PLEASE CREDIT ANY QUOTES OR EXCERPTS FROM THIS NBC TELEVISION PROGRAM TO "NBC NEWS' MEET THE PRESS."
Sunday, July 17, 2005
GUESTS: Matt Cooper, White House Correspondent, Time Magazine; John Podesta, President and CEO, "Center for American Progress" and Former Chief of Staff, President Bill Clinton; Ken Mehlman, Chairman, Republican National Committee; Bob Woodward, Washington Post and author, "The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat" and Carl Bernstein, former Washington Post Watergate Reporter
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert, NBC News
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: the investigation into the leak which identified Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative. This Time magazine reporter says his source released him from his pledge of confidentiality, allowing him to avoid jail by testifying on Wednesday. What did he say to the grand jury? He'll discuss it for the first here this morning. Our guest: Matt Cooper.
Then Newsweek magazine quotes Karl Rove as saying it was "Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency, who authorized the trip." What now for President Bush's deputy chief of staff? With us, Rove's former deputy, now chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman, and President Clinton's former chief of staff, John Podesta.
And 33 years ago, another famous source, Deep Throat, provided information which brought about the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. His identity has now been revealed and his story now chronicled in a new book: "The Secret Man." With us, Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
But, first, joining us now is Matt Cooper of Time magazine. Welcome.
MR. MATT COOPER: Morning, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: This is the cover of your magazine: "Rove on the Spot," subtitled "What I Told the Grand Jury," by Matthew Cooper. And here is an excerpt from your article, which will be available tomorrow in Time magazine.
"So did [Karl] Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that [Joe] Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him?"--to Niger. "Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the `agency' on `WMD'?"--weapons of mass destruction. "Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know."
For the record, the first time you learned that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA was from Karl Rove?
MR. COOPER: That's correct.
MR. RUSSERT: And when Karl concluded his conversation with you, you write he said, "I've already said too much." What did that mean?
MR. COOPER: Well, I'm not sure what it meant, Tim. At first, you know, I thought maybe he meant "I've been indiscreet." But then, as I thought about it, I thought it might be just more benign, like "I've said too much; I've got to get to a meeting." I don't know exactly what he meant, but I do know that memory of that line has stayed in my head for two years.
MR. RUSSERT: When you were told that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, did you have any sense then that this is important or "I better be careful about identifying someone who works for the CIA"?
MR. COOPER: Well, I certainly thought it was important. I wrote it in the e-mail to my bosses moments later that has since leaked out after this long court battle I've been in. You know, I certainly thought it was important. But I didn't know her name at the time until, you know, after Bob Novak's column came out.
MR. RUSSERT: Did you have any reluctance writing something so important?
MR. COOPER: Well, I wrote it after Bob Novak's column had come out and identified her, so I was not in, you know, danger of outing her the way he did.
MR. RUSSERT: You also write in Time magazine this week, "This was actually my second testimony for the special prosecutor. In August 2004, I gave limited testimony about my conversation with [Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff] Scooter Libby. Libby had also given me a special waiver, and I gave a deposition in the office of my attorney. I have never discussed that conversation until now. In that testimony, I recorded an on-the-record conversation with Libby that moved to background. On the record, he denied that Cheney knew"--of--"or played any role the Wilson trip to Niger. On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, `Yeah, I've heard that, too,' or words to that effect."
Did you interpret that as a confirmation?
MR. COOPER: I did, yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Did Mr. Libby say at any time that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA?
MR. COOPER: No, he didn't say that.
MR. RUSSERT: But you said it to him?
MR. COOPER: I said, "Was she involved in sending him?," yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: And that she worked for the CIA?
MR. COOPER: I believe so.
MR. RUSSERT: The piece that you finally ran in Time magazine on July 17th, it says, "And some government officials have noted to Time in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched to Niger..."
"Some government officials"--That is Rove and Libby?
MR. COOPER: Yes, those were among the sources for that, yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Are there more?
MR. COOPER: I don't want to get into it, but it's possible.
MR. RUSSERT: Have you told the grand jury about that?
MR. COOPER: The grand jury knows what I know, yes.
MR. RUSSERT: That there may have been more sources?
MR. COOPER: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: The big discussion, Matt Cooper, has been about your willingness to testify...
MR. COOPER: Sure.
MR. RUSSERT: ...before the grand jury. And let's go through that. This was Wednesday, July 6, Matt Cooper talking to the assembled press corps.
(Videotape, July 6, 2005):
MR. COOPER: This morning, in what can only be described as a stunning set of developments, that source agreed to give me a specific, personal and unambiguous waiver to speak before the grand jury.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, Karl Rove's attorney has spoken to The Washington Post. "[Karl Rove's attorney, Robert] Luskin has said that he merely reaffirmed the blanket waiver by Rove ...and that the assurance would have been available at any time. He said that [Matt] Cooper's description of last-minute theatrics `does not look so good' and that `it just looks to me like there was less a desire to protect a source.'"
MR. COOPER: Well, can I back up a little bit, Tim? For two years, you know, I have protected the identity of my sources. As you know, I was in a rather infamous court battle that went through all the courts in Washington, right up to the Supreme Court, and we lost there with a special prosecutor trying to get me to disclose my source. My principle the whole time was that no court and no corporation can release me from a pledge of confidentiality with my source. And so even after Time magazine, over my objections, handed over my notes and e-mails, which included, really, everything I had and identified all my sources, I still believed that I needed some kind of personal release from the source himself.
