Former White House adviser Karl Rove hung up the phone and cried with relief after his lawyer told him that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald would not be bringing charges against him in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. After his series of meetings with Fitzerald before a federal grand jury, Rove would not have been surprised if he had been indicted. But according to his memoir, Courage and Consequences, released Tuesday, Rove felt Fitzgerald unfairly targeted him in the investigation because the special prosecutor was “looking for a trophy.”
In the memoir, Rove delves in detail into Fitzgerald’s investigation of whether White House officials deliberately “outed” Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative.
In a July 2003 Washington Post piece, conservative columnist Robert Novak cited two unnamed Bush administration officials as saying that Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador and Iraq War critic Joseph Wilson, was a CIA agent. While Novak was gathering information for his column, he called Rove. According to the memoir, Novak brought up Plame, saying he knew she worked for the CIA in counterproliferation and that she had suggested sending her husband to Niger to investigate whether Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium there. Rove said he remembers saying. “I’ve heard that, too,” although he does not remember who told him.
“How was I able to say that I had ‘heard that, too’? I can’t remember who might have mentioned it offhand in the White House in the two days since Wilson’s op-ed, but someone did. I may also have heard it earlier in the spring from a journalist,” Rove wrote.
Rove also spoke to Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine about Plame, although Rove told FBI investigators and reiterated in the book that he does not recall the phone call taking place.
Novak’s column would eventually lead the Department of Justice to appoint Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, as a special prosecutor to investigate who leaked the information on Plame to the news media.
In his memoir, Rove describes Fitzgerald as alternatingly “earnest and polite” and “cold, calculating and relentless.”
Fitzgerald, Rove wrote, “is curiously deceptive in his approach, creating a lack of clarity about where he is going with his questions until you realize he is like a bird of prey, circling his victim and driving him to open ground. He struck me as someone who would rarely say he was wrong.”
Rove would ultimately appear before the grand jury five times before Fitzgerald decided not to indict him. According to Rove, his fourth appearance before the grand jury, on Oct. 14, 2005, was particularly brutal.
“Fitzgerald machine-gunned me, rattling off topics whose connection to the issue of Valerie Plame I simply did not understand. … I was on the receiving end of the proverbial kitchen sink, complete with pots and pans, rolling pins, dishes and glasses,” Rove wrote. “There’s an old saw that with the right grand jury, a good prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. When Fitzgerald finished with me, I felt like that ham sandwich.”
After the October grand jury testimony, Fitzgerald called Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, and said they were leaning towards an indictment, Rove wrote. Luskin arranged to fly to Chicago to talk with Fitzgerald about the case and urged the prosecutor to consult with others in the Justice Department. In particular, Luskin recommended Fitzgerald talk to David Margolis, the DOJ’s highest-ranking career official and a 45-year veteran of the department. Fitzgerald eventually decided against contacting Margolis, Rove wrote, but agreed to bring in two other lawyers in the Chicago U.S. attorney’s office who had previously been uninvolved with the case to re-examine his thinking.
In an epic five-hour meeting, Luskin and Fitzgerald hashed out the various aspects of the case against the White House adviser. At the meeting, Fitzgerald said he was bothered by Rove’s non-recollection of the conversation with Cooper. If Rove did not remember the conversation with Cooper, Fitzgerald asked, why did he ask his aides in January 2004 to go through his phone records and notes to find any evidence of contact with Cooper? Luskin had the surprising answer, Rove wrote. The lawyer had learned from a friend who worked at Time that Cooper told colleagues he had spoken with Rove about Plame. Luskin then asked Rove to find any records that might confirm the conversation took place.
“Luskin’s revelation stunned Fitzgerald,” Rove wrote. “‘You rocked my world,’ Fitzgerald told Luskin. The special prosecutor’s intention going into the meeting had been to indict me. Now he didn’t know what he would do.”
Days later, Fitzgerald called Luskin to say he would not indict Rove. When his lawyer called with the news, Rove said he was both relieved and angry.
“I had made four grand jury appearances, seen my wife and son subjected to countless hours of abuse and fear, depleted my family’s savings to pay hundreds of thousands in legal fees, and worried endlessly about what might happen,” Rove wrote. “I had faced the prospect of indictment because Patrick Fitzgerald wondered why I’d asked my staff to comb my records to see if I’d talked to Matt Cooper. … The news of what he had been focused on simply confirmed my view that the special prosecutor was looking for a trophy.”