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Questions Remain About Rove's CIA Leak Email

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It's been nearly five years since former White House political adviser Karl Rove sent an incriminating email to then Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley indicating that Rove had a candid conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, and her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's prewar Iraq intelligence.

Rove had insisted publicly and privately that he was not the source for a story Cooper wrote that unmasked Plame's affiliation with the CIA in July 2003 nor, Rove said, was he the source who provided syndicated columnist with the same information for a column that was published a few days before Cooper's. The email Rove sent to Hadley on July 11, 2003, just three months before the start of a federal probe into the leak clearly contradicted Rove's account.

Questions about Rove's email to Hadley resurfaced after the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) revealed last April that thousands of emails Rove sent over a four-year period via an email account maintained by the Republican National Committee might have been destroyed. Many of the emails Rove sent using his RNC account pertained to White House business and the fact that it was not archived is said to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Additionally, CREW said it conducted an investigation that discovered the White House lost as many as 10 million emails. The White House said in a court document that it erased backup tapes containing the email archives, some of which relate to a wide-range of administration scandals, including the role of White House officials in the Plame leak.

In late September 2003, three months after he told Hadley in an email that he spoke with Cooper, Rove and about 1,000 other White House staffers were ordered to turn over all email correspondence that contained references to Plame and Wilson to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales when the leak of Plame's undercover status was referred to federal investigators.

But the Hadley email was never turned over to Gonzales during the early stages of the Plame investigation.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, had long maintained that the email was never found during the initial search because the right "search words" weren't used. Some reporters and bloggers have opined the Rove/Hadley email did not turn up because Rove sent it using his Republican National Committee account. But according to a little known story published in The Washington Post in December 2005, Rove used his government account click here when he sent Hadley an email describing his conversation with Time's Matthew Cooper.

Luskin stated several years ago during an interview with Newsweek that the email did not surface because "right search words weren't used."

In an email exchange a couple of weeks ago requesting that he clarify his position, Luskin said he "speculated that the [Hadley] email was overlooked because of a gap in search terms, but I have no direct knowledge." That contradicts his previous statements to Newsweek in which Luskin stated unequivocally that the email was not found because the wrong search terms were used.

"Neither Mr. Rove nor I was involved in any manner in the collection of emails or other electronic documents in response to subpoenas from the Special Counsel [Patrick Fitzgerald]," Luskin said. "Mr. Fitzgerald's staff worked directly with the White House counsel and the IT folks from the White House. However, Mr. Fitzgerald did advise me that Mr. Rove had absolutely no responsibility for the oversight and that he has never regarded the failure to turn over the [Hadley] email as 'culpable' by anyone."

That statement, or at least part of it, does not appear to be entirely accurate. In a May 10, 2007 deposition before investigators working for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rove's former assistant, Susan Ralston, testified that during the leak investigation she and Rove were instructed "to go and do keyword searches based on the subpoena that we got, and search all of his folders for keywords." Ralston said during her deposition that there were "six or seven" subpoenas Rove received from Fitzgerald for documents in Plame leak. Any documents that were found were turned over to Gonzales. Yet the email Rove sent to Hadley was never turned over to Fitzgerald.

Luskin would not provide a copy of that email, which has never been released publicly. He said the contents of the exchange have been "widely reported." Luskin added that he had no interest in providing either the Hadley email "or any other documents," including a copy of a letter Fitzgerald sent Luskin that purportedly cleared Rove of criminal exposure in the leak case, to me because of a story I reported two years ago that stated Rove was indicted by Fitzgerald. Luskin added that I "played a despicable role in circulating false allegations concerning an indictment of Mr. Rove and persisted with the story even after it was demonstrated to be false" and he therefore would not provide documentary evidence that could demonstrate his client's innocence.

Fair enough. But Luskin also refused to voluntarily provide Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the Hadley email and other electronic messages that Rove and Luskin turned over to Fitzgerald. Last May, Leahy issued a subpoena to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for the documents.

The subpoena covered a wide range of emails Rove sent over four years, some of which related to Congressional investigations into the firings of nine US attorneys two years ago that Rove is widely believed to have played a hands-on role in.

Gonzales never met Leahy's May 15, 2007 deadline to turn over the emails. So on May 24, 2007, Leahy wrote to Luskin asking if he would forfeit the emails to his committee Luskin and Rove turned over to Fitzgerald. Luskin politely refused, according to a copy of a June 4, 2007 letter he sent to Leahy, obtained by this reporter.

"As you are aware, Mr. Rove cooperated fully with the investigation by the Special Counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, into the disclosure of the identity of a CIA employee. As part of that cooperation, in April 2004, Mr. Rove made available to Mr. Fitzgerald two personal computers, a Blackberry, and a computer furnished to Mr. Rove by the Republican National Committee," Luskin wrote. "Mr. Fitzgerald arranged for the FBI to image all of the data on these computers. Without any constraint by Mr. Rove, Mr. Fitzgerald reviewed all of this data and made and retained copies of any information relevant to his investigation. Because the computers also contained confidential personal information and attorney client communications, Mr. Fitzgerald returned to me for safekeeping the imaged copies made by the FBI."

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
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