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November 18, 2005

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Kate

State to the media before the White House even got involved. Makes sense. And would explain the reticence on the part of several reporters to reveal their sources: Mitchell, Pincus, Woodward.

This is looking more and more like Rove and Libby were the designated hit guys on this.

Libby looks really dumb for covering up his role on this one.

I predict this case will begin to fade and several months from now the charges against Libby will be downgraded oonsiderably.

Do we know if Armitage or Grossman testified to the Grand Jury?

Jim Miller

For those, like me, who take only a casual interest in this minor story (but immense kerfuffle), INR = Bureau of Intelligence and Reasearch.

Dorf

K: what did Scooter cover up?

narciso

Why does Kristof, trust Wilson based on assurances from the Niger kleptocrats; who have come under
withering criticism for provoking Africa's second
worse famine, this decade?

Dorf

N: That's easy, it's a way to get an administration he loaths. The whole truth really don't matter in the gotcha game.

Kate

Dorf-Libby was adament that he first heard about Plame from media. He should have said he wasn't sure whether it was guvvies or media, because it's looking more and more like he heard it from both.

It looks like Libby was sure he heard it from a media type but wasn't sure which one it was so went with Russert.

I think Libby's discussions with both Woodward and Russert were by phone not in person. I get more confused by phone discussions than in person because I don't have the visuals and have to depend on my notes which are usually pretty bad.

Cecil Turner

Dorf-Libby was adament that he first heard about Plame from media.

Might want to re-read the indictment (and the press conference), because that's not what it says. Per Fitz (press conf):

He said that, in fact, he had learned from the vice president earlier in June 2003 information about Wilson's wife, but he had forgotten it, and that when he learned the information from Mr. Russert during this phone call he learned it as if it were new.
That's not quite what Libby's statements in the indictment say (but pretty close), and the bit about learning it from the VP aren't quoted. But the claim that he first heard it from the media clearly isn't on.

Kate

Cecil-then I'm not sure why people are saying that the indictment against Libby is so incredibly strong. Doesn't seem so.

The discrepency between what Fitzgerald is saying in the news conference and what's in the indictment in confusing...at least to a non-legal type like myself.

MaidMarion

Since Woodward has now told the world his Administration source passed him classified info (i.e., that this source told him Wilson's wife Plame worked at the CIA) does this mean Fitzgerald will indict that source too, just as he did Libby?

Kate

MaidMarion-he didn't indict Libby for passing classified information, he indicted him for lying. If the source is one who has not testified or been questioned yet or can prove that he forgot the discussion w/Woodward, I doubt he'll be charged with perjury or obstruction.

I predict that Fitzgerald will be very conservative with his indictmens from now on and it will take many months before he issues his next one.

emptywheel

Tom,

I think you know you're mischaracterizing the INR's stance on this (and while we're at it, we really ought to maintain the distinction between the INR and other factions at State--say Bolton's office--which almost certainly felt differently about Wilson's trip). You might look at the later SSCI bit that explains INR thought this reinforced their view. How then can you argue they thought this was a boondoggle?

Also, you've got one more step to prove this could have been Armitage. Prove that he saw the INR memo before July 7. We know when he put it together for Powell in July, he had to call Carl Ford to get it. He didn't have a copy. If he didn't have a copy 4 weeks later, why are we so sure he even saw it in June? There are inconsistent references to its early circulation, but at least one of them said it stopped at Grossman. So we need to track down that detail.

Kate

Woodward and Libby spoke twice--via phone and in person.

Cecil Turner

Cecil-then I'm not sure why people are saying that the indictment against Libby is so incredibly strong. Doesn't seem so.

The contention is that he couldn't possibly have forgotten about the conversation with Cheney, as witnessed by the further discussions (probably true, but again that's not exactly what he said). I don't think it's strong at all, especially now that Fitz's underlying theory has been proved faulty.

