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As Media Matters for America noted, on the July 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, during a discussion of the CIA leak case with conservative columnist Robert D. Novak, host Joe Scarborough falsely suggested that White House senior adviser Karl Rove was not involved in leaking the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame. On the July 19 edition of the show, on which Novak again appeared, Scarborough claimed that Media Matters was "very upset because of my interview yesterday with Bob Novak, talking about the narrative that the left wing had for a very long time that this whole Valerie Plame leak was a diabolical plot hatched by Karl Rove." Introducing Novak, Scarborough said he was "[h]ere to clear that up and talk about his book, Prince of Darkness" [Crown Forum, July 2007], and, in fact, in response to questioning from Scarborough, Novak acknowledged that Rove was his confirming source. Nonetheless, the two continued to push the false claim, made frequently by defenders of the administration in the media, that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald -- in Scarborough's words -- "knew that no crime, no underlying crime had been committed" and yet persisted with the investigation that resulted in the conviction of former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false claims.
As Media Matters has pointed out, Fitzgerald has explained why he continued his investigation of the case, even though he knew that former deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had been Novak's initial source. In a sentencing memorandum filed May 25, following Libby's conviction on four of five charges, Fitzgerald responded to "Mr. Libby's friends and associates" who "assert that his prosecution was unwarranted, unjust, and motivated by politics":
[I]t is undisputed but of no moment that it was known early in the investigation that two other persons (Richard Armitage and Karl Rove) in addition to Mr. Libby had disclosed Ms. [Plame] Wilson's identity to reporters, and that Messrs. Armitage and Rove were the sources for columnist Robert Novak's July 14, 2003 column, which first publicly disclosed Ms. Wilson's CIA affiliation. The investigation was never limited to disclosure of Ms. Wilson's CIA affiliation to Mr. Novak; rather, from the outset the investigation sought to determine who disclosed information about Ms. Wilson to various reporters, including -- but not limited to -- Mr. Novak.
To accept the argument that Mr. Libby's prosecution is the inappropriate product of an investigation that should have been closed at an early stage, one must accept the proposition that the investigation should have been closed after at least three high-ranking government officials were identified as having disclosed to reporters classified information about covert agent Valerie Wilson, where the account of one of them was directly contradicted by other witnesses, where there was reason to believe that some of the relevant activity may have been coordinated, and where there was an indication from Mr. Libby himself that his disclosures to the press may have been personally sanctioned by the Vice President. To state this claim is to refute it. Peremptorily closing this investigation in the face of the information available at its early stages would have been a dereliction of duty, and would have afforded Mr. Libby and others preferential treatment not accorded to ordinary persons implicated in criminal investigations.
Moreover, as Media Matters has repeatedly noted, during an October 2005 press conference announcing Libby's indictment, Fitzgerald said that Libby's obstruction had prevented the special counsel's office from determining whether an underlying crime had been committed. Fitzgerald reiterated this point in his sentencing memorandum, writing that "the reasons why Mr. Libby was not charged with an offense directly relating to his unauthorized disclosures of classified information regarding Ms. Wilson included, but were not limited to, the fact that Mr. Libby's false testimony obscured a confident determination of what in fact occurred."
Scarborough teased the segment by saying that he was "going to make Media Matters very angry. ... [T]hey consider me one of the good guys of the extreme right. Not anymore." He then opened the segment by stating that "Media Matters [is] very angry at me. And, of course, it breaks my heart because I've been sort of the good Republican for them." He was apparently referring to Media Matters' item regarding his July 18 Morning Joe interview of Novak, in which he falsely suggested that Rove was not involved in leaking Plame's identity. During that interview, Scarborough stated that he had said during his coverage of the case, "If Karl Rove leaked this information [about Plame], he should be fired."
Scarborough began his July 19 discussion with Novak by asking him about Rove's reported role as the source that confirmed Plame's identity to Novak. Scarborough said, "[W]e were talking [yesterday] about the fact that it was Dick Armitage who leaked the name to you. ... But then you called Karl Rove up and let him know that you had found out who Valerie Plame was, right?" Novak then stated that "among the people I called, I called Karl Rove. And he said, 'Oh, you know that, too?' That was enough conversion -- confirming to me. That's all he said."
Neither Scarborough nor Novak mentioned that Rove also reportedly leaked Plame's identity to then-Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, as Media Matters noted in its previous item.
From the July 19 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: When we come back, I'm going to make Media Matters very angry. I mean, they consider me one of the good guys of the extreme right. Not anymore.
