Monday, December 5, 2005

How Often Is Bar Talk the Subject of a Grand Jury Investigation?

A Washington Post story (here) discusses the conversation between Time reporter Viveca Novak and Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's attorney, regarding Rove's contacts with fellow Time reporter Matt Cooper about the role of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.  It seems that Novak and Luskin met over drinks, and in response to Luskin's statement (boast?) that Rove had no exposure to the Special Counsel's investigation, Novak asserted that she'd heard Rove discussed with Cooper the information about Plame.  Rove had testified once before the grand jury and given a statement to the FBI in which he denied having leaked information to any reporters about Plame and indeed had learned of her status from a reporter.  After speaking with Novak and reviewing Rove's e-mails, Luskin determined that Rove had indeed spoken with Cooper about Plame. 

Novak is scheduled to testify before the grand jury investigating the Plame leak, and will discuss the conversation with Luskin.  The heads-up to Luskin may have saved Rove from being indicted for perjury because he returned to the grand jury after the Luskin-Novak meeting and corrected his prior statements.  Whether Rove's later recall of his discussions with Cooper will also help him avoid a Sec. 1001 charge for making a false statement to the FBI is another matter, but he certainly has a basis for a "dedicated-but-overworked-public-servant" defense that would permit him to argue that he has been (mostly) truthful.  The appropriateness of a reporter meeting an attorney for drinks and swapping gossip about a pending investigation -- or perhaps trying to draw information out about the attorney's client by disclosing information about sources -- is another issue, but not one usually subject to any criminal sanction.  (ph).

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