Sunday, July 17, 2005


Cooper's Noteworthy Grand Jury Testimony

Truthout has reprinted Matthew Cooper's Time article about his grand jury testimony. I almost stopped reading after the first paragraph:

It was my first interview with the President, and I expected a simple "Hello" when I walked into the Oval Office last December. Instead, George W. Bush joked, "Cooper! I thought you'd be in jail by now." The leader of the free world, it seems, had been following my fight against a federal subpoena seeking my testimony in the case of the leaking of the name of a CIA officer. I thought it was funny and good-natured of the President, but the line reminded me that I was, very weirdly, in the Oval Office, out on bond from a prison sentence, awaiting appeal--in large part, for protecting the confidence of someone in the West Wing. "What can I say, Mr. President," I replied, smiling. "The wheels of justice grind slowly."
If Matthew Cooper is that impressed that Bush began the conversation by disarming him up with humor, he's way too easily impressed to be a reporter. (Matt, didn't anybody tell you the press corps' relationship with the White House is supposed to be adversarial, not sycophantic?) In spite of Cooper obviously thinking the story is all about him, and therefore numbing his audience with way too many details about how he felt and what he thought about how he felt, and where he sat and what the room looked like to him, there are actually a few salient details in the story.
As I told the grand jury--which seemed very interested in my prior dealings with Rove--I don't think we had spoken more than a handful of times before that. I recalled that when I got the White House job a couple of weeks earlier, I left a message for him trying to introduce myself and announce my new posting.
Cooper hadn't spoken to Rove since being assigned to the White House press corps. I gather from "left a message" that Rove hadn't returned his initial phone call. But when Cooper called on July 11:
I believe a woman answered the phone and said words to the effect that Rove wasn't there or was busy before going on vacation. But then, I recall, she said something like, "Hang on," and I was transferred to him. I recall saying something like, "I'm writing about Wilson," before he interjected. "Don't get too far out on Wilson," he told me.
So what was Rove's motivation in taking his call, especially when the initial reaction was that Rove wasn't available?
As for Wilson's wife, I told the grand jury I was certain that Rove never used her name and that, indeed, I did not learn her name until the following week, when I either saw it in Robert Novak's column or Googled her, I can't recall which.
So much for Rove's claim that identifying Wilson's wife as "Wilson's wife" didn't, you know, identify her. Whether Cooper did use Google to find out her name, he's confirming that it would be plausible to do so.
A surprising line of questioning had to do with, of all things, welfare reform.... My welfare-reform story ran as a short item two months later, and I was asked about it extensively. To me this suggested that Rove may have testified that we had talked about welfare reform, and indeed earlier in the week, I may have left a message with his office asking if I could talk to him about welfare reform. But I can't find any record of talking about it with him on July 11, and I don't recall doing so.
My immediate thought is that RoveCo. researched Cooper's published works from the time in question, in order to find an alternate topic they could claim was Cooper's pretext for calling before he "blindsided" Rove with a question about Wilson. I'm also thinking that if Cooper doesn't have any notes about welfare reform in his notes from the crucial conversation, then their conversation did not include that topic. If the article on welfare reform had been set aside but not spiked, Cooper would certainly not have deleted his notes on that subject, since he could still use them when he got back to working on the article. So, although Cooper's testimony may not provide evidence that Rove knowingly outed a covert CIA agent, it does seem to provide evidence that Rove lied under oath.
The WaPo has a summary that Josh Marshall finds interesting.

Personally I thought it was a small brown pile of obsfuscation, but journalists-- people like Marshall-- are skilled in picking through such small brown piles to find diamonds.

The garnets I found in the story were these:

* "The White House response was swift. There is a simple rule in politics: Kill a story before it kills you."

* "White House officials were aware of Plame and her husband's potentially damaging charge that Bush was 'twisting' intelligence about Iraq's nuclear ambitions well before the episode evolved into Washington's latest scandal." [but not mentioned is that they were about to enter a presidential re-selection campaign]

* "At the same time, other White House officials were whispering about Plame, too."

I would title these bullet points this way:

* Method
* Motive
* Opportunity

I actually think Rove is a distraction in regards the question of disclosure of Plame as a NOC. It's unlikely that Rove would actually leak Plame's identity. By reflex, he uses others for dirty work.

Of course, for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, he's the prime candidate.
By coincidence, I've just posted comments about that WaPo article. I thought the reporters' choices of words to describe Wilson ... interesting. And I don't mean that in a nice way.
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