With no objection from Novak, Scarborough falsely cleared Rove of leaking Plame's identity


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 political adviser Karl Rove was not involved in the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame. At the beginning of his conversation with Novak, Scarborough said the press "followed [the CIA leak investigation] like a pack of dogs talking about was it Rove, is it [Vice President Dick] Cheney, is it [President] Bush, who was it, who was it, and when they found out it was [then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard] Armitage, everybody kind of yawned and went on." Later in his conversation with Novak, Scarborough reminisced about "getting on my show [MSNBC's Scarborough Country] every night, saying, 'If Karl Rove leaked this information, he should be fired.' ... While we're all going through this process, you've got the special prosecutor, who already knows it's Dick Armitage."

Scarborough was repeating a claim frequently made in the media that because he was the primary source for Novak's publication of Plame's CIA employment, Armitage was the only administration official to technically "leak" her identity. However, contrary to Scarborough's suggestion that Rove did not "leak" Plame's CIA identity, Rove was reportedly Novak's confirming source regarding Plame and, three days later, after talking with Novak, reportedly leaked the information of Plame's employment with the CIA to then-Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. At no time during the Morning Joe segment did either Scarborough or Novak mention Rove's reported actions.

In the July 14, 2003, syndicated column in which he revealed Plame's identity, Novak attributed his information about Plame to "two senior administration officials," whom he later publicly identified as Armitage and Rove. In his new memoir, The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington (Crown Forum, July 2007) -- which he was on Morning Joe to discuss -- Novak provides this account of his conversation with Rove:

Rove returned my call late that Tuesday [July 8, 2003] afternoon. I had several items to bring up, most of which I still consider confidential. Wilson's wife came up at the end of our conversation. I relate this part of the talk because Rove himself broke the confidence, through his attorney.

I mentioned that I had heard that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA in the counterproliferation section and that she had suggested Wilson be sent to Niger. I distinctly remember Rove's reply: "Oh, you know that, too." Rove and I also discussed other aspects of Wilson's mission, but since he never has disclosed them publicly, neither have I. (Page 7)

On July 11, 2003, according to Cooper's testimony at the trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Rove told Cooper about Plame's employment. From Cooper's January 31, 2007, testimony, documented in journalist Murray Waas' book, The United States v. I. Lewis Libby (Union Square, June 2007):

Q: And did there come a time when you discussed with anyone Mr. Wilson's wife?

A: Yes.

Q: And can you tell us when you first discussed Mr. Wilson's wife that week and with whom?

A: Sure. It was on Friday, July 11th, 2003. And it was with Karl Rove, a member of the White House staff.

Q: And can you tell us how that conversation came about?

A: Sure. Well, I put in a call to Mr. Rove's office. I believe I called through the White House switchboard, and I was routed to his office. At first they said he wasn't there or that he was busy, and then they put me through to him, and we talked.

Q: And tell us what you recall about the conversation with Mr. Rove on that day.

A: Sure. Well, these aren't the exact words, but the gist of it was I said, you know, we are interested in this Wilson story and the sixteen words. By this time, it had become a very big story. And he immediately said, well, don't get too far out on Wilson, which I took to mean, don't lionize Ambassador Wilson or don't idolize him.

And he went on to say -- and, again, I am paraphrasing -- that a number of things were going to be coming out about Ambassador Wilson that would cast him in a different light. He said that the director of the CIA had not sent him, I believe he said the Vice President's office had not been involved in sending him.

And then he said, you know, it would turn out who was involved in sending him.

And I had to draw it out of him a bit. I said, who? And he said, like his wife.

And I guess I, until that point, didn't know Wilson had a wife; I hadn't even thought about it. And then I said, "The wife?" And he went on to say that she worked on WMD at the agency, and by that I took to mean the Central Intelligence Agency, not, say, the Environmental Protection Agency.

And we talked a bit more. And then, at the end of the conversation, he said words to the effect of, "I have already said too much. I have got to go." And that was it.

Q: About how long was that conversation, if you recall?

