We are waiting for Tim Russert to take center stage at the Libby trial.
I did a long preview last week, but here is an additional two cents: Russert can lose this case for Fitzgerald but he can't win it. Why? Part of the excitement about Russert's appearance is that Russert's previous testimony *MAY* have been deliberately ambiguous. From the NBC press release:
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.
Obviously, Mr. Russert could have *HYPOTHETICALLY* said to Libby "All the reporters know that Wilson's wife is at the CIA and sent him on this trip" without being aware of her name or that she was an "operative".
If Russert rocks the court with the news that, although he did not discuss Valerie Plame with Libby he may have said something about Joe Wilson's wife, well, Special Counsel Fitzgerald may be laughed out of the courtroom and jurors will be left wondering about the credibility of other journalists, specifically Matt Cooper and Judy Miller.
HOWEVER! Whether Russert told Libby about Ms. Plame on July 10/11 or not, that can't explain how Libby discussed her with Ari Fleischer on July 7 and with Judy Miller on July 8. So even if Russert does not torpedo Fitzgerald, his testimony won't change the basic conundrum facing the jury - with or without Russert it is already clear that either some parts of Libby's story defy conventional space-time or that Libby and/or other witnesses are confused.
Consequently, the jury must decide whether this is a case of honest confusion all around, or that Libby deliberately invented this story to throw investigators off the trail (of what, the defense will ask? Fitzgerald is straining to come up with a motive since it is far from obvious that "the truth" would have put Libby in any legal jeopardy).
So however credible Russert may be, he can't resolve the question of whether Fleischer is confused, Miller is making stuff up, or Libby has conflated a chat with Russert on July 10 with some other talk with some other person who mentioned Wilson's wife on, for example, July 6. That is a puzzle the jury will have to sort through, subject to reasonable doubt.
DEUS EX MACHINA: Suppose Libby can produce a surprise witness who says, essentially, he called Libby at home on Sunday July 6 (missing the White House phone logs), asked him about Joe Wilson's appearance on Russert's show - Russert, Russert, RUSSERT! - and mentioned to Libby that Andrea Mitchell was embarrassing herself with a kid glove interview of Joe Wilson since all the reporters knew his wife was with the CIA.
Does that help Libby walk? Some of the charges include that Libby did not specifically cite his tips to Miller and Cooper as reporter gossip, so those charges would still be in play.
And can the Libby team surprise us that way? I ask because two names on the list of *POSSIBLE* witnesses have no obvious connection to the case, and I am wondering whether Fitzgerald would have had a chance to depose them or review their depositions, or whatever.
Look, this is far-fetched, but I'd rather kick it around now than be surprised later.
MORE: Our guy Jeff has thoughts at The American Prospect. I feel obliged to rise to this bait:
However, there is no question that if Russert were to get up on the stand and admit that he did indeed tell Libby, it would be damaging for the prosecution. That has long been a fantasy of some right-wing observers of the case. Nothing would please them better than to discover that the MSM did it, and lied about it.
Nothing would please me better? C'mon, world peace, a world free from disease, even the Yankees back in the Series where they belong would all put a bigger smile on my face. However, a Russert meltdown would absolutely make my day and prolong my insufferability by several more.