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Newsweek: Rove spoke to reporter before leak

Bush adviser didn't reveal confidential information, attorney says

From Elaine Quijano
CNN Washington Bureau


Karl Rove
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Newsweek magazine is reporting that e-mails between Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper and his editors show that Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, spoke to Cooper in the days before a CIA operative's identity was revealed in the media, but it wasn't clear what Cooper and Rove discussed.

Rove's attorney told CNN his client did not disclose any confidential information.

Attorney Robert Luskin confirmed that Cooper called Rove in July 2003 but said he's "not characterizing the subject matter of that conversation."

A special prosecutor is investigating whether senior Bush administration officials leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media in retaliation after her husband wrote an opinion piece critical of the administration.

Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller face jail on civil contempt charges for refusing to reveal their sources to a federal grand jury. Judge Thomas Hogan has set a final hearing on Wednesday and will make a decision after that.

Time Inc. announced Thursday that it would hand over subpoenaed documents, including Cooper's notes, after the Supreme Court refused to hear the reporters' appeals in the case.

Cooper's attorneys argued that Time's decision "should obviate" the contempt citation against him because the material gives the grand jury the information and makes his testimony "duplicative and unnecessary."

Time Inc. is a unit of Time Warner, which is also CNN's parent company.

Luskin said prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald "has confirmed repeatedly, most recently last week, that he (Rove) is not a target of the investigation."

Added Luskin, "Karl did nothing wrong. Karl didn't disclose Valerie Plame's identity to Mr. Cooper or anybody else ... Who outed this woman? ... It wasn't Karl."

Luskin said Rove "certainly did not disclose to Matt Cooper or anybody else any confidential information."

Rove has testified at least twice as part of the inquiry, but sources involved previously told CNN that while Rove acknowledged talking to reporters about the issue, he said he never knowingly disclosed classified information.

Luskin stressed that his client has cooperated fully with the government.

"I've been assured by the prosecutor they have no reason to doubt the honesty of anything he's said," he said.

The case stems from a July 14, 2003, column by Robert Novak in which he revealed Plame's identity as a CIA operative. Novak, who also is a CNN contributor, attributed the information to two senior administration officials.

Plame's husband is Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Wilson charged that his wife's name was leaked to retaliate against him after he disputed Bush administration statements that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium in Africa.

Federal law makes it a crime to deliberately reveal the identity of a CIA operative.

The subpoena issued to Time sought documents relating to "conversations between Cooper and official source(s) prior to July 14, 2003, concerning in any way" Wilson, Wilson's 2002 trip to Niger, Plame, and any affiliation between Plame and the CIA.

Under federal law, civil contempt can carry up to 18 months in jail or the length of the grand jury's term, whichever is shorter. Hogan said the term of the grand jury in this case expires in October, so Miller and Cooper only face up to four months in jail.

As part of his probe, Fitzgerald subpoenaed a number of journalists to testify about their sources. Miller and Cooper and their news organizations decided to fight the subpoenas, although Cooper did reveal one unnamed source who released him from a confidentiality pledge.

Miller faces jail time for refusing to reveal sources she developed during her reporting, even though she never actually wrote a story on Plame or Wilson. But Novak -- who has refused to discuss the case on the advice of his attorney -- has not been held in contempt.

CNN's John King contributed to this report.

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