PoliticaObscura

Cecil,

The problem with Libby's "I heard it from the VP and forgot about it and thought I later learned it from reporters" is that he had continuous discussions about Plame over the course of time between the time he heard it from the VP and when he talked to Russert. this means it is almost impossible that for him to have forgotten it as he claims.

Kate

emptywheel..thanks for the clarification. It would help if Woodward could clarify whether he asked Libby about Plame. If it was indeed in their telephone discussion that could explain Libby's confusion.

And I believe Mary Matalin said the Wilson/Plame business took at 1-2% of their time, I could see the problem with memory since reporters seemed to be having the same problem; Woodward, Pincus, Mitchell, Cooper, Miller all indicated some memory problem.

Patrick R. Sullivan

'...he had continuous discussions about Plame over the course of time...'

No he didn't. Plame's name simply pops up in discussions every so often. It's just background info.

Cecil Turner

I think you know you're mischaracterizing the INR's stance on this [. . .] You might look at the later SSCI bit that explains INR thought this reinforced their view. How then can you argue they thought this was a boondoggle?

Mischaracterizing? I don't think so; "waste of time" is probably the most charitable interpretation. And here's the ringing endorsement of the trip report from one INR analyst:

An INR analyst said when he saw the report he believed that it corroborated the INR’s position, but said that the “report could be read in different ways.” He said the report was credible, but did not give it a lot of attention because he was busy with other things. [emphasis added]
Looks like Wilson's after action was all things to all men (not exactly a recommendation for an intel report). Speaking of "boondoggle," did anyone besides Pincus ever actually use that phrase? It seems a bit of a strawman, which makes me suspect it originated with Wilson.

Jeff

Looking back over Plan of Attack, Armitage seems like a very plausible candidate for the source here. The Times today says there has been some kind of denial from Grossman.

And emptywheel, if I remember correctly, Armitage has been reported to have seen the INR memo in mid-June, along with Powell (I think).

emptywheel

Cecil:
I prefer TM's logic to yours. Yours seems to be a little rusty. TM's point is that the INR wasn't in favor of the trip. But to say that they weren't in favor before is different than saying they thought lightly of it after. They believed it validated their belief. That's quite different from saying they thought it worthless. All things to all people, perhaps. But that's not what TM argued.

Although, TM, while you're thinking about the Armitage possibility, there is another scenario. I think we can't prove that Armitage had the memo. And therefore, he'd have no way of knowing about Plame in mid-June.

Or did he? Recall the flurry of people assuming a Fleitz bombshell was going to break just at the same time that Woodward decided to tell Downie.

Is it possible Fleitz told Armitage directly? And that he told Fitzgerald this the week of the indictment? And that's what caused Woodward's newfound interest in telling the story?

emptywheel

Jeff

I know there are reports specifically that Powell did not see the memo. THere are reports that say the circulation did not get above Grossman. And another suggesting it got to Armitage. As I said, conflicting reports. But I think the Powell one (the NYT report yesterday notwithstanding) is the least credible given the handling of the memo in July.

richard mcenroe

PFAH! It's all so simple. Little Pinch Sulzberger has obviously been keeping Karl Rove on a generous "retainer" as an unlisted TimeSelect contributor. Therefore, when we are told the Administration learned about Plame from the media, all that means is Karl put on his snappy reporter fedora with the Press card in the band and told Scooter to tell Novak!

Why are you all making this so hard?

owl

Okay Kristof......so you know Mrs Wilson....How? When? Were you in the same building with her before July? Did you ever notice she had spooky friends? Did you eat breakfast WITH her? Ever?

Geek, Esq.

The contention is that he couldn't possibly have forgotten about the conversation with Cheney, as witnessed by the further discussions (probably true, but again that's not exactly what he said). I don't think it's strong at all, especially now that Fitz's underlying theory has been proved faulty.

