Josh Marshall

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Late Alert for Red Herring <$NoAd$> Egregious Mumbojumbo Watch!

Ken Mehlman is now pushing the same argument as Rove attorney Robert Luskin.

This from the AP ...

Rove "was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise," said Mehlman. Cooper's e-mail says that Rove warned him away from the idea that Wilson's trip had been authorized by CIA Director George Tenet or Vice President Dick Cheney.

The argument, as elaborated by others, is that Rove was warning Cooper off Wilson's phoney story because it was about to be debunked by a soon-to-be-released statement by George Tenet.

A great argument. Only Wilson never said that. He said that the CIA, following up on a query from the vice president, sent him on a fact-finding mission to Niger.

Here's his account from his New York Times column ...

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

After consulting with the State Department's African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.

Whatever else you can say about Wilson, no one has ever disputed these points. He never said that Cheney or Tenet authorized his trip. A vice-president would never 'authorize' such a trip. Nor would there be any need for the DCI to 'authorize' it. The whole thing is a dodge and a distraction. It's irrelevant to the question that was under discussion.

It's just yet another attempt to whip up a phoney cover story after the fact. Or, in other words, more scofflaw Republicanism.

Late Update: RawStory has just published a copy of RNC anti-Wilson talking points. Item three says that "The False Premise [which Rove was trying to knock down] Was Joe Wilson's Allegation That The Vice President Sent Him To Niger." This is such a ridiculous up-is-down lie you'll want to keep an eye out for gullible reporters who parrot it. Clear as day it's a lie. But if they think if they repeat it often enough people won't check.

A point that hasn't been made yet.

Everyone I hear from today says that the White House is going after Joe Wilson hard in their background conversations with reporters. Apparently Karl Rove himself.

Their main hit apparently is that it was Valerie Plame who authorized Wilson's trip to Niger or was the one who sent him -- which is as false today as it was two years ago.

Now, that's as much an attack on Plame as it is on Wilson. Actually, even more of one on her since the subtext is that she was either engaging in nepotism or advancing some private political agenda.

So now we know that Karl Rove started attacking Valerie Plame to get his boss out of the soup. And now two years later he continues to attack her.

True to form to the last. And every reporter in town knows it.

Did Byron bury the lede?

In Byron York's piece I linked below, he interviews Karl Rove's lawyer Robert 'Gold Bars' Luskin. The main substance of the article is Luskin's discussion of just what his client told Matt Cooper and the context in which he told it.

But down at the end of the article, as TPM Reader HS pointed out to me, is this graf ...

Luskin also addressed the question of whether Rove is a "subject" of the investigation. Luskin says Fitzgerald has told Rove he is not a "target" of the investigation, but, according to Luskin, Fitzgerald has also made it clear that virtually anyone whose conduct falls within the scope of the investigation, including Rove, is considered a "subject" of the probe. "'Target' is something we all understand, a very alarming term," Luskin says. On the other hand, Fitzgerald "has indicated to us that he takes a very broad view of what a subject is."

Now, Luskin has made a number of <$NoAd$> statements over the last few days meant to suggest that Fitzgerald has assured him that Rove is not the one he's after. I don't remember, though, precisely what language he used.

Cut through the mumbojumbo in the excerpted graf above and you can see that Fitzgerald has told Luskin that Rove is a 'subject' of the investigation.

What does that mean? The next level up is being a 'target' of the investigation, in which case you get a 'target letter'. Now, I'll defer to the members of the defense bar in the audience. But my understanding is that when you get the target letter you're in deep trouble, at least in terms of getting indicted. And being a 'subject' means just that: you're one of the people they're investigating.

So Rove is one of the people the grand jury is investigating.

Has Luskin said anything in the last few days that contradicts what he's saying now? Mind you, that's not a rhetorical question. It may be that he's carefully used the 'target' language in all cases. But I'm curious. And if anyone has any examples, drop me a line.

Will the comedy never end?

Rove attorney Robert Luskin -- he of the stack of gold bars -- says Matt Cooper "burned" his client.

Bad Matt Cooper! Bad Matt Cooper!

Just another bit of kindling for the fire. When Karl Rove et al. revealed that Valerie Plame was a covert agent at the CIA, they also compromised the front company -- Brewster-Jennings & Associates -- where she and other agents involved in counter-proliferation 'worked'. See this old Post article for more.

A reader over at TPMCafe suggests that the Plame case may end up being tied to John Bolton, because of some evidence that strongly suggests the particular piece of information about Plame came out of a classified memo from State.

I suspect that's likely true. But it's only a part of the story.

If you go back and trace out just what happened as the phoney Niger papers, and the reports based on them, made their circuitous way through the executive branch -- and this using both public information and stuff from reporting -- an odd and at first hard to explain pattern emerges.

Confidence in the documents kept getting knocked down. But someone or some group kept giving them fresh life. And, improbably, those someones seemed to be at the State Department.

That's odd because, institutionally, State was the least hawkish in the lead up to the war and their in-house intelligence shop, INR, turned out to be the only outfit in the intelligence community that got most things right about Iraqi WMD.

And yet it was at State that the docs kept seeming to gain new life.

The evidence is circumstantial. But all of it points to Bolton's as, shall we say, the invisible hands.

There was actually, if memory serves, an internal investigation at State into whether Bolton had played some nefarious role in the drama. But apparently the investigators didn't come up with anything, or at least not enough. Bolton's proxies in turn chatted this point up widely around Washington to reporters and others, arguing he'd been cleared in every way.

But the State Department link still bears a lot of investigating. And I suspect if the scrutiny was thorough, Rove wouldn't be the only Bush appointee with trouble on his hands.

Along the lines of Karl Rove's high standards of conduct, noted today by Scott McClellan, do remember Josh Green's Atlantic Monthly article from last year in which he chronicled Rove's role in an Alabama Supreme Court election back in the 1990s in which the president's chief political advisor won the race for his client by spreading false rumors that his opponent -- a one-time juvenile and family-court judge -- was a pedophile.

Oh, Karl ...

Good Rove catch by the folks at ThinkProgress.

From today's briefing

MORAN: … Fox News and other surrogates are essentially saying that the conversation lasted for two minutes and that the subject was ostensibly welfare reform. They’re getting that information from here, from Karl Rove.

MCCLELLAN: And, again, you’re asking questions that are related to news reports about an ongoing, continuing investigation. And you’ve had my response on that…

Ahh, to hear Karl begging and pleading for an easy ride from Brit Hume. Nice too <$NoAd$> that Moran was frank enough to identify Fox News as a Rove surrogate operation ...

Late Update: Along the lines of this exchange, I would be remiss if I didn't note Rove's apparent attempt to invoke the well-known 'short conversation' exception to the relevant law.