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Im intrigued by this

I'm intrigued by this passage in the piece on Matt Cooper in today's Times ...

Later, Mr. Waldman asked whether Time's disclosures and a blanket waiver form his source had signed were enough to allow him to testify. In an e-mail message on Tuesday night, Mr. Cooper said he believed the forms could have been coerced and thus worthless.

The only thing that would do, Mr. Cooper wrote, was a "certain, unambiguous waiver" from his source.

Around 7:30 on Wednesday morning, Mr. Cooper had said goodbye to his son, resigned to his fate. His lawyer, Mr. Sauber, called to alert him to a statement from Mr. Luskin in The Wall Street Journal.

"If Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source," Mr. Luskin told The Journal, "it's not Karl he's protecting."

That provided an opening, Mr. Cooper said. "I was not looking for a waiver," he said, "but on Wednesday morning my lawyer called and said, 'Look at The Wall Street Journal. I think we should take a shot.' And I said, 'Yes, it's an invitation.' "

In court shortly after 2, he told Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the Federal District Court in Washington that he had received "an express personal release from my source."

That statement surprised Mr. Luskin, Mr. Rove's lawyer. Mr. Luskin said he had only reaffirmed the blanket waiver, in response to a request from Mr. Fitzgerald.

"Karl was not afraid of what Cooper is going to say and is clearly trying to be fully candid with the prosecutor," Mr. Luskin said.

Did Luskin blow it for Rove?

If you read the whole article <$Ad$> (which is quite good), it's clear that Cooper really didn't want to go to prison over this and was looking for a way out. But he was willing to serve time if he couldn't find a way to extricate himself that he could square with his understanding of journalistic ethics. Not unreasonably, he thought the blanket waivers of confidentiality that Rove had signed at the request of Patrick Fitzgerald were meaningless because they were coerced.

That sounds right to me since a member of the White House staff probably wouldn't be free to refuse such a request -- particularly since he might legitimately fear that such a refusal would find a way to make itself public.

But as the article makes clear, there really was no sudden personal communication from Rove, at least not as I understood it to have occurred in the initial reports.

What seems to have happened is that Luskin availed himself of the opportunity to talk tough and categorically to the Journal at his client's apparent expense. The key of course is the second to last graf that I've excerpted, in which the Times author says Luskin was 'surprised' at what Cooper and his attorney read into his statement to the Journal. He had meant it only as a blanket restatement of their position to date.

Presumably, once Cooper and his attorney took this interpretation with the judge, there was no turning back for Luskin. What could he say?

I'm curious whether others read the article this way too. Share your thoughts with us here over at this thread at our politics discussion table.

Hmmm. Maybe some of

Hmmm. Maybe some of you DOJ folks or people with long memories can help me out here. Rove attorney Robert Luskin's bio at Patton Boggs says (emphasis added)

Mr. Luskin has extensive experience defending cases involving allegations of official corruption. Formerly Special Counsel to the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Mr. Luskin helped to supervise the ABSCAM investigation, and thereafter represented the Justice Department in hearings before Congress concerning the investigation.

I remember reading that late last <$Ad$> night and being impressed. As Wikipedia explains here, the ABSCAM investigation began in 1978 and the story broke out into the press in February 1980.

But as TPM Reader JS points out, Luskin's bio page says he graduated from Harvard Law in 1979 -- in other words, June 1979.

Is something amiss here?

Remember ABSCAM was a series of FBI sting operations targeting sitting members of Congress -- a touchy and quite delicate proposition.

Was Luskin such a comer that they let him supervise the investigation while he was still in law school? Or did they put him in charge as his first assignment at DOJ?

Presumably some aspects of the investigation continued on through 1980 and 1981. Appeals were still happening in 1982.

But still ...

(ed.note: We're discussing Rove and Luskin over here at the TPMCafe politics discussion table.)

Late Update: And there's more: This from Luskin's Martindale-Hubbell bio. "Law Clerk to Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 1979-1980. Special Counsel, Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, U.S. Department of Justice, 1980-1982." So presumably he went to DOJ in late 1980, after most of the ABSCAM indictments were already going to trial. (The convictions all came in in 1981.) And to think they let him take over the investigation on day one ...

Now that its clear

Now that it's clear that Karl Rove's defense amounts to some sort of cover-blowing 'I didn't inhale' defense, I thought I'd check in a bit on what his lawyer's deal is. Reason being, as near as I can tell, Rove attorney Robert D. Luskin has made a series of, shall we say, contradictory statements over the last week or so, each necessitated by further revelations about his client's conduct.