1. Fitz's underlying theory has not been proven faulty. This has been an investigation that was thwarted by LIBBY's obstruction and dishonesty. That's his underlying theory. To complain about Fitz not understanding or seeing the whole picture in this context is exactly like the proverbial person who kills his parents and then expects pity for being an orphan.

2. LIBBY's claim that he had completely forgotten the information about Wilson's wife by itself is laughable and utterly lacking credibility, of course. There's not even reasonable doubt as to that.

But, it's even more clear cut than that. He's essentially saying that when Russert purportedly told him about Wilson's wife, it didn't even ring a bell. It's one thing for a detail to slip from one's active memory--it's another for it to be completely erased from one's memory banks to the point where there is not even recognition, as opposed to recall.

TM

Also, you've got one more step to prove this could have been Armitage. Prove that he saw the INR memo before July 7. We know when he put it together for Powell in July, he had to call Carl Ford to get it. He didn't have a copy. If he didn't have a copy 4 weeks later, why are we so sure he even saw it in June?

Well, I'm sure I had miln in my cofee this morning; much else is speculative.

However, the TIME fair use excerpt includes this:

The same week, Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman asked for and received a memo on the Wilson trip from Carl Ford, head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Sources familiar with the memo, which disclosed Plame's relationship to Wilson, say Secretary of State Colin Powell read it in mid-June. Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage may have received a copy then too.

Maybe he got a copy, maybe he was told that a revised version would be available, maybe he discussed it in a meeting or at the water cooler, maybe they conveniently back-dated their awareness in other leaks... To turn it around a bit, how did Colin Powell know to ask for a copy three weeks later?

And if the underling (Grossman) and the overlord (Powell) knew about the memo's contents, any proper bureaucrat in the middle would want to know too. The broader subject of Wilson's trip was quite topical in June, by all accounts.

Cecil Turner

I prefer TM's logic to yours. Yours seems to be a little rusty.

Whatever. Opening insults do not enhance your case.

They believed it validated their belief. That's quite different from saying they thought it worthless.

They? The SSCI quotes one analyst who apparently didn't think it was worth spending much time on. Other analysts were even less impressed:

The IC analysts had a fairly consistent response to the intelligence report based on the former ambassador’s trip in that no one believed it added a great deal of new information to the Iraq-Niger uranium story. [emphasis added]

TM

OK, here we go, from last summer's Times:

When Mr. Wilson's Op-Ed article appeared on July 6, 2003, a Sunday, Richard L. Armitage, then deputy secretary of state, called Carl W. Ford Jr., the assistant secretary for intelligence and research, at home, a former State Department official said. Mr. Armitage asked Mr. Ford to send a copy of the memorandum to Mr. Powell, who was preparing to leave for Africa with Mr. Bush, the former official said. Mr. Ford sent it to the White House for transmission to Mr. Powell.

Sunday, Sunday - can't face that day...

Armitage is at home, the memo is in a safe at the office, what to do?

And he apparently knew about it. OK, maybe Powell called Armitage, told him about the memo, and asked him to rustle up a copy.

However, one might also read this and think that Armitage read the Wilson op-ed and called Ford on his own initiative.


boris

This has been an investigation that was thwarted by LIBBY's obstruction and dishonesty

Not. That rant was always silly. Now that it is abundantly clear that the witness group Fitz relied on to rebut Libby's rambling recollections were playing a giant game of peekaboo, the case is shot to hell.

Dorf

"Thwarted"? Dream on. Did el Libbo prevent the prosecution from interviewing Woodward?

Geek, Esq.

Now that it is abundantly clear that the witness group Fitz relied on to rebut Libby's rambling recollections were playing a giant game of peekaboo, the case is shot to hell.

Boris finally admits that Cheney, Fleischer, and Rove are dissembling liars. How refreshing.

Rob W

Try on this pathetic non-denial denial from Hadley:
Q Were you the administration official who talked with Bob Woodward about the identity of a CIA operative?

