I haven’t read much in the blogosphere about this Plame case update posted at the Times last night. I’m not sure it is wise to believe any of the New York Times’ reporting on this case given their track record, but it looks like Karl got caught in a lie and is now trying to weasel out of a perjury indictment.
The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case has narrowed his investigation of Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, to whether he tried to conceal from the grand jury a conversation with a Time magazine reporter in the week before an intelligence officer’s identity was made public more than two years ago, lawyers in the case said Thursday.
The special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has centered on what are believed to be his final inquiries in the matter as to whether Mr. Rove was fully forthcoming about the belated discovery of an internal e-mail message that confirmed his conversation with the Time reporter, Matthew Cooper, to whom Mr. Rove had mentioned the C.I.A. officer.
Mr. Fitzgerald no longer seems to be actively examining some of the more incendiary questions involving Mr. Rove. At one point, he explored whether Mr. Rove misrepresented his role in the leak case to President Bush – an issue that led to discussions between Mr. Fitzgerald and James E. Sharp, a lawyer for Mr. Bush, an associate of Mr. Rove said.
At the heart of the remaining investigation into Mr. Rove are the circumstances surrounding a July 11, 2003, telephone conversation between Mr. Rove and Mr. Cooper, who turned the interview to questions about a 2002 trip to Africa by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, who was sent by the C.I.A. to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to be buy uranium ore from Niger.
In his testimony to the grand jury in February 2004, Mr. Rove did not disclose the conversation with Mr. Cooper, saying later that he did not recall it among the hundreds of calls he received on a daily basis. But there was a record of the call. Mr. Rove had sent an e-mail message to Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, which confirmed the conversation.
One lawyer with a client in the case said Mr. Fitzgerald could be skeptical of Mr. Rove’s account because the message was not discovered until the fall of 2004. It was at about the same time that Mr. Fitzgerald had begun to compel reporters to cooperate with his inquiry, among them Mr. Cooper.
It is now known that Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury have questioned Mr. Rove about two conversations with reporters. The first, which he admitted to investigators from the outset, took place on July 9, 2003, in a telephone call initiated by Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist. In a column about Mr. Wilson’s trip four days after the call to Mr. Rove, Mr. Novak disclosed the identity of Mr. Wilson’s wife, Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. intelligence officer who was said by Mr. Novak to have had a role in arranging her husband’s trip. Mr. Novak identified her as Valerie Plame, Ms. Wilson’s maiden name.
In February 2004, when Mr. Rove testified about his conversations with reporters, he recalled the Novak conversation, but no other interviews with reporters – an omission that Mr. Fitzgerald has investigated as a possible false statement or perjury. Mr. Rove said he had forgotten the discussion with Mr. Cooper, the lawyers said.
Mr. Fitzgerald did not learn of the Cooper conversation until months later when a search of Mr. Rove’s e-mails uncovered the e-mail that he had sent to Mr. Hadley. “Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he’s got a welfare reform story coming,” Mr. Rove wrote in the message to Mr. Hadley that was first disclosed in July by the Associated Press.
“When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger,” Mr. Rove wrote. “Isn’t this damaging? Hasn’t president been hurt? I didn’t take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn’t get Time far out on this.”
It is not publicly known why Mr. Rove’s e-mail message to Mr. Hadley was not turned over earlier, but a lawyer in the case said that White House documents were collected in response to several separate requests that may not have covered certain time periods or all relevant officials.