Investigative reporter Murray Waas has been doing a terrific job on the Plame story for months. Today he has a piece in TAP which wraps up some of the latest developments in the Judy Miller saga, and fluffs the Tim Russert story. JeraLynn Merritt of TalkLeft does the heavy lifting on the main points:
(2) There was apparently a face-to-face meeting between Libby and Miller on July 8, so in addition to a conversation, there may (or may not) be a document involved. The document may have been shown by Libby to Miller, or vice versa. Since the document is mentioned in the subpoena, and Libby has testified, we are inclined to think there is something to this, since who else would know?
(3) Ms. Miller is stuck on the question of a personal, credible, uncoerced waiver. Mr. Waas presents both views (Miller intransigent / Libby uncooperative), but in my humble right-wing opinion, he gives too much play to the "Libby uncooperative" theory. It is not up to Libby's attorneys to open private negotiations with Ms. Miller's team about the circumstances under which she will testify - folks would have good reason to scream "Collusion!"
On the other hand, if Fitzgerald orders Libby to negotiate and/or oversees the effort, any resulting deal may (Miller might argue) be viewed as coerced. A conundrum. But let's note four things:
(a) Libby and Fitzgerald have managed to work out deals with four other reporters;
(b) no one has shown evidence that Libby is declining to cooperate with Fitzgerald; and
(c) no one has offered any evidence that Miller is reaching out and looking for a deal.
[However, we have this from E&P:
Adam Liptak, who reports on legal affairs for The Times, stated to NPR's Terry Gross on August 2: "Judy and her lawyers have declined to answer the question of whether they have done anything at all to contact the source and try to obtain a satisfactory waiver" that would permit her to break confidentiality and testify before the grand jury.]
(d) folks have suggested motives (book deal, reputational rehab) for Ms. Miller to play first-amendment martyr. (And Arianna breaks news - the Times may do an expose on Miller, to avoid being scooped!) As Fitzgerald noted in one of his filings, a woman who spent time as an embedded reporter in the Iraqi desert may not be afraid of four months in jail.
(4) Murray Waas, in an aside, clears Tim Russert of passing the information about Ms. Plame to Libby. Since he has nothing in quotes, we fear that he has fallen prey to the Isikoff trap of recycling the too-specific Aug 2004 NBC press release without paying attention to the nuances. This was reported in Aug 2004:
Russert told Fitzgerald that he did not know Plame’s name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Libby, it said.
And here is what Mr. Liptak of the Times got when he tried to update the story this July:
Mr. Russert's testimony last August provides intriguing clues. A statement issued by NBC at the time suggests that Mr. Libby had told Mr. Fitzgerald that he had heard about Ms. Wilson from Mr. Russert.
According to the statement, lawyers for Mr. Russert and Mr. Fitzgerald reached an agreement under which Mr. Fitzgerald questioned Mr. Russert only about Mr. Russert's end of a conversation in early July 2003 with Mr. Libby. That would be an unusual way to go about pursuing a leak inquiry, but it is consistent with an attempt to try to establish that Mr. Russert provided information to Mr. Libby.
Mr. Russert, however, according to the NBC statement, said "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a C.I.A. operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby." Indeed, the statement said, Mr. Russert first learned the information from Mr. Novak's column.
A spokeswoman for NBC declined to elaborate on the statement yesterday.
Well, fine, but did Russert tell Libby that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, and was involved in sending him on the trip? No name, no "operative" - and no comment from NBC.
Until a reporter gets something specific and in quotes, we should hold off on clearing Mr. Russert. (And did it happen on "Meet the Press" today? Harry Shearer says it did not.)
And I would love to ask Mr. Waas about this, if his contact info were available. I don't see it at his blog.
UPDATE: On Russert, let's keep Bloomberg in the mix:
Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before Fitzgerald that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity, the person said.
Emphasis added. Too specific. And why do we need leaks from Russo-philic NBC Weasels to wriggle him off the hook? Let the man speak!
UPDATE 2: The Anonymous Liberal wants to know why we aren't hearing more (or any!) "Don't blame me, it's her fault" leaks from Libby or his camp. Good question. A possibility - as usual, the press has moved on and Libby has drawn little heat, so riding out this stalemate may be a winning play. That said, we thank Murray Waas for the kind words and learn that Congressman John Conyers is trying to create some heat for Libby. Without coercing him, of course.