Monday, July 04, 2005

This Rove/Plame story is nothing as simple as "Rove leaked the name. That's a felony." Having said that, though, I'll add that Rove seems to be in water so hot it's close to the boiling point.
Time magazine is giving up reporter Matt Cooper's notes, and they will show that Rove talked to Cooper about the matter three or four days before Novak's story broke. What's less clear is whether Rove, at that point, identified Plame as an undercover CIA agent. Before Cooper's story appeared, Novak outed Plame, but Novak is not the one on the special prosecutor's hotseat because he apparently made some kind of deal with the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. What Novak gave him, nobody knows. In the meantime, Rove has testified before a grand jury and maintains that he did not leak the Plame information. Newsweek's online magazine has the story.
Joshua Marshall's Talking Points Memo makes a trenchant observation about the direction of the grand jury investigation. He believes it's implicit that:
the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald is after Rove for some felony arising out of the case (perjury after the fact? conspiracy?) but not the immediate and original act of leaking the name.
There's one other point worth noting here. As we've seen, federal law recognizes no reporters' privilege or confidentiality. But if recollection serves, there are DOJ guidelines which say that prosecutors should exercise a great deal of discretion when trying to compel testimony from journalists. They're not supposed to do it just to tie up a few loose ends, but only if there's real and significant crime they're trying to prosecute. And before they do so, they're supposed to have exhausted all other possible ways to get at the information. ...
So just a question: Would Fitzgerald have pushed to get Cooper and Miller in the slammer if some other party in the White House weren't in a lot of trouble?

Looking ahead, how will Bush react to the headlines? He's famous for (misplaced) loyalty. Why else would Rumsfeld still be in office? Even if Bush weren't so bullheaded, he could hardly just dump his deputy chief of staff. Bush hates to look craven and, besides, Rove is like J. Edgar. You know he's got enough dirt on this White House to bury them six feet deep. We'll see if the bad publicity forces Rove out. Aside from collateral damage to Bush's image, Rove's resignation would be about the most felicitous consequence we Dems could hope for. After all, if he is charged with some felony, I see a pardon in his future.
So let's hear it for collateral damage. RAH!

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