Karl Rove gets a big assist today from the New York Times and the Washington Post, which both have stories suggesting that Rove only knew about Valerie Plame because a reporter had told him about her. If it is indeed true that Rove is guilty only of passing along information from one reporter to another, then obviously my calls for Rove’s resignation were premature.
But I don’t believe it.
These accounts almost certainly come mainly from Rove or his lawyer, and they don’t make a lot of sense to me. We learn that Rove learned Valerie Plame’s name from Novak; he already knew “from other journalists” that Joe Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA. But if Novak told Rove Plame’s name, why didn’t Rove repeat the name in his subsequent conversation with Matt Cooper of Time? (If Rove had named her to Cooper, presumably Cooper would have included her name in his memo to his bureau chief. But he didn’t.) Also, according to this version of events, Rove was one of two unnamed government sources Novak used to confirm that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. But if all Rove did was say he’d heard the same rumor from other reporters—which, I agree, would render Rove innocent of wrongdoing—that would hardly count as confirmation. Is it possible that Novak’s sourcing methods are this sloppy? An alternative, more plausible scenario is that Novak asked Rove about it, Rove said he’d heard the same thing, and then Rove made inquiries to someone in the government and confirmed the information for Novak. That would be a firing offense.
Here’s a bigger problem I have with the new accounts: Cooper’s e-mail nowhere says that other news organizations are onto the Plame story. If Rove had told Cooper what he’d presumably told Novak—that he’d heard about this “from other journalists” (including, at this point, Novak)—then you can bet Cooper would have told his bureau chief that they were in competition with other news organizations to get this information into print. News organizations—even newsmagazines—don’t like to be scooped. But perhaps Rove didn’t tell Cooper that he’d gotten his information from other news organizations. Perhaps he didn’t even tell Novak that he’d gotten his information this way. Perhaps he just stated it as fact to one or both of them. Then wouldn’t that suggest that Rove had confirmed the information by consulting somebody in the government? He works in the White House, for Pete’s sake! If he did confirm with a government official what he’d heard “from other journalists,” that’s a firing offense.
To believe that Rove is innocent of any wrongdoing, you have to believe that Rove had all these conversations with journalists about Wilson’s wife being a CIA employee, and then, over a course of several days, never asked anyone in the government whether what the journalists were telling him was true. I suppose anything is possible. But that stretches credulity to the breaking point.