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Monday, November 28, 2005

Loose Lipped Luskin and the Sinking Ship Rove

Reader TerriGirl sent me a Ryan Lizza story from TNR last summer on Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin that is just too much fun. Since it's behind a firewall and speaks volumes about why Viveca Novak might be called to testify about her conversations with him, I'm going to quote at length:
In at least one Washington law firm this July, the summer associates are earning their keep. Their boss is one of the lawyers involved with the Rove-Plame scandal, and he's keeping them busy with a surprisingly thorny task: Tracking the public comments of Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's attorney. Over the last two weeks, Luskin has flummoxed Washington's Fourth Estate with spin and legalisms. He has embarrassed reporters who ran with the cleverly worded denials he dished out. He has contradicted himself, sometimes within the same news article. He may have accidentally paved the way for Matt Cooper's Wednesday grand jury testimony about Rove. In short, he has made life difficult for those summer associates. "Every day," says the lawyer involved in the case, "I have my associates put together a chronology of the things Luskin is saying about Karl Rove. He's just all over the place. Even in the last few days, they are not consistent."


Luskin has represented Bush's strategist for months, but it was only in July, when the extent of Rove's role in the Plame case emerged, that the lawyer became a Beltway star. Previous legal celebrities, such as Ginsburg, became famous for their addiction to the cameras. Luskin has become famous for his word games. It is no surprise when a lawyer resorts to technicalities and evasions to defend his client. What sounds like an absurd defense and bad politics in the public arena may make perfect sense inside the courtroom. But Luskin's comments seem to be legally inept as well.

The Harvard alum and Rhodes scholar first started getting chatty with reporters back in December. He told the Chicago Tribune that the only way for the prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, to establish a pattern of wrongdoing by the Bushies was for him to drag reporters into the grand jury. "I don't see how you can conduct a leak investigation in a sensitive way," he said, sounding oddly detached from the case for someone whose client's fate was at stake. "You have to talk to everybody." Perhaps he was just sucking up to the prosecutor, but it seemed bizarre for Rove's attorney to publicly endorse a prosecutorial strategy that was tightening the noose around his client's throat.
It's this unseemly blabbiness that is making it so hard for Plamiacs to go back and try to untangle what it is that Luskin might have let slip that intrigued Fitzgerald -- there's mountains of stuff to comb through.
Luskin then went virtually silent for seven months. But, on Saturday, July 2, Newsweek posted an online story naming Rove as the source Cooper had kept secret for two years. In the piece, Luskin first unveiled Rove's new defense. The strategist "never knowingly disclosed classified information," and "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA," Luskin insisted. The first statement was standard legal obfuscation. The arcane statute making it a crime to blow a CIA operative's cover emphasizes that the deed must be done knowingly. Luskin's second statement seemed like a blanket denial. But, on July 9, when Newsweek revealed an e-mail between Cooper and his editor stating that Rove mentioned Joe Wilson's wife, rather than Valerie Plame, the press realized that it was actually a weasely Clintonism.

But, before that revelation, Luskin tried to snow every reporter he came across. In a July 3 story, he told The Washington Post, "Karl didn't disclose Valerie Plame's identity to Mr. Cooper or anybody else. ... Who outed this woman? ... It wasn't Karl." Maybe Luskin thought he was being technical and legalistic, but it's hard to see this statement as anything but a lie. For instance, one could say, "Karl Rove's lawyer accepted 45 gold bars worth $505,125 from a South American drug cartel." The statement does not actually mention Luskin's name, but even Luskin would have to agree it identifies him.
And let's remember that Matt Cooper might be sitting in jail right now if it hadn't been for Luskin's comment to the press that "If Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, it's not Karl he's protecting." Cooper and his lawyer lunged on that statement like Jonah Goldberg on a box of Ding-Dongs and the rest is history.
This episode launched an entirely new series of Luskinisms. Cooper publicly announced that his source had granted him consent to testify. Reporters naturally called Luskin to find out whether Rove was that source. No way, said Luskin. Rove had "not contacted Cooper about this matter," Luskin assured the Los Angeles Times. Get it? Rove didn't talk to Cooper. Their lawyers talked. What's bewildering about Luskin's evasion is that there was no legal rationale for it. After all, the prosecutor in the case knew exactly what had happened. When finally questioned by The Washington Post about this slipperiness, the lawyer was mum: "I'm not going to comment any further."
Oh and the money quote:
In the course of one interview with the Los Angeles Times, Luskin both refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of Cooper's e-mail to his editor and used its contents as evidence of Rove's innocence.
Is Luskin a sloppy media hound and a moron, or is he simply acting as Rover's battlebot? Is Viveca Novak's upcoming quality time with Patrick Fitzgerald just one more example of Turd Blossom's arrogance in thinking he can outsmart everyone and using his lawyer as an overpriced spin machine? Oh there is some cosmic justice at hand in this one.