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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Plank


A crucial lingering mystery about the Fitzgerald investigation has been the status of Karl Rove. Conservatives have been quick to claim vindication for Rove. On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume was defiantly bullish:

And the worry about Karl Rove, which I think absolutely cast a pall over the White House in terms of just everyone being so anxious about it, is now, for all intents and purposes, over, despite the prattle you see in the media about how the investigation is ongoing.

Robert Ray, I think, put his finger right on it. Something very dramatic would have to happen for him to be in further trouble. So it would appear that he will be back in full cry at the White House, which is a big deal.

But Monday's Washington Post suggests a distinctly different story:

[T]wo legal sources intimately familiar with Fitzgerald's tactics in this inquiry said they believe Rove remains in significant danger. They described Fitzgerald as being relentlessly thorough but also conservative throughout this prosecution -- and his willingness to consider Rove's eleventh-hour pleading of a memory lapse is merely a sign of Fitzgerald's caution.

The two legal sources point to what they consider Fitzgerald's careful decision not to charge Libby with the leak of a covert agent's identity, given that the prosecutor had amassed considerable evidence that Libby gave classified information, which he knew from his job should not be made public, to reporters. Another prosecutor might have stretched to make a leak charge, on the theory that a jury would believe, based on other actions, that Libby acted with bad intentions.

Another warning sign for Rove was in the phrasing of Friday's indictment of Libby. Fitzgerald referred to Rove in those charging papers as a senior White House official and dubbed him "Official A." In prosecutorial parlance, this kind of awkward pseudonym is often used for individuals who have not been indicted in a case but still face a significant chance of being charged. No other official in the investigation carries such an identifier.

That last point strikes me as especially compelling. Brit Hume can dismiss this as more media "prattle." At a minimum I have to think articles like this mean that the pall over the White House is not "for all intents and purposes, over."
--Michael Crowley

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