Monday, December 12, 2005

Fitzgerald Tries to "Remove the Chicken Bone Without Disturbing the Body"

Here's a phrase I hadn't heard before that comes in the context of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's questioning of Viveca Novak of Time about her conversations with Robert Luskin, the attorney for Karl Rove.  According to Novak's first-person account of her questioning (here) by Fitzgerald :"I would discuss only my interactions with Luskin that were relevant to the conversation in question. No fishing expeditions, no questions about my other reporting or sources in the case. He [Fitzgerald] agreed, telling my lawyer that he wanted to 'remove the chicken bone without disturbing the body.'"  What a quaint analogy (or maybe a simile?).  After Fitzgerald's initial interview, Novak hoped to avoid any further interaction with the Special Prosecutor, but she was then deposed under oath.  It is now clear that her conversation with Luskin about Rove being a source for fellow Time reporter Matthew Cooper is what sent Rove back to the grand jury a second time to clarify his earlier testimony about who he discussed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame with in June 2003.

This aspect of the case seems to be more of a minor side-show than anything of real significance because Rove did correct his testimony without being prodded by Fitzgerald's office, which may have overlooked or never received an e-mail Rove sent to another White House official discussing his conversation with Cooper.  Luskin clearly provided quite effective representation to his client by doing a thorough investigation after speaking with Novak and bringing new information to the Special Prosecutor's attention, which is much preferable to having it be the other way around.  A perjury charge against Rove would be almost impossible to win, or even convince a grand jury to find probable cause.

In the usual tit-for-tat among those who feel they've been burned, albeit by a lawyer doing his best to represent his client, Novak's article ends with a "final note" that largely amounts to sticking her tongue out at Luskin:

Luskin is unhappy that I decided to write about our conversation, but I feel that he violated any understanding to keep our talk confidential by unilaterally going to Fitzgerald and telling him what was said. And, of course, anyone who testifies under oath for a grand jury (my sworn statement will be presented to the grand jury by Fitzgerald) is free to discuss that testimony afterward.

So there! (ph)

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