This morning might be a good time to examine some of the questions about how the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation of the Plame scandal could result in Karl Rove's being indicted. Indeed, the month of May, 2006 could hold the answer to Ambassador Joseph Wilson's question, "Wouldn't it be fun to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs?" (The Politics of Truth; page 372) Let's take a closer look at "Official A" and the grand jury.
1-Q: How did Patrick Fitzgerald get involved with this case? Did it have anything to do with Karl Rove?
A: Several months after the CIA got the Department of Justice to investigate the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself. A footnote found on page 173 of John Dean's wonderful book, "Worse Than Watergate," sheds light on why:
"A much-rumored source of the leak has been Karl Rove, who was a consultant to Ashcroft during one or more of his political campaigns and the person many believe secured Ashcroft his post as attorney general. For this reason, as soon as the investigation commenced, there were emands that Ashcroft either appoint a special counsel or recuse himself. He stalled as long as possible before finally giving way, sending more signals that he did not want this investigation to get out of hand."
After Ashcroft recused himself, his deputy James Comey, appointed Patrick Fitzgerald. Thus, there is an interesting relationship between Mr. Fitzgerald's role in the investigation, and Mr. Rove's role in the scandal.
2-Q: What was the goal of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation? Are the right-wing experts like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter correct in their belief that he was only supposed to investigate if anyone violated a specific statute regarding exposing a CIA agent's identity?
A: In his October 28, 2005 press conference, Mr. Fitzgerald answered this question. "So let me tell you a little bit about how an investigation works. Investigators do not set out to investigate the statute, they set out to gather the facts. It's critical that when an investigation is conducted by prosecutors, agents and a grand jury they learn who, what when, where and why. And then they decide, based upon accurate facts, whether a crime has been committed, who committed the crime, whether you can prove the crime and whether the crime should be charged."
As this case moves forward, there will be further attempts by the administration to distort the truth about this case. This will include weasals like Hannity and Coulter. It is worth noting that Fox News continues to use Newt Gingrich as an "expert" who gives analysis without revealing to viewers that he participated in the efforts to destroy Joseph Wilson and his wife.
3-Q: Was there an effort to destroy the Wilsons? Hasn't Bill O'Reilly said that this was just political hardball?
A: In his April 19, 2006 article "Walking the White House plank," Sidney Blumenthal noted, "Two weeks ago, Fitzgerald filed a motion before the federal court in the Libby case stating that his investigation had proved that the White House engaged in 'concerted action' from 'a plan to discredit, punish or seek revenge against' former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who revealed that the rationale of the Iraq war was based on false information that the White House knew was bogus. Fitzgerald declared further that he had gathered 'evidence that multiple officials in the White House' had outed his wife's clandestine identity to reporters as an element of revenge."
In early 2003, in a series of discussions known as the "Plame Threads" on the Democratic Underground forum, I had stressed to readers that they keep in mind Neitzsche's teaching about the importance of knowing not just "how/," but more importantly "why?" At his press conference last October, Mr. Fitzgerald noted, "What we're talking about is why -- the investigation was why someone compromised her identity."
In his May 8, 2006, Rove's old friend Bill Israel summed up "why" Rove savaged the Wilsons: "Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame, were simply the most important bodies in the way." (Karl Rove's Lessons for the Press)
4-Q: Why has the process taken so long? Hadn't the FBI investigated the leak? Couldn't Mr. Fitzgerald have simply run the basic information by the grand jury, and gotten indictments?
A: There are two general types of grand juries. The most common can be used by prosecutors to hear any case that arises within its jurisdiction, where the prosecutor is seeking an indictment. The second type is an investigatory grand jury. In his October 2005 press conference, Patrick Fitzgerald states more than a half-dozen times that the Plame grand jury had investigated the leak.
This included the important issues involving journalists, such as Judith Miller and Matt Cooper, in a part of the investigation that involved Amendment 1 issues. It included appeals that went to the US Supreme Court. Mr. Fitzgerald noted that he had gone to Judge Hogan in a "detailed, classified, sealed filing" to be sure the grand jury investigation of the issues involving the journalists was proper. The federal courts all were supportive of Fitzgerald's efforts. Then, as he stated, "...as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was the information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters?"
The grand jury's investigation was slowed by things including the lengthy appeal by the journalists; by Judith Miller's incarceration; and by efforts to conceal the truth from the grand jury. At this point, Scooter Libby has been charged with lying to investigators and to the grand jury. It is believed that Karl Rove may soon be indicted on similar charges.
5-Q: How does the grand jury work? Why doesn't the public know more about what the grand jury has done?
A: Let's look at a few quotes from Mr. Fitzgerald's 10-05 press conference. "There's another thing about a grand jury investigation. One of the obligations of the prosecutors and the grand juries is to keep the information obtained in the investigation secret, not to share it with the public."
"And one of things we do with a grand jury is we gather information. ... but the grand jury doesn't give an announcement about what they're doing, what their looking at, unless they charge an indictment."
