Thursday, October 20, 2005

The President's Story: Take Two

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The President's Story: Take Two

A new article in the New York Daily News lays out an entirely different version of what the President knew about the Plame leak and when he knew it.

An angry President Bush rebuked chief
political guru Karl Rove two years ago for
his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources
told the Daily News.

"He made his displeasure known to Karl," a
presidential counselor told The News. "He
made his life miserable about this."
The article goes on to say:

Other sources confirmed . . . that Bush was
initially furious with Rove in 2003 when his
deputy chief of staff conceded he had talked
to the press about the Plame leak.
And finally:

A second well-placed source said some recently
published reports implying Rove had deceived
Bush about his involvement in the Wilson
counterattack were incorrect and were leaked
by White House aides trying to protect the

"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and
others as believing that they handled it in a
ham-handed and bush-league way," the
source said.
(sidenote: do you think that, many years from now, people will mistakenly think that the term "bush-league" is actually a reference to the world-class incompetence of this particular administration?)

Anyway, it's clear that the "Rove misled the President" talking point is no longer operative. That may have just been a trial balloon. The new story is that Rove came clean and was privately admonished by the President in 2003. This new story raises some interesting questions, though.

First, as Rep. John Conyers points out at the Huffington Post, this new story doesn't explain why President Bush said in June 2004 that he would fire anyone found to be involved in the leak. And if Rove came clean in 2003, was that before or after Scott McClellan told the press that he was "not involved" in the leak?

More importantly, if this story is true, particularly the part about this disclosure taking place in 2003, there is a potentially far more serious problem. Let's go back to Murray Waas' Oct. 7 article in the National Journal, which was one of three articles that leaked the "Rove misled Bush" story. Waas wrote:
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove
personally assured President Bush in the early
fall of 2003 that he had not disclosed to anyone
in the press that Valerie Plame, the wife of an
administration critic, was a CIA employee,
according to legal sources with firsthand
knowledge of the accounts that both Rove and
Bush independently provided to federal
prosecutors . . .

In his own interview with prosecutors on
June 24, 2004, Bush testified that Rove
assured him he had not disclosed Plame as a
CIA employee and had said nothing to the
press to discredit Wilson, according to sources
familiar with the president's interview. Bush
said that Rove never mentioned the
conversation with Cooper.
So if this new story is true--Rove "came clean" to Bush in 2003--and Waas is also right, doesn't that mean that Bush lied to Fitzgerald in June 2004?

Moreover, it has previously been reported that Rove failed to mention his conversation with Cooper in either his initial FBI interview or his first grand jury appearance. Only after finding his email to Hadley did Rove come forward and correct his prior testimony. Now, the conventional wisdom is that this email was discovered in 2004, after Fitzgerald took over the case and issued subpoenas. If that's true, then the fact that Rove "came clean" to the President back in 2003 (presumably before the email was discovered) does not look good for Rove. It could mean that Rove made no effort to correct testimony he knew to be misleading until the discovery of the Hadley email forced his hand.

Given all these questions and potential inconsistencies, I expect we'll see a third, clarifying version of Bush's story emerge in coming days.


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