So I was curious: Is Robert D. Luskin the sort of lawyer who never gets caught in a fib or a misstatement on his client's behalf? Or is he a bit more fast and loose?

Well, it turns out that Luskin is a rather colorful figure with not a bad sense of humor. In 1999, when the Legal Times asked him why he was shutting down his boutique litigation firm, he quipped: "To paraphrase Hobbes: The life of a boutique is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

One case that jumps out at you is his representation of Stephen A. Saccoccia.

Saccoccia and his wife Donna were eventually convicted of laundering more than a hundred million dollars for various Colombian drug kingpins. Stephen is currently serving a 660 year sentence. Their racket was laundering drug money through companies which traded in precious metals.

Saccoccia was convicted in 1993. And Luskin took up his case on appeal.

Eventually the Feds got the idea that the money Saccoccia had paid Luskin and his other attorneys for their services was itself part of the $137 million in drug money he was ordered to forfeit. Now, on the face of it this seems a bit unfair since under our system everyone is entitled to good representation and how was Luskin to know it was tainted money.

Well, the prosecutors thought he should have gotten some inkling when Saccoccia started paying Luskin's attorney's fees in gold bars.

Yep, you heard that right. Luskin got paid more than $500,000 of his attorney's fees in gold bars from his client who was trying to appeal his conviction on charges that he laundered drug money through precious metals dealers. Who woulda thought that was drug money?

Luskin insisted that he "never have, and never would, knowingly accept a fee that was the proceeds of illegal activities."

But when federal prosecutors finally got a chance to depose Luskin and Saccoccia's other lawyers, they found that their lawyers' fees had come in forms "such as gold bars, cash that was dropped off at hotels and trunks of cars, and money transfers from Swiss bank accounts."

Eventually, in 1998, Luskin came to a settlement with the government in which he agreed to cough up $245,000 of the money he'd gotten from Saccoccia.

(ed.note: At first I couldn't believe that Saccoccia's Robert Luskin was the same guy Rove had defending him. The Saccoccia articles refer to Luskin as a partner in a firm called Comey Boyd & Luskin. But Luskin's bio page at Patton Boggs, where reporters working the Rove story confirm that Rove's lawyer works, makes no mention of such a firm. But a snippet in the December 20-27, 1999 Legal Times seems to settle the matter: "The D.C. litigation boutique of Comey, Boyd & Luskin is history. Name partner Robert Luskin is leaving the firm to join Patton Boggs Jan. 1.")

Late Update: Also on Luskin, look at this piece today in the Times by Adam Liptak, and see if Luskin didn't screw up and get his client in a lot of trouble by shooting off his mouth to the Journal.

Later Update: If you'd like to share your views on this, we're discussing Rove and Luskin over here at the TPMCafe politics discussion table.

Till the missions accomplished

Till the mission's accomplished or the 2006 mid-terms, whichever comes first. Yet another leaked British memo says the administration is making plans for a major troop withdrawal starting early next year.

So weve got Karl

So we've got Karl Rove's latest story, as recounted by his lawyer, Robert Luskin.

Rove did spill the beans about Plame in an effort to discredit Joe Wilson. Only he didn't mention the name 'Valerie Plame'. He only spilled the beans about 'Joe Wilson's wife'.

I'm no lawyer. But I'd hate to go into court with my case resting on that distinction.

And remember, the president has certainly known all of this from the beginning.

I know that many

I know that many of you have had a <$NoAd$> more and more difficult time keeping track of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's various shenanigans, sweetheart deals, pay-offs and boat transactions. So TPM Media has put together a new Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) Shenanigan Program & Worksheet (RRDCSPW). We're entitled v. 1.0 because more bad acts will almost certainly surface which will necessitate further revisions.

On top of that, in classic TPM fashion, we're holding a contest to see who can fill out the worksheet best in terms of explicating all the dimensions of Duke's skullduggery.

Above you'll see the first edition of our RRDCSPW. If you click on the image you can download the printable pdf file. As you can see, the worksheet has Duke along with each fat-cat and/or crony graphically represented along with the respective house and/or boat.

Now, in the second image, you'll see that the proprietor of this little operation has somewhat clumsily tried to fill out the worksheet noting who paid for which boat and which house and how the different shenanigans interlock with each other. But clearly if the sheet is going to be filled out in a way that other TPM Readers and journalists can readily understand it, it's going to have to be done a lot better.

And that's where our contest comes in. If you'd like to enter the contest and have the chance of winning not only the soon-to-be-released TPMCafe t-shirt but also the new TPMCafe mug, download the worksheet. Then fill it out in a way that gets as much information on the page while also making it as clear and as easy to understand as possible.