MR. HADLEY: I have seen press reports that -- and only press reports -- that Bob Woodward has talked about, I guess, three sources from the administration that he had. I've also seen press reports from White House officials saying that I am not one of his sources. As you know, there is an ongoing investigation of this matter. We have all, at the White House, been instructed to cooperate with that investigation, as we are requested to do so, and to not talk about it. And that's all I can say.

Pathetic non-denial denial. Wow.

boris

Boris finally admits

What ??? rambling recollection = dissembling lies

You don't just lack reading comprehension, you're hearing voices in your head aren't you ???

Cecil Turner

This has been an investigation that was thwarted by LIBBY's obstruction and dishonesty. That's his underlying theory.

I was referring, of course, to Fitz's claim that:

[Libby] was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter.
That's inconsistent with Woodward's testimony, and it's hard to see how Fitz not knowing of an earlier leak from someone else could be Libby's fault.

But, it's even more clear cut than that. He's essentially saying that when Russert purportedly told him about Wilson's wife, it didn't even ring a bell.

Digging through his rambling statements, it's not at all clear to me that's what he said. (He makes a big deal of "surprised" and being "taken aback," but never really says why.) And since his story is that he was trying to remain noncommittal (a la the gossiper who says "you didn't hear that from me"), I think it's less than clear-cut. That said, I agree his story isn't all that plausible. But the uncertainty provides a sop for those who think the issue isn't very important, and doesn't rate several years behind bars . . . and I think finding a unanimous dozen who do is unlikely.

boris

Probably fruitless attempt at stopping geek's broken record.

Libby: "I did not recall that I had ever known"

Known what ???

Libby: "What Russert was telling me"

At this point the Libby Lied argument breaks down. Russert say's he didn't tell Libby anything.

MaidMarion

Owl,

"Okay Kristof......so you know Mrs Wilson....How? When? Were you in the same building with her before July? Did you ever notice she had spooky friends? Did you eat breakfast WITH her? Ever?"

I take it you're referring to the breakfast interview Kristof had with Joe Wilson and his wife a few days after the Democratic Policy Committee conference and just before the publication of his May 6, 2003 article "Why Truth Matters"...

paul

Somebody needs to draw up a denial statement that is all inclusive.(That somebody could be Libby's lawyer-Ted Wells)

If the reporters are willing to sign it, then the paper can be submitted to court in lieu of their testimony.

If they refuse to sign, and If Wells were smart he would advise the reporters that by presenting the denial agreement, it does not preclude them from ebing called to explain any discrepancies that he knows exist for Libby's trial.

Mitchell/russert/Pincus/Kristoff/Cooper the editorial staff of Time and the NYT should all have to sign the denial, or face being called as witnesses.

It will not preclude their being called, but a certified denial presented to court, which is hown to be false, should inherit a criminal charge.

Who on the above list has the guts to sign it?

Dwilkers

"You don't just lack reading comprehension, you're hearing voices in your head aren't you ???"

How did you like having that technique used on you boris?

Jeff

Cecil - That is uncharacteristically dishonest of you. Fitzgerald's theory plainly in no way relies on the assertion that Libby was the first official to reveal info about Plame to a reporter. Earlier in the news conference, Fitzgerald had said,

In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.

It's true he subsequently makes the more assertive claim you cite, but in light of the first one, there is no way you can claim that his theory of the case depends on the more assertive claim. Furthermore, nothing in the indictment either asserts of depends on Libby having been the very first official to have told reporters. What is true -- and I assume this is at least part of why Fitzgerald asked Woodward some of the questions Woodward reports -- is that if Woodward told other government officials about Plame, then Libby has a strengthened case, and of course that is all the more so if Woodward told Libby. However, Woodward testified otherwise -- he testified that it was possible, since he knew and had the documents with him, but he has no recollection of having asked Libby about Wilson or his wife, and if Libby had said anything about it, Woodward would have it in his notes, which he does not, meaning the only possibility is that Woodward asked and Libby said exactly nothing in response, which is not reasonably credible. The other way Woodward's testimony might undercut the case against Libby is that Woodward testified he did tell Pincus, and that means it is possible that Pincus could have in turn circulated info back to government officials or to other reporters and so on. However, Pincus is quite emphatic that Woodward did not tell him -- or anyway he received no such information -- and I assume that Fitzgerald will be interviewing Pincus to get that info under oath.

