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Fox - What Scotty McClellan and Rove's Lawyer Said - 'Pretty Close To A Lie'

Reported by Donna - July 11, 2005

A pretty interesting conversation ensued on Studio B today with Gregg Jarrett substituting for Shepard Smith and Fox News Political Analyst, Jeff Birnbaum.

In between some Republican talking points, you can see that Rove is in a little more trouble than they would like to admit. It seems that statements by Rove's attorney and previous statements by Scotty McClellan may call for 'all out damage control'.

The following is my transcript between Gregg Jarrett and Jeff Birnbaum (parapharased but pretty much verbatim). As always, thanks in advance for taking the time to read it.

Gregg Jarrett: Another turn in the investigation of who leaked the identity of undercover CIA operative, Valerie Plame, in the summer of 2003.

Now, Karl Rove, one of the president's top and closest political advisors revealed to Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper that Plame worked for the CIA.

The president has said he would fire anybody who blew a CIA's officer's cover. The White House refused to answer questions about whether Rove would be fired.

Switch to clip of Scotty McClellan: "The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation and as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren't going to comment on it while it is ongoing."

Gregg Jarrett: Rove's attorney said Rove didn't specifically give Plame's name. But, he admits that Rove identified her to Cooper as the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Joining us now, Washington Post columnist and Fox News Political Analyst, Jeff Birnbaum. You know, this is so tricky. (hmmm..heard that word before) And, it's so complicated, I want you to make sense of it.

Alright, Time Magazine had some notes of Matt Cooper. Newsweek got it's hands on the notes. Newsweek is your sister publication. Do those notes, in anyway, belie or dispute what Karl Rove is saying?

Jeff Birnbaum: I don't think so. It is what Karl Rove is now saying, through his lawyer, that is the problem, I think.

Uh..according to Matt Cooper's notes he had a two minute conversation with Karl Rove before Rove was rushing off to vacation (now, how can you think straight when you're rushing off to vacation?) and Rove was trying to steer him off, relying too much on..uh..studies that Valerie Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, did on behalf of the Bush Administration looking for...uh...evidence of nuclear arms trading in Niger. And tried to dismiss it by saying Wilson was really..uh..just got the job to do this, which the Bush Administration didn't want to be reported because his wife worked for the CIA and that was it. (huh?)

Gregg Jarrett: Well, if Karl Rove, in a conversation with Matt Cooper, only revealed the role of Valerie Plame and not her name, how did Cooper come up with her name? (Um, if someone says 'Joe Wilson's wife who works for the CIA, you can come up with a name)

Jeff Birnbaum: Uh..that isn't quite clear yet, but..uh..I think..um....what is important for the investigation is whether anyone inside the White House, in this case, Karl Rove, whether he revealed the name of a CIA undercover operative with the intention of undermining that cover and doing damage to national security. And there's no evidence that that was the case.

What is the case, however, is that the White House and Karl Rove and I think probably everyone involved here should be embarrassed or is embarrassed -- has egg on their face.....

Gregg Jarrett: Sure.

Jeff Birnbaum: ...because the White House said basically that Rove had nothing to do with it though it gave itself an out by saying no classified information had been passed. The president said he would fire anybody who leaked. And the person who leaked, at least one of them, we don't know if there is anybody else, was more or less in the office right next door. (Yes, he was, wasn't he?)

Gregg Jarrett: Yeah.

Jeff Birnbaum: So, nobody looks good in this process.

Gregg Jarrett: Well, the president has an out and it's a two part out. If, in the end, no criminal charges are brought over this, then he can argue, no harm no foul. And, he can also say, this is part two, look, Karl Rove may have talked about the role for innocuous reasons to try and knock down a story not to publish a name and didn't give out the name, so technically, he doesn't have to fire him. (What?)

But, there's something else I don't get. Cooper almost went to prison for refusing to identify his confidential source, but Rove's attorney said, 'Hey, guess what? My client, Karl Rove, signed a complete waiver a year and a half ago, releasing Cooper and any other reporter to speak with prosecutors. So, that doesn't jive with what Cooper is saying and almost going to jail.

Jeff Birnbaum: Well, both Cooper and Judith Miller, the NY Times reporter, who did go to jail, both aknowledged that their sources had signed these general waivers but both said that they believed that the signing of those waivers was, in effect, coerced, that the White House insisted that their sources sign it and that it was a general waiver and it wasn't specific enough for them to release their promise of confidentiality.

Gregg Jarrett: Well, but then let me ask you about this. On Wednesday, Rove's attorney told the Wall Street Journal, I quote here 'If Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, it's not Karl Rove he's protecting.'

Is that close to a lie?

Jeff Birnbaum: Uh...yes, it's very close. In fact, a lot of what Scott McClellan, who ducked all questions today, the White House spokesman, his earlier statements that Karl Rove was not involved is, again, very close to a lie.

I'm afraid that the White House has not covered itself in glory in this.....

Gregg Jarrett: Yeah.

Jeff Birnbaum: Nor, has, for that matter, Time Inc., which handed over it's notes after saying it would never do so. This is pretty much of a disaster all around.

Gregg Jarrett: Well, we're all waiting for Robert Novak to talk, too. He's go some splainin to do.

Jeff Birnbaum, thanks very much.

Comment: While sticking to some of their talking points, it seems both of these men seem to think that the White House is in a real mess here. With Fox saying that Rove's attorney and Scott McClellan are both 'close to lying' about their statments, I think the Bush Administration has some 'splainin' to do.

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