And so on the morning of that clip you just saw, my lawyer called me and had seen in The Wall Street Journal that morning Mr. Rove's lawyer saying, "Karl does not stand by any confidentiality with these conversations," or words to that effect, and then went on to say, "If Matt Cooper's going to jail, it's not for Karl Rove." And at that point, at that point only, my lawyer contacted Mr. Rove's lawyer and said, you know, "Can we get a kind of personal waiver that applies to Matt?" And Mr. Luskin and he worked out an agreement and we have a letter that says that "Mr. Rove waives confidentiality for conversations with Matt Cooper in July 2003." So it's specific to me and it's personal, and that's why I felt comfortable, only at that point, going to testify before the grand jury. And once I testified before the grand jury, then I felt I should share that with the readers of Time.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Luskin, Rove's attorney, is suggesting that you had the same waiver throughout the last two years, and only when you were confronted with going to jail did you, in effect, decide to compromise your source or not protect your source.
MR. COOPER: Well, I protected my source all along. I don't maintain that I haven't. I have all the way along, and that's why we went to the Supreme Court. That's why I stood by the source even after Time had disclosed my documents. We went to Rove only after seeing his lawyer, in some sense, invite us to, in that quote in The Wall Street Journal. My lawyers and the editors at the time did not feel it was appropriate for me to go and approach Rove about some kind of waiver before then.
MR. RUSSERT: In your piece, as I mentioned, you said "some government officials," and you said it may be more than just Rove and Libby. Did you get waivers from those additional sources when you testified before the grand jury?
MR. COOPER: I don't want to get into anything else, but I don't--anything I discuss before the grand jury, I have a waiver for.
MR. RUSSERT: Norman Pearlstine, editor in chief...
MR. COOPER: Sure.
MR. RUSSERT: ...of Time magazine, authorized the release of your e-mails and notes to the prosecutor. Pearlstine said this: "I found myself really coming to the conclusion that once the Supreme Court has spoken in a case involving national security and a grand jury, we are not above the law and we have to behave the way ordinary citizens do." Do you agree?
MR. COOPER: In part. I mean, I think Norman Pearlstine made a very tough decision. I spent a lot of time with him and I admired the way he made it. I disagreed. I thought we should have at least, you know, gone forward, gone into civil contempt. I would have been willing to go to jail. I think we should have, you know, held on a little longer, but that's a reasonable, you know, disagreement between people.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, he came to Washington, Pearlstine, and some other editors from New Work and met with the Washington bureau of Time magazine.
MR. COOPER: Sure.
MR. RUSSERT: At least two correspondents produced e-mails saying, "Our sources are now telling us they will no longer confide in Time magazine. They will no longer trust us to protect our sources." Is that going to be a long-term problem for your magazine?
MR. COOPER: Well, I think, you know, Time will have to, you know, reassure confidential sources that we're going to continue to rely on them and continue to protect them. You know, this--Tim, I think the important thing is here that one aberration in this case was it went all the way to the Supreme Court, and it was then--you know, Time did decide in this case to turn over the notes. Now, Pearlstine has said that in other cases he might not. I think the important thing to remember here is that, you know, the reporters of Time will keep their word. I kept my word for two years. I didn't feel like any court or corporation could release me from that confidence, and I kept my word and so only spoke with the grand jury after I received that written personal waiver from my source.
MR. RUSSERT: You are going to testify this week before Congress for a shield law. Explain that.
MR. COOPER: Sure . Well, Tim, you know, this is the 12th day, I believe, of my colleague Judith Miller from The New York Times being in jail in this investigation because she did not get a waiver that she feels comfortable with and she's protecting her sources. There's incredible aberration, Tim. Forty- nine states have some kind of protection for journalists and their confidential sources, but there is no protection at the federal level. And so in a bipartisan way, Republicans and Democrats have put forward legislation in Congress to create some kind of protection for whistle-blowers and confidential sources and other people who want to come forward to the press so there'd be some kind of federal law, too.
MR. RUSSERT: What's your biggest regret in this whole matter?
MR. COOPER: Well, I'm not sure I have that many. I mean, I believe the story I wrote was entirely accurate and fair, and I stand by it. And I think it was important because it was about an important thing that was going on. It was called A War on Wilson, and I believe there was something like a war on Wilson going on. I guess I'd be a little more discreet about my e-mails, I think. I'm an object lesson in that, you know, e-mails have a way of getting out.
MR. RUSSERT: Will this affect your career as a journalist?
MR. COOPER: I don't think it should, Tim. I kept my word to my source. I only spoke after I got a waiver from that source. That's what other journalists have done in this case. I don't think it should.
MR. RUSSERT: How did you find the grand jury?
MR. COOPER: I was surprised, Tim. You know, I'd heard this old line that grand jurors are very passive, that they'll indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutor tells them. I thought this grand jury was very interested in the case. They--a lot of the questions I answered were posed by them as opposed to the prosecutor. I thought they were very involved.
MR. RUSSERT: Where do you think it's heading?
MR. COOPER: You know, I really don't know, Tim. I've been, you know, involved in this case as anyone, I guess, for a couple of years now, and at times I think it's a very big case, at times I think it's, you know, politics as usual and not going to be that big a case at all. I just don't know.
MR. RUSSERT: And we'll find out. Matt Cooper, we thank you very much for joining us and sharing your views.
MR. COOPER: Thank you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, the future of President Bush's deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove. We'll talk to his primary defender, Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff, who's had a lot of experience in damage control.
