The whole special prosecutor investigation of Karl Rove has long reminded me of the independent prosecutor investigation of Hamilton Jordan, White House Chief of Staff to President Jimmy Carter. The Jordan investigation was triggered when a criminal defendant alleged that Jordan had used cocaine. This seemed to me an obvious attempt to bludgeon the government to drop the charges against the accuser. But under the terms of the independent counsel law as it then existed, an independent counsel had to be appointed, and he had to investigate Jordan. I cannot imagine how Jordan withstood the pressure of a criminal investigation while performing his duties for President Carter, which included handling the Iran hostage situation and the strategy for a difficult re-election team.
But to all appearances Jordan kept his cool and, in my opinion, performed ably. In the process he accumulated several hundred thousand dollars of legal fees. The independent counsel statute as it then existed did not provide reimbursement to subjects of investigations who were cleared. As an editorial writer for the Washington Post in 1982-89, I wrote the first drafts of a couple of editorials urging Congress to pass a special act reimbursing Jordan, who was clearly the victim of an injustice. But then Jordan announced he was running for the Senate, and any effort to get Congress to pass a special act was futile. I gather that it took Jordan several years to pay off those legal debts.
In my view Karl Rove was also the victim of an injustice here. It has seemed plain to me from the beginning that he did not violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which required that the agent whose name was disclosed be serving undercover overseas within five years of the disclosure (Valerie Plame's husband in his book said his wife returned from overseas in 1997, six years before the disclosure) and that the discloser have knowledge of the agent's overseas undercover status (which it seemed to me very unlikely for Rove to have had). It appears that Fitzgerald was considering indicting Rove for perjury because he and Time reporter Matthew Cooper had different recollections of a telephone conversation they had had many months ago. But this seems to me a pretty flimsy basis for a perjury indictmentand evidently Fitzgerald has reached, belatedly in my view, the same conclusion.
In the meantime, Rove undoubtedly has hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which are not reimbursable, since the old independent counsel statute, amended after Jordan's case to include such reimbursement, was wisely allowed to lapse out of existence in the 1990s, after Democrats learned from the Bill Clinton case that their side could be targeted, too. I am amazed that Rove has been able to keep his composure and, like Jordan, has apparently managed to serve his president well while this thing has been hanging over his head. I'm sure I never could have stood up under that kind of pressure, as both Hamilton Jordan and Karl Rove did.