Analysis of Decision Not to Indict Karl Rove in Valerie Plame CIA Leak

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 13, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: After testifying before a grand jury five times, White House senior adviser Karl Rove has been told he will not be charged in the CIA leak case. Now, here's how Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean responded to Rove's announcement today.


HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: If Karl Rove had been indicted, it would have been perjury. That does not excuse his real sin, which is leaking the name of an intelligence operative during a time of war.

He doesn't belong in the White House. If the president valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove, Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago. So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but it's not very good news for America.


HANNITY: OK. Joining us now, National Review White House correspondent Byron York and deputy managing editor for the Chicago Tribune, Jim Warren is with us.

All right, Byron, let me just get a few facts on the table here. Victoria Toensing, who's been a guest on this program many times, she helped craft the law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 1982. There's certain criteria, just to go through it for people.

Number one, Plame's status as an undercover agent must be classified. She must have been assigned duty outside the United States currently or within the past five years and the agent must truly be covert. That's all accurate?

BYRON YORK, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes, Sean, you've described what are now called the underlying crime in this case. And we know that Patrick Fitzgerald has been investigating this for 2 1/2 years and has not charged anyone with an underlying crime, that is, he has not alleged that anyone knowingly and intentionally outed a covert CIA operative.

The only person who has been charged is Lewis Libby, who used to be the vice president's chief of staff, charged with perjury in the case. So, right now, after this 2 1/2-year investigation, you have one indictment of what's sometimes called a process kind of charge.

HANNITY: And, I mean, this is what's amazing about this, especially when there's no underlying crime, but I want to just reiterate the facts here. It was Time reporter Matt Cooper who first called Karl Rove. Cooper wanted to talk about welfare reform initially. Cooper changed the subject to Wilson at that time, and these are all facts on the record.

Rove informed Cooper that neither the vice president nor Tenet had sent Wilson to Niger, as Wilson was claiming in this piece in The New York Times, which I believe is quite false, and Rove pointed out that Wilson's wife, who worked at the CIA, lobbied for her husband's assignment. This wasn't Rove trying to go out there and hurt the CIA agent because of Wilson. Cooper called for an entirely different reason. It seems absurd that we're even at this point.

YORK: That's one of the things Rove has cited in his defense, that he thought that Cooper was calling to talk about welfare reform and that, during the conversation, Cooper changed the subject.

And, as we know, at that time, Joseph Wilson's charges against the administration were really, really hot. And one of the things people in the administration wanted to find out was, "Who sent this guy to Africa?" I mean, nobody knew exactly the origins of this trip.

And as we found out later in the Senate Intelligence Committee report, his wife's recommendation was part of the decision that ended up sending Joseph Wilson to Africa.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: She didn't make the final decision. She just lobbied for him.

Let me get Jim Warren in here. By the way, it wasn't just Cooper who got a call — that they spoke to. It was also Bob Woodward and others, apparently.

But, Jim Warren, it's a great day in Washington when what the administration is celebrating is one of its chief staff members not being indicted. What a great day for America, right?

JIM WARREN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Yes, but, you know, I wish I had as good a hold in the chronology as Sean does, because a lot of this now, even for someone like myself who has followed it, gets quite labyrinthine.

But the point I would make is that, even if you would argue, as I was, that history will show that Wilson was right on most of the facts and that history will show that the White House and Rove were playing very tough hardball with a political adversary, and, you know, even if you will stipulate to all that, I don't necessarily think there was, in fact, an underlying crime.

I think Vicki Toensing, who, in conjunction with a Washington lawyer, Bruce Sanford, wrote a very early piece for the Wall Street Journal, were absolutely right on the mark. But, for sure, this is part and parcel of, you know, a very good week for the president at a time that seems...


COLMES: But there's no doubt that this was an attempt for the White House to go after somebody who they deemed unfriendly to them, who said things they didn't want him to say. That's what this is all about. We don't know if the law was broken, but that's what the bottom line is here.

WARREN: Oh, I think absolutely there was a real manipulation of intelligence, there was a political move to go after Wilson. But even as the Chicago Tribune has shown, Sean, that, you know, you can add to the fact that Vicki Toensing says the underlying law does not justify a prosecution.

Our John Crewdson, in a tremendous piece a month or two ago, showed that any savvy person with a computer could have figured out that Valerie Plame, at the same time she supposedly was an independent energy consultant, was, in fact, a junior diplomat at our embassy in Athens, and put two and two together as to what she was really up to.

HANNITY: All right. But she was very clear in her analysis. I read that same Wall Street piece that you referred to, and I think she knocked it out of the park there very early on.

Byron, you've done some great work on National Review. Jim, terrific work. Thanks for being with us.

WARREN: Thank you guys.

HANNITY: Appreciate your time.

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