THE BLOG

Rove's "I Did Not Inhale" Defense

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET
  • Lawrence O'Donnell Author, former U.S. Senate staffer, and Executive Producer of "The West Wing"

Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, had his holiday weekend ruined on Friday when I broke the story that the e-mails that Time delivered to the special prosecutor that afternoon reveal that Karl Rove is the source Matt Cooper has been protecting for two years. The next day, Luskin was forced to open the first hole in the Rove two-year wall of silence about the case. In a huge admission to Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, Luskin confessed that, well, yes, Rove did talk to Cooper. It is a huge admission in a case where Rove and Luskin have never, before Friday, felt compelled to say a word about Rove's contact with Cooper or anyone else involved in the case.

Luskin then launched what sounds like an I-did-not-inhale defense. He told Newsweek that his client "never knowingly disclosed classified information." Knowingly. That is the most important word Luskin said in what has now become his public version of the Rove defense.

Not coincidentally, the word 'knowing' is the most important word in the controlling statute ( U.S. Code: Title 50: Section 421). To violate the law, Rove had to tell Cooper about a covert agent "knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States."

So, Rove's defense now hangs on one word—he "never knowingly disclosed classified information." Does that mean Rove simply didn't know Valerie Plame was a covert agent? Or does it just mean that Rove did not know that the CIA was "taking affirmative measures" to hide her identity?

In Luskin's next damage control session with the press, let's see if any reporter can get him to drop the word 'knowingly' from the never-disclosed-classified-information bit.