News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dems Seek Probe on Rove Role in CIA Leak

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
20 minutes ago

Democrats stirred the pot Thursday in the case of powerful presidential aide Karl Rove and the news leak that unmasked a CIA agent. They triggered a partisan clash in the Senate, sought a House investigation and brought the husband of the undercover operative to the Capitol, where he accused the White House of a "smear campaign."

Senate Republicans countered with legislation — swiftly sidetracked — put together largely to embarrass Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and his deputy.

"We should not be doing this," Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, scolded both sides during a 90-minute debate full of barbs. "This is exactly why the American public holds Congress in such low esteem right now."

The partisan flare-up occurred on a day that President Bush offered Rove a silent show of support, chatting amiably with the political adviser as they walked to a helicopter on the White House lawn.

There was nothing friendly in the full Senate when lawmakers debated a spending bill for the Homeland Security Department.

Reid, D-Nev., invoked the name of the first President Bush when the senator criticized the current administration of "playing politics with our national security."

Speaking in favor of his legislation to strip Rove of his clearance for classified information, Reid said the president should already have done so. Instead, Reid said, the administration has attacked its critics. "This is what is known as a cover-up. This is an abuse of power," Reid said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. said Democrats were resorting to "partisan war chants." He said it was up to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to determine the facts surrounding the publication of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name and her connection with the intelligence agency. "He is investigating the whole matter," Frist said.

Sen. Norm Coleman (news, bio, voting record), R-Minn., accused Democrats of shattering a peaceful period of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate. "Why don't we all step back and lower the rhetoric," he said.

Across the Capitol, Rep. Rush Holt (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J., introduced legislation for an investigation that would compel senior administration officials to turn over records relating to Plame disclosure.

"This is not about Karl Rove," Holt said. "This ... is about holding the executive branch accountable for a breach of national security."

Just outside the Senate chamber, Plame's husband, a former diplomat and opponent of the administration's Iraq policy, criticized Rove in personal terms.

"I made my bones confronting Saddam Hussein. ... Karl Rove made his bones by dirty political tricks," said Joseph Wilson, who was the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War.

At a news conference hosted by Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), a New York Democrat who heads his party's Senate campaign organization, Wilson said he has been targeted by a "smear campaign launched from the West Wing of the White House."

In rebuttal, the Republican National Committee distributed a document entitled "Joe Wilson's Top Ten Worst Inaccuracies and Misstatements." The Senate GOP leadership quickly organized a news conference of its own.

"This is politics, pure and simple," said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. "Joe Wilson has perpetrated one of the greatest political hoaxes or all times."

After simmering for months, the matter has intensified in recent days with the disclosure that Rove was a source for Time reporter Matt Cooper, who wrote a Web site article that identified Plame as a CIA officer.

Cooper testified Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating whether anyone in the administration illegally leaked Plame's name and identity. Wilson has said the leak was an attempt to discredit him.

Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has said the White House deputy chief of staff has done nothing wrong. Rove "has been repeatedly assured he is not a target of the investigation," Luskin has said.

But twice this week, the president passed up chances to state his continued confidence in the aide most closely identified with his political successes. Democrats eagerly stepped in.

In the end, their effort in the Senate to strip Rove of his security clearance was defeated on a party-line vote of 53-44.

Frist's alternative lost, too, by a 64-33 vote. Some 20 Republicans joined all voting Democrats in opposition.

The proposal said any federal officeholder who refers to a classified FBI report on the floor of the Senate would be denied access to the material. That was a reference to Reid, who referred briefly several weeks ago to an FBI report on one of Bush's judicial nominees.

Frist's proposal also would cover any federal officeholder who makes a statement "based on an FBI agent's comments which is used as propaganda by terrorist organizations."

That was a reference to Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, who apologized recently for having likened interrogation practices at an American-run prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to those of Nazis, Soviet gulags and rulers such as Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in Cambodia.

Campaign for a Cleaner Congress: Rove tied to House Lobbying Scandal through Former Aides

To: National Desk

Contact: Sandra Salstrom of Campaign for a Cleaner Congress, 202-393-4352

WASHINGTON, July 14 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Karl Rove's involvement in leaking the name of a CIA operative for political advantage during wartime could be just the tip of the iceberg as far as unethical behavior, since his web of influence extends to the most notorious figure of the House Lobbying Scandal.

"It's widely known that Karl Rove has been pulling strings all over Washington for years, obviously not just in the case of the Plame leak," said Peter L. Kelley, manager of the Campaign for a Cleaner Congress.

"What is not widely known, however, is his close connection with Jack Abramoff, who is at the center of the lobbying scandal in which Washington is now embroiled. Rove let archconservative operatives like Grover Norquist call shots at the White House. And just this week, a Texas judge ruled that a former Rove lieutenant must face felony charges of money laundering for Tom DeLay's political operation.

"Without further ethics reforms, the public has virtually no ability to find out what is really going on in Washington these days," Kelley said. "But what we do know is starting to smell, and it offers a starting point for further investigation."

For sources on the following, and a 5-point plan to limit the influence-peddling in Washington, see

-- When Rove got to the White House in 2001, he hired as his personal assistant Susan Ralston, previously Abramoff's personal assistant. Ralston has since become an insider's insider.

-- Norquist reportedly made a deal in which Ralston would take messages for Rove at the White House, then call Norquist to tell her whether she should put the caller through.

-- John Colyandro wrote direct mail pieces for Rove in the 1980s. When he was hired as executive director of the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, he was described as a "longtime pal of Rove's." This week, a judge said Colyandro must stand trial for laundering over $600,000 in corporate campaign contributions.

"Could party leaders' abrupt about-face on the Plame case have anything to do with the other ethics scandals that have been grabbing headlines for months now?" said Kelley. "It seems there are more than a few bad apples in this barrel, and they don't like it that the public is starting to find out."

The big lie defense

Karl Rove's loose-lipped attorney now claims that Time reporter Matt Cooper "burned" his client. And flaming winged monkeys lit the match.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Eric Boehlert

July 13, 2005 | Karl Rove and Scott McClellan may not want to talk about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, but Rove's attorney Robert Luskin seems unnecessarily chatty. A week after darting around the media landscape doing damage control on behalf of Rove -- and giving seemingly inconsistent explanations about Rove's involvement in the Plame affair -- Luskin is striking again. This time he's playing press critic, and he's not letting the facts get in his way.

Luskin, whose client nearly got Time magazine's Matthew Cooper thrown in jail because Cooper was determined for two years to protect Rove's identity as a confidential source, has now turned around to claim it was Cooper who "burned" Rove.

Luskin's beef: The language Cooper used in a July 17, 2003, story about Joseph Wilson was misleading. (The article appeared just days after Robert Novak outed Wilson's wife in his column, which sparked the federal grand jury whodunit.) Luskin, citing the narrow scope of the conversation Rove and Cooper had, denies the White House ever declared a "war on Wilson," as Cooper's article suggested.

"If you read what Karl said to him and read how Cooper characterizes it in the article, he really spins it in a pretty ugly fashion to make it seem like people in the White House were affirmatively reaching out to reporters to try to get them to report negative information about Plame," Luskin tells the National Review Online. The claim rings completely hollow.

Here's the relevant portion of the Cooper story:

"Some government officials have noted to Time in interviews (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched to Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices."

According to the internal, July 11, 2003, e-mail turned over to prosecutors by Time, Cooper informed his editors that he'd just spoken with Rove, who insisted it was Wilson's wife, "who apparently works at the [CIA] on wmd issues[,] who authorized the trip" to Niger. And that's exactly what Cooper wrote in his article: Government officials said Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and was involved with his being sent to Niger. So where's the sinister spin? How did Cooper "burn" Rove by accurately reporting his comments?

What's more, if Rove's conversation with Cooper was really only intended to "warn Time away from publishing things that were going to be established as false," as Luskin tells NRO, then Rove would have talked to Cooper off the record. Instead, Rove, clearly hoping Cooper would repeat the Plame information, talked to Cooper on background. Or "double super secret background," as Cooper called it in his e-mail, which essentially meant Time could use the information but just had to keep Rove's name out of the story.

In fact, in his e-mail to his editors, Cooper wrote, "Please don't source this to rove or even WH [White House]." In the article, he dutifully sourced the information to "some government officials," which means Cooper kept his word. It was Novak in his column who attributed the Plame leak more specifically to "two senior administration officials."

As for Luskin's statement to NRO that Rove's conversation did not signal any kind of White House war on Wilson, and that it "was not a calculated effort by the White House to get this [Plame] story out," Luskin is playing dumb, conveniently ignoring the fact, as reported by the Washington Post on Sept. 28, 2003, that "two top White House officials," in a deliberate attempt to undermine Wilson, peddled Plame's name "to at least six Washington journalists."

The Post quoted one of the press recipients: "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission. They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story."

Rove reportedly told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Wilson's wife was "fair game." In other words, Bush aides were shopping dirt around town in a calculated effort by the White House to get the story out.

But the war on Wilson wasn't limited to White House officials like Rove blowing a CIA cover via a whispering campaign. As Cooper noted in his article -- in fact, this matter took up the bulk of his story -- scores of administration officials, including former CIA director George Tenet and former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, were out front in the summer of 2003 criticizing Wilson's work as incomplete, naive and contradictory.

It wasn't just a war on Wilson, it was a scorched-earth policy. And guess who engineered it?

- - - - - - - - - - - -

About the writer
Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is working on "Lapdogs: How Bush Got the Press to Heel." The book will be published by The Free Press in 2006.

Rove's war

Bush's right-hand man is dispatching his troops to smear Joe Wilson -- and save himself. He may win in Washington, but the special prosecutor will have the last word.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Sidney Blumenthal

July 14, 2005 | This is Karl Rove's war. From his command post next to the Oval Office in the West Wing of the White House, he is furiously directing the order of battle. The Republican National Committee lobs its talking points across Washington, its chairman forays the no-man's-land of CNN. Rove's lawyer, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial board are sent over the top. Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay man the ramparts, defending Rove's character.