Then "The Secret Man," the story behind Deep Throat. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein will talk about the importance of anonymous sources, right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: The Bush White House and the CIA leak investigation, then Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on anonymous sources, after this station break.
MR. RUSSERT: And we're back. Ken Mehlman, John Podesta, welcome to both.
MR. JOHN PODESTA: Good morning.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's go through what you know with you and our viewers. This is the Robert Novak column July 4, 2003.
"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger. ... The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."
And then on this Friday, we learned this.
"Karl Rove...spoke with the columnist Robert Novak [on July 8, 2003] as he was preparing an article...that identified a C.I.A. officer who was undercover, someone who has been officially briefed on the matter said. Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist the name of the C.I.A. officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq, the person said. After hearing Mr. Novak's account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist: `I heard that, too.'"
Now, Matt Cooper's original article, July 17: "And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched to Niger..."
And we learned this. Matt Cooper's e-mail outlining his conversation with Karl Rove on which he based his column.
"Friday morning, July 11, 2003...Matt Cooper was tapping out an e-mail to his bureau chief. ... `Spoke to Rove on double super secret background for about two mins. ... please don't source this to rove or even wh'"--White House. "...Cooper wrote that Rove offered him `a big warning' not to `get too far out on Wilson.' Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by" the director of the CIA, "George Tenet--or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, `it was, Karl Rove said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on WMD issues, who authorized the trip.'"
Mr. Mehlman, based on that--and you just heard Matt Cooper say the first time he learned that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA was from Karl Rove, wasn't that a leak of something that should not have been leaked?
MR. KEN MEHLMAN: Tim, it was not. What's most amazing, if you think about it, is we wouldn't have been having this show last week. Mr. Fitzgerald was conducting his investigation last week. What's changed? You hit the nail on the head what's changed. Two stories have come out this week, both of which have the effect of exonerating and vindicating Mr. Rove, not implicating him. And what's so amazing and what's so outrageous, in my judgment, is, despite the fact that this investigation is ongoing, despite the fact that Mr. Rove and other people at the White House are cooperating fully with Pat Fitzgerald, Democrat partisans on the Hill have engaged in a smear campaign where they have attacked Karl Rove on the basis of information which actually vindicates and exonerates him, not implicates him.
That information says Karl Rove was not Bob Novak's source, that Novak told Rove, not the other way around, and it says that Karl warned Matt Cooper about Joe Wilson not to get too overactive. Karl was right. Joe Wilson was wrong on numerous fronts.
MR. RUSSERT: But Mr. Rove did say to Robert Novak "I heard that, too," and Mr. Novak used him as a confirming source. And, two, Matt Cooper said he learned of her existence as a CIA operative from Karl Rove.
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, Tim, these same stories also suggested that Karl Rove heard the first time about it from another reporter. It suggested that he was not Bob Novak's initial source, and that Bob Novak never said, "I'm asking for corroboration." There was a chat going on. But here's the point. We don't know this stuff. We're prejudging this morning. And that's why it's so outrageous that this past week, John Kerry, who was the nominee for president of the United States by the Democrat Party, Hillary Clinton, the first lady of the United States, Harry Reid, the Democrat leader in the Senate, would attack Karl Rove, call for him to lose his job, call for his national security clearance to be taken away. Every Democrat voted for that to happen on the basis of prejudging a case when the information actually exonerates and vindicates. It doesn't implicate. It's wrong, it's outrageous, and folks involved in this, frankly, owe Karl Rove an apology.
MR. RUSSERT: One more point. I'll bring in Mr. Podesta. When one is given classified clearance, they are asked to sign an oath, and they are given a briefing book with form--Standard Form 312, it's called. And if you read this briefing book, it says this: "Before...confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of"--"SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not...confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure."
So by confirming a story from Robert Novak or sharing information with Matt Cooper, no matter where it came from, if, in fact, it was classified information, without seeking to determine whether it was declassified, it is an unauthorized disclosure.
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, you're making an assumption that it's classified information. In fact, what the story on Friday, you pointed out, shows, and what earlier stories have shown is that this information at least came to Mr. Rove from journalists, not from a classified source. But, again, here we are speculating. We should have confidence. I have tremendous confidence in Pat Fitzgerald. He's a career prosecutor. He's a tough prosecutor. That's why he was put in charge of this case, because people want to get to the bottom of it. And that's why it is so outrageous that these partisan smears would occur this past week. The question is this: Do the people that are smearing Karl Rove not have confidence in Mr. Fitzgerald? Do they not think, in fact, he's going to get to the bottom of it? Or would they rather, than getting to the facts, try to make political gain?
MR. RUSSERT: You say you have tremendous confidence in Pat Fitzgerald.
MR. MEHLMAN: I do.
MR. RUSSERT: If, in fact, he indicts White House officials, will you accept that indictment and not fight it?
MR. MEHLMAN: First of all, I'm the chairman of the Republican National Committee. I'm not an attorney for anybody. The fact is I look forward to his getting to the bottom of this. I can't speak for...
MR. RUSSERT: But if he indicts White House officials...
MR. MEHLMAN: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...will you pledge today, because you have tremendous confidence in him, that you will not criticize his decision?
MR. MEHLMAN: Again, I'm not going to speculate. I have tremendous confidence in him. I look to getting to the bottom of this. Whatever he does, I can assure you, people are going to follow and are going to look to abide by.
