The local media in Denver has spent a lot of time talking about NY Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper after Miller was sent to jail last week for refusing to give up her source on the Valerie Plame story. What the local media has not been following as carefully — until today — is the development that could eventually make political waves here in Colorado.

Who’s Valerie Plame? I’ll let Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News catch you up:

The saga began, of course, with a column by Bob Novak – hold your hissing, please; this is a respectable column – that outed Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent. Novak, predictably, was doing the dirty work for, in his words, two high Bush administration officials.

This was, even by 21st-century Washington standards, a particularly loathsome form of retribution. Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, had written an op-ed piece — yes, in The New York Times — questioning some of the intelligence being used by the Bush administration to justify an invasion of Iraq…

…The leak caused an uproar, and uproars in Washington inevitably lead to special prosecutors. In theory, the leaker would be found and maybe indicted for revealing a covert CIA officer’s identity. In reality, after months of grand jury testimony, the prosecutor said the case has stalled…

…It does sound complicated. No one knows, for example, whether Novak ever testified or was asked to testify. It seems to me that he could solve the entire case — just by naming his sources. And if he refused to name the sources, shouldn’t he be bunking in jail like Miller?

And, of course, this very political story couldn’t end without Karl Rove making a guest appearance — a reported appearance, anyway, in Matt Cooper’s notes. Shouldn’t Rove tell us how he got there?

The Rove piece is what Democrats think could be the smoking gun in this case. TheDenver Post reprinted coverage from New York Times today:

Nearly two years after stating that any administration official found to have been involved in leaking the name of an undercover CIA officer would be fired, and assuring that Karl Rove and other senior aides to President Bush had nothing to do with the disclosure, the White House on Monday refused to answer any questions about new evidence of Rove’s role in the matter: an e-mail.

With the White House silent, Democrats rushed in, demanding that the administration provide a full account of any involvement by Rove, one of the president’s closest advisers, turning up the political heat in the long-simmering case and leaving some Republicans worried about the possible effects on Bush’s second-term agenda.

Here’s why this is getting really interesting: if Rove was involved in leaking Plame’s name to the media, that is a serious, serious crime under federal law (intentionally outing a member of the intelligence community carries its own federal charge) — and that could really hurt President Bush.

Rove is widely recognized as the brains behind President Bush’s White House, and he serves that role as deputy chief of staff. The White House has repeatedly denied in the past (Novak’s story first came out in July 2003) that it had anything to do with leaking Plame’s name to the media, and if it turns out that Rove was the one who did it, then the White House is caught with its proverbial pants down.

The next question would then become: what did Bush know? If the President had any knowledge of this whatsoever, and if he told prosecutors investigating the leak that he didn’t, then we’re getting into a possible impeachment area. This is obviously the extreme scenario, but Rove is as close to President Bush as anyone, and that possibility isn’t that far-fetched.

Which leads me back to Colorado and the ripple effect. Anything that significantly damages President Bush that approaches a Bill Clinton-like level will only benefit Democratic candidates in Colorado in the 2006 election. We’re not close to being at that point yet, but the story is growing. We may be on our way.