February 07, 2007
Russert on the Hot Seat
One of the differences between reading live blogging of the Libby Trial and reading or hearing news accounts, is that we have it in real time. Even the most skillful of reporters in the court like Matt Apuzzo have filing deadlines which usually means that they get the direct testimony but not the cross examination in their first stories. But in this case the cross examination is the story.
Buffalo News printed that Russert 'suffered a public memory lapse', says Wells. Russert is answering slightly defensively.Memory problem occurred in May , a few months before you testified, correct?
yesYou admitted you r error as the result of your subsequent review of your files?
yesBut for the existence of your written notation, you would have continued to believe that you had not made the call correct?
I did not recall.And to the Libby call, you have no written notes?
Are you telling me as an aggressive newsperson, who is know for going after the facts, that you wouldn't ask questions about one of the biggest stories in the world that week? I described what occurredNo recollection of discussion about Wilson in the conversationYou have no recollection of NOT having a conversation about Wilson's wife?Don't understand questionDo you have a present recollection that you did not ask about Mrs. Wilson, or are you reasoning backward because you did not know about her until Novak's column.
I have no recollection, and it would have been impossible.(snip)First time you were asked about week of July 6 conversation was in November 2003?
CorrectYou have no notes of conversation?
No file memorandum close to the conversation?
You can't even remember if you had one or two conversations that week?
I believe it was one, but not sureYou told FBI that you remembered at least one and maybe two conversations ?
I only recall one conversationSo the FBI would have been incorrect?
(Wells brings FBI notes to show Russert)Russert gets notes, puts on glasses. Judge tells him to read it to himself. Russert says ‘Its two pages', Wells points to top of page and says just that.
NBC statement: Says Russert received subpoena to testify before a special grand jury investigating the Plame leak. Russert and NBC intened to fight the subpoena, Russert was not the recipient of the leak. NBC is resisting becuase fo the chilling effect, Shapiro says American public will be deprived of information becuase of this, because people will simply stop speaking with the press.
Wells knocks it home right here:
Is there any mention in this statement that you freely shared the content of Libby's call with the FBI agent in November 2003?
NoDoes Shapiro know that you freely discussed the Libby conversation with the FBI?
I don't knowDid you ever have a conversation with him about this?
I do not know, I cant recallDo you think, given your pattern and practice, that you would have told Shapiro about your free conversation with the FBI without refusing [b]ased on confidentiality?
I do not know, I don't recal
Wells is frying Russert here. This point is very strong, it shows the potential hypocrisy of NBC's statement and the subpoena resistance, since Russert had already spilled the beans so readily and without reservation about an established off the record conversation with Libby.
Wells submits as evidence, and displays, a declaration by Russert filed with court. Paragraph 5 emphasizes that an essential part of his job is keeping conversations with government officials confidential, that he will not discuss identities or information publicly.W: You are swearing that you will not release confidential information freely, right?T: It depends on the nature of the conversationWells continues reading from the document. Quotes Paragraph 6, which specifically says Russert cannot testify about Libby conversation without violating confidentiality.W: That's what you're saying to Judge Hogan under oath?T: That it would have a chilling effect, yes.W: You're saying under oath that you can't even confirm thatT: As a journalist, I didn't want to do it, correct.W: Not just didn't want to, you can't do it, correct?T: Correct.W: You don't say that you had already talked to this to Agent Eckenrode in Nov 2003.T: There is no mention of it.W: You had already disclosed the substance of the conversationT: There's a differenceW: But this does not say you had confirmed the existence of the conversation, and the content of it as well.T: Correct.W: In June 2004, your position that you could not do this.T: Correct.W: In Nov 2003, you violated this, didn't you?T: No, because they asked about my side of the conversation, and conversation was a viewer complaint.W: Are statements to Judge Hogan true or false?T: So you violated these statements when you talked to Eckenrode [the supervisinf FBI official].T The focus was on my words at that time, and Libby's viewer complaint was not in any way confidential. As is my policy, I did not report on them.W: So why say you can't talk about the same conversation?T: We did not want to get involved in an open-ended fishing expedition.W: (Accuses Russert of making a false statement to federal judge)T: I just talked to Eckenrode about my side of the conversationW: You talked to him about both sides of the conversationT: I listened to him describe Libby's side.
The prosecution filed a motion to block Libby from calling her to the stand. I'd be surprised if that succeeds. The prosecution has also signaled it intends to argue that all reporters were treated gingerly because of the constraints of the Department of Justice regulations. In fact, many reporters who clearly were aware of the Wilson/Plame connection were - like Andrea Mitchell (Russert's colleague who famously indicated they all knew) - never questioned by the prosecution or the investigators.
I'll be very surprised if in a case risibly claiming the defendant obstructed the investigation, the defense is precluded from showing that, blinded by his nonsensical view of what happened, the special prosecutor obstructed the investigation himself. We know he granted immunity to the two people who admitted they deliberately leaked Plame's identity (Ari Fleischer and Richard Armitage) and steered clear of so many journalists who obviously knew more about the Mission to Niger and its participants than anyone in the White House did.