For two years, since the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the disclosure of the identity of an undercover CIA operative, President Bush and his press secretary, Scott McClellan, have repeatedly denied the involvement of anyone in the White House. "Have you talked to Karl and do you have confidence in him?" a reporter asked Bush on Sept. 30, 2003. "Listen, I know of nobody," he replied. "I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action."

Bush backed himself into that corner because of a sequence of events beginning with the ultimate rationale he offered for the Iraq war. Public support for the war had wavered until the administration asserted unequivocally that Saddam Hussein was seeking to acquire and build nuclear weapons. Its most incendiary claim was that he had tried to purchase enriched yellowcake uranium in Niger. An Italian magazine, Panorama, had received documents appearing to prove the charge. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson was secretly sent by the CIA to investigate, and he found no evidence to substantiate the story. The CIA subsequently protested inclusion of the rumor in a draft of a Bush speech, and Bush delivered it on Oct. 7, 2002, without it.

But a month earlier, a British white paper had mentioned the Niger rumor. And in his January 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." These 16 notorious words had already been proved false, however (debunked by three separate reports from administration officials, which were apparently ignored ahead of Bush's speech). On March 7, 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that the Niger documents were "not authentic." The following day, the State Department concurred that they were forgeries. The invasion of Iraq began on March 20.

After the war began, the administration refused to acknowledge those 16 words were false. To set the record straight, Wilson wrote an Op-Ed article on July 6, 2003, in the New York Times titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa." It was the first crack in the credibility of the administration's case for the war, suggesting that the underlying intelligence had been abused, distorted and even forged. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice later admitted, "It was information that was mistaken." And CIA Director George Tenet said the lines "should never have been included in a text written for the president."

A week after Wilson's Op-Ed appeared, on July 14, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote that Wilson's "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." The revelation of Plame's identity may be a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 -- a felony carrying a 10-year prison sentence. Apparently, the release of Plame's identity was political payback against Wilson by a White House that wanted to shift the subject of the Iraq war to his motives.

On July 30, the CIA referred a "crime report" to the Justice Department. "If she was not undercover, we would not have a reason to file a criminal referral," a CIA official said. On Dec. 30, the Justice Department appointed Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for northern Illinois, as the special prosecutor.

Fitzgerald's investigation stalled when two reporters he subpoenaed, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times, initially refused to testify. But Time handed over Cooper's notes on his conversation with Rove to the prosecutor, and Cooper eventually decided to cooperate. Miller chose to remain in contempt of court and has been imprisoned until the grand jury is dissolved. With the publication of Cooper's memo to his editors two weeks ago, the White House was asked about whether the president would adhere to its own "highest standards," as McClellan had put it, and fire anyone involved in outing Plame. But since Monday, both McClellan and Bush have refused to comment on the investigation. While the White House stonewalls, Rove has license to run his own damage-control operation. His surrogates argue that if Rove did anything, it wasn't a crime. There's no cause for outrage, except at Joe Wilson, and now, in a turn of the screw, Matt Cooper. The inhabitants of the political village should busy themselves with their arts and crafts. No one's status will be endangered or access withdrawn, it is implied, if they do nothing rash. They should simply accept that exposing undercover CIA operatives is part of politics as usual. Return to your homes. Stay calm.

Rove is fighting his war as though it will be settled in a court of Washington pundits. Brandishing his formidable political weapons, he seeks to demonstrate his prowess once again. His corps of agents raises a din in which their voices drown out individual dissidents. His frantic massing of forces dominates the capital by winning the communications battle. Indeed, Rove may succeed momentarily in quelling the storm. But the stillness may be illusory. Before the prosecutor, Rove's arsenal is useless.

Can the special counsel be confounded by manipulation of the Washington chattering class? What's the obligation of a reporter to a source in this case? What game are Rove and his surrogates playing? What are the legal vulnerabilities of Rove and others in the White House?

Wilson's article provided the first evidence that the reasons given for the war were stoked by false information. But the attack on Wilson by focusing on his wife is superficially perplexing. Even if the allegation were true that she "authorized" his mission, as Rove told Cooper, it would have no bearing whatsoever on the Niger forgeries, or any indictment. But Rove's is a psychological operation intended to foster the perception that the messenger is somehow untrustworthy and that therefore his message is too. The aim is to distract and discredit. By creating an original taint on Wilson's motives, an elaborate negative image has been constructed.

The Wall Street Journal editorial of July 13 best reflected the through-the-looking-glass Rovian defense and projection: "For Mr. Rove is turning out to be the real "whistleblower" in this whole sorry pseudo-scandal ... In short, Mr. Rove provided important background so Americans could understand that Mr. Wilson wasn't a whistleblower but was a partisan trying to discredit the Iraq War in an election campaign."

In order to untangle this deceptive web, it's essential to return to the beginning of the long disinformation campaign triggered by the publication of Wilson's Op-Ed. The facts clarify not only the mendacity of the smears but also the seeming quandary of the reporters who have become collateral damage.

In early 2002, Valerie Plame was an officer in the Directorate of Operations of the CIA task force on counter-proliferation, dealing with weapons of mass destruction, including Saddam's WMD programs. At that time, as she had been for almost two decades, she was an undercover operative. After training at "The Farm," the CIA's school for clandestine agents, she became what the agency considers among its most valuable and dangerous operatives -- a NOC, or someone who works under non-official cover. NOCs travel without diplomatic passports, so if they are captured as spies they have no immunity and can potentially be executed. As a NOC, Plame helped set up a front company, Brewster-Jennings, whose cover has now been blown and whose agents and contacts may be in danger still. After marrying Wilson in 1998, she took Wilson as her last name.

When the Italian report on Niger uranium surfaced, Vice President Cheney's office contacted the CIA's counter-proliferation office to look into it. Such a request is called a "tasker." It was hardly the first query the task force had received from the White House, and such requests were not made through the CIA director's office, but directly. Plame's colleagues asked her if she would invite her husband out to CIA headquarters at Langley, Va., for a meeting with them, to assess the question.

It was unsurprising that the CIA would seek out Wilson. He had already performed one secret mission to Niger for the agency, in 1999, and was trusted. Wilson had also had a distinguished and storied career as a Foreign Service officer. He served as acting ambassador in Iraq during the Gulf War and was hailed by the first President Bush as a "hero." Wilson was an important part of the team and highly regarded by Secretary of State James Baker and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. Wilson was also an Africa specialist. He had been a diplomat in Niger, ambassador to Gabon and senior director for Africa on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. (I first encountered Wilson then, and we have since become friends.) No other professional had such an ideal background for this CIA mission.

Plame's superiors asked her to cable the field in Africa for routine approval of an investigation of the Niger claim. At Langley, Wilson met with about a dozen officers to discuss the situation. Plame was not at the meeting. Afterward, Wilson informed his wife that he would be traveling to Niger for about 10 days. She was not particularly enthusiastic, having recently given birth to twins, but she understood the importance of the mission. She had no authority to commission him. She was simply not the responsible senior officer. Nor, if she had been, could she have done so unilaterally. There was nothing of value to be gained personally from the mission by either Joe or Valerie Wilson. He undertook the trip out of a long-ingrained sense of government service.

CIA officers debriefed Wilson the night of his return at his home. His wife greeted the other operatives, but excused herself. She later read a copy of his debriefing report, but she made no changes in it. The next they spoke of Niger uranium was when they heard President Bush's mention of it in his 2003 State of the Union address.

Attributing Wilson's trip to his wife's supposed authority became the predicate for a smear campaign against his credibility. Seven months after the appointment of the special counsel, in July 2004, the Republican-dominated Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report on flawed intelligence leading to the Iraq war. The blame for failure was squarely put on the CIA for "groupthink." (The Republicans quashed a promised second report on political pressure on the intelligence process.) The three-page addendum by the ranking Republicans followed the now well-worn attack lines: "The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee."

The CIA subsequently issued a statement, as reported by New York Newsday and CNN, that the Republican senators' conclusion about Plame's role was wholly inaccurate. But the Washington Post's Susan Schmidt reported only the Republican senators' version, writing that Wilson was "specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly," in a memo she wrote. Schmidt quoted a CIA official in the senators' account saying that Plame had "offered up" Wilson's name. Plame's memo, in fact, was written at the express directive of her superiors two days before Wilson was to come to Langley for his meeting to describe his qualifications in a standard protocol to receive "country clearance." Unfortunately, Schmidt's article did not reflect this understanding of routine CIA procedure. The CIA officer who wrote the memo that originally recommended Wilson for the mission -- who was cited anonymously by the senators as the only source who said that Plame was responsible -- was deeply upset at the twisting of his testimony, which was not public, and told Plame he had said no such thing. CIA spokesman Bill Harlow told Wilson that the Republican Senate staff never contacted him for the agency's information on the matter.

Curiously, the only document cited as the basis for Plame's role was a State Department memo that was later debunked by the CIA. The Washington Post, on Dec. 26, 2003, reported: "CIA officials have challenged the accuracy of the ... document, the official said, because the agency officer identified as talking about Plame's alleged role in arranging Wilson's trip could not have attended the meeting. 'It has been circulated around,' one official said." Even more curious, one of the outlets where the document was circulated was Talon News Service and its star correspondent, Jeff Gannon (aka Guckert). (Talon was revealed to be a partisan front for a Texas-based operation called GOPUSA and Gannon was exposed as a male prostitute, without previous journalistic credentials yet with easy and unexplained access to the White House.) According to the Post, "the CIA believes that people in the administration continue to release classified information to damage the figures at the center of the controversy."

