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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Plame Investigation Shifts

In an interview on News Night with Aaron Brown, political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell states that the Plame case has shifted from a leak, to a perjury investigation. Here is the full transcript of the exchange:

BROWN: Nobody wants to give anything up here. Here's - Mr. Rove's lawyer said a couple of things that are interesting, if you really sit down and parse them. He said that Mr. Rove is not a target of the investigation, and he has said that Mr. Rove, while having - he did, in fact, talk to Mr. Cooper, never knowingly, underscore knowingly here, revealed any classified information. I think the knowingly is important under the law, right?

O'DONNELL: Yes, it is. The law that governs this secrecy requires certain things in order to commit the crime. You have to, first of all, be an authorized person. You have to have a security clearance that authorizes you to know that someone is a covert agent. It's not at all clear, parenthetically, that Karl Rove had that kind of clearance and was an authorized person. Therefore, whatever he said, if not an authorized person, could not be a crime.

The other part is, even if you are an authorized person, you have to know that she is a covert agent. You then have to know that the CIA is taking what the law calls "affirmative measures" to hide her relationship to the CIA. You have to know both of those things in order to commit the crime.

And then, thirdly, she has to actually be a covert agent, and the law itself, not the CIA, defines what that is. The law has very strict requirements to fit the covert agent elements, including having an overseas posting in the last five years. It's very specific. And it's not clear to me that Valerie Plame fits the statutory definition of covert agent that could create the crime in the first place.

BROWN: Now, here's what's not clear to me. There are a couple of things. Is it clear that this is now about who leaked to whomever? To Novak or Cooper or Miller or anybody? Or is this now a perjury investigation?

O'DONNELL: We are probably beyond the leak investigation and on to the perjury investigation.

BROWN: Then it doesn't matter if it was knowingly, whether it was a covert agent, whether it was any of that nonsense?

O'DONNELL: Yes, all those things matter in order to get us past the security violation. Those are the elements that would have - if they line up the way I suggest they might, which is it may be that Plame is not a covert agent, that's what would eliminate the crime in the first instance. And then what you're left with is a perjury investigation.

The evidence of that is in the prosecutor's own pleadings. Every brief the prosecutor has filed all the way up to the Supreme Court represents to the court that, this is a quote, "the focus of the investigation has shifted." We all know what the initial focus was. The initial focus was this security leak. If it has shifted, what would it have shifted to? They usually shift to perjury investigations.

BROWN: You are a guy that has hung around Washington a long time, knows Washington. Don't you think the president would have called Karl Rove up and said, Karl, look, there's a lot of pressure to get a special prosecutor on this. We could be in kind of deep trouble if you had anything to do with it, so you best tell me now.

O'DONNELL: I think the president wouldn't do that. This is the kind of knowledge that a president doesn't want to have. The president called for a special prosecutor to do that investigation for him. You can't find any examples of presidents, when an investigative question arises in the White House, summoning people in and trying to be the prosecutor themselves. I would be very surprised if this president did that.

BROWN: Ten seconds. Do you think Karl Rove's going down on this?

O'DONNELL: I think Karl Rove is in a position where he may lose his job, but it is hard for me to see where the crime would be for Karl Rove. I think he's too smart for perjury and I don't think he's actually qualified to have committed the original crime.

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