MR. PODESTA: Just say "yes," Ken.
MR. MEHLMAN: But I think it would be inappropriate for me as the RNC chairman to say what legal strategy people may take in the future.
MR. RUSSERT: But if you have tremendous confidence in him, then you will respect and accept his decision.
MR. MEHLMAN: I look forward to hearing what he has to say, and I intend to respect what he has to say, but, again, I'm not going to speculate on what he might do.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Podesta, your reaction?
MR. PODESTA: Well, I think--a couple of things. First of all, you have to go back to 2003 and remember that Karl Rove sent Scott McClellan out in the White House, said, "I have nothing to do with it." So his credibility's in tatters, on a very important national security matter, and if you step back, I think, even further, and say, "Well, what's this all about?," this is about the White House trying to defend its use of manipulation of intelligence material to get us into the war in Iraq. That's why they were so sensitive to Joe Wilson's allegations. Joe Wilson's--by the way, I think that that Mr. Mehlman just said that a lot of what he said didn't hold up. I think most of what he says does hold up. And I think that almost every independent journalist at this moment who's gone back and looked at that found that. But...
MR. RUSSERT: But wait, wait, wait. Stop there, stop there.
MR. PODESTA: ...I think what you're seeing Mister--OK.
MR. RUSSERT: On Mr. Wilson, he said that his wife had no role in sending him to Niger.
MR. PODESTA: Well...
MR. RUSSERT: The Select Committee on Intelligence, bipartisan, unanimously found otherwise. George Tenet said that his memo was not dispositive in terms of whether or not Niger was trying to sell uranium to Iraq. And...
MR. PODESTA: And Mr. Wilson never said it was. Mr. Wilson said that he was asked to go to Niger by CIA officials, that he went to Niger. He found that the allegations that Niger supplying Iraq with yellow cake uranium was not credible. In fact, George Tenet apologized for having that phrase put into the president's State of the Union address. Condoleezza Rice apologized. Ari Fleischer, on behalf of the White House, apologized. So what...
MR. RUSSERT: And the British, who were the primary source, said it was accurate. But that...
MR. PODESTA: No. No, no, no, no. The British said that what Tony Blair said was, to the best of his knowledge, accurate at the time. What we've learned subsequently from the IAEA was that, in fact, Wilson was right. But look...
MR. MEHLMAN: That's another show.
MR. PODESTA: ...they want us to be talking about Wilson. If you listen to what Mr. Mehlman just did this morning, it's just more of the same: attack, attack, attack. That's what got him in trouble two years ago. They tried to smear Mr. Wilson. They tried to--as one anonymous source, again in the White House, said, it was about revenge back in 2003. And now they're trying to change the subject, attack Democrats, attack their critics. But the facts are that Mr. Rove said he wasn't involved. Clearly, the one thing we know at the end of this week was that that was a lie. McClellan's credibility is in shreds. I think Mr. Rove's credibility is in shreds. He holds a senior-level national security position, Tim. You know, they kind of make him out to be just a political guy. He's the deputy chief of staff in charge of coordinating the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council. He doesn't belong in the White House at this point.
MR. RUSSERT: He has, as you know, a security clearance. Do you believe he has violated that?
MR. PODESTA: I think that you read the applicable paragraph, from both the Executive Order 12958 and from this--and from the briefings that he got, which is that he had an affirmative obligation not to just repeat reporters--what information that he learned from reporters--and, by the way, today we learned from another source, probably Mr. Luskin, that he's not quite sure whether he learned it first from another source or perhaps another aide, and obviously the independent counsel, special prosecutor, is looking at other people--Ari Fleisher, Stephen Hadley and others--and Lewis Libby. So maybe he learned it from an aide, maybe he learned it from reporters, but wherever he learned it, he shouldn't have repeated it without affirmatively knowing that that information had been declassified, and he couldn't have possibly known that.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me go through the public pronouncements from the White House. Here's President Bush on September 30, 2003, about the leak.
(Videotape, September 30, 2003):
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.
MR. RUSSERT: "That person will be taken care of." A week after that, Scott McClellan talked to the White House press corps and the American people. David Gregory of NBC News asked him the following question.
(Videotape, October 7, 2003):
MR. DAVID GREGORY: You have said that you personally went to Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Elliott Abrams to ask them if they were the leakers. Is that what happened? Whey did you do that? And can you describe the conversations you had with them? What was the question you asked them?
MR. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Press Secretary): Yeah. They are good individuals. They are important members of our White House team, and that's why I spoke with them so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt with--of that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did.
MR. RUSSERT: "They were not involved." Is that comment still operative?
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, Tim, I know Scott McClellan very well. Scott's a smart guy. He's an honest guy. He's a very effective spokesman. And he'd love to be on this show this morning commenting. But in contradiction to what he said, attack, attack, attack is not how we'll respond to this investigation. This White House is responding by cooperate, cooperate, cooperate. And what Scott understands and all of us understand as attorneys is that the last thing a prosecutor wants to see are people out talking about the facts of his case. And so Scott is now not commenting. But the fact is--what the facts this week show is what Scott said is accurate. The facts show that Karl Rove was not the source of Bob Novak, that there was another source that, in fact, leaked the information to him, and that Karl Rove at the time didn't know her name, didn't know she was undercover and didn't provide that information to him.
So that's why John's comments--and I'm disappointed to hear him say it this morning--are so outrageous, that Karl Rove shouldn't be working in the White House. The information exonerates and vindicates, it does not implicate, and what we should all do is take a breath, not rush to judgment and certainly not try to make political gain of an investigation that we should have confidence in the investigator for.
