Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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I am wondering...... (a) it is reported that Karl Rove referred to Valerie Plame as being "fair game" after her cover was blown by Robert Novak's article. (b) Presumably, Karl Rove would have known by then (as did everyone else) that she was an undercover CIA "operative", and disclosure of her name was illegal/immoral/unethical. (c) If he referred to her as being "fair game" after her cover was blown, does that not imply that he wasnt stunned (to say the least) by her status, and there is a good chance that he did know about her status beforehand.

Doesnt that line of questioning deserve to be raised?

Good point.

Reid on Rove: “I agree with the President when he said he expects the people who work for him to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. The White House promised if anyone was involved in the Valerie Plame affair, they would no longer be in this administration. I trust they will follow through on this pledge. If these allegations are true this rises above politics and is about our national security.”

With everything coming out today about Karl Rove, it's worth stopping to bring a few things into focus. It's been pretty clear since fall of 2003 that Karl Rove did this. It's been a near certainty since then that if it wasn't Rove than it was someone in a very similar position. After all, Bob Novak said in his now-notorious column that "senior administration officials" had told him about her.

We don't know that the president knew about the decision to use Plame's work at CIA against Wilson in advance, though given the high-level working group assembled at the White House to go to war with Wilson, it's reasonable to suspect that he did. But at a minimum the president has known about this as long as the rest of us -- that is, almost exactly two years.

And he -- unlike anyone else in the country -- had the power to call Rove into his office and ask him whether he did this or knew who did?

Whether he knew before or after, he's known for a very long time. And pretty clearly he didn't want Rove held to any account. Indeed, he's gone to great lengths to prevent this from happening. And of course few reporters in DC have cared to press this essential point.

No longer operative.

From this morning's <$NoAd$> gaggle ...

Question: Do you want to retract your statement that Rove -- Karl Rove was not involved in the Valerie Plame expose? -- involved?

McClellan: This is -- no, I appreciate the question. This is an ongoing investigation at this point. The President directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation, and as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, that means we're not going to be commenting on it while it is ongoing.

Question: But Rove has apparently commented, through his lawyer, that he was definitely involved.

McClellan: You're asking me to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Question: I'm saying, why did you stand there and say he was not involved?

McClellan: Again, while there is an ongoing investigation, I'm not going to be commenting on it, nor is --

McClellanN: -- any remorse?

McClellan: -- nor is the White House, because the President wanted us to cooperate fully with the investigation, and that's what we're doing.

Question: That's not an answer.

Question: It's not an answer. And you were perfectly willing to comment from that podium while the investigation was going on, and try to clear Karl Rove. Why the double standard? Why were you willing to say Karl Rove was not involved when -- and talk at length about it, when the investigation was going on, and now that he's been caught red-handed, all of a sudden you've got a new line?

McClellan: No, I don't think it is the way you characterize it, as new, because I have said for quite some time that this is an ongoing investigation, and we're not going to get into discussing it while it's an ongoing investigation. I've really said all I'm going to say on it.

Question: But you did -- you did discuss it while it was an ongoing investigation. You stood there and told the American people Karl Rove wasn't involved.

McClellan: I've said all I'm going to say on it. Go ahead, April.

If you'd like to discuss, join us here.

Late Update: This too ...

Question: Scott, is the President aware of Karl Rove's role in leaking information about Joe Wilson's wife?

Mr. McClellan: Again, this is a Question relating to an ongoing investigation, and you have my response.

Question: Scott, without commenting on the investigation, you said in September of '03, if anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration. Does that standard still hold?

Mr. McClellan: Again, I appreciate all these questions. They are questions relating to an ongoing investigation, and the President directed us to cooperate fully with that investigation. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than he does and --

Question: -- the standard then still apply?

Mr. McClellan: The investigation is ongoing, Peter, and we're just not going to -- we're not going to --

Question: Did the President set a timetable --

Question: It's not about the investigation, it's about the White House decision --

Mr. McClellan: We're not going to talk about it further from this podium.

More soon ...

(ed.note: There's often a bit of confusion about this. So let me again clarify. The above is not the on-air late-morning early-afternoon press briefing. The 'gaggle' is the early morning briefing. It's on the record. But it's not televised and the official transcript is not released to the public. I hear today's early afternoon press briefing was even worse than this above.)

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 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 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 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 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.