeat its denials about Rove’s involvement. The refusal came amid the disclosure that Rove told Cooper on July 11, 2003, that Wilson’s wife apparently worked at the CIA and that she had authorized a trip he took to Africa in 2002. The White House on Sunday declined to comment about Libby, saying the investigation was ongoing.

The CIA sent Wilson to check out intelligence that the government of Niger had sold yellowcake uranium to Iraq for nuclear weapons. The chief rationale for the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 was that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Five days before Rove spoke with Cooper, Wilson had written a newspaper opinion piece suggesting the administration had twisted prewar intelligence, including a “highly doubtful” report that Saddam bought nuclear materials from Niger.

Libby and Rove were among the unidentified government officials who provided information for a Time story about Wilson, Cooper told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Cooper also said there may have been other government officials who were sources for his article. Time posted “A War on Wilson?” on its Web site on July 17, 2003.

The reporter refused to elaborate about other sources. He said that he has given all information to the grand jury in Washington where he was questioned for 2 1/2 hours.

In his first-person account, Cooper said Rove ended their telephone conversation with the words, “I’ve already said too much.” Cooper speculated that Rove could have been “worried about being indiscreet, or it could have meant he was late for a meeting or something else.”

“This was the first time I had heard anything about Wilson’s wife,” Cooper wrote of his phone call with Rove.

Cooper also had a conversation about Wilson and his wife with Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.

According to Cooper, “Libby replied, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard that too’ or words to that effect” when Cooper asked if Libby had heard anything about Wilson’s wife sending her husband to Niger. Cooper’s testimony about Libby came in August 2004, after Libby, like Rove this month, provided a specific waiver of confidentiality, Cooper said.

In 2003, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the idea that Rove was involved in leaking information about Wilson’s wife was “ridiculous.”

Everybody go stand in a circle and whisper to one another until you can’t remember who said it first.

Indict the lot of them.

Give a bonus to whoever put Podesta out there. If it takes the Clinton Crisis Team to push this, so be it. Joe Lockhart, whatcha doin’ these days? C’mon, give ’em a hand. Somebody flipped a switch or something, because reporters are on this HARD, every day’s a new embarrassing revelation, every day McClellan looks like either a liar or a fool, every day this gets worse.

This is how it happens. It’s never the big lies, it’s the little ones. It’s never that you denied fucking your brother’s wife, it’s that you forgot you were at the grocery store and not the ice cream parlor the 23rd of August, which leads to questions about where you really were, and is that lipstick on your collar, and you always did talk too long to Lucy at Christmas, and hey wait a minute, something’s going on.

It’s never the thing you worked on and counted on and worried about that comes crashing down around your ears. It’s the phone call on a random Thursday afternoon. It’s the lie you don’t even think about before you tell it, that’s the one that gets you, that’s why these jobs are important, that’s why there are things like security clearances, because what they do is supposed to be done by serious people who will think about everything they say. But this bunch got used to not being called on their bullshit. They lied about the war, and nobody cared. They lied about Kerry and everybody yawned. But this, this thing, this thing that’s all about who made what phone call to who when, this is what’s going to get them, because there are too many lies and too many liars now, and they can’t keep them straight. And the Dems are hitting hard and fast, and the Republicans are nervous.

Remember all those “some Democrats” quoted in stories about Howard Dean? Well, now there’s “some Republicans” to go along with them.

The only concession by any Republican in the controversy came from Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the third-ranking House Republican.

Asked about the White House’s previous statements that Rove was not involved, Blunt told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that spokesmen for the White House “need to be very thoughtful about what they say and be sure that their credibility is sustained.”

Too late for that. Too late by more than half.