MR. PODESTA: Tim...
MR. RUSSERT: Whoa, hold on, hold on. Why did Scott McClellan feel comfortable in commenting on the investigation back in 2003 when it was just going on?
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, Tim, it...
MR. RUSSERT: He said to the American people that Libby, Rove, Abrams were not involved. And we now know that, according to published reports and Mr. Rove's attorney, that Mr. Rove confirmed the Novak account and was the source for Matt Cooper, as Matt Cooper testified before the grand jury and explained this morning on MEET THE PRESS. Is that not being involved?
MR. MEHLMAN: Tim, as you know, investigations have different phases. In the very early part of an investigation, when there's less--when there are fewer witnesses testifying, and less activity is one point. Clearly now, I think, that Scott's right. And I give tremendous credit to this president, and to this White House, who is saying, "We don't care about the short-term political heat we may feel. We care about justice being done," which is why they're not commenting. I assure you, Scott would love to be up at the podium, responding to these questions, as opposed to allowing people to smear him without the White House answering. But that will be the wrong thing to do because this White House is committed to cooperating and complying, not attacking.
MR. RUSSERT: But he said they were not involved. Is that accurate?
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, according to the information that's come out this week--and, again, we're here speculating--but the information that's come out this week, that we all agree on, says they were not involved in a leak.
MR. PODESTA: Oh, well, I think that's absurd, and I think the American public sees that. The question at the time that Mr. McClellan was answering was: Was Karl Rove one of the two sources for Mr. Novak? Now, we know that he was. His own lawyers admitted that. And at least he does it off the record on background, but it's clear that Mr. Luskin's out there briefing The New York Times and others, that says that Mr. Rove was the second source. So the one thing--you don't have to be a genius to know that when Karl Rove sent Scott McClellan to the podium to say he wasn't involved, he was not telling the truth. And, I think, at this point, as he sits there as deputy chief of staff in charge of coordinating the Homeland Security Council the National Security Council, he's not serving the president, he's not serving the country. And I think that if he had an ounce of character, he'd do the right thing and resign.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me refer you both to a Washington Post editorial on Friday. "A federal prosecutor is conducting a criminal probe that has, among other things, unearthed an e-mail from Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper revealing that Mr. Rove told him about Ms. Plame's role in her husband's trip. This gives the lie to White House denials that Mr. Rove was involved in the leak. Mr. Rove and White House spokesman Scott McClellan can fairly be accused, at the very least, of responding to questions about the affair with the sort of misleading legalisms and evasions that Republicans once rightly condemned President Bill Clinton for employing." Do you agree?
MR. MEHLMAN: Tim, I disagree with that, and I also note that that same article pointed out that what Karl Rove said to Matt Cooper was appropriate, and the reason was it was right to raise questions about Joe Wilson. You mentioned that a minute ago, and Mr. Podesta responded by kind of blowing off the point you made. But let's remember this. Joe Wilson misled the public about who sent him to Niger. Second, he misled the public about what he found. He misled the public about who revealed his materials and what he saw when he was over there. He misled the public about the documents that he didn't review, which he said he did review. He explained all of these mistakes by saying, "I sometimes take a little literary flair." He then appeared in a big photo spread in Vanity Fair magazine. And so these are a lot of examples of a source that really turned out to be misleading and inaccurate on issue after issue after issue. He even said he's wondering who's going to play him in the movie. Maybe he's somehow confused his screenplay with reality.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Mehlman, if this happened in the Clinton White House, John Podesta or Leon Panetta or someone was accused of doing this, what would the Republican National Committee be saying today about the Clinton White House?
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, Tim, one thing I know we wouldn't be doing. We wouldn't be calling for somebody who has been cooperating fully, somebody who has, in fact, been exonerated by information that's came out this week, we wouldn't be calling for him to lose his job. We wouldn't be saying he doesn't have an ounce of character, which I was disappointed to hear, particularly from someone who had worked in the last White House, given how the response there was done to the special prosecutor. The fact is, we're all rushing to judgment. Karl Rove is a good man, he is an honest man. He works every single day for this country, and the notion that people are trying to rush to judgment to smear him for political gain is outrageous and it's wrong.
MR. RUSSERT: You would not be pouncing on a Democratic White House for leaking the identity of a CIA agent?
MR. MEHLMAN: It is unthinkable for me to imagine that a leading member of the Republican Senate leadership, like Charles Schumer, would hold a press conference with the equivalent of a Joe Wilson, a major press conference, where they repeated allegations that have been proved wrong. I can't imagine they would do that. I can't imagine that Bob Dole and Republican leaders would go on the floor of the Senate to call 100 percent of Republicans, to revoke somebody's security clearance, who's cooperating fully with the investigation, and who evidence has been vindicating toward. I can't imagine that would happen.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Podesta.
MR. PODESTA: I think my Republican friend slept through the 1990s, but I must say, I come back to this, the--Mr. Rove has created a tremendous credibility problem for this White House, for this president, for this country on a matter of utmost national security, whether we can trust him to tell the truth about serious issues involving this war that has now claimed 1,763 Americans. And I think that the one thing that is unassailable at the end of this week is that Mr. Rove did not tell the truth in 2003, and I think given that, he's hurting the president by staying there and I think he has a duty to the president--and, quite frankly, the president said he would fire leakers, not lawbreakers. And I--you know, I think if he's a man of his word, he'll take that seriously.
