This post includes excerpts from Andrea Mitchell's key statement on the Plame case. What to look for:
In Oct 2003, Ms. Mitchell said it was "widely known" amongst the journalists on her beat that Joe Wilson's wife was at the CIA; in Oct 2005, she said she had spoken to the FBI about some part of her involvement in the story; and in Nov 2005, she denied both the advance knowledge about Wilson's wife and her cooperation with the investigation (or at least, her cooperation since Fitzgerald took over, but why weasel?)
Here we go:
Oct 3, 2003 (Taranto, WSJ):
And this is an exchange between host Alan Murray and guest Andrea Mitchell on CNBC's now-defunct "Capital Report," Oct. 3, 2003 (transcript not available publicly online):
Murray: 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.
More context is provided in this post, which includes an extended excerpt to refute the notion that Ms. Mitchell misunderstood the question:
MURRAY: Andrea, a couple of quick questions. One, you said something earlier that I wasn't sure about. Bob Novak reported that two administration officials told him this. Are we any closer to having any idea who those two people are?
MITCHELL: No. And you know, there's a lot of rumor. There's been denials from the White House. Joe Wilson, he now inappropriately suggested that Karl Rove may have been the person. What he really should have been saying is that he believes Karl Rove was circulating the story after Novak put it out. So we don't know who that person was. There have been suggestions regarding the vice president's office. These have been denied. But it's really...
MITCHELL: ...inappropriate, I think, for any of us to suggest that someone might have been involved, because we're talking about a possible crime, and we have no evidence of that.
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.
Don Imus asked Ms. Mitchell about this following the publication of the Taranto piece. Ms. Mitchell's first disavowal was on Nov. 10, 2005. Here is a NewsMax transcript:
IMUS: Apparently on October 3, 2003, you said it was "widely known" that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.
MITCHELL: Well, that was out of context.
IMUS: Oh, it was?
MITCHELL: It was out of context.
IMUS: Isn't that always the case?
MITCHELL: Don't you hate it when that happens? The fact is that I did not know - did not know before - did not know before the Novak column. And it was very clear because I had interviewed Joe Wilson several times, including on "Meet the Press."
And in none of those interviews did any of this come up, on or off camera - I have to tell you. The fact is what I was trying to express was that it was widely known that there was an envoy that I was tasking my producers and my researchers and myself to find out who was this secret envoy.
I did not know. We only knew because of an article in the Washington Post by Walter Pincus, and it was followed by Nicholas Kristof, that someone had known in that period.
IMUS: So you didn't say it was "widely known" that his wife worked at the CIA?
MITCHELL: I - I - I said it was widely known that an envoy had gone - let me try to find the quote. But the fact is what I was trying to say in the rest of that sentence - I said we did not know who the envoy was until the Novak column.
IMUS: Did you mention that Wilson or his wife worked at the CIA?
IMUS: Did you mention . . .
MITCHELL: It was in a long interview on CNBC.
IMUS: No, I understand that. But at any point, in any context, did you say that it was either widely known, not known, or whether it was speculated that his wife worked at the CIA.
MITCHELL: I said that it was widely known that - here's the exact quote - I said that it was widely known that Wilson was an envoy and that his wife worked at the CIA. But I was talking about . . .
IMUS: OK, so you did say that. It took me a minute to get that out of you.
MITCHELL: No, I was talking about after the Novak column. And that was not clear. I may have misspoken in October 2003 in that interview.
IMUS: When was the Novak column?
MITCHELL: The Novak column was on the 14th, July 12th or 14th of '03.
IMUS: So this was well after that?
MITCHELL: Well after that. That's why the confusion. I was trying to express what I knew before the Novak column and there was some confusion in that one interview.
IMUS: Who'd you find it out from? Russert?
MITCHELL: I found it out from Novak.
IMUS: Maybe Russert's lying?
MITCHELL: You know Tim Russert doesn't lie.
IMUS: Which would break little Wyatt Imus's heart, by the way.
MITCHELL: Well, which has not happened. But this is (unintelligible). We've got a whole new world of journalism out there where there are people writing blogs where they grab one thing and ignore everything else that I've written and said about this. And it supports their political view. And . . .
That answer satisfied no one, so Don Imus tried again just before Thanksgiving. Here is NewsMax from Wednesday, Nov 23, and my commentary is here: Briefly, this new answer does not exactly ring true, and MS. Mitchell adds the news that she has "in no way" cooperated with the Fitzgerald investigation:
MITCHELL: I know the question now. I've gone back and reread it. And I frankly - I thought - I think that I thought he was asking about, did I know there was an envoy. But I know that I didn't know about Joe Wilson's wife until after the [Novak] column. Because when the column came out I went in to my producer and said - "Look at this. How the heck did we not know that?"
And at the same time we were talking with [Tim] Russert and everyone else. You know - this is a different part of the story that we didn't know about.
So clearly back in Oct. of '03, I screwed it up.
IMUS: Well, [Alan Murray's] question seems plain. "Do we have any idea how widely known it was in Washington that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. And you said that his wife worked . . .
MITCHELL: When you look at my answer, I said: "It was widely known - and we were trying to track down who among the foreign community was the envoy to Niger." So far, so good. Okay? [Quoting herself again.] "So some of us began to pick up on that. But frankly I wasn't aware of her actual role at the CIA and the fact the she had a covert role involving weapons of mass destruction, not until Bob Novak wrote it.
IMUS: Well, that part is clear.
MITCHELL: That's clear. So, what's not clear is that I didn't know about her role at the CIA until Bob Novak wrote it. And I obviously got it muddled.
IMUS: Well, what this suggests to me is that, you knew she worked at the CIA but you didn't know what she did there.
MITCHELL: Yes, but that's not . . .
IMUS: Is that fair? Did you know that?
