Recent news reports suggest that Special Counsel Fitzgerald may be approaching the penultimate lap in the investigation into the Valerie Plame Wilson leak. Matt Drudge is blaring this AP story, but the real news is in the front-page coverage by the Washington Post.
A federal judge has held a Time magazine reporter in contempt of court for refusing to testify in an investigation of the leak of a CIA officer's identity, rejecting requests from two media organizations to quash federal grand jury subpoenas seeking information from the media.
...While NBC fought a subpoena issued May 21 and was included in the opinion, it avoided a contempt citation after Tim Russert, moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press," agreed to an interview over the weekend in which he answered a limited number of questions posed by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald, NBC said in a statement.
Now, Russert has said previously that Ms. Plame's name was not disclosed to him. However, this next bit is the key, in terms of the timing of this case:
Lawyers involved in the case said it appears that Fitzgerald is now armed with a strong and unambiguous court ruling to demand the testimony of two journalists -- syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who first disclosed the CIA officer's name, and Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus, who has written that a Post reporter received information about her from a Bush administration official.
Pincus was served with a subpoena yesterday after Hogan's order was unsealed.
Ahh, instead of a cooperating defendant roll-up, we are seeing a judicial roll-up. Cool.
The subject of these conversations is Cheney's Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby. Folks who read only the AP story will hyper-ventilate that he is going down (OK, Full Disclosure - I picked him as a prime suspect a long time ago). However, the WaPo is fascinating on this point:
Fitzgerald has shown a continuing interest in Libby, witnesses have said, but it now appears that his reasons may be more complex than was first apparent. Libby has signed a waiver allowing reporters to tell the prosecutor whether he disclosed Plame's name to them. Prosecutors have e-mails and phone records showing his contacts with reporters, and witnesses have said they are interested in a story Cooper wrote last summer in which Libby was interviewed.
We take for granted that this is the Cooper story in question.
Ok, those are the highlights. Here's your soundbite - be cool on Libby - he's still a good choice, but this story doesn't prove it.
As to timing, the court order has an expedited schedule (p. 2) for the TIME appeals - three to four summertime weeks. The the Walter Pincus subpoena fight has just begun, and Novak's subpoena may or may not have been served (would the WaPo know?).
MORE: CNN coverage of their TIME reporter's situation.
UPDATE: Why Walter Pincus, you ask? Good question. This NY Times story from last February describes (near bottom) the One x Two x Six investigation sparked by a WaPo story.
So, what news on subpoenas for Allen and Priest? I'm, like, derelict here. Unless Pincus was a source for the Allen/Priest story, or other evidence suggests that Novak and Pincus were original leakees...
OK, the fog has cleared - if Pincus had a bum story on June 12, the White House may have called him in July to set the record straight, and leaked the Plame-Wilson connection in the process. Hence, Pincus was a leak recipeint, even though he did not publish.