Fitzgerald sought testimony from Cooper because he had published an article on the Wilson case, citing anonymous White House sources. Miller had published no article at all. Apparently, another witness gave up Miller's name to the prosecutor under questioning. Who that witness might be and under what circumstances he cited Miller is unknown. (In the run-up to the war, Miller's articles on WMD were crucial in creating a political atmosphere favorable to the administration's case. But her articles were later revealed to be false, based on disinformation, and the Times published a long apology.)

Both Cooper and Miller argued that they were entitled to journalistic privilege to protect their sources. But the court ruled against them. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan's opinion suggested that the prosecutor's case had deepened and widened.

In discussing the sealed affidavit filed by Fitzgerald, and not privy to the defendants, Hogan stated that the "Special Counsel outlines in great detail the developments in this case and the investigation as a whole. The ex parte affidavit establishes that the government's focus has shifted as it has acquired additional information during the course of the investigation. Special Counsel now needs to pursue different avenues in order to complete its investigation." Judge Hogan concluded that "the subpoenas were not issued in an attempt to harass the [reporters], but rather stem from legitimate needs due to an unanticipated shift in the grand jury's investigation."

Now Miller languishes in jail and Cooper has testified before the grand jury. Is Miller protecting her sources, or does the prosecutor seek to question her as a disseminator of information? Should a journalist protect a source if that person has not provided true information as best they know, but disinformation? What is the obligation of reporters to protect people who have misled them?

In the best-case scenario for Miller, Bill Kovach believes that any pledge she may have made to a source should be invalid. Kovach is the former Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, former curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and founding director of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. He describes the internal policy set within the Times on sources. "By the 1980s, we decided that we had to set some limits because reporters had been misled and the credibility of the news reports had been damaged by misleading sources. When I was chief of the bureau in Washington, we laid down a rule to the reporters that when they wanted to establish anonymity they had to lay out ground rules that if anything the source said was damaging, false or damaged the credibility of the newspaper we would identify them."

In the Plame matter, Kovach sees no obligation of the reporters to false sources. "If a man damages your credibility, why not lay the blame where it belongs? If Plame were an operative, she wouldn't have the authority to send someone. Whoever was leaking that information to Novak, Cooper or Judy Miller was doing it with malice aforethought, trying to set up a deceptive circumstance. That would invalidate any promise of confidentiality. You wouldn't protect a source for telling lies or using you to mislead your audience. That changes everything. Any reporter that puts themselves or a news organization in that position is making a big mistake."

Obviously, the Times is not imposing the rules in its present crisis that Kovach was involved in making. Are the editors unfocused on the underlying facts and falsehoods? Do the editors have a responsibility to determine who is a fair source and who is a deceiver? Has anyone fully debriefed Miller? For now, the Times is frozen in its heroic defense of the First Amendment.

Washington, meanwhile, is an echo chamber of Rove's agents. His lawyer, Robert Luskin, has trashed Cooper: "By any definition, he burned Karl Rove." RNC chairman Ken Mehlman has appeared on talk shows, given newspaper interviews and circulated a three-page memo of talking points to Republican surrogates. In one brief statement, for example, Mehlman said: "The fact is Karl Rove did not leak classified information. He did not, according to what we learned this past weekend, reveal the name of anybody. He didn't even know the name ... He tried to discourage a reporter from writing a story that was false."

Mehlman's farrago of lies and distortions may be a fair representation of Rove's fears. Is it "the fact" that Rove didn't leak classified information? Plame's identity of course was classified. That is why the CIA referred the matter to the Department of Justice for investigation. But is Mehlman disclosing yet another Rove worry? The prosecutor can indict under any statute, including simply leaking classified information. Is Rove afraid of being indicted under that law, not just the one that makes it a crime to identify Plame? Mehlman raises a further Rove anxiety. No, Rove didn't "reveal the name." But the law doesn't cite that as a felony; it only specifies revealing the "identity" as a crime. It says nothing about a "name." Rove revealed "Joe Wilson's wife." That qualifies as an "identity." By the way, Plame did not go by the name of Plame, but Wilson -- in other words, Mrs. Wilson, or "Joe Wilson's wife." Rove seemed to know that much -- her identity.

Helpfully guiding a reporter to the truth and away from "a story that was false"? Indeed, Rove was planting two false stories, not just one. The first was that "Joe Wilson's wife" had sent him on his mission; the second was to suggest that Wilson was wrong and that there would be new information to support the original Bush falsehood. In fact, the White House admitted that Wilson was correct and that Bush's 16 words were wrong. Yet Rove attempted to insinuate doubt in the mind of the reporter to discourage him from writing a story that was true.

At one point, on CNN, Wolf Blitzer asked Mehlman if he had attended meetings at the White House on how to deal with Wilson. Suddenly, the voluble Mehlman constricted. "I don't recall those meetings occurring," he said. Has the prosecutor inquired about such meetings and their participants?

The sound and fury of Rove's defenders will soon subside. The last word, the only word that matters, will belong to the prosecutor. So far, he has said very, very little. Unlike the unprofessional, inexperienced and weak Ken Starr, he does not leak illegally to the press. But he has commented publicly on his understanding of the case. "This case," he said, "is not about a whistle-blower. It's about a potential retaliation against a whistle-blower."

- - - - - - - - - - - -

About the writer
Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of "The Clinton Wars," is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London.

Rove Would Lose Security Clearance Under Democrats' Plan

WASHINGTON, July 14 - Senate Democrats tried to add to Republican discomfort over the presidential adviser Karl Rove today as they called for legislation to deny security clearances to officials who unmask undercover agents.

The Democrats hoped to attach the measure to a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Should the maneuver succeed, and Republicans then resist the overall bill, Democrats could portray them as trying to block legislation vital to national security.

Votes on various amendments to the Homeland Security bill, including the one addressing security clearances, were expected to begin in midafternoon, with a vote on the overall bill possible by evening.

The amendment on security clearances was offered by the Democratic senators Harry Reid of Nevada, who is the minority leader, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Carl Levin of Michigan.

On the other side of the Capitol, several Democratic House members proposed a resolution calling for a Congressional investigation into the unmasking of the C.I.A. officer Valerie Plame Wilson, an episode that Representative Jay Inslee of Washington State said demonstrated that "this administration put partisan pettiness above national security."

President Bush, who was in Indianapolis today to address a black business group, said on Wednesday that he would withhold judgment on Mr. Rove until the conclusion of a federal grand jury investigation.

The disclosure two years ago, by the columnist Robert Novak, that Mrs. Wilson was a C.I.A. operative has raised questions over whether her unmasking was the work of the White House in retaliation against her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. Mr. Wilson had criticized the president's Iraq policy in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times a few days before Mr. Novak's column, which cited "two senior administration officials" in disclosing the name of Valerie Plame and her employment by the C.I.A.

For months, the White House categorically denied that Mr. Rove had anything to do with unmasking Mrs. Wilson, as she now prefers to be known, and President Bush said he would fire any White House employee found to have leaked classified information. But it came to light last weekend that in July 2003, Mr. Rove had alluded to Mrs. Wilson (though not by name) in an interview with a Time magazine reporter, Matthew Cooper, about a trip Mr. Wilson made to Africa on behalf of the C.I.A. to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to buy uranium there.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, has recently said that Mr. Rove did not take part in any organized effort to disclose Mrs. Wilson's identity, that Mr. Rove had broken no laws and that he had cooperated with the special federal prosecutor's grand jury investigation.

Since last weekend, Democrats have assailed Mr. Rove, the president's chief political strategist in the last two elections, asserting that at the very least the White House's earlier denials are suspect, and that perhaps Mr. Rove has something to hide.

Mr. Wilson said in an interview on NBC television today that Mr. Rove should be fired "for abuse of power."

"Karl Rove has now been caught," Mr. Wilson said. "The president really should stand up and prove to the American people that his word is his bond and fire Karl Rove."

But former President Bill Clinton said he was withholding judgment on what, if anything, should happen to Mr. Rove. "It depends on what the facts are," Mr. Clinton said in an interview on CNN. But he said that neither Mr. Wilson nor his wife had deserved the damage done to their lives and careers by the disclosure of her C.I.A. employment.

The Republican National Committee attacked Mr. Wilson today, telling reporters in an e-mailed statement that he is a far more partisan Democrat than he has portrayed himself to be.

Mr. Rove's allies have also emphasized that according to a recently disclosed e-mail message that Mr. Cooper sent to his Time bureau chief in July 2003, Mr. Rove did not use Ms. Wilson's name in the conversation or mention her undercover status. Rather, according to a copy of the message that Newsweek magazine said it had obtained, Mr. Rove had told Mr. Cooper only that it was "Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip" to Africa by Mr. Wilson.

House Democrats, meanwhile, said that the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's role, while petty politics, was also more than that. "It means that every undercover agent that we have around the world will be wondering whether her or his country will stand behind him," said Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey. He said no one at the White House should have known of Mrs. Wilson's role in the first place.

And Representative Inslee ridiculed the notion that because Mr. Rove had not mentioned Mr. Wilson's wife by name, he had not really identified her. "Well, unless Joe Wilson was a polygamist, we knew exactly who he was talking about," Mr. Inslee said.

Representative Henry Waxman of California said the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's C.I.A. employment was "reprehensible."

"The evidence emerged last weekend implicating Karl Rove himself in this leak of information from the White House," Mr. Waxman said. "Yet the White House has refused to answer basic questions. This is wrong given the gravity of the offense."

Dems Call for Bill on Security Clearance

By Ron Fournier / Associated Press

Senate Democrats moved forcefully into the controversy surrounding White House aide Karl Rove on Thursday, calling for legislation to deny security clearances to officials who disclose the identity of an undercover agent.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., sought to attach the proposal to a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security, and aides said he hoped for a vote by day's end.

Reid, the Democratic leader, made his move as Republicans watched nervously to see whether the controversy over Rove's involvement in a news leak that exposed a CIA officer's identity would pose a credibility problem at the White House.

While the president passed up another chance Wednesday to directly voice confidence in his deputy chief of staff, his political team engineered a series of testimonials from members of Congress who praised Rove and condemned Democratic critics. And Bush's press secretary, Scott McClellan, told reporters the president has confidence in his longtime confidant.

"The extreme left is once again attempting to define the modern Democratic Party by rabid partisan attacks, character assassination and endless negativity," said Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the GOP congressional campaign committee. The Republican National Committee, virtually a political arm of the White House, urged GOP lawmakers to go public.

Still, several top GOP officials — including some White House advisers — said the fight was becoming a distraction to Bush's agenda. The GOP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of Bush's friendship with Rove, said the president may face a credibility problem because his spokesman said in September that anybody involved in the leak would be fired.

These Republicans, all admirers of Rove, said they were surprised and disappointed when Bush stopped short of publicly backing his longtime aide.

Their concerns were reflected in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that showed a plurality of voters rate Bush negatively on "being honest and straightforward" for the first time in his presidency. The focus on Rove comes as Bush publicly wrestles with a Supreme Court vacancy and growing voter unease with his policies on Iraq and Social Security.

A survey of Republicans outside Washington revealed similar concerns, though few officials were willing to go on record.

"I think he should resign," said Jim Holt, a GOP state senator from Arkansas who is running for lieutenant governor. He joked, "I hope Karl Rove doesn't come gunning for me."

Meanwhile, Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, called on Bush Thurday to fire Rove, saying that the president's confidant had engaged in an "abuse of power."

In an interview broadcast on NBC's "Today" show, Wilson decried what he called a White House "stonewall" in the wake of the Rove revelations.

Bush said Wednesday that he would not discuss the matter further until a criminal investigation is finished.

"This is a serious investigation," the president told reporters after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, where Rove sat just behind him. "And it is very important for people not to prejudge the investigation based on media reports."

Bush has passed up several opportunities to voice support for Rove, though the political operative's allies were told the vote of confidence was to come Wednesday. In a silent show of support, Bush chatted amiably with Rove as the pair walked to Marine One for the president's trip to Indiana on Thursday.

A federal grand jury heard more testimony Wednesday in its probe into whether anyone in the administration illegally leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame in July 2003. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the administration's rationale for invading Iraq, has said the leak was an attempt to discredit him.

Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who wrote an article that identified Plame, appeared before the grand jury for 2 1/2 hours.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said in a statement, "Cooper's truthful testimony today will not call into question the accuracy or completeness of anything Rove has previously said to the prosecutor or the grand jury. If the prosecutor seeks additional information from Rove in light of Cooper's testimony, Rove will promptly supply it.

Each political side intensified its attempts to discredit the other on Wednesday, producing a flurry of press releases and news conferences.

Reid and three other Senate Democratic leaders — Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — sent a letter to Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, asking him to release results of an initial internal investigation into the leak., a liberal advocacy group, announced its members would stage a protest in front of the White House on Thursday to demand Rove's firing.

A survey of more than a dozen Republicans who live outside Washington found most siding with the White House. "It's a tempest in a teapot," said Denzil Garrison, former state GOP leader in Oklahoma.

Holt, the lieutenant governor candidate in Arkansas, said he was assigned to the National Security Agency while serving in the Army from 1989 to 1996. "If I were an operative, I sure wouldn't want anybody to reveal my identity," he said.

The White House previously has said Rove was not involved in the leak. But an internal Time magazine e-mail disclosed over the weekend suggested Rove mentioned to Time reporter Cooper that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent.

CIA Veteran Ray McGovern: Cheney Caught in a Lie

Thursday 14th July 2005

From the transcript of Conyers June 16th Downing Street Memo Hearing.

27 Year CIA Veteran Ray McGovern:

I would like to publicly thank the patriotic, courageous whistle-blowers who made available these documents because through them and through of all people Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times we know the answers to a lot of these questions.

By now you know what the Downing Street minutes say. Let me focus in on the phase the intelligence facts were fixed around the policy. How exactly is this fixing accomplished? Rather than speak in generalities, let’s do AOL. Let’s do the anatomy of a lie. We’ll take just one.

You have to pay a little bit of attention here because it flows through a chronology. Here is now it works. On August 26, 2002, less than 5 weeks after the briefing at 10 Downing Street, Vice President Cheney gave a major speech in which he said, "We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from the first-hand testimony of defectors including Saddam’s own son-in-law."

This was a lie.

Saddam’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, told us just the opposite when he defected in 1995. Again, he told us just the opposite. You can find it on page 13 of his debriefing report. He said, "All weapons, biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed." How did Kamel know this? He was in charge.

They were destroyed in July 2001. I’m sorry, in July 1991 at his order. Why? To prevent the U.N. inspectors from finding them after the war. And everything else, everything else Hussein Kamel told us checked out to be true.

Cheney’s lie would have been able to stand were it not for the conscience of another patriotic whistle-blower who gave the text of Kamel’s debriefing to Newsweek 4 weeks before the war as the drumbeat for war got louder and louder in early-2003. Newsweek broke the story on February 24, 2003, several weeks before the attack, but the information was suppressed by U.S. media.

When Reuters asked then CIA spokesman Bill Harlow about it, he used this entire tray of adjectives branding this report incorrect, bogus, wrong and untrue. The British government took the same line. It mattered not that the evidence was documentary from the official debriefing report of Kamel.

So that’s how it works, folks. That’s how you fix intelligence.

All you need is chutzpa, a very flexible attitude toward truth, slumbering watch dog intelligence committees in the Congress, and a supine press eager to accept official explanations no matter how disingenuous.

Cheney played a superb role in fabricating out of whole cloth a nuclear threat from Iraq, putting wind behind all those mushroom clouds conjured up by the President and Condoleezza Rice to deceive you, the Congress, our elected representatives.

In a 27-year career in intelligence, one encounters many examples of attempts to trim the truth or, as the British minutes put it, fix the intelligence and facts around the policy. It’s in the woodwork. It’s part of the political scene. But I had never known fixing to include the Vice President abrogating the right to turn a key piece of intelligence on its head.

Nor had I in all those years ever known a sitting Vice President to make multiple visits to CIA headquarters to make sure the fix was in, and this is just one example.

There is no word to describe the reaction of professional intelligence officers, active and retired, to the reality that our intelligence community managers were eager to participate in this deceit, and to this deliberate subversion of the oath we all take--the oath we all take to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Now we’re not talking about Georgetown parlor games here, or worse still, White House fraternity jokes. These are consequential death-dealing lies.

The establishment was all yucking it up at the annual dinner of the Radio and TV news correspondents on March 24th, 2004, as photos showed the president looking under the office furniture, and around this desk are there some weapons of mass destruction here? or maybe they’re over there.

Ha, ha, ha, and you all laughed with him folks; you all laughed with him. I’ll tell you who’s not laughing. Cindy’s not laughing. The father and brother of Specialist--or Sgt. Sherwood Baker’s not laughing.

Cindy’s son was killed 11 days after the show put on by the president looking for weapons of mass destruction. Sgt. Baker was killed 33 days after that big joke, and four months after David Kay came back from Iraq and told us all there were no weapons of mass destruction.

You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. That’s the scriptural verse chiseled into the marble at CIA headquarters. Well, thanks to the Downing Street minutes, we now know the truth, and the question for us is whether we have enough respect for the Constitution, whether we have enough courage, that we will pursue the purveyors of consequential falsehood, so that the truth can truly make us free. Thank you very much.

Time Reporter Testifies About Contacts With Rove

Bush Cautions Against Prejudging Leak Case

By Jim VandeHei and Carol Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 14, 2005; A04

The reporter with whom Karl Rove discussed a covert CIA operative testified before a grand jury yesterday, as President Bush appeared publicly with his top White House political adviser and cautioned against prejudging the federal leak investigation.

Matthew Cooper, the Time magazine reporter who for months had refused to disclose private conversations with Rove, emerged from a federal courthouse here after more than two hours of testimony but shed little light on what he told prosecutors.

A number of legal experts, some of whom are involved in the case, said evidence that has emerged publicly suggests Rove or other administration officials face potential legal threats on at least three fronts.

The first is the unmasking of CIA official Valerie Plame, the original focus of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's probe. But legal sources say there are indications the prosecutor is looking at two other areas related to the administration's handling of his investigation. One possible legal vulnerability is perjury, if officials did not testify truthfully to a federal grand jury, and another is obstructing justice, if they tried to coordinate cover stories to obscure facts.

Legal experts said the evidence that has emerged in recent days -- including confirmation that Rove and Cooper spoke about Plame's role at the CIA as a way of knocking down a damaging story about the administration's Iraq policy -- does not by itself necessarily indicate a crime was committed. Even so, White House officials acknowledged privately that they are concerned that the investigation will lead to an indictment of someone in the administration later this year.

The White House had declared that Rove was not involved in Plame's unmasking, and, when the controversy broke in the summer of 2003, Bush said he would fire anyone who illegally outed a CIA official. But the president steered clear of substantive comment yesterday, his first public remarks since Rove's role was confirmed.

"This is a serious investigation," Bush told reporters. "It is very important for people not to prejudge the investigation based on media reports."

Rove was seated directly behind the president as he spoke after a Cabinet meeting. Bush reiterated that every member of his staff has been ordered to comply with investigators and said it would be inappropriate to comment further.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush fully supports Rove, though the president did not make such a statement when asked twice by reporters about Rove's role in the Plame controversy.

At the courthouse, Cooper declined to provide details about his testimony. He added that he had "no idea whether a crime was committed or not. That's something the special counsel's going to have to determine."

