The Note: When The Dog Bites

"On the same day the memo was prepared, White House phone logs show Novak placed a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, according to lawyers familiar with the case and a witness who has testified before the grand jury. Those people say it is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment."

"The Novak call may loom large in the investigation because Fleischer was among a group of administration officials who left Washington later that day on a presidential trip to Africa. On the flight to Africa, Fleischer was seen perusing the State Department memo on Wilson and his wife, according to a former administration official who was also on the trip…."

"Fleischer, who saw the July 7 memo, wasn't part of Bush's inner circle during his tenure as press secretary, while Rove was at the heart of it. Given those facts, it seems highly doubtful that Fleischer would have acted on the information in the memo without the knowledge or approval of Rove and other top-level White House officials."

"The July 7 memo was largely a reproduction of an earlier State Department report prepared around June 12. Another key question that Fitzgerald is interested in, according to the grand jury witness and the lawyers familiar with the case, is whether Rove or Libby learned of this earlier report and, if so, shared its content with reporters."

"Top aides to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were intensely focused on discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV in the days after he wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times suggesting the administration manipulated intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq, federal investigators have been told," write Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten. LINK

"Prosecutors investigating whether administration officials illegally leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, a CIA officer who had worked undercover, have been told that Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, were especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility, according to people familiar with the inquiry."

"Although lower-level White House staffers typically handle most contacts with the media, Rove and Libby began personally communicating with reporters about Wilson, prosecutors were told. A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: 'He's a Democrat.' Rove then cited Wilson's campaign donations, which leaned toward Democrats, the person familiar with the case said."

And we found this pretty entertaining: "Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has cited recent news reports that Rove heard about Wilson's wife from reporters and that he was not an original source. Those reports said that Rove in fact sought to dissuade Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper — one of the journalists with whom he discussed Wilson's wife — from writing a piece about Wilson's charge."

"'Based on the information that has come out over the last several days, the one thing that's absolutely clear is that Karl was not the source for the leak and there's no basis for any additional speculation,' Luskin said."

The New York Times' Manly and Johnston front-page Cooper's account. LINK

Novak's column today is… about Social Security. LINK

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