Rove said cooperating in CIA leak inquiry

Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: Monday March 27, 2006

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Karl Rove, Deputy White House Chief of Staff and special adviser to President George W. Bush, has recently been providing information to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the ongoing CIA leak investigation, sources close to the investigation say.

According to several Pentagon sources close to Rove and others familiar with the inquiry, Bush's senior adviser tipped off Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to information that led to the recent "discovery" of 250 pages of missing email from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Rove has been in the crosshairs of Fitzgerald's investigation into the outing of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson for what some believe to be retaliation against her husband, former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon, Joseph Wilson. Wilson had been an ardent critic of pre-war Iraq intelligence.

While these sources did not provide any details regarding what type of arrangements Rove's attorney Robert Luskin may have made with the special prosecutor's office, if any, they were able to provide some information regarding what Rove imparted to Fitzgerald's team. The individuals declined to go on the record out of concern for their jobs.

According to one source close to the case, Rove is providing information on deleted emails, erased hard drives and other types of obstruction by staff and other officials in the Vice President's office. Pentagon sources close to Rove confirmed this account.

None would name the staffers and/or officials whom Rove is providing information about. They did, however, explain that the White House computer system has "real time backup" servers and that while emails were deleted from computers, they were still retrievable from the backup system. By providing the dates and recipient information of the deleted emails, sources say, Rove was able to chart a path for Fitzgerald directly into the office of the Vice President.

In a comment to RAW STORY late Sunday evening, Robert Luskin denied any deal between Rove and Fitzgerald's office.

"Mr. Rove has cooperated fully with Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation," Rove's attorney said. "We have not and will not comment on the nature or substance of any communications with the office of the special counsel."

"That said, there is no basis whatsoever to the matters you allege that Mr. Rove has related," Luskin added.

One senior White House official is already under indictment in the leak case. Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted on five counts of obstruction and false statements to investigators in October of last year.

Rove eluded indictment late last fall after his lawyer said he recalled a conversation with Time reporter Viveca Novak that he alleged would vindicate his client. Sources say that while the defense was able to parlay Luskin's revelation into postponing Rove's indictment, ultimately a deal would likely have to be cut.

The sources did not say a deal had been reached, but did assert that Rove pointed Fitzgerald to Cheney's office for the missing emails.

Asked about allegations that Rove is providing Fitzgerald's office with key information and if his status had changed as a result, Luskin provided a vehement denial.

"Your story is false and utterly without foundation," he said. "There has never been any discussion of any deal of any kind involving Mr. Rove. His cooperation has at all times been voluntary and unconditional."

One of the sources close to the investigation said he was not surprised by Luskin's response.

"That would be difficult for Rove to admit," the source said. "I think Rove is now considered a special cooperating witness."

The White House was ordered to turn over all emails by then-White House Counsel and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2003, after the Administration received word the Justice Department had launched an investigation into the CIA outing. According to newspaper reports, Gonzales waited twelve hours to inform White House staff after he had received an order from the Justice Department to surrender materials relating to the case.

In a January letter to Libby's defense team, Fitzgerald expressed concern that some emails might be missing.

"Some e-mails might be missing because the White House's archiving system had failed," he said.

Sources say that the missing emails, which surfaced only a month later were not really "missing." Rather, they had been deleted by White House staff. Fitzgerald may have been aware of this at the time of his January letter when he cited the missing emails.

Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, was unavailable for comment Monday.

A White House divided

Sources say the rift between Rove and the Vice President's office crystallized when Rove quietly attempted to gauge the temperature for replacing Cheney on the 2004 Presidential ballot last year.

"Rove was the source of 'feelers' put out before the last presidential election in which he was suggesting that Cheney could be replaced on the ticket with someone who had better poll ratings," said one of the former experts approached who wished to remain anonymous.

"White House polls were showing that Cheney was a drag on the reelection ticket and that the Iraq war issue might be responsible for about a three percent drop, with Cheney the principal object of voter hostility in this percentage of anti-war sentiment among the general public," the source added.

Cheney, the source said, got wind of "Rove's political soundings" and the already tense relationship between the Bush and Cheney camps became almost impossible.

Whether or not Rove's recent cooperation will spare him an indictment and a Fitzgerald probe remains unclear. But according to last week's New York Times, associates say Rove is "increasingly certain" he will not be indicted in the case.