MR. RUSSERT: When you were at the Clinton White House, you all remember President Clinton's testimony under oath, where he and his lawyer, Mr. Bennett, saying there is no sex of any kind, and President Clinton saying, "Well, it depends what `is' is." Are those the kind of legal evasions that you're now accusing the Bush White House of?
MR. PODESTA: Well, I think that, you know, the president paid a tremendous price. But I think that at the end of the day, this isn't about President Clinton. This is about the Bush White House, this is about the war in Iraq, this is about the fact that whether it's Dick Clarke or General Shinseki or Max Cleland or Joe Wilson, the modus operandi is if you criticize this White House, if you suggest there's another point of view, you're attacked, you're smeared, and that's what happened. It got them in trouble two years ago. It's not going to get them out of trouble today. They ought to cut it out.
MR. RUSSERT: But is there a lesson from what happened in the Clinton White House that you think should be applied to the Bush White House?
MR. PODESTA: Well, I think the lesson is that you ought to be straightforward with the American public.
MR. RUSSERT: And avoid the legalisms?
MR. PODESTA: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, Mr. Mehlman, let me show you a poll that we took with The Wall Street Journal. "Is the president, President Bush, honest and straightforward?" Now, 41 yes, 45 no. Six months ago, it was 50 percent yes, 36 percent no. That is the lowest number the president has gotten on the issue of honest and straightforward. Is this issue, is this crisis, affecting his ability to be considered trustworthy, honest and straightforward by the American people?
MR. MEHLMAN: Tim, I don't think it is at all. There was a Gallup poll that was recently released showing 56 percent think he is honest and trustworthy. The American people aren't interested in poll numbers. They're interested in facts that affect their lives. Just this past week, we found out the deficit was going to be $100 billion lower than we thought it would be just a few months ago because of this president's pro-growth policies. We found out that the result of his education reform, nine-year-olds and 13-year-olds have all-time reading and math scores, and that the gap between minority and non-minority children is lessening. This past week, Congress was working aggressively to give us an energy strategy for the first time in a quarter century, moving forward on a highway bill, unprecedented consultation. Sixty United States senators have not just been called about the Supreme Court but have been asked for suggestions. I think the American people are focused on that progress. That's certainly what this White House is focused on.
And the other side doesn't have an agenda? Tim, if I put a $1-million reward out today, it's hard to imagine I'd have to pay it out. If I said, "Find me the Democrats' agenda." They don't have anything to stand for, they have no positive policies that they're for. And that's why instead--when you don't have something to offer, insult. When you don't have positive agendas, smear and attack.
MR. RUSSERT: Does Karl Rove survive?
MR. MEHLMAN: Karl Rove will remain, I believe, as the deputy chief of staff, doing a great job for this country. And as a result of that, we'll get KAFTA that moves forward, we'll get an energy strategy that moves forward, we'll have a highway bill, we'll continue to reduce the deficit that was cut in half over five years. And he'll serve our country, and he'll serve this president well.
MR. RUSSERT: Does Karl Rove survive?
MR. PODESTA: I don't think he should. And I think if he won't do the honorable thing, and as I said, I think he's hurting the president at this point, as those poll numbers point out, I think if he won't and Bush can't, then Andy Card ought to call him in and say, "Karl, what you did was wrong, and you ought to be out of here."
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued.
John Podesta, Ken Mehlman, thank you very much.
MR. MEHLMAN: Thanks a lot.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, 33 years ago, Deep Throat was a key anonymous source who helped bring about the downfall of President Richard M. Nixon. Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with their new book "The Secret Man." They are next about anonymous sources.
MR. RUSSERT: And we're back.
Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
MR. CARL BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.
MR. BOB WOODWARD: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Here is Mark Felt, and he's Deep Throat. Look at him on the screen. That's when he worked for the FBI back in 1969-1970. Your new book, "The Secret Man," and there is the famous `F,' which Mr. Felt used to sign his memos with, like Zorro. What is the most important thing that Deep Throat, Mark Felt, told you?
MR. WOODWARD: He confirmed what information we got from people who were working in the White House or the Nixon committee, and explained that Watergate wasn't just about one burglary. It was about a mind-set of "Let's investigate, wiretap, break in to people who are real enemies of President Nixon's or perceived enemies." I mean, there was a kind of war against anyone who crossed Richard Nixon. That was Mark Felt's summary to us. He termed it "the overall." "Look at the overall."
MR. RUSSERT: When Mr. Felt was sharing this information with Bob Woodward, and Bob Woodward with you, Carl Bernstein, you, early on, had a sense of just the bigness of it. And while getting a cup of coffee at a machine at The Washington Post, turned to Bob Woodward and said, "Oh, my God, Richard Nixon is going to be impeached."
MR. BERNSTEIN: That's right.
MR. RUSSERT: And Mr. Woodward said, "Don't ever say that in this newsroom."
MR. BERNSTEIN: That's correct. And the reason is that context is all. It's not just the individual facts. Just as context is all in the Karl Rove case. It's not just about Karl Rove. It's about WMD. It's about the truthfulness of the White House. And in Watergate, we were able to get this context very early because not originally Deep Throat but rather the bookkeeper for the committee for the re-election of the president, some other sources that Bob and I had, and Mark Felt all described to us this incredible "switchblade atmosphere" in the White House...
MR. WOODWARD: Yeah.
