THE BLOG

Viveca Novak's Mea Culpa

12/11/2005 03:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Viveca Novak's first person account of what transpired between her and Karl Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin is up (free link) at Time. It's a biggie. Shorter version (my interpretation): If Karl Rove doesn't get indicted for perjury, it will be because of Viveca Novak. Viveca tipped Luskin off either in March or May, 2004 that Karl Rove had talked to Matthew Cooper. Her disclosure was after Rove's February grand jury appearance in which he didn't mention speaking with Cooper. It sent Luskin on a hunt for documentation that led to his discovery of the Stephen Hadley e-mail, which he then turned over to Patrick Fitzgerald with a request for Rove to be allowed to correct his grand jury testimony.

What's astonishing about the article is that Viveca didn't tell Time Magazine editors what she had done until after she had hired her own lawyer and debriefed with Fitzgerald. She didn't tell them until she got a formal subpoena. She's now on a "mutually agreed upon" leave of absence from the magazine.

Not only that, but she kept writing about the case. Her article on why Bob Woodward's source came clean was written a week after she debriefed with Fitzgerald.

Here's Viveca in her own words:

Here's what happened. Toward the end of one of our meetings, I remember Luskin looking at me and saying something to the effect of "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt." I responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, "Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around TIME." He looked surprised and very serious....Luskin walked me to my car and said something like, "Thank you. This is important."

It appears to me that it was Luskin who advised Fitzgerald that he met with Viveca in March, 2004. Viveca initially could only remember meetings with Luskin in January and May, 2004, although she says they met about five times since October, 2003:

Fitzgerald had asked that I check a couple of dates in my calendar for meetings with Luskin. One of them, March 1, 2004, checked out. I hadn't found that one in my first search because I had erroneously entered it as occurring at 5 a.m., not 5 p.m.

The problem with the new March date was that now I was even more confused--previously I had to try to remember if the key conversation had occurred in January or May, and I thought it was more likely May. But March was close enough to May that I really didn't know. "I don't remember" is an answer that prosecutors are used to hearing, but I was mortified about how little I could recall of what occurred when.

Here's Viveca's mea culpa:

I hadn't intended to tip Luskin off to anything. I was supposed to be the information gatherer. It's true that reporters and sources often trade information, but that's not what this was about. If I could have a do-over, I would have kept my mouth shut; since I didn't, I wish I had told my bureau chief about the exchange.

Bottom line: Karl Rove's chances of escaping a charge of perjury before the grand jury increase. But, I believe he's still on the hook for lying to federal investigators before the grand jury was convened in October, 2003 if he failed to tell them about his July 8th telephone call with reporter Bob Novak when he reportedly said, after Mr. Novak told him all about Wilson's wife, "I heard that too."

Fitzgerald wants to know where Rove heard it and from whom. Was it from Libby? Was it from someone who had seen the June 10 classified memo? If so, then he lied to investigators if he told them he first learned about Wilson's wife from a reporter. Fitzgerald is trying to determine if the White House engaged in a scheme to discredit Joseph Wilson by claiming to reporters that spousal nepotism was involved in selecting him to go to Africa to check on the Iraq-uranium story. It doesn't seem to me that Rove is cleared of this charge just because he didn't know Valerie Plame Wilson's name.

I'll stand on my prior predictions. The best Karl Rove can hope for is a false statement charge. He's not getting a pass and Viveca only helps him avoid a perjury and possibly an obstruction charge.

Other takes: Reddhedd at Firedoglake; Atrios; Tom Maguire at Just One Minute;Empty Wheel; Needlenose.

Some remaining questions:

  • Luskin was representing Rove in October, 2003. Was he with Rove when Rove was interviewed that month by FBI investigators?
  • When did Luskin find and turn over the Hadley e-mail to Fitzgerald? Had Hadley already turned it over or disclosed it?
  • When did Rove disclose his July 8th conversation with Bob Novak to investigators or the grand jury? Does he dispute or acknowledge telling him "I heard that too"?