Tim Russert is on deck in the Libby trial, so let's have some background.
Per the indictment, Libby falsely claimed that Tim Russert told him about Valerie Plame on July 10 or 11: Libby also was hearing this "as if for the very first time", since he had forgotten the earlier mention from Cheney:
20. On or about July 10, 2003, LIBBY spoke to NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert to complain about press coverage of LIBBY by an MSNBC reporter. LIBBY did not discuss Wilson's wife with Russert.
26. As part of the criminal investigation, LIBBY was interviewed by Special Agents of the FBI on or about October 14 and November 26, 2003, each time in the presence of his counsel. During these interviews, LIBBY stated to FBI Special Agents that:
a. During a conversation with Tim Russert of NBC News on July 10 or 11, 2003, Russert asked LIBBY if LIBBY was aware that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. LIBBY responded to Russert that he did not know that, and Russert replied that all the reporters knew it. LIBBY was surprised by this statement because, while speaking with Russert, LIBBY did not recall that he previously had learned about Wilson's wife's employment from the Vice President.
That leads to the following charges:
33. It was further part of the corrupt endeavor that at the time defendant LIBBY made each of the above-described materially false and intentionally misleading statements and representations to the grand jury, LIBBY was aware that they were false, in that:
a. When LIBBY spoke with Tim Russert of NBC News on or about July 10, 2003:
i. Russert did not ask LIBBY if LIBBY knew that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, nor did he tell LIBBY that all the reporters knew it; and
ii. At the time of this conversation, LIBBY was well aware that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA; in fact, LIBBY had participated in multiple prior conversations concerning this topic, including on the following occasions...
And let's include one more for a flavor of Libby's testimony:
THE GRAND JURY FURTHER CHARGES:
1. The Grand Jury realleges Paragraphs 1-30 of Count One as though fully set forth herein.
2. On or about March 5, 2004, in the District of Columbia,
I. LEWIS LIBBY, also known as "SCOOTER LIBBY,"
defendant herein, having taken an oath to testify truthfully in a proceeding before a grand jury of the United States, knowingly made a false material declaration, in that he gave the following testimony regarding a conversation that he represented he had with Tim Russert of NBC News, on or about July 10, 2003 (underlined portions alleged as false):
. . . . And then he said, you know, did you know that this -- excuse me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA? And I was a little taken aback by that. I remember being taken aback by it. And I said -- he may have said a little more but that was -- he said that. And I said, no, I don't know that. And I said, no, I don't know that intentionally because I didn't want him to take anything I was saying as in any way confirming what he said, because at that point in time I did not recall that I had ever known, and I thought this is something that he was telling me that I was first learning. And so I said, no, I don't know that because I want to be very careful not to confirm it for him, so that he didn't take my statement as confirmation for him.
Now, I had said earlier in the conversation, which I omitted to tell you, that this -- you know, as always, Tim, our discussion is off-the-record if that's okay with you, and he said, that's fine. So then he said -- I said -- he said, sorry -- he, Mr. Russert said to me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife, or his wife, works at the CIA? And I said, no, I don't know that. And then he said, yeah -- yes, all the reporters know it. And I said, again, I don't know that. I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't confirming anything for him on this. And you know, I was struck by what he was saying in that he thought it was an important fact, but I didn't ask him anymore about it because I didn't want to be digging in on him, and he then moved on and finished the conversation, something like that.
3. In truth and fact, as LIBBY well knew when he gave this testimony, it was false in that:
a. Russert did not ask LIBBY if LIBBY knew that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, nor did he tell LIBBY that all the reporters knew it; and
b. At the time of this conversation, LIBBY was well aware that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA;
So - did Russert in fact mention Valerie Plame, or Wilson's wife, to Libby? Russert has stood by a stock, overly-specific denial, an example of which is here:
Mr. Russert told the Special Prosecutor that, at the time of that conversation, he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby. Mr. Russert said that he first learned Ms. Plame's name and her role at the CIA when he read a column written by Robert Novak later that month.
Well, Andrea Mitchell had the following exchange on Oct 3, 2003, to which Libby attorney Wells alluded in his opening statement:
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.
Ms. Mitchell has since back-pedaled from that.
In addition Ari Fleischer told the court that on the morning of July 11 2003 he leaked the Plame news to John Dickerson (then of TIME) and David Gregory of NBC, Russert's subordinate in the Washington bureau.
So it may well be that two of Russert's subordinates had picked up on the Plame tidbit. Did they pass it on to Tim? This episode of "The Tim Russert Show", which aired immediately after the Libby indictment, looks like a group exercise in story-doctoring but it certainly suggests that the reporters would have shared news if they had it.
So why did Libby call Russert? A note was introduced in court today (we saw it but the jury perhaps never will) with media advice for Libby from Mary Matalin - she suggested Libby call Russert to complain about Chris Matthews' coverage of Wilson and the Niger trip. Russert has said that Libby called to complain about some NBC News coverage, but has not specified the complaint. Well, Libby did not call to vent about NBC's coverage of the Cheney's energy task force; he called to complain about their coverage of the Niger trip, which certainly improves the odds that the topic of who actually sent Joe Wilson came up. Michael Crowley and Jeralyn Merritt had picked out this July 8 Chris Matthews show as the likely object of Libby's ire; I had also suggested this July 9 episode, which features multiple uses of "behest".
And left unmentioned in Russert's testimony - Libby may also have launched into a tirade accusing Matthews of anti-semitism; Mickey Kaus broke this and provides a cogent discussion of the "anti-neocon=anti-Semite" meme that floated around for a while.
So - did Russert learn from Mitchell or Gregory that Wilson's wife was at the CIA? If so, Russert misled the grand jury and Fitzgerald's case will be taking on water. Strictly speaking, of course, even if Russert did tell Libby about Plame on the 11th, that can't explain how Libby was chatting about it with Miller on the 8th; however, if even Tim Russert could mislead a grand jury, what other reporters might also have done so?
Maybe (the defense will argue, and I am just thinking out loud) Libby's real "Reminder" was Andrea Mitchell in a phone call to Libby's house on July 6, following her guest-hosting of Meet The Press featuring her interview with Joe Wilson. Libby remembered the "Meet The Press" angle, figured it must have been Russert, checked the White House phone logs, saw he called Russert on the 10th, and back-fitted a story that defied space-time. Have Libby's home phone records for incoming calls been checked? And did Andrea Mitchell deny disclosing Plame to Libby - my impression from Well's opening statement (as well as her own ambiguous statements) is that she was never asked. In any case, that is just one hypothetical.
I expect the defense will hammer the "What did Russert know and when did he know it" angle. It appeared that Matt Cooper backed Ari Fleischer's claim to have leaked to Dickerson and Gregory, so the suspense mounts.