David Gregory's ascension to the throne vacated by Tim Russert may be announced today, according to the Politico. David Gregory took a pass on his role in the Valerie Plame case back in 2007 and will no doubt continue to do so. But with the possibility that a Scooter Libby pardon will make news, please indulge me while I publicly puzzle on a couple of points:
1. Former White House press spokesperson Ari Fleischer testified that he told John Dickerson and David Gregory that Joe Wilson's wife was involved in launching Wilson's infamous trip to Niger. John Dickerson responded with an arguably tepid "I have a different memory".
As to the truth, who knows? The record should note that Ari Fleischer also denied leaking to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, but apparently had. This was happening during Mr. Fleischer's last week on the job during a surely-hectic Presidential trip to Africa, so a bit of confusion is understandable.
However! David Gregory, as best I know, has never addressed this since the trial (I held my breath for a while then gave up, even though I got many compliments for my nicely coordinated blue eyes and face.) And here is the rub - a definitive answer from Gregory would undermine either Ari Fleischer or Tim Russert, both of whom were important prosecution witnesses and one of whom was Gregory's boss at the time (Russert had claimed that if Gregory had known about a Wilson and wife link then Russert would have been told and he had not been). At the time the public's right to know took a back seat to placating Special Counsel Fitzgerald and Washington Bureau Chief Russert. And now?
David Gregory did offer a non-denial denial back when Tim Russert gathered his subordinates to walk through their stories following the Libby indictment. Interestingly, Gregory claimed that "I should just point out, that nobody called me at any point [with a Plame leak]"; Fleischer's testimony was that his leak to Gregory and Dickerson was face-to-face.
2. What was the cozy relationship between Special Counsel Fitzgerald and NBC News? There are a couple of glaring examples of Fitzgerald dancing with the NBC stars. First, there was his Jan 23, 2006 letter to Libby's counsel (Exhibit C) which mentioned John Dickerson as a possible leak recipient but, for no apparent reason, omitted David Gregory:
We also advise you that we understand that reporter John Dickerson of Time magazine discussed the trip by Mr. Wilson with government officials at some time on July 11 or after, subsequent to Mr. Cooper learning about Mr. Wilson's wife. Any conversations involving Mr. Dickerson likely took place in Africa and occurred after July 11.
That letter provoked a column from John Dickerson; surely there would have been public interest in Gregory's possible role, if Fitzgerald had noted it.
As a second example of Fitzgerald's deference to NBC, let me mention his staged court tussle with Tim Russert that was intended to force Russert to testify to Fitzgerald's grand jury. Russert had already discussed his interaction with Libby with the FBI. However, Russert claimed in his court filings that he could not cooperate with Fitzgerald's investigation because source protection was paramount. OK, it is understandable that Russert would want to pose as a lion of the free press, but it was a bit awkward given his previous cooperation.
Fortunately, Fitzgerald played along with this sham - in explaining to the judge that Russert had a past history of flexibility on source protection Fitzgerald cited an old television show but never mentioned the much more topical fact that Russert had already cooperated with the FBI. No doubt helpful for Tim's image as a stalwart of press freedom, but not fully forthcoming with the judge.
What was it with Fitzgerald and NBC? One might almost think that an aggressive prosecutor was protecting one of his star witnesses rather than probing for the truth.
I just know that David Gregory will want to unburden his conscience on these points.