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said that Cooper's grand jury appearance was enabled by Rove's assurance that he was not asking for confidential-source status and did not object to the reporter's testimony. "By facilitating Cooper's testimony, Rove has helped ensure the special prosecutor has access to all relevant information from every source," Luskin said. "Cooper's truthful testimony today will not call into question the accuracy or completeness of anything Rove has previously said to the prosecutor or grand jury. . . . Rove has cooperated completely with the special prosecutor, and he has been repeatedly assured he is not a target of the investigation."

Outside the courtroom and away from the White House, Republicans stepped up their defense of Rove, while Democrats intensified their drumbeat for Bush to fire Rove, or at least revoke his security clearance. Democrats on the House intelligence committee said Rove's security clearance should be blocked until the investigation is complete. The White House has no plans to pull Rove's clearance, aides said.

Still, much of the leak probe remains a mystery to those outside the office of Fitzgerald, who is leading the investigation and divulging little.

It is a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a federal official to intentionally disclose the identity of a covert agent.

The controversy began when former U.S. diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, Plame's husband, went to Niger in February 2002 to investigate allegations that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase materials for the production of nuclear weapons. He found the claims to be largely unfounded. Seventeen months later, after Wilson leveled charges that the administration manipulated evidence in making the case for war on Iraq, news reports cited administration officials saying his charges were not credible because the Niger report was tainted by nepotism, because he was sent by Plame.

Several people familiar with the investigation said they expect Fitzgerald to indict, or at least force a plea agreement with, at least one individual for leaking Plame's name to conservative columnist Robert D. Novak in July 2003.

Randall D. Eliason, former public corruption chief at the U.S. Attorney's Office here, said Fitzgerald likely has evidence of serious wrongdoing, or he would not have gone this far.

"Right now, it's more political damage than legal damage" for the White House, Eliason said. "But it's reasonable to speculate he wouldn't go to the Supreme Court on reporters' privilege unless he had something pretty serious. You don't subpoena reporters and throw them in jail lightly. Fitzgerald is not some type of bomb-thrower."

An official could face perjury charges for misleading the special counsel while testifying under oath. If so, this would become a familiar case of Washington officials getting in trouble for a coverup rather than the original misdeed.

"If you look at past scandals, people are most often indicted for making false statements to federal investigators or false statements to the grand jury," said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor and criminal lawyer. "Even a brief conversation can become an obstruction charge."

Fitzgerald could have evidence, for instance, that Rove or other officials encouraged someone to tell a coverup story to explain their conversations about Plame, which could lead to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice. But legal experts noted these cases are often difficult to prove.

Finally, there could be evidence of the crime that Fitzgerald first set out to investigate, a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Under a very detailed list of conditions, if Rove or other government officials revealed the identity of Plame to the media while knowing she was a covert agent, they could face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Victoria Toensing, who helped write the act, has said there is likely no such evidence in this case, because the statute was designed to have a high standard and requires proof of intent to harm national security.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Can Bush Survive Without Rove?

Bush's Brain. The Architect. Boy Genius. Fired?

By Jane Roh / Fox News

Karl Rove, the 54-year-old political maverick who helped mold George W. Bush from the aimless son of an influential politician into the most powerful man in the world, now finds himself at the center of the president's second-term scandal: the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.

President Bush said last year that if someone in his administration leaked the name of a CIA agent, that person would no longer be in his administration. But the fate of Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff who discussed the agent with a Time magazine reporter in 2003, remains to be seen.

Many who've been at the receiving end of a Rovian political pummeling say they believe the scrutiny of their former nemesis is a long time coming.

"The character flaw or strength, whatever you want to call it, that got him in this jam is his win-at-any-cost philosophy," said Democratic strategist Ray Strother.

Strother, author of "Falling Up: How a Redneck Helped Invent Political Consulting," has faced off against Rove more than once since the two first met in 1984 in Texas. Still, he counts himself a friend and admirer.

"I find him a very pleasant guy and good guy to drink beer with," Strother said.

As a political operative, Rove inspires awe and fear, often simultaneously. He is credited with transforming an overwhelmingly Democratic Texas into GOP country. And he is most famous for getting Bush, a self-described C student with no foreign policy experience, elected to the highest office in the land.

Along the way, he has been accused of everything from planting a bug in his own office to make the other guy look bad, starting a racist whispering campaign against onetime Bush rival John McCain and using homophobia to turn Texans against former Democratic superstar Ann Richards.

After dropping out of college and then becoming head of the national College Republicans at age 22, Rove is said to have sworn by the mantra "Don't get caught." Biographers say his bloodlust was apparent early on — as Watergate was unfolding, The Washington Post reported that Rove trained College Republicans in dirty-tricks campaigning for his hero, Richard Nixon.

Rove's legend has since reached mythic proportions. Democratic foes see him as the lone reason for Bush's success — the guy who always wins because he is able to engage in the dirtiest politics without leaving a fingerprint that could be traced back to his candidate.

But those who have observed Rove for years say opponents give the Denver-born Utah native more credit than he deserves.

"In talking to Karl over the years, he's told me he's been blamed for many more things than he ever could have been involved in," Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News senior political reporter and co-author of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential," told

Slater recounted an incident for which Rove was wrongly fingered. During the 2000 presidential campaign, the press corps immediately blamed Rove after videotapes of Bush being prepped for debate were handed to Democratic nominee Al Gore's campaign. It turned out that Rove was not involved.

"They were completely wrong, but it was instructive the reporters immediately thought Rove did it," Slater said. "It reminded me of all those years in Texas in which whenever something [suspicious] happened Rove was blamed for it. "

But, Slater added, Rove's reputation as a master manipulator and schemer is more or less deserved.

"The overarching reason Democrats and critics of Rove blame him for this pattern of activity is that there is a pattern," Slater said. "Throughout his political career, bad things happen — sometimes involving dirty tricks — to his enemies or rivals, and good things happen to his clients and candidates."

But, Slater continued, that doesn't mean Rove is the practitioner of black magic that his critics make him out to be.

"He's amoral. He doesn't set up a plan to damage, defeat or destroy his enemies because he's evil. He does it because he's so unbelievably competitive and amoral that that's the result," Slater said. "He happens to be a genius, a political genius. Whatever gifts Bush has, he needed the political genius of Rove."

Despite a failed congressional run that was unaided by Rove, Bush's political life has arguably been charmed. He was re-elected despite facing charges of manipulating the causes for war in Iraq at a time when his job-creation record was being compared to Herbert Hoover. The victory still confounds Democrats, whose frustration after John Kerry's loss last November has led to months of soul-searching.

That the Massachusetts senator, a decorated Vietnam veteran with years of political experience, was handed such a decisive defeat has only added to the myth of Rove. But ascribing near-supernatural prowess to a political operative may not do Democrats any good.

"That's from Democrats — 'Bush's Brain' — their way of simultaneously making Rove into a puppeteer and Bush into a dum-dum. It's intended to screw Bush, but that's where the myth diverges from the facts," said Carl Cannon, National Journal's Washington correspondent and co-author of "Boy Genius: Karl Rove, the Brains Behind the Remarkable Political Triumph of George W. Bush."

In fact, many who have followed Bush's career closely, from the time he was an owner of the Texas Rangers, say the president is far more capable and in control than his critics are willing to believe.

"Inside the White House, nobody thinks Rove is in charge. Bush is the unquestioned leader of that place. They think Bush is indispensable, not Rove," Cannon said.

Strother, who has consulted for Gore, former President Bill Clinton and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, agrees that Rove's reputation is overblown.

"It's almost like an excuse for losing. Karl's given credit for more than he's due," he said.

But that is not to say Rove, whom Bush affectionately calls "Turd Blossom," isn't incredibly important to the president. It's difficult for many inside the Beltway to imagine one without the other, which is why Rove's predicament has become the biggest story in town.

"Unless he has lied to the grand jury or unless there is an obstruction of justice issue," there is little chance Bush will fire his old friend and partner, Slater said. The longtime Texas journalist, who has been at the receiving end of many of Rove's leaks, said he does not believe Rove intended to blow Plame's cover.

Prominent Democrats, including Kerry, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, have called for disciplinary action against Rove. Bush's vow that whoever committed the leak would be dealt with is being thrown back at him; watching White House spokesman Scott McClellan squirm under reporters' questions these past few days is reminiscent of Mike McCurry's defense of Clinton before the former president admitted his affair with an intern.

With ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least one Supreme Court vacancy and a looming Social Security crisis, a second-term scandal is probably the last thing Bush needs. But having to fire Rove may actually dispel distortions about Bush's command of his office.

"[The late French President] Charles de Gaulle said, 'The graveyards are full of indispensable men.' The world will go on," Cannon said of a Rove departure.

Moreover, a Rove exodus may not give Democrats the boost they think it will.

"I think they do themselves a disservice," Cannon said of the tendency to exaggerate Rove's role in the administration. "I also think it's inaccurate and I don't think it's a very productive way to do politics. They continually underestimate Bush and who does that hurt? Not Bush."

Slater said he believes that Rove's mark on politics will last even if he doesn't.

"I didn't see a Democratic strategy in 2004 that was even close to the depth and detail of the Rove machine. The way he has changed politics is not that the tactics are different; he has simply raised it to a new level."

Cooper to Disclose Grand Jury Testimony in 'Time'

Editor and Publisher

NEW YORK - Time's magazine's Matt Cooper today testified to a grand jury that White House aide Karl Rove was a source for a story about a CIA operative that has investigators deciding whether any laws were broken by the leak of the agent's identity.

Cooper told E&P late today, "I'm allowed to talk about what happened in the Grand Jury and plan to write about it." When asked when it might appear, he said, "soon, but I don't know when."

