Light filters through the mud

Maybe Rove offered his waiver in the firm hope that Cooper would ignore it.

Yesterday I wondered (1) what was actually going on in Adam Liptak’s story about Matt Cooper’s sudden decsion to testify after all and (2) why Karl Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, would have allowed him to offer Cooper a waiver from his promise of confidentiality for testimony which could well lead to Rove’s going to prison for a lon time.

Today Atrios offers a narrative that resolves both questions at once. As he reads Liptak’s story, Cooper had refused to accept the general waiver of confidentiality Rove had offered as applying specifically to him (on what he had told his editor was “double super secret background”), but when Luskin kept telling the press that whoever Cooper was protecting it wasn’t Rove, Cooper decided to take that statement as a confirmation that the waiver did, in fact, apply to him, thus avoiding a stretch in jail.

If that’s right, then the puzzle about why Luskin would have allowed Rove to offer a waiver of confidentiality for “smoking gun” testimony disappears: he didn’t really mean to. Rove, under political pressure, offered the general waiver of confidentiality in the expectation that Cooper would ignore it and keep the “double super secret background” briefing secret. And Luskin, trying to score more PR points for his client, publicly reaffirmed that waiver in the expectation that Cooper would ignore the reaffirmation. Then Cooper decided he was tired of being made a chump, and decided to testify after all.

And the moral of the story is: Play with fire long enough, and you’re going to get burned.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: