Is Andrea Mitchell sitting on a Bob Woodward style revelation that she had received an early leak that Ms. Plame was at the CIA?
Twice now, Don Imus has asked Andrea Mitchell to explain why she said, back in October 2003, that among reporters probing the story of the Wilson trip to Niger it was "widely known" that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.
Andrea Mitchell, who caught the eye of the Huffington bloggers recently, tried to explain herself to Don Imus for a second time on Wednesday morning, and she managed to deliver a Thanksgiving turkey. Crooks and Liars was there with the video. [And oh, my - Pants on fire, Ms. Mitchell - see UPDATE].
But we are lo-tech, so let's run the Newsmax transcript:
Senior NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell said Wednesday morning that she "messed up" when she told an interviewer in 2003 that Valerie Plame's CIA identity was "widely known."
Oops, here's the transcript:
MITCHELL: I know the question now. I've gone back and reread it. And I frankly - I thought - I think that I thought he was asking about, did I know there was an envoy. But I know that I didn't know about Joe Wilson's wife until after the [Novak] column. Because when the column came out I went in to my producer and said - "Look at this. How the heck did we not know that?"
And at the same time we were talking with [Tim] Russert and everyone else. You know - this is a different part of the story that we didn't know about.
So clearly back in Oct. of '03, I screwed it up.
IMUS: Well, [Alan Murray's] question seems plain. "Do we have any idea how widely known it was in Washington that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. And you said that his wife worked . . .
MITCHELL: When you look at my answer, I said: "It was widely known - and we were trying to track down who among the foreign community was the envoy to Niger." So far, so good. Okay? [Quoting herself again.] "So some of us began to pick up on that. But frankly I wasn't aware of her actual role at the CIA and the fact the she had a covert role involving weapons of mass destruction, not until Bob Novak wrote it.
IMUS: Well, that part is clear.
MITCHELL: That's clear. So, what's not clear is that I didn't know about her role at the CIA until Bob Novak wrote it. And I obviously got it muddled.
IMUS: Well, what this suggests to me is that, you knew she worked at the CIA but you didn't know what she did there.
MITCHELL: Yes, but that's not . . .
IMUS: Is that fair? Did you know that?
MITCHELL: I didn't.
IMUS: Well, then - why did you say you did, Andrea?
MITCHELL: Because, I messed up.
MITCHELL: I think that I was confused about the timeline. We weren't all as focused on the timeline then as we really are now. And I think I just was confused.
IMUS: Did you ever have a discussion with Russert about it?
MITCHELL: Sure, after the fact.
MITCHELL: Well, I think Russert, conversations with Russert, obviously after Joe Wilson came out on "Meet the Press" - and we all talked about those 16 words. That's what we were focused on. We were focused on Niger, uranium, were there WMD? That's what the whole focus was. Not on his wife.
Then Joe Wilson's wife was mentioned by Bob Novak and it became a major issue when the CIA referred it to the Justice Department for investigation. . . . . [SNIP]
IMUS: I think the reason that there's a question about you, and I'm not patronizing you, but it's because the respect you have as a journalist and as a reporter.
MITCHELL: I appreciate that but I've got to tell you . . .
IMUS: I mean, [reporters are] very careful about what they say and when they say it.
MITCHELL: I have gone back over this, I can't tell you how many times. I was quite surprised to hear about it because it's inconsistent with anything in my memory. I can't find any notes that reflect this - this alleged knowledge. And so I was muddled on the timeline - that's all I can imagine.
IMUS: Have you been subpoenaed?
MITCHELL: No, no - not at all.
IMUS: Have you ever - have you talked to Fitzgerald informally?
MITCHELL: No - in no way. I was - I didn't have any knowledge about this. You know, one of the things that happened was that the Washington Post wrote an inaccurate story in the middle of this whole period, saying that I was one of the six people who had been leaked to before the Novak column. And that's how my name first got into this.
Which was not true. They didn't check with me. They didn't call me. I was in the office all day. It was a Sunday. They wrote the story on Monday morning.
Did she really say this? "I think that I was confused about the timeline. We weren't all as focused on the timeline then as we really are now. And I think I just was confused."
For old time's sake, let's re-run the question she has found so baffling as well as the preceding one from Oct 3, 2003, and please note that she specifically addresess the timeline in her first response:
MURRAY: Andrea, a couple of quick questions. One, you said something earlier that I wasn't sure about. Bob Novak reported that two administration officials told him this. Are we any closer to having any idea who those two people are?
MITCHELL: No. And you know, there's a lot of rumor. There's been denials from the White House. Joe Wilson, he now inappropriately suggested that Karl Rove may have been the person. What he really should have been saying is that he believes Karl Rove was circulating the story after Novak put it out. So we don't know who that person was. There have been suggestions regarding the vice president's office. These have been denied. But it's really...
MITCHELL: ...inappropriate, I think, for any of us to suggest that someone might have been involved, because we're talking about a possible crime, and we have no evidence of that.
MURRAY And the second question is: Do we have any idea how widely known it was in Washington that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA?
MITCHELL: It was widely known among those of us who cover the intelligence community and who were actively engaged in trying to track down who among the foreign service community was the envoy to Niger. So a number of us began to pick up on that. But frankly I wasn't aware of her actual role at the CIA and the fact that she had a covert role involving weapons of mass destruction, not until Bob Novak wrote it.
She was not confused about the timeline when she explained Joe Wilson's timing error about Karl Rove. Did she really become confused fifteen seconds later?
Whatever. A very interesting point is this - assuming she did not mess up on this question [Ooops - she did! See UPDATE], she has not been contacted by Special Counsel Fitzgerald to discuss this. In fact, again assuming she understood the question and was not confused [Bad assumption], Fitzgerald has never contacted her at any time during this investigation.
That should give hope to any other nervous reporters who are keeping quiet in order to avoid a subpoena. Speak up, chaps - Fitzgerald could not care less!
UPDATE: Speaking with Don Imus, Ms. Mitchell denies any contact with Fitzgerald:
IMUS: Have you ever - have you talked to Fitzgerald informally?
MITCHELL: No - in no way. I was - I didn't have any knowledge about this.
Maybe that is literally, strictly true. Or maybe she can't remember what she said on Oct 29, 2005, or maybe she misunderstood Don's trick question. But let's go back a month to her appearance on "The Tim Russert Show":
MITCHELL: You know, I should have spoke--'cause there's been a lot blogged about all of this--I was called by the CIA because it was erroneously reported in The Washington Post that I was the recipient of the leak before Novak's column came out, and I had not been. So I was never questioned because I simply told the FBI--and, you know, NBC put out a statement that night--that I had not been a recipient of the leak; in fact, I had learned about it from Novak's column like everyone else. Then after the fact, a lot of us had gotten calls and conversations with people, you know, `Hey, how about the Novak column?' But that was after the fact.
Comic emphasis added. She was never questioned because she told the FBI... Uhh, what did the FBI do, make declarative statements and wait for her to nod yes or no? Or did they, dare I use the word, "question" her?
Fine, I'll accept that she was never questioned by the grand jury. But let's not pretend that "in no way", even informally, did she have contact with Fitzgerald's investigation. [Hmm, unless she has gone all Clintonian on us, and spoke to investigators in 2003 before Fitzgerald was appointed to lead this. But she appeared on the contacts of interest subpoena in 2004, *and* was surely on the guest list to the White House reception honoring her husband Al, so there was lots for her to talk about with investigators in 2004.]
Get this tidbit to Bernie McGiurk, designated assassin of the Imus Show, and maybe Ms. Mitchell can try for a best out of three.