MR. BERNSTEIN: ...and that context told us Watergate wasn't just about a break-in. It was about a mentality.
MR. RUSSERT: The biggest struggle a journalist has is in terms of dealing with the confidentiality of their sources. Mr. Felt said to you, and you had an agreement with him, that you would never reveal his identity until he died or you were released.
MR. WOODWARD: That's right.
MR. RUSSERT: Let's talk about that struggle. This is your book on page 204 where you had a conversation with your attorney, Robert Barnett. And you say, "...permission [to reveal a source] must be given voluntarily, absolutely...competently--high standards but the right standards..."
MR. WOODWARD: Yep.
MR. RUSSERT: And yet we have in your book also your conversation with Mr. Felt in 2000, which you had an audiotape, which you gave NBC, in which you really have a sense Mr. Felt doesn't know what's going on. Let me just roll a little of that and come back and talk about this struggle. Here we go.
MR. WOODWARD: Sure. Sure.
(Audiotape, February 27, 2000):
MR. WOODWARD: You remembered the Nixon period a little bit.
MR. MARK FELT: Vaguely but I still don't have any specific recollections from it.
MR. WOODWARD: Remember back in those years when we met and chatted? And any...
MR. FELT: Well, I think I remembered the area and a time, but I don't remember specifically anything.
MR. RUSSERT: That raises real questions about the competence of Mr. Felt. How do you make a decision that his family can speak for him? What do you go through as a reporter?
MR. WOODWARD: Well, for me it was quite easy. Bob Barnett said you have to reach this absolute high standard. And after my discussion five years ago with Mark Felt, it was very clear you couldn't even get close to it. At the same time, his family, his daughter, who takes wonderful care of him, the family lawyer, decided to do this, and when Carl and I saw Mark Felt appear at the door the day his identity was disclosed...
MR. RUSSERT: Here's a picture. It shows Mr. Felt here...
MR. WOODWARD: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: ...at the door with his daughter.
MR. WOODWARD: I mean, that is a happy man, a content man. I hope Russert, Bernstein, and Woodward are as happy when we're standing in the door at age 91 if we make it. So was it perfect? You know, as Mark Felt taught me, you make decisions in an imperfect world, and the family and the lawyer made this decision. And we decided to confirm it.
MR. BERNSTEIN: Keeping your source confidential is not a struggle. I'm going to disagree with the question.
MR. WOODWARD: Yeah. Yeah.
MR. BERNSTEIN: We had numerous, dozens of sources, and we have kept all of their identities secret without their permission. We will never disclose them. And it was not a difficult task. Keeping--you know, because of the attention on Deep Throat, that remarkable secret kept for 33 years--and Woodward, myself, Ben Bradlee were the only ones who knew, and we were determined keep it. But, you know, we give our word to our sources that they have an agreement with us that their identity won't reveal--it's our lifeblood.
MR. RUSSERT: But you were concerned...
MR. BERNSTEIN: That's what we do.
MR. RUSSERT: ...as to whether Mark Felt was competent to release you.
MR. BERNSTEIN: Oh, absolutely. Bob and I on that day, in fact, fought The Washington Post for a good while.
MR. WOODWARD: Yeah.
MR. BERNSTEIN: The Washington Post wanted to confirm it. We did not, until it became evident that it was the right thing to do, but we didn't want to rush into it until it was clear that there was absolutely no alternative, that, indeed, his spokespeople had authorized it. We finally went along and said yes.
MR. WOODWARD: We had to be dragged.
MR. BERNSTEIN: We were...
MR. WOODWARD: I mean, Len Downie, the editor of The Post...
MR. BERNSTEIN: ...kicking and screaming.
MR. WOODWARD: ...looked me in the eye and said, "Bob, it's over." And, you know, there was a kind of moment there of...
MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, through the whole day, we held out The Washington Post...
MR. WOODWARD: Yeah, but, you know--and then Ben Bradlee was saying, "That's it."
MR. RUSSERT: You also told Deep Throat that you would never identify him, his agency, or even a suggestion in print that such a source existed.
MR. WOODWARD: That's right.
MR. RUSSERT: And yet in your book "All the President's Men," you did say he existed.
MR. WOODWARD: Exactly, and the decision...
MR. RUSSERT: How do you reconcile that?
MR. WOODWARD: ...there was, when we wrote "All the President's Men," which is about reporting Watergate and the uncertainties and the multiplicity of sources and the tension between Carl and myself, the tension we had with the editor, we couldn't leave Deep Throat out. So we did it in a way that was accurate, that never said he worked in the FBI, and his identity remained secret for 32 years after that book came out.
MR. RUSSERT: But he was unhappy.
MR. WOODWARD: He was unhappy, and when I called him after the book came out, he hung up on me, and it was like a kick in the stomach. But then we had conversations and reconciled, and then he went through his own troubles. So it--look, I mean, Carl has said, these are relationships of trust. You have to kind of look at somebody and say, "You know, we're in this together. You have things you want to tell. I have things I want to know. And we're going to have to trust each other."
MR. BERNSTEIN: And there are conflicting interests...
MR. WOODWARD: And it worked here.
MR. BERNSTEIN: ...but each understands what the other is doing.
MR. RUSSERT: There is an interesting discussion going on about anonymous sources that we've had all morning here. Here's an Associated Press piece about Mark Felt. "W. Mark Felt violated FBI and Justice Department policies by sharing with reporters information about the Watergate scandal, but it's not clear whether he broke any laws, several former federal prosecutors said. ...The former prosecutors said if they were to look into Felt's conversations with The Washington Post's Bob Woodward they would examine whether he violated federal rules that keep grand jury matters secret, whether he disclosed other confidential material that was part of the Watergate investigation or broke privacy rules by revealing the names of people who had yet to be charged with a crime."