After more than two hours of testimony, Cooper addressed reporters outside the courtroom. "It is my hope to get back to being a normal journalist on the other side of the microphones," Cooper said. "I hope to go back to Time magazine and write up an account of what took place here today and my story."

When Cooper was pressed, he responded, "But I'm not going to do it here, right now. ... I'm not going to scoop myself today."

Cooper said he hoped his testimony would speed up the grand jury's investigation, which would allow The New York Times' Judith Miller to be released from jail.

He confirmed that his source on the leak was Deputy Chief of Staff Rove, one of President Bush's most trusted advisers and the man credited with Bush's four consecutive campaign victories.

The waiver that freed Cooper to cooperate with the grand jury was signed by Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin. Cooper's attorney, Richard Sauber, was on hand Wednesday to pass out photocopies of the waiver to reporters

CIA agent's husband sees W. House cover-up on leak

By Sue Pleming
Thu Jul 14,10:10 AM ET

The husband of a CIA agent whose identity was revealed amid debate over the Iraq war accused the White House on Thursday of being involved in a giant "cover-up" in the scandal and said President Bush should fire his top aide Karl Rove.

Federal investigators are looking into who leaked the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose name appeared in a newspaper column in July 2003, and Rove has emerged as a source for at least one media report on the case.

"What this thing has been for the past two years has been a cover-up, a cover-up of the ... web of lies that underpin the justification for going to war in Iraq," said Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, a former career foreign-service officer who held diplomatic posts in the first Bush administration and served in the Clinton White House.

"And to a certain extent, this cover-up is becoming unraveled. That's why you see the White House stonewalling," Wilson said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.

Wilson has said repeatedly the leak was aimed at discrediting him for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy in 2003, after a CIA-funded trip in 2002 to investigate whether Niger helped supply nuclear materials to Baghdad.

Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, has been named by a Time magazine reporter as a source who identified the agent.


Rove's lawyer said on Wednesday his client "has been repeatedly assured he is not a target" of the special prosecutor investigating the case and that he had done nothing wrong.

Bush said on Wednesday he would withhold judgment for now and told reporters he had ordered his staff to cooperate with investigators. He has previously said he would fire the leaker.

A growing number of Democrats have called for Rove to resign. Wilson, who briefly served as an adviser to the campaign of Bush's 2004 presidential opponent, Sen. John Kerry, said he thought the president should fire his adviser.

"The president really should stand up and prove to the American people that his word is his bond and fire Karl Rove," said Wilson.

Wilson scoffed at the notion that Rove did not use his wife's name or that he did not realize she was an undercover agent.

"My wife's name is Wilson, it is Mrs. Joseph Wilson, it is Valerie Wilson. He named her, he identified her. That argument I don't believe passes the smell test," said Wilson.

"What I do know is that Mr. Rove was talking to the press and saying things like, my wife is 'fair game.' That is an outrage. It is an abuse of power," Wilson added.

Plame returned to the CIA this month after a year's absence and Wilson said his family had not enjoyed the attention brought by the case. The couple have 5-year-old twins.

The case led to the jailing last week of New York Times reporter Judith Miller who refused to testify about sources she spoke to on the story.

Time reporter Matt Cooper avoided the same fate after Rove waived their agreement to keep his comments confidential. Cooper testified before the investigating grand jury on Wednesday.

Wilson: The president should ‘fire Karl Rove’

Former ambassador Joe Wilson talks with NBC's Jamie Gangel about who, he believes, is responsible for the outing of his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, and how he hopes justice will be served

Today show
Updated: 11:05 a.m. ET July 14, 2005

It was two years ago today that columnist Robert Novak outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative. For the last eight months, ambassador Joe Wilson has let the legal process play out, and waited while the grand jury did its work. But now, as the investigation heats up and gets closer to the White House, and as fingers point directly at Karl Rove, Wilson is ready to talk. “Today” national correspondent Jamie Gangel sat down for an exclusive interview with him. She asked Wilson whether he feels Karl Rove should be fired, and about his wife, who’s now back at the CIA, but Wilson started the interview by accusing the White House of a conspiracy. Here is Jamie Gangel's report.

Former ambassador Joe Wilson is on the attack:

Joe Wilson: What this thing has been for the past two years has been a cover-up, a cover-up of the web of lies that underpin the justification for going to war in Iraq. And to a certain extent, this cover-up is becoming unraveled. That's why you see the White House stonewalling.

And he is angry with the man he believes is behind that cover-up, the president’s top adviser, Karl Rove:

Jamie Gangel: It's now public that President Bush's top adviser, Karl Rove, did talk to at least one reporter about your wife. But Rove insists he never used her name and that he did not know that she was undercover. That he did not knowingly give her up.

Wilson: My wife's name is Wilson. It is Mrs. Joseph Wilson. It is Valerie Wilson. And he named her. He identified her. So that argument I don't believe stands the test of — stands the smell test.

Gangel: He says he also did not know that she was an undercover operative.

Wilson: I have no way of knowing. I've never spoken to Karl Rove. What I do know is that — Mr. Rove was talking to the press. And he was saying things like my wife is fair game. That is an outrage. It is abuse of power.

Gangel: What do you think of Karl Rove?

Wilson: Oh, I think he's — I'm really very saddened by all of this.

Gangel: What does your wife think of Karl Rove?

Wilson: She doesn't think very much of him either. I can assure you of that.

Throughout this ordeal, Valerie Plame Wilson has turned down all interview requests, and after a year’s leave of absence is back working at the CIA. Up until recently, a tongue-in-cheek photo in Vanity Fair was the only well-known image of her. But now the Wilsons have gone public, and new photos show what the former undercover spy looks like.

Gangel: What does she think of all this week?

Wilson: Well, you know, fortunately we have 5-year-old twins, and they occupy most of our free time. She's obviously nonplussed at this unwanted attention brought again on our family. But she's tough. You don't do the job that she has done for this country for 20 years without being mentally strong.

Gangel: Your critics have said that this is partisan on your part, that you are part of a Democratic attempt to discredit Iraq policy.

Wilson: That's simply not true.

Gangel: You are a Democrat?

Wilson: I exercise my rights as a citizen of this country to participate in the selection of my leaders. And I'm proud to do so. I did so in the election in 2000 by contributing not just to Al Gore's campaign but also to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Gangel: Do you and your wife believe the perpetrators of this will ever be punished?

Wilson: We have great confidence in the institutions that have made our country great for 229 years. We would not have served our country for a collective 43 years if we did not believe in it. And yes, we do have — we do have confidence that justice will be done.

Gangel: Bottom line. What do you think the White House should do now?

Wilson: Well, I think the president should call in his senior advisers and say enough is enough. I want you to step forward and cooperate.

Gangel: Do you think even though what Karl Rove did may not have broken a law — do you think from what you know he should be fired?

Wilson: Absolutely. Absolutely. The president said in — in the middle of 2004 that he would fire anybody who was caught leaking in this matter. Karl Rove has now been caught. The president has said repeatedly, I am a man of my word. The president really should stand up and prove to the American people that his word is his bond and fire Karl Rove.

“Today” asked the White House if they wanted to respond to Wilson, but they said they stand with their “no comment” while this is under investigation.

The question now is what are the chances that Karl Rove will be fired, or resign. I think at this point no one knows, but Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank said this: "Washington is Karl Rove's world, we just live in it!" A lot of people in this town think that sums it up.

© 2005 MSNBC Interactive

Media repeated false GOP talking point on authorization for Wilson trip to Niger

(via Media Matters)

Media repeated false GOP talking point on authorization for Wilson trip to Niger

Numerous media figures have repeated, or failed to question, a Republican National Committee (RNC) talking point asserting that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV claimed that Vice President Dick Cheney "sent him" on a 2002 CIA mission to Niger, as well as White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove's reported assertion that "Wilson's wife" authorized the trip. The RNC has accused Wilson of misrepresenting the Niger trip in its effort to explain and justify Rove's alleged involvement in leaking the identity of Wilson's wife, former clandestine CIA officer Valerie Plame. Specifically, according to the RNC talking point, Rove told Time magazine writer Matthew Cooper that "Wilson's wife," who worked at the CIA, had authorized Wilson's trip because Rove was trying to prevent Cooper from writing inaccurately that Cheney had sent Wilson on the mission. As the RNC alleged: "The bottom line is Karl Rove was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise and the Democrats are engaging in blatant partisan political attacks."

In fact, both of the claims underpinning the RNC's defense of Rove are false: Wilson never claimed he was sent to Niger at Cheney's request, and it was the CIA's Directorate of Operations, Counterproliferation Division (CPD), that authorized the trip, not Plame.

The RNC talking point: Wilson said he was sent to Niger at Cheney's behest

In order to defend Rove's mention of "Wilson's wife" to Cooper, the RNC sought to demonstrate that Rove had reason to believe that Cooper would falsely report that Cheney sent Wilson on the Niger trip, and that Rove needed to set the record straight by telling Cooper that Plame had actually authorized the trip, as Rove's lawyer has claimed. In an attempt to suggest that public statements made by Wilson had led Cooper to believe that Cheney authorized the trip, the RNC misrepresented a July 6, 2003, op-ed by Wilson in The New York Times and distorted a remark from Wilson in an August 3, 2003, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer -- made after Rove discussed Plame with Cooper and therefore could not have been a basis for Rove's purported concern -- to assert that "Wilson falsely claimed that it was Vice President Cheney who sent him to Niger."

The RNC cited Wilson's Times op-ed as evidence that he claimed Cheney sent him to Niger. But the op-ed actually noted that it was "agency officials" from the CIA who "asked if I would travel to Niger" to answer questions Cheney's office had about a particular intelligence report:

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake -- a form of lightly processed ore -- by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

The RNC then distorted Wilson's appearance on CNN's Late Edition by excluding a crucial portion of his remarks in which he noted that "it's absolutely true" that Cheney was unaware that Wilson was traveling to Niger and reiterated that the "CIA, at the operational level, made a determination" to send Wilson to answer a "serious question" posed by Cheney's office.

