December 11, 2005


What Viveca Novak Told Fitzgerald (VIVECA NOVAK, 12/11/05, TIME)

Fitzgerald and I met in my lawyer's office on Nov. 10 for about two hours. Schuelke had told him 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 agreed, telling my lawyer that he wanted to "remove the chicken bone without disturbing the body."

He asked how often Luskin and I met during the period from fall 2003 to fall 2004 (about five times), when, where and so forth. I had calendar entries that helped but weren't entirely reliable. Did I take notes at those meetings? No. Luskin was more likely to speak freely if he didn't see me committing his words to paper. Did Luskin ever talk to me about whether Rove was a source for Matt on the subject of Wilson's wife?

That was the "chicken bone" Fitzgerald had referred to, the conversation Luskin had told him about that got me dragged into the probe. Here's what happened. Toward the end of one of our meetings, I remember Luskin looking at me and saying something to the effect of "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt." I responded instinctively, thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, "Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around TIME." He looked surprised and very serious. "There's nothing in the phone logs," he said. In the course of the investigation, the logs of all Rove's calls around the July 2003 time period--when two stories, including Matt's, were published mentioning that Plame was Wilson's wife--had been combed, and Luskin was telling me there were no references to Matt. (Cooper called via the White House switchboard, which may be why there is no record.)

I was taken aback that he seemed so surprised. I had been pushing back against what I thought was his attempt to lead me astray. I hadn't believed that I was disclosing anything he didn't already know. Maybe this was a feint. Maybe his client was lying to him. But at any rate, I immediately felt uncomfortable. I hadn't intended to tip Luskin off to anything. I was supposed to be the information gatherer. It's true that reporters and sources often trade information, but that's not what this was about. If I could have a do-over, I would have kept my mouth shut; since I didn't, I wish I had told my bureau chief about the exchange. Luskin walked me to my car and said something like, "Thank you. This is important." Fitzgerald wanted to know when this conversation occurred. At that point I had found calendar entries showing that Luskin and I had met in January and in May. Since I couldn't remember exactly how the conversation had developed, I wasn't sure. I guessed it was more likely May. [...]

When Fitzgerald and I met last Thursday, along with another lawyer from his team, my attorney, a lawyer from Time Inc. and the court reporter, he was more focused. The problem with the new March date was that now I was even more confused--previously I had to try to remember if the key conversation had occurred in January or May, and I thought it was more likely May. But March was close enough to May that I really didn't know. "I don't remember" is an answer that prosecutors are used to hearing, but I was mortified about how little I could recall of what occurred when.

This meeting lasted about an hour and a half. As before, Fitzgerald was extremely pleasant, very professional, and he stuck to his pledge not to wander with his questions. Does what I remembered--or more often, didn't remember--of my interactions with Luskin matter? Will it make the difference between whether Rove gets indicted or not? I have no idea.

Note how every story that comes out indicates just how insignificant everyone thought the underlying matter -- Joe Wilson's real identity -- was?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 11, 2005 8:24 AM

So much time and effort wasted on this situation. The only real story here is the CIA's war on Bush, which except for a few places is being ignored. Wonder if that aspect will ever get legs.

Posted by: jdkelly at December 11, 2005 5:03 PM

Just wondering, if Fitzgerald had not agreed to her 'conditions', would she have clammed up altogether? Would TIME have released her notes?

I think there is going to be a 1950s naming names moment soon, with one reporter either revealing some of the gossip, or being 'forced' to disclose conversations with other reporters. It won't be pretty. Fitzgerald may not dig into that dogpatch, but Libby's lawyers most certainly will.

I'm no expert, but in a criminal trial, there won't be any source protection for any reporter, will there?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 12, 2005 12:15 AM

When Libby's lawyers are done with them, they won't know whether it's Christmas or Tish B'Av.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at December 12, 2005 1:09 AM