In an effort to quell a chorus of calls to fire deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, Republicans said that Rove originally learned about Valerie Plame's identity from the news media. That exonerates Rove, the Republican Party chairman said, and Democrats should apologize.
But it is not clear that it was a journalist who first revealed the information to Rove.
A lawyer familiar with Rove's grand jury testimony said Sunday that Rove learned about the CIA officer either from the media or from someone in government who said the information came from a journalist. The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity because the federal investigation is continuing.
In a first-person account in the latest issue of Time magazine, reporter Matt Cooper wrote that during his grand jury appearance last Wednesday, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald "asked me several different ways if Rove had indicated how he had heard that Plame worked at the CIA." Cooper said Rove did not indicate how he had heard.
The White House's assurance in 2003 that Rove was not involved in the leak of the CIA officer's identity "was a lie," said John Podesta, White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration. He said Rove's credibility "is in shreds."
Until last week, the White House had insisted for nearly two years that Libby and Rove had no connection to the leak. Plame's husband is Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq at the start of the Persian Gulf War.
The White House refused last week to repeat its denials about Rove's involvement. The refusal came amid the disclosure that Rove told Cooper on July 11, 2003, that Wilson's wife apparently worked at the CIA and that she had authorized a trip he took to Africa in 2002. The White House on Sunday declined to comment about Libby, saying the investigation was ongoing.