Additionally, Rove's conversation with Cooper took place on July 11, 2003 -- more than three weeks before Wilson's CNN appearance -- so it is chronologically impossible for Rove to have been refuting a statement that Wilson hadn't made yet, as has pointed out.

From the RNC talking points:

Joe Wilson: "What They Did, What The Office Of The Vice President Did, And, In Fact, I Believe Now From Mr. Libby's Statement, It Was Probably The Vice President Himself ..." (CNN's "Late Edition," 8/3/03)

From the August 3, 2003, edition of CNN's Late Edition:

WILSON: Well, look, it's absolutely true that neither the vice president nor Dr. [then-national security adviser Condoleezza] Rice nor even [then-CIA Director] George Tenet knew that I was traveling to Niger.

What they did, what the office of the vice president did, and, in fact, I believe now from Mr. Libby's statement, it was probably the vice president himself --

BLITZER: [I. Lewis] "Scooter" Libby is the chief of staff for the vice president.

WILSON: Scooter Libby. They asked essentially that we follow up on this report -- that the agency follow up on the report. So it was a question that went to the CIA briefer from the Office of the Vice President. The CIA, at the operational level, made a determination that the best way to answer this serious question was to send somebody out there who knew something about both the uranium business and those Niger officials that were in office at the time these reported documents were executed.

The Senate Intelligence Commitee's account, presented in its 2004 review of prewar weapons intelligence on Iraq, matches Wilson's. "Officials from the CIA's DO Counterproliferation Division told committee staff that in response to questions from the Vice President's Office and the Departments of State and Defense on the alleged Niger-uranium deal, CPD officials discussed ways to obtain additional information. ... CPD decided to contact a former ambassador to Gabon [Wilson] who had a posting early in his career in Niger," the report stated.

Rove's false claim to Cooper: Plame authorized Wilson's trip

An email Cooper sent to his bureau chief, which was obtained by Newsweek, indicates that Rove mentioned "Wilson's wife" to a reporter prior to syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's outing of Plame. The email states: was, KR [Rove] said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.

Based on the false premise that Wilson had publicly stated that Cheney authorized the Niger trip, Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin claimed that Rove merely told Cooper that "Wilson's wife ... authorized the trip" to prevent Cooper from "perpetuating some statements that had been made publicly and weren't true" -- in other words, writing a story suggesting that Cheney had authorized the trip.

But the claim that Plame authorized -- or even suggested -- Wilson's trip is unproven, if not demonstrably false. The Senate Intelligence Committee closely examined the issue but did not reach a conclusion about how the CIA made the decision to hire Wilson, noting only some "interviews and documents" indicating that Plame "suggested his name for the trip." But even if Plame did "suggest" her husband, she could not have "authorized" it; only the heads of CPD could do that. The Senate report describes "a memorandum to the deputy chief of CPD, from the former ambassador's wife" [p. 39] touting her husband's credentials. But if Plame herself had the power to "authorize" Wilson's trip, as Rove told Cooper, such a memo would hardly have been necessary.

Further, several news reports have quoted unnamed intelligence officials who refuted the notion that Plame authorized, or even suggested, Wilson's trip. A July 22, 2003, Newsday article quoted an unidentified senior intelligence official who said: "They [the officers asking Wilson to check the uranium story] were aware of who she [Plame] was married to, which is not surprising. ... There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason." The Los Angeles Times reported on July 15, 2004, that an unnamed CIA official confirmed that Plame was not responsible for the CIA's decision to send Wilson to Niger, saying: "Her bosses say she did not initiate the idea of her husband going. ... They asked her if he'd be willing to go, and she said yes."

Instances of media repeating RNC talking point, Rove assertion about Wilson's Niger trip

The Wall Street Journal: For Mr. Rove is turning out to be the real "whistleblower" in this whole sorry pseudo-scandal. He's the one who warned Time's Matthew Cooper and other reporters to be wary of Mr. Wilson's credibility. He's the one who told the press the truth that Mr. Wilson had been recommended for the CIA consulting gig by his wife, not by Vice President Dick Cheney as Mr. Wilson was asserting on the airwaves. [Editorial, 7/13/05]

CARL CAMERON [Fox News chief White House correspondent]: Plame is married to former ambassador Joe Wilson, who falsely claimed in 2003 that his investigation of Iraq's quest for nuclear weapons material from Africa was authorized by Vice President Dick Cheney. Rove's attorney and Cooper's notes indicate that Rove warned Cooper that it was not Cheney, but the CIA that authorized the investigation and that apparently Wilson's wife worked there [Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, 7/13/05].

G. GORDON LIDDY [radio host and former Nixon administration official]: Mr. Rove was in conversation with Mr. Cooper of Time magazine. Here, no good turn goes unpunished. Mr. Cooper was about to embarrass himself in his publication by putting out a story that Vice President Cheney had sent former ambassador Wilson to Niger. That was incorrect. Mr. Rove simply told him, "Look, it wasn't Cheney. It was this fellow's wife who apparently works at the agency." [Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, 7/12/05]

CHRIS MATTHEWS [MSNBC host]: What would be wrong if the enemy, your enemy who has been criticizing your policy, got this gig to go to Africa because his wife got it for him? He didn't get it from the vice president, he didn't get it from the head of the CIA. What's wrong with saying that?

TUCKER ESKEW [Former Bush communications deputy assistant]: I'm glad you said it. Let's repeat it. And in fact, it was Joe Wilson who speculated publicly, Chris, that the vice president sent him. So, it was important to correct that record. He said in that story that the office of the vice president was responsible for his selection. So, when, in fact, you say that Karl Rove or someone at the White House might have called a reporter to straighten it out, please note, what I understand is that Matt Cooper called Karl Rove about another topic and, at the very end, asked about this. And Karl set the record straight. [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, 7/12/05]

NEWT GINGRICH [Fox News analyst and former House speaker]: It is a fact that Wilson alleged that the vice president had sent him to Niger. And that's what Karl Rove was responding to. It is a fact that his response was to say to a reporter, "Don't go overboard on this story because you don't have the whole story." ... if you read the Senate intelligence committee review of this, they make it very clear that Wilson misled the country about who sent him to Africa, that in fact, his wife was the person who recommended him. [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 7/12/05]

RUSH LIMBAUGH [nationally syndicated radio host]: You know, Wilson's out there lying through his teeth about so much of this and he's getting a total pass. The administration did not send Wilson over to Niger. They were not his choice. George Tenet didn't send him. It was Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, who suggested him for the mission and got it done because he was sitting around on his ass not doing anything. He was bored. He didn't have anything to do. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/11/05]

Instances of news reporters failing to correct Republican talking point, Rove assertion about Wilson trip

JOHN KING [CNN chief national correspondent]: Now, the question there is "leaked classified information." And the White House would tell you, and Karl Rove's lawyer would tell you, that if he said, you know, "Don't believe any of this stuff, don't believe that Dick Cheney sent Joe Wilson there, don't believe that George Tenet sent Joe Wilson there, because Joe Wilson was sent there by his wife, who apparently works in the WMD department of the CIA," nothing illegal about that. [CNN's Inside Politics, 7/12/05]

The Wall Street Journal: Mr. Rove's lawyer says he was simply trying to steer the reporter away from the idea that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had encouraged Mr. Wilson's research into Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which included a trip to Africa. ... A set of talking points sent by the Republican National Committee sought to buttress Mr. Rove's claim that he was trying to quash an incorrect story that was being circulated by Mr. Wilson -- namely, that his research was sought by Mr. Cheney. [News report, 7/13/05]

— A.S.

Posted to the web on Thursday July 14, 2005 at 11:07 AM EST

Republicans Anxiously Watching Rove Saga

By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer

Republicans are nervously watching the fight over Karl Rove's involvement in a news leak that exposed a CIA officer's identity, fearing that President Bush's chief adviser has become a major political problem.

While the president passed up another chance Wednesday to express confidence in his deputy chief of staff, his political team engineered a series of testimonials from members of Congress who praised Rove and condemned Democratic critics.

"The extreme left is once again attempting to define the modern Democratic Party by rabid partisan attacks, character assassination and endless negativity," said Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the GOP congressional committee. The Republican National Committee, virtually a political arm of the White House, urged GOP lawmakers to go public.

Still, several top GOP officials — including some White House advisers — said the fight was becoming a distraction to Bush's agenda. The GOP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid looking disloyal, said the president may face a credibility problem because his spokesman said in September that anybody involved in the leak would be fired.

These Republicans, all admirers of Rove, said they were surprised and disappointed when Bush stopped short of publicly backing his longtime aide.

A survey of Republicans outside Washington revealed similar concerns, though few officials were willing to go on record.

"I think he should resign," said Jim Holt, a GOP state senator from Arkansas who is running for lieutenant governor. He joked, "I hope Karl Rove doesn't come gunning for me."

Bush said he would not discuss the matter further until a criminal investigation is finished.

"This is a serious investigation," the president told reporters after a Cabinet meeting, where Rove sat just behind him. "And it is very important for people not to prejudge the investigation based on media reports."

Later in the day, White House spokesman Scott McClellan insisted that Rove did have Bush's support. "As I indicated yesterday, every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the president," McClellan said.

Across town, a federal grand jury heard more testimony in its probe into whether anyone in the administration illegally leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame in July 2003. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the administration's rationale for invading Iraq, has said the leak was an attempt to discredit him.

Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who wrote an article that identified Plame, appeared before the grand jury for 2 1/2 hours.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said in a statement, "Cooper's truthful testimony today will not call into question the accuracy or completeness of anything Rove has previously said to the prosecutor or the grand jury. If the prosecutor seeks additional information from Rove in light of Cooper's testimony, Rove will promptly supply it.

