Monday, July 18, 2005

Cooper Tells Russert About Rove, Libby, Other Sources

Editor and Publisher

Cooper Tells Russert About Rove, Libby, Other Sources

By Greg Mitchell

NEW YORKIn his first TV interview since testifying to the grand jury in the Plame case, Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper suggested to Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning that he heard about Plame in July 2003 from more than just two administration officials, Karl Rove and “Scooter” Libby. He first said there "may have" been other sources, then confirmed that he had told the grand jury about them, indicating they did exist.

He would not identify them.

Cooper also told Russert that he first heard about Plame from Rove during their now famous interview, and that Rove said at the close of their conversation, “I’ve already said too much.” Cooper said he did not know what to make of that admission, but “I know it has stuck in my head for two years.”

He said that when Libby talked about Plame he “interpreted this as confirmation.”

Cooper has a cover story coming out Monday in Time on the case. In it, Cooper writes: "When [Rove] said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me.”

In that story he also indicates that he was impressed with the grand jury. The grand jury somewhat reflected the demographics of the District of Columbia. The majority were African-American women. He writes that one third of his 2 1/2 hours of testimony was spent answering their questions, not the prosecutor’s, although he posed them on their behalf.

Talking to Russert today, he said that he did not have many regrets, but he wished he’d been “more discreet in my emails.” His e-mail detailing his chat with Rove was turned over by Time Inc. to the prosecutor two weeks ago over his objections. Cooper affirmed that he still disagreed with that decision.

Asked what he thought of the significance of the case, Cooper said that sometimes he thought it was tremendously significant, and other times just “poltics as usual.”

Following Cooper on the show, Republican chairman Ken Mehlman called the criticism of Rove from Democrats and the press this week nothing but a “smear campaign” and “outrageous.” He claimed that the recent stories about Rove speaking to Robert Novak, who first outed Plame, did nothing but “exonerate” and “vindicate” him.

Russert then asked about an important element emerging, a form (known as SF 312) signed by those who, like Rove, have access to classified information. It says they must seek to determine if information they give out is not classified; they can’t just say later that they did not know one way or the other.

Mehlman replied that the Plame material may not have been classified, and anyway, Rove had heard it first from a journalist.

He added that the Democrats were pre-judging what the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, a Republican, will find and said he had complete confidence in Fitzgerald. He wondered if Democrats did not share that confidence.

When Russert then asked if he would promise not to criticize Fizgerald if he brings indictments of administration officials, Mehlman demurred, saying he did not want to speculate.

Former Clinton White House aide John Podesta, another guest, then called for Rove’s dismissal, saying that at the very least he had lied two years ago, and since, when he said he had no involvement in this case. He also suggested that Rove’s attorney had admitted today that perhaps his client possibly first heard about Plame from someone other than a journalist.

Greg Mitchell ( is editor of E&P.

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