Politics & Policy

The Internet Search for the Rove “Indictment”

It was sealed…yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.

It has now been more than a week since the website Truthout.org reported that top White House aide Karl Rove has been indicted in the CIA leak investigation. According to the scenario described by Truthout writer Jason Leopold, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent the better part of a day and night on Friday, May 12 with Rove and Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, at the Washington offices of Patton Boggs, where Luskin is a partner. In a radio interview last week, Leopold said, “there were plea negotiations going on that were ultimately rejected outright, [and] at the end of this marathon session Karl Rove was given an envelope which had the indictment in it and was told he had 24 hours to get his affairs in order.”

All that happened, by Leopold’s reporting, in the early morning of Saturday, May 13. But now, more than 200 hours have passed since the 24-hour deadline which Leopold says Fitzgerald gave to Rove, and there has been no public notice of Rove’s “indictment.”

During that time, Rove spokesman Mark Corallo has flatly denied Leopold’s report. Fitzgerald wasn’t at Patton Boggs on that Friday, Corallo says. The two sides didn’t meet at all, either at Patton Boggs or anywhere else. They didn’t communicate in any way. Fitzgerald did not give Rove an indictment. Fitzgerald did not notify Rove of any change in Rove’s status. It just didn’t happen.

Yet Truthout is sticking with its story. “We know that we have now three independent sources confirming that attorneys for Karl Rove were handed an indictment either late in the night of May 12 or early in the morning of May 13,” Truthout editor Marc Ash wrote Sunday. “We know that each source was in a position to know what they were talking about.”

But how to explain the absence of an indictment? The indictment was, it turns out, a secret. “We believe that the indictment which does exist against Karl Rove is sealed,” wrote Ash. “Rove may be turning state’s evidence.” Indeed, some other anti-Rove commentators have also suggested that the indictment was sealed. Wayne Madsen, another Internet writer who has claimed that Rove was indicted, wrote on Saturday that, “With a sealed indictment in hand, the special prosecutor could have been negotiating a plea agreement with the Rove camp during the last week.”

But like other parts of the indictment scenario, the claim that charges against Rove were sealed–a claim needed to keep the indictment story alive once time had passed without confirmation–appears to be without foundation. The decision to seal an indictment is based on several factors, and it appears none of them are present in the Rove case. “The usual and most common circumstance is the fear that the defendant, or one of the defendants if there are multiple defendants, will flee if he learns that he is wanted before he is placed in custody,” says National Review Online’s Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor. “The government will ask the court to seal the indictment and issue arrest warrants.”

It seems safe to say that there is no such element of surprise in the CIA-leak probe. Rove has known for two years that he is under investigation. So do his colleagues in the administration. He holds a high-profile job and can be easily and quickly located. There is no reason to believe he is a flight risk. There is, in short, no apparent reason for an indictment against him to be sealed. Under such circumstances, McCarthy says, a sealed indictment would be “highly unlikely.”

And a sealed indictment is sealed to everyone, including–especially–the person who is indicted. But under the Truthout scenario, Fitzgerald handed Rove an indictment and, apparently, told Rove to keep it hush-hush. That would be, to say the least, a highly unusual way of doing things. If Rove were actually indicted, he, like anyone else, would be free to speak in public about it–to claim, for example, that he is innocent and that he will fight the charges.

It’s just the latest in a series of improbable scenarios about the CIA-leak case that have flown around the Internet. To take another example, last week Madsen reported that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went to the U.S. courthouse on Friday, May 12, where he met with the grand jury and was told about the Rove indictment. An announcement of the indictment, Madsen reported, was set for Friday, May 19.

But that scenario didn’t work out, either. May 19 came and went, with no indictment. And Justice Department officials told NRO that Gonzales did not go to the courthouse on Friday, May 12. In addition, the attorney general has recused himself from the case and cannot take part in any aspect of it. “Not only am I recused from making decisions or participating in decisions regarding this investigation, I am recused from receiving information about the investigation,” Gonzales said last October. “I do not receive briefings. I do not receive any information about this particular case.”

Another theory shot down. But for the moment, it appears that nothing will stop the sort of viral speculation that is going on about the CIA-leak case. Even if Rove were indicted–and no one outside Fitzgerald’s office can say with any confidence whether or not that will happen–everything that has been reported in this latest round of theorizing would still be wrong. And if in the end Rove is not indicted, there will undoubtedly be confidently worded reports that he was saved only by some sort of corrupt dealing. What this latest round of Internet theorizing shows is that there are people who have a deep emotional investment in the belief that Rove is a criminal, and that those people will suspend their critical faculties to accept almost any scenario that supports their belief. Nothing that happens–or doesn’t happen–will change that.

Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President — and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.

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