James C Moore: The President's magician has lost his magic. And the law is slowly closing in

Under oath, why did Rove not tell investigators about the email?

Share

There is a hoary Texan aphorism that must now be striking resounding notes in George Bush's head. A new chief of staff, a change in the political mastermind Karl Rove's responsibilities, and a neophyte policy director are changes that can impress only the American President. If Bush were out in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas where he spent his childhood, he might hear someone in a coffee shop suggesting that "it's like puttin' earrings on a hog; there's some ugliness you just cain't hide".

And in Rove's case, it is likely to get uglier.

"Bush's Brain" has been operating as if he were out of danger in the federal investigation of the leaking of the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent. (Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, had fallen out with the Bush regime, and the charge is that Bushites wanted to strike a blow at him by outing her.) But Rove is not out of trouble. In fact, the stoic prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may have evidence to make a case of perjury and obstruction of justice against Rove.

Fitzgerald's methodical, circumspect approach has made some people think that, after almost three years, he has decided not to indict. But he has had a lot on his plate. He has been in the midst of convicting an Illinois governor of corruption and is also investigating one of the country's largest media moguls. Rove has not been cleared; other cases were simply further along in the judicial process and demanded immediate attention.

If Rove was to be charged, it would be over an email he sent to Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser. After an order from the White House counsel to turn over all relevant communications, and subpoenas from the federal grand jury, Rove still did not surrender this particular email. The apparent reason is that it shows the President's most trusted adviser to be considerably less than truthful with investigators. In all, Rove is believed to have given sworn testimony 10 times. In all but one of those instances, Rove said under oath that he did not speak to reporters about Valerie Plame until her name had been made public in a column written by his old friend, the conservative Robert Novak.

Unfortunately for Rove, the date on his email to Hadley offers at least one fact that contradicts his words and lays the foundation for likely criminal charges. The incriminating date gives the lie to the political strategist's claims that he did not talk about Valerie Plame until her name was already part of the national political discourse. In the 11 July 2003 communication, Rove confirms to Hadley that he spoke to Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper three days before Robert Novak published his article outing Agent Plame. Cooper subsequently testified that he first learned of her identity from Rove.

Why did Rove not tell investigators about the email and the phone conversation with Cooper the first nine times he was placed under oath? His lawyer Robert Luskin has said Rove's memory was jogged much later by cocktail chatter, and prompted him and Rove to conduct "an exhaustive search" for evidence, which turned up the previously undisclosed email. No explanation was proffered as to why the note was not discovered under subpoena or why initial efforts were not equally "exhaustive". Rove said he simply forgot he had spoken to Cooper.

Nonsense.

A man who can remember precinct results from century-old presidential elections is not likely to forget he talked with one of Washington's most prominent journalists about a story that was a threat to the presidency. The more likely explanation is that Rove was playing a game he mastered early in his career, which is hiding behind a reporter's obligation to protect sources. But when Cooper agreed to speak to the grand jury, Rove's cover was blown. The strategist had no choice but to produce the email and an explanation as to why he had not mentioned it during previous testimony. And the best he could come up with was: "I forgot."

Last week Rove's supporters stopped assuring reporters that the legendary political magician was not going to be indicted. Fitzgerald's latest court paperwork also claims Rove will not be called as a prosecution witness in the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, a legal decision that strongly suggests an individual is headed for indictment. Further, the special prosecutor's documents intimate his inquiry might be looking at a conspiracy within the White House.

"Indeed, there exist documents," Fitzgerald wrote, "some of which have been provided to [Libby], and there were conversations in which the defendant participated that reveal a strong desire by many, including multiple people in the White House, to repudiate Mr Wilson before and after 14 July 2003."

Having reported on Rove for more than a quarter of a century, I am confident that no such activity could have transpired without his involvement and, more probably, his guidance.

As Rove's role was being redefined by the new White House chief of staff last week, Fitzgerald was reportedly presenting evidence against the political genius to the grand jury. Rove has been ordered by his new boss to concentrate his considerable political skills on the mid-term elections in November because the President's approval ratings are so poor that Republican candidates are running away from Mr Bush and his policies.

If, however, Fitzgerald's case against Rove is as open and shut as it appears from the outside, the man chosen to mastermind a comeback for the President and his party may find himself in legal jeopardy before the autumnal rhetoric of the election. And the President's final two years will accomplish little more than chopping down cedar trees on his Texas ranch.

Patrick Fitzgerald, too, carries an awful burden, even though he considers himself little more than a good citizen just doing his job. Untold millions of Americans are relying on this son of Irish immigrants to renew their faith that we remain a nation of laws. Too many of us have a well-earned cynicism; we see our country wandering desperately through a historical fog. We fear America has entered a permanent state of decline.

A little justice, though, might just begin a great renewal.

James C Moore is the co-author of 'Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove made George W Bush presidential'

Alan Watkins is away

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Financial Services, SQL, Stored Procedure

£55000 - £65000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: One of the mos...

Senior UNIX Engineer (UNIX, Linux, Solaris, IBM MQ Server)

£62000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior UNIX Engineer (UNIX, Linux, Solaris...

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice