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Novak Told Rove He Wouldn't Identify Him
Richard Keil
May 25, 2006

May 25 (Bloomberg) -- Syndicated columnist Robert Novak assured presidential adviser Karl Rove that he wouldn't identify him to prosecutors investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent's name, a person familiar with the matter said.

Rove told a grand jury that Novak called him shortly after the Central Intelligence Agency asked the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the name of operative Valerie Plame to Novak and other reporters, the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. Novak revealed Plame's name in a July 14, 2003, column, citing unnamed administration officials.

The National Journal, which reported earlier today on the Sept. 29, 2003, conversation between Rove and Novak, said Justice Department prosecutors were concerned that Rove and Novak may have been working on a cover story to protect Rove. The report, citing people familiar with the grand jury testimony of both men, said then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was briefed on the matter.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said the White House deputy chief of staff didn't conspire to hide information.

``Karl has never urged anyone to testify falsely or withhold information from the grand jury, and no one has ever suggested to him that they would, or that they intended to,'' Luskin said in a telephone interview. ``The special counsel has never suggested there is any evidence to support such an allegation.''

Calls to Ashcroft and James Hamilton, Novak's attorney, weren't immediately returned. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the special counsel, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, said he wouldn't comment.


Fitzgerald took over the investigation in December 2003 to learn whether anyone in President George W. Bush's administration violated a 1982 law designed to protect the identity of covert agents. Plame's name was disclosed after her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, publicly criticized the war in Iraq and questioned whether the administration twisted intelligence to justify the invasion.

While no one has been charged with purposely unmasking a covert agent, I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted last October on perjury and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly lying about his conversations with reporters about Plame.

Grand Jury Appearances

Rove has testified five times before federal grand juries hearing evidence in the case, and persons close to the investigation have said that Fitzgerald is still considering whether Rove may face charges for initially failing to disclose a conversation he had about Wilson's wife with Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper on July 11, 2003. Cooper has written that Rove didn't reveal Plame's name.

Rove had a conversation with Novak on the matter two days earlier. Luskin said last year that it was Novak who brought up Plame's CIA connection with Rove. The National Journal reported that Rove told the grand jury he told the columnist only that he had heard similar information.

The person familiar with Rove's grand jury testimony said Rove told the panel that during his Sept. 29, 2003, phone call with Novak, Novak told him that he wouldn't hurt Rove before the grand jury. Rove also told the panel that Novak assured him that he would never reveal an unnamed source, the person familiar with Rove's testimony said.

Fitzgerald has said in court filings that evidence in the Libby case suggests ``a plan to discredit, punish or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson.''

To contact the reporter on this story:
Richard Keil in Washington at  dkeil@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: May 25, 2006 19:41 EDT

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