MITCHELL: I didn't.
IMUS: Well, then - why did you say you did, Andrea?
MITCHELL: Because, I messed up.
MITCHELL: I think that I was confused about the timeline. We weren't all as focused on the timeline then as we really are now. And I think I just was confused.
IMUS: Did you ever have a discussion with Russert about it?
MITCHELL: Sure, after the fact.
MITCHELL: Well, I think Russert, conversations with Russert, obviously after Joe Wilson came out on "Meet the Press" - and we all talked about those 16 words. That's what we were focused on. We were focused on Niger, uranium, were there WMD? That's what the whole focus was. Not on his wife.
Then Joe Wilson's wife was mentioned by Bob Novak and it became a major issue when the CIA referred it to the Justice Department for investigation. . . . . [SNIP]
IMUS: I think the reason that there's a question about you, and I'm not patronizing you, but it's because the respect you have as a journalist and as a reporter.
MITCHELL: I appreciate that but I've got to tell you . . .
IMUS: I mean, [reporters are] very careful about what they say and when they say it.
MITCHELL: I have gone back over this, I can't tell you how many times. I was quite surprised to hear about it because it's inconsistent with anything in my memory. I can't find any notes that reflect this - this alleged knowledge. And so I was muddled on the timeline - that's all I can imagine.
IMUS: Have you been subpoenaed?
MITCHELL: No, no - not at all.
IMUS: Have you ever - have you talked to Fitzgerald informally?
MITCHELL: No - in no way. I was - I didn't have any knowledge about this. You know, one of the things that happened was that the Washington Post wrote an inaccurate story in the middle of this whole period, saying that I was one of the six people who had been leaked to before the Novak column. And that's how my name first got into this.
Which was not true. They didn't check with me. They didn't call me. I was in the office all day. It was a Sunday. They wrote the story on Monday morning.
Well, perhaps she did not talk to Fitzgerald, but Ms. Mitchell may have spoken with investigators before Fitzgerald took over the case at the end of 2003. This is what she said on Oct 29, 2005 when discussing the case on CNBC's "The Tim Russert Show":
MITCHELL: You know, I should have spoke--'cause there's been a lot blogged about all of this--I was called by the CIA because it was erroneously reported in The Washington Post that I was the recipient of the leak before Novak's column came out, and I had not been. So I was never questioned because I simply told the FBI--and, you know, NBC put out a statement that night--that I had not been a recipient of the leak; in fact, I had learned about it from Novak's column like everyone else. Then after the fact, a lot of us had gotten calls and conversations with people, you know, `Hey, how about the Novak column?' But that was after the fact.
She was "never questioned because [she] simply told the FBI"? What did the FBI do, make declarative statements and wait for her to nod yes or no? Get me Jack Bauer.
Wrapping it up: In Oct 2003, Ms. Mitchell said it was "widely known" amongst the journalists on her beat that Joe Wilson's wife was at the CIA; in Oct 2005, she said she had spoken to the FBI about some part of her involvement in the story; and in Nov 2005, she denied both the advance knowledge about Wilson's wife and her cooperation with the investigation (or at least, since Fitzgerald's took over, but why weasel?)
Lots of questions for Ms. Mitchell.
MORE: Let's include the circumstances that got Ms. Mitchell involved in this - here is Howard Kurtz of the WaPo, with Joe Wilson as his source:
A senior administration official told The Post on Saturday that two top government officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame. Wilson said yesterday that journalists for the three major broadcast networks told him they had been contacted by someone in the White House. He named only one, Andrea Mitchell, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, who interviewed Wilson and reported on July 22 that he said the administration was "leaking his wife's covert job at the CIA to reporters." Mitchell could not be reached for comment yesterday.
She couldn't be reached, even though she was at the office all day on a Sunday in the summertime.
Let's cut to Newsweek:
But after the Novak column ran, Wilson says, he got plenty of calls. As NEWSWEEK reported in this week’s issue, Andrea Mitchell called him on Sunday, July 20, and told him that she “heard in the White House that people were touting the Novak column and that was the real story.”
Finally, here is Tom Brokaw and the NBC denial:
TOM BROKAW: NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell has been identified by some as one of the recipients of a leak about the undercover agent. But tonight, Mitchell said that was not the case, that her first discussion with an administration official about the matter was after the Robert Novak column was published. And that discussion, she said, was off the record.
My point - the investigators may have pursued a very limited line of questioning, such as, "Did you get a leak from anyone in the White House".
And the NBC denial has wiggle room - she denies any knowledge prior to the Novak column of "the matter", but what's the matter? Is it that Ms. Plame suggested her husband for the job, that Ms. Plame is "an operative" in WMDs at the CIA, or is it merely that Ms. Plame is employed in the CIA in some capacity?
And is "the matter" tied to the fact that Novak's cited White House sources, thereby removing non-White House sources from "the matter"? Ms. Mitchell covers the State Dept., and Woodward's leak may well have come from Richard Armitage when he was Deputy Secretary of State there. And by cheery, eerie coincidence, here we have Ms. Mitchell breaking news from the State Dept. about how the CIA botched the pre-war reporting on Niger by mis-placing the INR dissent in the National Intelligence estimate. Did her sources include any other swipes at the CIA?
Questions, questions, questions.
Let's recap - Ms. Mitchell was misplaced at the scene of the incident by Joe Wilson; NBC issued a denial of her involvement in that part of the leak, but left open the possibility that she had received the tip elsewhere; she covered the State Dept, where senior people knew about Wilson's wife and had reason to bash the CIA; there is serious speculation that Armitage of State leaked to Woodward, so we don't think State was sphinx-like on this.
Did Andrea Mitchell get an early tip that Joe Wilson's wife was employed by the CIA from the State Dept.? You make the call!