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Karl Rove Changed Testimony In Leak Last Year, Sources Say

By Richard W. Stevenson
 and Douglas Jehl


A conversation between Karl Rove’s lawyer and a journalist for Time magazine led Rove to change his testimony last year to the grand jury in the CIA leak case, people knowledgeable about the sequence of events said Thursday.

Rove’s lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, spoke in the summer or early fall of 2004 with Viveca Novak, a reporter for Time magazine. In that conversation, Luskin heard from Novak that a colleague at Time, Matthew Cooper, might have interviewed Rove about the undercover CIA officer at the heart of the case, the people said.

Time reported this week that the prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has summoned Novak to testify about a conversation she had with Luskin, but provided no explanation of what Fitzgerald might be looking for. The account provided Thursday by people with knowledge of the discussions between Novak and Luskin suggests that Fitzgerald is still trying to determine whether Rove was fully forthcoming with investigators and whether he altered his grand jury testimony about his dealings with reporters only after learning that one, Cooper, might identify him as a source.

Novak declined to comment, as did Luskin and Randall Samborn, Fitzgerald’s spokesman. Jim Kelly, Time’s managing editor, said he would not comment on the matter. Cooper and James Carney, the magazine’s Washington bureau chief, also declined to comment.

The people who agreed to discuss the case were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and could face reprisals if they did so. Novak’s involvement is the latest twist in a case that has cast light on the close relationships between journalists, lawyers and government officials in Washington. I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is the only person who has been charged with a crime, in an indictment that says he misled a grand jury and investigators about his conversations in 2003 with journalists about Valerie Wilson, the undercover CIA officer.

Lawyers in the case have said that Rove, President Bush’s top political adviser, remains in legal jeopardy because his initial statements to investigators and to the grand jury were not accurate.

Months before the conversation between Novak and Luskin, Rove had testified to the grand jury that he had held a conversation about the CIA officer with only one journalist, Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist. Rove did not disclose that he had also spoken to Cooper either in his first grand jury testimony, in February 2004, or in an earlier interview with the FBI.

But after his conversation with Viveca Novak, who is not related to the columnist, Luskin asked Rove to have the White House search for any record of a discussion between Rove and Cooper around the time that Wilson’s identity became public in July 2003.

The search turned up an e-mail message from Rove to another senior White House official, Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, that recounted a conversation between Rove and Cooper.