At approximately 7:45 Am (Eastern) Don Imus talked to Frank Rich on his MSNBC Show today and picked up on the Libby trial where he left off yesterday, saying that thinks Tim Russert knew about Valerie Plame (or Wilson's wife) prior to the publication of the Novak column.
Imus's launching pad was that Andrea Mitchell's answers were comically evasive and unconvincing in November 2005 when she recanted her October 2003 statement that it was "widely known" amongst reporters following the Wilson/Niger story that Wilson wife was with the CIA. (More on Mitchell here.) [And more - did you know that Colin Powell was a guest at Andrea's wedding to Alan Greenspan? Dum de dum, why might she want to protect Powell or his good buddy Armitage, help me here... Hey, if she gives up Powell we can call Andrea "The Wedding Singer"].
He added that when he talks to David Gregory about the Plame situation Gregory seems very tense.
Imus could not imagine a motive for Russert to lie, however, and went on to say that in a credibility contest between Russert and Libby, he would choose Russert.
Well - as to Russert's motive, this post has more detail, but the summary is this - Russert started with a little white lie to the FBI in November 2003, with the objective of concealing the fact that he (or Andrea Mitchell) had a source for the Plame leak. Russert did not "lie" to the investigators; he misled them with carefully phrased testimony so as to avoid subpoenas, jail time, and the disclosure of NBC News sources.
And it seemed like a little white lie at the time - Russert knew that Libby had not leaked to him, so he reasoned that his chat with Libby was not the sort of primary leak (government official *to* reporter) that investigators were seeking.
Russert maintained this charade with his deposition to the grand jury in June 2004, then blanched when he finally saw the indictment in October 2005 - the investigation had morphed from a search for leakers into a search for perjury and Russert had become a star witness.
The most trusted man in news did not think he could keep his job if he came forward and admitted that he had misled the Fitzgerald investigation for nearly two years, so he kept quiet and awaited developments.
And one of the developments was that subsequent court filings made it clear that no emails or notes existed at either the White House or at NBC to contradict his story.
So at the trial last week, when faced between (a) admitting that he had misled investigators for three years, probably losing his job and certainly foreclosing any future stories about Big Russ and the Catholic nuns who taught him in school, or (b) continuing the cover-up, Russert took the final plunge and lied.
That, at least, is my guess as to one hypothesis the defense will put forward in order to introduce reasonable doubt as to Russert's veracity. Folks who think Libby lied to keep his low-paying government job and avoid embarrassment will surely be sympathetic to this alternative scenario where Russert had five million reasons a year to lie (Or more! Or less - objection!).
As to whether it is true, how could I possibly know? But the fact that Don Imus thinks something is fishy at NBC News is quite revealing - he does talk to these reporters frequently and prides himself on having a functional BS detector.
MORE: We project dark matter impaction on whirling blades if the NBC lawyers try to muzzle Imus.
BLEG: I wager we will see a transcript of that segment eventually, but sooner is better. Maybe the MSNBC website has an audio (Let me check...). I am not seeing it at the WFAN website in NY, not yet anyway (9:52 Eastern). And the ImusBlog may deliver for us. Here we go:
New York Times columnist Frank Rich called in this morning. He gave us his take on the Libby trial. Starting with agreeing with almost everyone that Russert is telling the truth about his conversation with Scooter Libby.
Mr. Imus thinks Russert is telling the truth about the conversation but is lying about knowing Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. Two minutes later Imus changed his mind and said Russert was not lying. Imus implied throughout the conversation with Rich that Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory were lying.
OK. I would have said that "changed his mind" referred to believing Russert over Libby on their specific conversation, but that is part of the joy of radio - where is a darn transcript?
WHO CARES, BUT: Frank Rich knows little about this trial bit he is a useful barometer for the conventional wisdom of the Bush-bashing left. And he opined that the Plame outing was an accident and an over-reaction, not any sort of a plan to specifically expose her. The Admin wanted to smear Wilson as a house-husband who needed his wife to get him a gig; in Rich's words, "they used a hammer to hit a flea".