"So I think the only way you can do an investigation like this is to hear from all witnesses. ...And if we don't prosecute, we keep quiet. ...I don't think people fully appreciate how an investigative grand jury can be different. You know, sometimes you can -- fairly routine to go into a grand jury and say, 'Mr. Eckenrode is going to testify about a bank robbery. Here's a picture of the guy with the gun in his hand, with a note. Here's his fingerprint on the note. And here's his confession. You know, how do you vote?' This grand jury is very, very different."
6-Q: Do people often lie in these circumstances? Why would Libby and Rove lie?
A: Again, to quote Mr. Fitzgerald from the press conference, it's "important that witnesses who come before a grand jury who may be under investigation, tell the complete truth. ... And anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime. ... And I'd say this: I think people might not understand this. We, as prosecutors and FBI agents, have to deal with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury all the time. The Department of Justice charges those statutes all the time."
Thus, it appears that Libby and Rove have betrayed the public trust, and lied to cover up the truth about their participation in the campaign to destroy the Wilsons. They are common thugs. Shame, shame, shame on them.
7-Q: Yet some of the republicans are saying that Mr. Fitzgerald failed to charge anyone with the serious crime of exposing a CIA agent, and that I. Lewis Libby was charged with minor crimes. Is that a serious charge that diminishes what Mr. Fitzgerald has done, or is it mere spin?
A: Again, to quote Mr. Fitzgerald's press conference: "I'll be blunt. That talking point won't fly. If you're doing a national security investigation, .... (and a White House official) went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story ... and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter .... that, to me, defines a serious breach of the public trust.
"... at the end of the day, I think I want to say one more thing, which is: When you do a criminal case, if you find a violation, it doesn't really, in the end, matter what statute you use if you vindicate the interest."
8-Q: In the days before Scooter Libby was indicted, Karl Rove's attorney approached Mr. Fitzgerald with "new" evidence about how a conversation the attorney had with Vivica Novak had served to "refresh" Rove's memory about his conversation with Matt Cooper. It seemed like an attempt to make Rove's conversation with Cooper an isolated incident, which slipped his mind. Has any new evidence contradicted this?
A: Vivica Novak spoke with Mr. Fitzgerald twice, as detailed in "What Vivica Novak Told Fitzgerald," by Ms. Novak (Time; 12-11-05) Her story did not seem to support Rove's attorney's interpretation of events.
Also important, at the October press conference, a reporter asked about "some deferred e-mails that were produced by the White House very late in the investigation that, in fact, in part, triggered the expansion" of the investigation. Then, in February '06, Truthout broke the news that 250 pages of e-mails, apparently primarily from the OVP, had been recovered by the investigation. On April 7, Jason Leopold reported, "Rove did not disclose the communications when he was questioned" by the FBI or during his early appearances before the grand jury.Leopold reported that sources said the e-mails "contained suggestions by Rove ... on how the White House should respond to what it believed were increasingly destructive comments Wilson had been making" about the WMD evidence used to bring the nation to war in Iraq.
It is believed that Mr. Fitzgerald will ask the grand jury to consider charges related to the lies about his conversation to Matt Cooper. It is also likely that there is evidence indicating Mr. Rove lied about more than Matt Cooper.
9-Q: What do we know about this second grand jury?
A: Last December 14, MSNBC's David Shuster told Tucker Carlson the following: "First of all, it was a week ago today when he impaneled a new grand jury, presented new information, and again, prosecutors don't use new grand juries unless they want the panel to consider possible charges."
On April 26, 2006, both MSNBC and the Washington Post noted that Mr. Fitzgerald was beginning to hold sessions with the grand jury, after not meeting with them for several months. This was generally consistent with other reports by Jason Leopold on Truthout. Mr. Leopold had noted that the grand jury would begin to focus on the information it needed to consider if Mr. Fitzgerald were to ask them to return indictments. My reading of Mr. Leopold's articles has led me to conclude that sources close to the case have anticipated Mr. Fitzgerald would ask the grand jury to return indictments soon. I think that the process will begin this week, starting on Wednesday and perhaps Friday.
10-Q: How does a grand jury decide if Mr. Fitzgerald asks them to consider returning indictments against Karl Rove?
A: Let's look at what David Shuster told Chris Matthews on Hardball on October 26, 2005: "In order to indict, out of the 23 people who are assigned to serve on a grand jury, 16 on the panel must be present. At least 12 of those present must agree to the charge by answering in the affirmative to this question. ....
"At the DC federal courthouse, if the grand jury chooses to indict, the panel will move from the third floor grand jury room to a magistrate's courtroom on the first floor. There, open to the public, the indictment will be recieved by a judge who may choose to read part of it out loud before the charges are filed with the clerk."
If no indictments are returned, there will not be a press conference. But, if there are any charges filed, it is anticipated that Mr. Fitzgerald will meet with reporters. Indictments and pre-trial information is generally a matter of public record, and so we will learn more about what Mr. Fitzgerald has learned in his investigation. And, as he said in the Libby press conference:
"So I ask everyone involved in this process, anyone who participates in the trial, anyone who covers this trial, anyone sitting home watching these proceedings to follow this process with an American appreciation for our values and our dignity."