A: A couple of minutes. (Pages 226-227)

Additionally, during the Morning Joe segment, Novak said of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald: "Now, why in the world he felt he had to continue an investigation when he already knew who did the leaking is something I'll never know." In his July 4, 2007, column, Novak similarly asked: Why did Fitzgerald pursue the investigation when he knew Armitage was the leaker and had determined there was no evidence of a crime?" In fact, as Media Matters noted, Fitzgerald provided an answer to this question in his May 25 sentencing memorandum in the Libby case. Responding to "Mr. Libby's friends and associates" who "assert that his prosecution was unwarranted, unjust, and motivated by politics," Fitzgerald replied, in part, that:

[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.

From the July 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: We have Bob Novak on, the prince of darkness. Which we thought we were going to have him on earlier; apparently there was a technical glitch, but we're going have Bob on tomorrow morning at 7:30, but wanted to at least get him on and start. Hey Bob, how are you doing?

NOVAK: How are you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH: I'm doing great, Bob, you're the absolute best in the business. I know that from your reporting. You always seem to get the story before just about everybody else. But this Valerie Plame story, obviously, has been a real tempest for you. The thing I haven't understood about it from the very beginning is that the press has followed this thing like a pack of dogs talking about was it Rove, is it Cheney, is it Bush, who was it, who was it. And when they found out it was Dick Armitage, everybody kind of yawned and went on.

NOVAK: They said, "Wrong guy, it doesn't fit our conspiracy theory."

SCARBOROUGH: It doesn't fit the narrative.

NOVAK: We'll just forget about that.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, what's that about?

NOVAK: That -- the whole thing is the most overhyped, over-exaggerated story I can imagine, trying to make it out as some a deep plot at the White House, involving me, of all people. I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq, as you know. Armitage was as well. And so when they find out that it was not a plot that Armitage, in an offhand manner, gave me the information, it doesn't fit all the preconceptions. So, you know, they wanted to find that -- that Karl Rove and I had met in somebody's basement and concocted this plot to abuse Joe Wilson and his wife, and that just wasn't the case.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, and it was so funny, even after Scooter Libby was convicted, you get the jury out there, and they're wringing their hands, saying we wish we would have had Karl Rove on the stand, we wish we would have had Dick Cheney on the stand.

NOVAK: Unbelievable.

SCARBOROUGH: Nobody said we wish we would have had Dick Armitage on the stand -- the guy that leaked the documents. Even after the jury heard all of this testimony, they weren't concerned about the guy that leaked the name initially.

NOVAK: And the interesting thing about the special prosecutor, that didn't come out for a long time, is that he was given the information that Armitage had told me before -- before -- as he took the case. In other words, the Justice Department knew about it from Armitage before they named a special prosecutor. That means they were just afraid to deal with it, they didn't know how to handle the case, so they named this U.S. attorney from Chicago who's supposed to be incorruptible. Now, why in the world he felt he had to continue an investigation when he already knew who did the leaking is something I'll never know. One of the great shocks of my life, Joe, was, I was cooperating with them, and I wasn't going to tell them a thing. They finally told me who my source was. I'm sitting there, I'm wondering, why in the world are we having this investigation --

SCARBOROUGH: Why am I here?

NOVAK: -- if they know it?

SCARBOROUGH: They already knew. He knew all this -- and again, all of this, we're trying to figure out -- I remember getting on my show every night, saying, "If Karl Rove leaked this information, he should be fired. If Dick Cheney leaked an information of a CIA operative, he should be booted out." While we're all going through this process, you've got the special prosecutor, who already knows it's Dick Armitage.

NOVAK: And in my book, in the first chapter, I detail exactly what happened, how I got the information, how I wrote it, what I wrote it. I didn't defame Joe Wilson. And people, they don't like that story. They want something else. But that -- but what I wrote in the book, Joe, is the truth.

SCARBOROUGH: Doesn't fit in the narrative. We're talking to Bob Novak, author of Prince of Darkness: 50 Years of Reporting in Washington.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, War in Iraq
Joe Scarborough
Morning Joe
CIA Leak Investigation
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