Robert Novak Breaks His Silence

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 12, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Today, for the first time, Robert Novak is breaking his silence about the sources for his July 2003 column that identified CIA officer Valerie Plame. And he joins us now in a FOX News exclusive, FOX News contributor Bob Novak.

Bob, well, I guess this has been, I'm sure, a very difficult time. You allude to that numerous times in the column here. I want to you tell us in your own words — I thought you wrote a great piece about it — tell us how this all happened, Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, informed my lawyers a short time ago that their investigation after two and a half years has finished, as far as I am concerned. It's finished as far as anything concerning me, and I was now free to talk about it.

And so what I have said is that a lot of the reports on the blogosphere that I took the Fifth Amendment, I made a plea bargain, or that I was a prosecutorial target were all false.

As a matter of fact, on the advice of my attorneys, since I did not have a certain constitutional right to avoid a subpoena to a grand jury, I cooperated with the prosecution.

I had not intended — in fact, in my first interview with the FBI, I did not give up the names of my sources. But when Mr. Fitzgerald took over as special prosecutor, just before I made a date to talk to him, I found — he informed me that he had waivers of confidentiality from all the possible sources in the administration I might have used.

That really created a tremendous problem for me, because I still did not want to give up those sources, but I faced a serious legal problem.

But to my surprise, I found, when I turned up for the interview that he had waivers only for the sources that I actually talked to. In other words, he knew — he had found out from his investigation who my sources were, and so I testified twice to him and once to the grand jury.

HANNITY: I admired the fact that you repeatedly had this concern about protecting the First Amendment and your right as a journalist to keep confidential sources here. One thing you did reveal in the piece, that there were different recollections between the two sources that you do identify here.

Can you explain the differences?

NOVAK: Yes. The first source, who I have not identified, was the major source who informed me that Valerie Plame Wilson, Joe Wilson's wife, was a — worked at the CIA and recommended that Ambassador Wilson be sent on the mission to Niger that created all of this controversy.

To try to check out that story, I called Karl Rove. I give you his name because he has identified himself as my second source.

And my firm recollection is that, when I brought up the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife had worked for the CIA and recommended the journey, he said, "Oh," he said, "You know that, too?" And that's my recollection.

Mr. Rove, through his attorney, his recollection is that I said, "Oh" — that he told me, "Oh, you heard that, too?" That's a bit of a difference. I am quite sure he said the word "knew."

The third source was Bill Harlow, who then was spokesman for the CIA. And there's some — it's a rather detailed difference in our conceptions, but my conception is that Mr. Harlow was very low key in urging me not to write this story. Never said that there was any kind of danger involved. Never said anything to led me to believe that this was a strongly held matter with the CIA.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, Bob, it's Alan. Thank you very much for coming on tonight.

NOVAK: Yes, thank you, Alan.

COLMES: Help me understand something, because you said in your piece today that you found out Valerie Plame's name originally by reading a "Who's Who."

And you're quoted in Newsday by Timothy Phelps and Knut Royce a while back as saying, "I didn't dig it out. It was given to me," meaning her name. "They thought it was significant. They gave me the name, and I used it." That sounds like contradictory statements.

NOVAK: Well, that was a misstatement. That was an interview I did on the telephone with Newsday shortly after it appeared. Some of the things that they said that quoted me that are not in quotes are paraphrases, and they're incorrect, such as the whole idea that they planted this story with me. I never told that to the Newsday reporters.

But, as a matter of fact, let me assure you that neither my primary source gave — mentioned Valerie Plame's name to me, nor did Karl Rove mention the name to me, nor did the CIA spokesman. They just talked about Joe Wilson's wife. I got her name from "Who's Who.”

COLMES: You said that Bill Harlow asked you not to go with this. Are there others who urged, "Don't go with this story. Don't print it. Don't use the name. Don't talk about Valerie Plame"? Why didn't you listen to them, if that's the case?

NOVAK: If I — Alan, if I adhered to — if I bowed to somebody who asked me not to write stories all the time who are in government, about half the columns I write would not be written, or a great number would not be written.

If he had said to me at any time that she was — her life was in danger, she was involved in undercover activities...

HANNITY: All right, Bob...

NOVAK: ... just a minute — I would not have written it. He never said that to me, never made any such statement.


COLMES: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." We now continue our FOX News exclusive interview with syndicated columnist and FOX News contributor Robert Novak.

Bob, it's been reported that Karl Rove testified to the grand jury that, during his telephone call with you on September 29th, which was three days after it was known that the CIA asked Justice to investigate, that you said words to the effect to Rove, "You're not going to get burned."

Is that accurate? And can you give us context on that, if that was actually said?

NOVAK: That was not said; that's a total lie. It was reported by one reporter in one not-very-widely-read publication. It was not picked up in the general press.

And the idea that there was any such under-the-table arrangement between me and Rove, of course, would have created a lot of trouble with the special prosecutor. And there was never any action taken by him on that score.

COLMES: So you're saying Newsday was wrong in this report, and Murray Waas, National Journal, was wrong...

NOVAK: Absolutely.

COLMES: ... and these people have purposefully misrepresented you?

NOVAK: I never give motives, but I know that the Murray Waas piece in the National Journal, which interestingly was not picked up by anybody, was totally wrong and a total lie.

COLMES: You say that the administration never specifically bad-mouthed Joe Wilson to you. I've heard you say that to Brit Hume earlier tonight.

Do you have any doubt, though, that there was an attempt to get some kind of retribution against Wilson because of the op-ed piece that he wrote and his speeches and statements about the administration's policies?

NOVAK: I have no indications that there was any such retribution. There has been some anonymous quotes of supposed administration officials. But, again, the special prosecutor has never found any such plot involved, and I have no reason to believe there was such a plot.

HANNITY: Bob, let me ask you your thoughts now that you have a chance to reflect on this. First of all, your thoughts on Fitzgerald.

NOVAK: I think...

HANNITY: Your thoughts on — go ahead.

NOVAK: I think he is a straight arrow. I believe he is non-political. He, like a lot of special prosecutors, spends a lot of money, takes a lot of time. But I think what is very, very interesting, Sean, is that he, as I said in my column today for the first time, that he knew the identity of my source for almost the whole two and a half years of this investigation.

He knew the identity of my sources. Nobody was indicted. That means — that indicates to me he didn't feel any law was broken and the foreign agents identity act was not broken, the intelligence agents identity act was not violated.

HANNITY: Well, and we had Victoria Toensing on this program. I had her on my radio show. She helped author this law. And she was saying this from the very beginning, and very forcefully that she was never a covert agent, never met that standard. There was no outing of anybody here, which I guess then raises the question about your thoughts at this time about Joe Wilson?

NOVAK: Well, I am not interested in attacking Joe Wilson. He's attacked me all over the place. He hardly knows me; he knows nothing about me.

But I really believe he has put out a tremendous amount of misinformation. And I think he is presently and for some time has been ignored, which is probably the harshest thing you can do to him.

HANNITY: And was championed by the Democrats and was a strong, staunch partisan, especially in the election.

NOVAK: Yes. And he kind of lost his seat in the Kerry campaign when the Senate Intelligence Committee came out — granted it by was a Republican majority, but there was no Democratic dissent — in which they validated the premise of my column, for which I received from my original sources that Mrs. Wilson instituted the — recommended his trip.

COLMES: Will we ever know your original source, Bob? Are we ever going to know the name of that original source?

NOVAK: I bet you will.

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