Tom DeFrank’s piece in a Daily News is a touch vague about just when President Bush found out about Karl Rove’s role in the Plame leak. The only explicit reference to timing comes in the lede where DeFrank writes that [emphasis added] “[a]n angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair.”
Now, ‘two years ago’.
In the Plame case a lot of things happened around two years ago. What happened almost exactly two years was the first intensive coverage of the story in the mainstream press. For the first couple months the scandal was largely the province of various disreputable blogs and other untouchables.
So, DeFrank really doesn’t provide us with enough detail to say with any confidence precisely when the president knew. But it seems he’s saying the president unloaded on Karl right about the time the story blew up into a serious scandal and spawned a Justice Department investigation.
So what was the president saying around that time?
One of his most detailed statements came on October 7th, in a brief exchange with the press just before a cabinet meeting …
[T]he investigators will ask our staff about what people did or did not do. This is a town of — where a lot of people leak. And I’ve constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information. And I want to know, I want to know the truth. I want to see to it that the truth prevail. And I hope we can get this investigation done in a thorough way, as quickly as possible.
But the Justice Department will conduct this investigation. The professionals in the Justice Department will be involved in ferreting out the truth. These are citizens who will — were here before this administration arrived and will be here after this administration leaves. And they’ll come to the bottom of this, and we’ll find out the truth. And that will be — that’s a good thing for this administration.
Then, a few moment later, the president expressed an odd lack of confidence that the case would ever be solved …
Randy, you tell me, how many sources have you had that’s leaked information that you’ve exposed or have been exposed? Probably none. I mean this town is a — is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don’t know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there’s a lot of senior officials. I don’t have any idea. I’d like to. I want to know the truth. That’s why I’ve instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators — full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we’ll find out who the leaker is — partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we’ll find out.
Given the question of dating noted above, one might speculate that the president learned of Rove’s action the next day. But if the DeFrank piece is accurate, it certainly seems likely that the president knew of Rove’s complicity while he was saying these words.
Late Update: A lot of news has been bubbling this morning. And in the mix I neglected to note that there is another reference to the time frame of these events in the DeFrank article. TPM Reader MO notes this passage down at the end …
None of these sources offered additional specifics of what Bush and Rove discussed in conversations beginning shortly after the Justice Department informed the White House in September 2003 that a criminal investigation had been launched into the leak of CIA agent Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak.
We’re still hanging on the “shortly after” here. But this would seem to nail this down a bit more conclusively: President Bush knew Karl Rove was one of the culprits when he made those statements above.