Do you think Felt broke the law?
MR. BERNSTEIN: There was a conspiracy going on at the time, run by the president of the United States to undermine the electoral process in this country. A criminal presidency...
MR. RUSSERT: But did Felt know that when he started? He started talking to you four or five days after the break-in when he didn't know there was a conspiracy going on.
MR. BERNSTEIN: Actually, he did know there was a conspiracy going on...
MR. RUSSERT: That early?
MR. WOODWARD: Yes.
MR. BERNSTEIN: ...in terms of the electoral process. Of course. Part of what Watergate was about was this unprecedented attempt to undermine the concept of free elections in our own country.
MR. WOODWARD: And he...
MR. BERNSTEIN: And Felt understood that. And he was a man, incidentally--he's no saint. He was a man who had done black-bag jobs, break-ins for the FBI. But what he saw at this moment convinced him that the country was in danger, not from the FBI, but from the president of the United States and from the White House, and he also thought that the FBI, which he loved and revered, was being totally undermined by the president of the United States.
MR. WOODWARD: But he--you know, the question of whether he broke the law--he was very, very careful. He never gave us...
MR. BERNSTEIN: That's right.
MR. WOODWARD: ...investigative reports. He never, as best we can tell, violated grand jury rules. And when you kind of put all of this through the wash and say, "Well, he did the right thing"--look, what Richard Nixon did, the extent of the crimes and the attack not just on the electoral process--I mean, they were wiretapping people. They were breaking into the offices of...
MR. BERNSTEIN: Yeah. A criminal presidency.
MR. WOODWARD: Yeah, and--like we have never seen and let's hope we don't see again, and so what do you do when you're sitting in that seat and you have this knowledge and you have a reporter hounding you?--because that's what we do as reporters--you tell the truth, and he did.
MR. RUSSERT: Could you have written your Watergate stories without anonymous sources?
MR. BERNSTEIN: Absolutely not. Impossible. Could we have written...
MR. RUSSERT: And how do you apply what you learned during that time as a reporter to what we're going through right now?
MR. BERNSTEIN: They are your life line. Nobody in this town can tell the truth openly because of fear they're going to lose their jobs, that the only way you get real information is by talking person to person without--with the knowledge that your name is not going to go in the paper. What's important is the information and that the reporter is good enough to triangulate it elsewhere. That's what we did in Watergate. We didn't just use Mark Felt's information. Everything he told us we had somewhere else as well.
MR. WOODWARD: And you know what? The special prosecutor, Fitzgerald, in a way, has discovered that there is an underground railroad of information in Washington. You're smiling because no one knows more about it than you.
MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, you were down there.
MR. WOODWARD: Well, you talk to people, you talk to somebody in the White House or the CIA or the Democratic Party, and you say, "I've heard or I understand; what are you hearing?" And one of the discoveries in all of this is that reporters, in asking questions, convey information to even somebody like Karl Rove. Where did he first learn important elements of this? From a reporter. Now, my view, and I think Carl agrees with this, this investigation, though properly empowered, is an assault on that process that we have not just in Washington, any other community in this country where we have a First Amendment, and he will wind up crippling that process by dragging reporters before the grand jury. And I wonder if he and the judge have really sat down and said, "Now, what are we going to gain here vs. what are we going to lose?" And the loss might be immense.
MR. RUSSERT: You have kept the secret 33 years. It almost got blown by a prosecutor who was talking to Mark Felt. One of the grand jurors said, "Were you Deep Throat?" He said, "No." The prosecutor said, "You want to strike that." The question was stricken and so was the answer. But the prosecutor, Mr. Pottenger, held it. In 1999, the Hartford Courant wrote a piece, Carl, that your son went to summer camp back in '88 and told one of his buddies it was Mark Felt. And I asked you two about that on MEET THE PRESS. Let's watch.
MR. WOODWARD: Uh-oh. I hope we were careful.
MR. BERNSTEIN: Uh-oh.
(Video of MEET THE PRESS, August 8, 1999)
MR. RUSSERT: Your son and ex-wife are quoted as saying "It's Mark Felt," a high-ranking member of the Justice Department.
MR. BERNSTEIN: Neither of whom has any more idea than the man in the moon who it is. Bob and I did one really smart thing during Watergate and that is that we told neither of our ex-wives, wives at the time, the identity of Deep Throat. So...
MR. RUSSERT: So a first...
MR. BERNSTEIN: Indeed I think one of the ex-wives speculated as to Mark Felt, but they certainly have no knowledge.
MR. RUSSERT: The non-denial denial.
MR. BERNSTEIN: No, no.
MR. WOODWARD: Isn't he great? Isn't he great? I mean, the...
MR. BERNSTEIN: But, in fact, they had no knowledge whatsoever.
MR. RUSSERT: But we could have settled it all in 1999, you guys.
MR. BERNSTEIN: No, because they didn't know. They're pretty good--they do some good guesswork, but boy, did they not know.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, you kept it for 33 years. The book "The Secret Man" is a really interesting read. We thank you for joining us this morning. Bob Woodward...
MR. WOODWARD: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: ...Carl Bernstein...
MR. BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.
MR. RUSSERT: We'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.
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