"Rove has cooperated completely with the special prosecutor, and he has been repeatedly assured he is not a target of the investigation," Luskin said. "Rove has done nothing wrong. We're confident he will not become a target after the special prosecutor has reviewed all evidence."

Each political side intensified its attempts to discredit the other on Wednesday, producing a flurry of press releases and news conferences.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and three other Senate Democratic leaders — Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — sent a letter to Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, asking him to release results of an initial internal investigation into the leak., a liberal advocacy group, announced its members would stage a protest in front of the White House on Thursday to demand Rove's firing.

A survey of more than a dozen Republicans who live outside Washington found most siding with the White House. "It's a tempest in a teapot," said Denzil Garrison, former state GOP leader in Oklahoma.

"I have not heard a person bring it up in Michigan," said GOP consultant John Truscott of Lansing, Mich. "It's just not an issue out here."

Holt, the lieutenant governor candidate in Arkansas, said he was assigned to the National Security Agency while serving in the Army from 1989 to 1996. "If I were an operative, I sure wouldn't want anybody to reveal my identity," he said.

The White House previously has said Rove was not involved in the leak. But an internal Time magazine e-mail disclosed over the weekend suggested Rove mentioned to Time reporter Cooper that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent.

Rove's allies defend the White House's original denial by saying that Rove never mentioned Wilson's wife by name, a distinction that Holt said made no difference. "Is almost like saying it depends on what the definition of `is' is," he said, referring to former President Clinton's defense in the Monica Lewinsky case.

McClellan said Bush had not expressed confidence in Rove in a session with reporters because no one had asked him that directly. Still, Bush had three opportunities in two days to defend Rove publicly after questions about the case were posed to him and, for whatever reasons, he chose not to do so.

The man behind the man: Rove is the White House's key player

By Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — President Bush once said he would fire any White House staffer who had leaked the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. But if that source were Karl Rove, the president's longtime political guru, a firing would be a devastating blow to the White House.

Rove, after all, is more than just a top presidential aide: He was the architect of Bush's rise to power. He orchestrates policy initiatives and is aggressively charting a course for long-lasting Republican dominance.

But now Rove is facing a barrage of questions over his conversation with a reporter about the case. His lawyer denies any criminal wrongdoing and any intent to leak the name of an undercover agent. The disclosure this week that Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper talked in 2003 with Rove on "double super secret background" about Plame, as Cooper wrote in an e-mail to his bureau chief, revealed one aspect of Rove's vast White House duties that are rarely discussed publicly: press relations.

As the Cooper e-mail indicates, Rove has duties beyond his official role of working on foreign and domestic policy development. He has, in fact, the broadest portfolio of any presidential aide in history: He micromanages policy, leads outreach efforts to key GOP constituencies and supervises election strategy down to the precinct level, not only for the president but for congressional candidates.

Rove also maintains contacts at leading news organizations and often provides background guidance to top reporters and editors, as he did for Cooper. These contacts are part of Rove's less-discussed role of crafting Bush's image, enforcing the strict Bush code of discipline and jumping hard on perceived opponents of the president.

"If you are at a senior level in Washington these days, you inevitably must deal with the media," said Terry Holt, a former White House aide, speaking of Rove. "He has good relationships [with reporters], and he's good at it. He has great credibility with the people that he deals with."

Cooper's conversation with Rove occurred after a July 2003 New York Times op-ed piece written by Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who questioned administration claims that Iraq had attempted to buy materials from Niger used to build nuclear weapons. Critics have claimed that the White House leaked Plame's CIA role in retribution.

Rove's most significant relationship in Washington is the one he has with Bush. The symbiotic partnership not only helped Bush win the Texas governor's mansion twice and two White House terms but has also fueled a national political transformation that has made the GOP dominant in a growing number of states.

While Bush has used the bully pulpit of the White House to rally public support for his response to terrorism, his tax cuts and his proposed reforms of Medicare, education and Social Security, Rove has used the power he accumulated in his office to micromanage presidential policy decisions.

He has also overseen electoral politics down to individual congressional races. Rove, who carries the title deputy chief of staff, helped steer the Republicans to victory in 2002 midterm elections and Bush to re-election in 2004, and has actively recruited candidates for key races. Most recently, he met at the White House with a potential challenger to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

Despite the closeness, Rove and the president came from very different worlds. Bush is the scion of wealth and power, a graduate of the nation's most prestigious schools. Rove grew up the son of an oil geologist who moved frequently around the West. He never graduated from college.

Bush and Rove came together during young adulthood when an ambitious former Texas congressman, George H.W. Bush, held the job of chairman of the Republican National Committee. It fell to the elder Bush to investigate allegations that Rove had used dirty tricks in a campaign for president of the College Republicans. The RNC chairman eventually cleared Rove, and he was so impressed by the young operative that he hired him as an assistant.

A collaboration between Rove and the younger Bush didn't take root immediately. But these two men, who first became acquainted in 1973, would come to see the political world and its prospects in similar ways, building such catchphrases as "compassionate conservatism" in 2000 and the creation of an "ownership society" in 2004 into lures for many who had not voted Republican in the past.

Republican strategists credit Rove not only with his constant preparations for the next election but for laying a foundation for GOP success in future campaigns. Critics say he has brazenly pushed his obsession with electoral politics into the deepest levels of the executive branch.

For example, he and Kenneth Mehlman, his onetime deputy who now heads the Republican National Committee, made a point of visiting nearly every Cabinet agency in advance of the 2002 midterm elections, providing polling data and election priorities for top agency managers.

In early 2002, Rove personally addressed the 50 most senior employees of the Interior Department at a retreat in West Virginia. He showed them a slide presentation summarizing presidential polling and key races. Then, from the podium, he mentioned upcoming Interior Department decisions that could influence the midterm elections.

At the time, Rove noted that Oregon's incumbent senator, Republican Gordon Smith, faced a difficult re-election. The Interior Department was then facing a question of whether to allow drought-stricken farmers to pull more water from Oregon's Klamath River, endangering the state's salmon population. Farmers are a critical part of that GOP base.

An inspector general's report subsequently concluded there was no inappropriate pressure on the decision-makers in the Klamath case. But the controversial decision to release water to farmers resulted in the largest fish kill in the West and still angers Indian fishermen and environmentalists. Smith won re-election.

Rove also personally calls potential candidates for Senate seats, encouraging his favorites to run and urging others to stand down. Just last month, he met privately at the White House with the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Allan Bense, hoping to entice Bense to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson next year. The meeting came even though another prominent Republican, U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, had already announced her intention to run.

Rove serves, too, as Bush's ambassador to the conservative movement and is intimately involved in encouraging the elements of the Republican coalition — social conservatives and business lobbyists — to back the Bush agenda.

Rove helped mastermind a new GOP strategy of treating national elections like a series of county-commission contests. He can recite precinct-by-precinct data in key battleground states and counties from memory, and he developed the 2004 plan of finding new voters in the fast-growing exurbs.

"If you view politics as the art of getting things done, then Karl is clearly an extraordinary success," said David Winston, a GOP pollster who works closely with senior Republicans on electoral strategies. "If you view the mixture of politics and policy as a negative thing, then Karl is not your cup of tea."

Rove has found himself at the center of similar controversies before.

The leaking of Plame's identity recalls an incident from the 1992 presidential campaign, in which Rove was fired from the elder Bush's re-election team because of suspicions that he had leaked information to columnist Robert Novak — the same columnist who first reported Plame's CIA role in 2003, citing anonymous administration sources.

At the time, Bush's campaign was in trouble, and there was concern he might not even win his home state of Texas. The Novak column described a Dallas meeting in which the campaign's state manager, Robert Mosbacher, was stripped of his authority, because the Texas effort was viewed as a bust.

Mosbacher complained, expressing his suspicion that Rove was the leaker. Rove denied the charge, but he was fired nevertheless.
Key dates in his life and career:

Dec. 25, 1950: Karl Christian Rove born in Denver.

High-school years: Family moves to Salt Lake City, where Rove volunteers for a Republican senator's re-election campaign.

1969-71: Attends the University of Utah and joins College Republicans.

1971-1977: Executive director and then chairman of College Republican National Committee.

1974-1975: Republican National Committee Chairman George H.W. Bush hires Rove as his special assistant.

1977: Moves to Texas and becomes aide to George H.W. Bush's political-action committee. Rove leaves the job to work in the gubernatorial campaign of Bill Clements, who in 1978 becomes Texas' first Republican governor in more than a century.

1980: When George H.W. Bush announces his decision to run for the Republican presidential nomination, Rove is the first person the campaign hires.

1984: Rove helps Phil Gramm win election to Senate from Texas.

1986: Rove announces he had found an electronic listening device in his office, helping Clements defeat Democratic Gov. Mark White. Many Texas Democrats believe Rove concocted the story.

1992: The first President Bush fires Rove from his re-election campaign after information was leaked to columnist Robert Novak. Rove denies he was the source.

1994: Political adviser in George W. Bush's first run for Texas governor, an upset victory over Democratic incumbent Ann Richards. Bush wins a landslide re-election in 1998.

2000: Orchestrates Bush's presidential campaign, which ends in victory after Supreme Court intervenes.

Nov. 3, 2004: Bush wins re-election with Rove as his chief political adviser.

Sources: Complete Marquis Who's Who, 2005; Who's Who in American Politics, 1999; Current Biography, 2000; The Associated Press.
Cooper's e-mail, which suggests that Rove did not mention Plame by name even while referring to her CIA role, became public this week when it was published by Newsweek. In some cases, revealing the name of an undercover CIA worker is a violation of law.

Times staff writer Rick Schmitt and researcher Benjamin Weyl contributed to this report.