Entries will be judged on the basis of content, aesthetic excellence and general mockery and schadenfreude. Entries should be returned in a scanned image or pdf format and will be accepted through the 15th. Winners will be announced at TPMCafe.

Now that we know

Now that we know that Karl Rove was involved in leaking Valerie Plame's identity and her role at CIA before the information had appeared in Robert Novak's column, attention will now inevitably turn to whether Rove (and whoever else was leaking) knew Plame was covert.

If they can plausibly claim that they thought she was simply a paper-pusher, then the statute would not apply to them.

But I think any enterprising reporter will be able to see why this is almost certainly not true. A close look at the wording Novak used in his column and a careful review of previous Novak columns over the years shows he only ever uses the word 'operative' to refer to covert agents. And that's the word he used to refer to Plame.

So Novak knew she was covert. And that pretty clearly means his sources knew too. How else would he have found out?

Perhaps someone can help

Perhaps someone can help me.

Can someone send me the link to the first story in CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo or any other major news outlet which picks up Mike Isikoff's Newsweek story placing Karl Rove at the center of the Plame leak?

Thanks. 'ppreciate it.

David Corn Tonight I

David Corn: "[T]onight I received this as-solid-as-it-gets tip: on Sunday Newsweek is posting a story that nails Rove. The newsmagazine has obtained documentary evidence that Rove was indeed a key source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper and that Rove--prior to the publication of the Bob Novak column that first publicly disclosed Valerie Wilson/Plame as a CIA official--told Cooper that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife apparently worked at the CIA and was involved in Joseph Wilson's now-controversial trip to Niger."

See more here.

When last we updated

When last we updated the Duke Cunningham 'Livin' Large Free of Charge' chronicles (DCLLFCC) you'll remember that Duke was trying to offer advice on getting a presidential pardon to one Thomas Kontogiannis, a Long Island real estate developer who'd recently been convicted in a bribery, kickback and contract-rigging scandal and who'd apparently, as part of that scam, arranged pay-offs totaling roughly a million dollars to Queens school superintendent Celestine Miller, including some $80,000 into the coffers of her failed congressional bid in 1998.

Around the time Duke was offering the advice he managed to sell his boat, the Kelly C, to Kontogiannis for what was apparently a vastly inflated price, bagging Duke a quick $400,000 profit. And somehow as part of this deal (we still haven't figured out quite the ins and outs of it) the Kontogiannis family mortgage lending company agreed to fund a series of discount loans that Duke used to buy his new house in Rancho Sante Fe.

But it seems that wasn't the only mortgage Duke got from Coastal Capital, the Kontogiannis family's mortgage company. According to this Friday evening AP report, they also set Duke up with another mortgage -- this one for $150,000 -- for a two-bedroom condo he bought in Arlington, Virginia. (And all this time you thought Duke lived on a boat!) The total purchase price was $350,000 and he resold it in 2004 for $500,000.

But even this isn't all.

Following up on a tip, I did a little poking around myself. And I take it that the condominium sale in question must be that referenced in the April 18th, 2002 real estate section of the Washington Post: "EADS ST. S., 1211, No. 2002-Ratta Joseph M. Della to Nancy D. and Randall H. Cunningham, $ 350,000."

Now, it seems that Joseph M. Della Ratta may be another real estate developer trying to settle some misunderstandings with government prosecutors.

According to this August 2003 Department of Labor bulletin, Della Ratta and a colleague got nailed for raiding an ERISA asset management plan of which they served as trustees. In July 2003, says the bulletin, a federal court "appointed an independent fiduciary to distribute all remaining plan assets of the profit sharing plans of Della Ratta, Inc. and Commercial Management Company in Silver Spring, Maryland. The court further ordered restoration of more than $166,000 to the plans from assets held in a Della Ratta, Inc. corporate account and restitution to be paid by the plans’ trustees."

Said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao of the case: "Corporations and executives who are designated retirement plan fiduciaries have a responsibility to protect the pension assets of its participants. These defendants used the plan assets for their personal gain. The department's action recovers pension assets taken illegally from the workers and their families.”

Della Ratta and his colleague Joseph E. Brimmer were ordered to pay back the money, removed as trustees of the plan in question and barred from ever again overseeing any other plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The original government suit against Della Ratta was filed in December 2000 -- about a year and a half before Duke bought the condo. And the final resolution of the case came a little more than a year after that. This was of course while the home and boat switcheroos were also afoot.