George Bush suffered though a long day of bad news yesterday in Washington. It began with a senior Pentagon official pleading guilty to passing classified information to an Israeli official. Guilty pleas are generally not good news for others who may be involved in the matter. They suggest that an accused has become a cooperative witness.
Then the bombshell. Karl Rove, a figure in the CIA leak investigation, returns to the grand jury yet again to offer 11th-hour testimony on what could be the eve of an explosive special report by the special prosecutor, one that could include indictment of top officials.
MSNBC-TV's Chris Matthews weighs in with a panel of experts: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, The Washington Post's John Harris and The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL HOST: Mike Isikoff, why is Karl Rove going back again to the grand jury?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK: Well, after Matt Cooper testified in July and after his notes and e-mails were made public, or at least his e-mail was made public, making it clear that Karl Rove was his source, Robert Luskin, his lawyer offered the opportunity for Rove to reappear, if Fitzgerald wanted it.
It`s clear that what Luskin had been saying about Rove`s account prior to that was different than what Cooper wrote he testified to and what the e-mail indicated he testified to happened, which is that Rove was the principal Supreme Court for Matt Cooper. And he divulged, while not Valerie Plame`s name, he indicated that Joe Wilson`s wife, who worked at
the agency, had arranged for the trip to -- Wilson to go on the trip to Africa.
That clearly put Rove in the ballpark. And the real issue here, I think, is not -- because that alone could not be of violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
MATTHEWS: Unless it could be a violation of a perjury situation.
ISIKOFF: It could, yes, exactly. The question is the truthfulness of Rove`s previous testimony.
This is a fourth grand jury appearance. That`s extraordinary. In every previous interview, Mr. Luskin has said over and over again that he had been assured by Fitzgerald that Rove was not the target of this investigation.
MATTHEWS: Was he assured by his client that he was not the source of the leak?
ISIKOFF: He did not tell that to the Associated Press today.
MATTHEWS: Right. Let me go to John Harris.
I want to ask right now, if Mike Isikoff is following the sequence of events with accuracy in reporting, if he knows, as you seem to know, that the lawyer for Karl Rove felt he had to go back after it was public what had happened in the testimony from Matt Cooper of Time magazine, in other words, that his client was the main source for information about Valerie Plame, the wife of Joe Wilson, who worked over at the CIA, he had to come back and sort of correct his testimony, change it, modify it.
It doesn`t seem like it takes a lot of Perry Mason work here to figure that he`s the target here.
JOHN HARRIS, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, he`s obviously a central figure. And I think we have to assume now that he is a target.
I have to say, this point is still murky to me, based on the reporting done that`s been over at The Post, whether Luskin said, hey, let me come back; my client wants to come back, or whether he made that offer back in July, and Fitzgerald says, yes, I want you to come back. In other words, who is seeking this testimony that I think could come as early as tomorrow is a critical question.
The other thing that is worth pointing out...
MATTHEWS: Excuse me. Why would anybody who wasn`t a prosecutor want anybody, especially themselves, to go before a grand jury? Isn`t it a very tricky turf to go on?
HARRIS: Absolutely. Under ordinary circumstances, you never want to go anywhere near a grand jury. But, clearly, this is not ordinary.
One possibility is that Luskin thinks that his client might have said things that were too cute. And, look, if there was any misunderstanding whatsoever about what — let us clean this up. Let us clarify things. We weren`t trying to be a smart aleck on that earlier answer. Now let us be more forthright.
This sometimes works, by the way. I know of one prominent case years ago now involving Senator Chuck Robb where he was on the brink of an indictment. And he did, in fact, plead for a chance to go before the grand jury, essentially talked his way out of what was a looming indictment. So, that might be what`s going on here.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, Steve, about this whole question. Does anybody know the law here, where if you go back before a grand jury, where you may have perjured yourself, said something contradictory from the facts, as they were presented by the witnesses, that seems to indicate a perjury possibility, can you go back and clean up the mess before the grand jury issues a verdict?
STEPHEN HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think you can go back and clean up the mess. I don`t think that that changes the substance of the perjury charges. If you have committed perjury, you have committed perjury. You can alter your answers. But my understanding — and I may be incorrect on this...
MATTHEWS: You can`t say it depends on what your meaning of is, is, or something like that.
HAYES: No. I mean, I think you can go back remember, we are speaking in extraordinary hypotheticals here.
MATTHEWS: Conceptually, yes.
HAYES: You could go back and sort of clean up the issue or, on the other hand, muddy up the issue, depending on what was said earlier.
MATTHEWS: I`m watching somewhat, fellows, by second degree. And I`m trying to figure this out.
If everything you say is true, and you have been following this case as much as anybody, Mike, if there was -- if we have testimony now before the grand jury that the primary source for the leak...
ISIKOFF: No, no, for Matt Cooper`s information, not for Robert Novak`s information, which was the original trigger for this investigation.
MATTHEWS: Does it matter whether it was published or not, if somebody
gave it under the law, if somebody leaked to somebody who didn`t get to
ISIKOFF: Technically, probably not, but, as a matter for bringing a criminal prosecution against a senior government official, that might be a factor weighing in.
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