SCARBOROUGH: So Media Matters, very angry at me. And, of course, it breaks my heart because I've been sort of the good Republican for them. And, very upset because of my interview yesterday with Bob Novak, talking about the narrative that the left wing had for a very long time that this whole Valerie Plame leak was a diabolical plot hatched by Karl Rove. Here to clear that up and talk about his book, Prince of Darkness, let's bring back in Bob Novak. Bob, how are you doing?
NOVAK [on the phone]: Very good. Thanks for having me, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Let's clear this up now. You -- when we were talking yesterday, we were talking about the fact that it was Dick Armitage who leaked the name to you.
NOVAK: That's correct.
SCARBOROUGH: But then you called Karl Rove up and let him know that you had found out who Valerie Plame was, right? Talk about how that happened.
NOVAK: I called -- after deputy Secretary of State Armitage told me in an offhand way that the reason that Joe Wilson, unlikely Clinton supporter, had been sent on that mission with no exper-- intelligence experience was that his wife, who was employed at the CIA, suggested it, I wanted to confirm that. And among the people I called, I called Karl Rove. And he said, "Oh, you know that, too?" That was enough conversion -- confirming to me. That's all he said.
I then later talked to the official spokesman at the CIA, who confirmed that to me also. This was supposed to be a deep secret, but the official flack, the public relations man, said, "Yes, she worked for the counterproliferation division." He told me that. He claimed that she hadn't suggested her husband for the mission, but later, those documents and that report by the Senate Intelligence Committee had indicated she had.
SCARBOROUGH: And that, of course, just wasn't true.
What was it like for you going through this process, where you were attacked, you were accused of leaking -- well, let me -- we'll first of all ask you the question that some of the emailers want us to ask you: Why did you decide to print Valerie Plame's name?
NOVAK: Because I thought it was a part of the story. I wasn't attacking Joe Wilson. I -- as you know, I think you know, I was against the invasion of Iraq. I was a news -- I try to write a news column, and I thought that his mission to Niger was a part of the column. I wondered how come he was selected, and in the middle of the column, I indicated it was because of his wife. That's why I printed the name.
Now you ask me, what was it like? It wasn't pleasant. but I'll tell you what, I'm a big boy. I've been around this town for 50 years, Joe, and I've been attacked, and I've been praised. I've had good and bad. but what really bothered me was the lack of support from my brothers and sisters in the news media. I believe they're mostly liberals, and they just jumped on the liberal conspiracy bandwagon, with some exceptions. I got great support from my home paper, the Sun-Times, great support from The Washington Post, which ended up really supporting me editorially, but a lot of my individual colleagues and a lot of editorial writers across the country, without knowing the facts, joined the conspiracy theorists.
SCARBOROUGH: And they had this narrative they wanted to follow, and you and I both know, if they'd known that it'd been Dick Armitage, [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell's number-two guy, who had leaked this information to you initially, which allowed you to call Rove and say, "Hey, I know this," and Rove said, "Oh, you know that, too?" and then you called the CIA person -- if they had known what the true narrative was, then we wouldn't have had the pack of dogs chasing after you and Rove and everybody else for so long.
NOVAK: That's right. And the special prosecutor, who knew the minute he stepped in the office, Mr. [Patrick] Fitzgerald knew Armitage's identity as the leaker, they asked me not to talk about it at all. My lawyer advised me to follow that, and I certainly didn't want to get in the same kind of trouble that Scooter Libby got in, so I followed my lawyer's advice and followed the instructions of the special prosecutor and never said a word --
SCARBOROUGH: But, Bob, Bob, that is the damnedest thing. Why do you have this guy, this special prosecutor, who was put up as sort of an Eliot Ness, an Untouchable -- he knew the true story. Why conduct an investigation where you know that no crime, no underlying crime, had been committed?
NOVAK: Well, they gave -- the Justice Department, the Bush Justice Department knew the identity of Armitage as the leaker. And they -- instead of making a decision whether a crime was committed, they turned it over to Mr. Fitzgerald, a squeaky-clean guy, to make the decision because they didn't have the guts to do it themselves. Mr. Fitzgerald decided there was no underlying crime, and, of course, Scooter Libby was the fall guy. You know, it's --
SCARBOROUGH: No crime, let's start an investigation.
NOVAK: Yeah. I -- the first chapter of my book, I give all these details, I give details at the end. It's not a complicated story, as far as I'm concerned, as far as my involvement is concerned. And I'll tell you, a lot of people cannot handle this truth. They just can't accept that it was as limited as that.