So all told, it doesn't look like Libby's legal case is helped by this information, much less Fitzgerald's whole theory undermined by the revelation.

owl

Yes MaidM...that's the breakfast because that is the start (as we know it) of the DNC/MSM/CIA. I keep seeing too many occasions where she seems to be just "sitting quietly or lurking in background"?

Syl

Something else we don't know. Whoever told Woodward may also have told someone else. Or if there were several people at State who knew Wilson's wife was CIA and involved in sending him, which there were, it's not implausible that others also told inquiring journalists.

Even if Fitz never gets the entire story, it's becoming clearer and clearer that there was no Whitehouse conspiracy to 'out' anyone either in revenge or to set the record straight.

Fitzmas has turned into a turkey.

Syl

Jeff

Hold on there a sec.

Fitzgerald's theory plainly in no way relies on the assertion that Libby was the first official to reveal info about Plame to a reporter.

Sure it does. And that theory was obstructed by Libby. That's fitz' whole case.

Syl

Jeff

It has to do with Libby sending Fitz on a 'wild goose chase' of tracking down reporters stories. Libby claiming he heard it from the press fitz considers a red herring.

Capiche?

emptywheel

Here's the story that doesn't jive with all of that--sourced fairly transparently to Powell, Armitage, or Grossman (and therefore not trustworthy if Armitage has something to hide), and more detailed than anything that has appeared before or since:

"It wasn't a Wilson-Wilson wife memo," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. "It was a memo on uranium in Niger and focused principally on our disagreement" with the White House.

Armitage called Ford after Wilson's op-ed piece in The New York Times and his TV appearance on July 6, 2003 in which he challenged the White House's claim that Iraq had purchased uranium yellowcake from Niger.

Armitage asked that Powell, who was traveling to Africa with Bush, be given an account of the Wilson trip, said the former official.

[snip]

The June 2003 memo had not gone higher than Grossman until Wilson's op-ed column for The New York Times headlined "What I Didn't Find In Africa" and his TV appearance to dispute the administration.

Now, as I said, if this is Armitage and he is hiding something, then maybe the two assertions here are lies. But except for that scenario, I consider this a better sourced story than anything else on the INR memo. And it clearly states that the contents of INR memo were new to Powell (and that Armitage may not have asked for the memo, but something that would get Powell up to speed). And that the memo did not get beyond Grossman in June.

emptywheel

Oh, one more likely source for that story--Wilkerson. Same caveats apply. If Armitage has something to hide, we can't trust it.

emptywheel

Syl:

What part of perjury don't you understand? If you can disprove that Libby told Ari about Plame on July 7, then you can convince me that he really believed he was hearing about Plame anew on July 10. But barring that, you're not going to disprove a perjury charge, no matter how many people knew of this beforehand. (Although, Libby hiimself told Ari that few people knew so Libby will have to disprove his earlier assertions to make the case this was widely known.)

emptywheel

Oh, and Syl,

While you're disproving Ari, you probably also want to burn Libby's notes, which make it quite clear where he learned of this.

Lion

I don't believe a written denial by a reporter would be admissible at trial; it would be hearsay. In any event, I believe Wells will want to call a whole load of reporters to the stand and cross-examine them in exquisite detail. I agree with those who point out that there are many ways Armitage (and others) could have learned about Plame's status without having seen the INR memo. Finally, it appears to me that Fitzgerald's case has been diminished by any of this, other than that it gives Wells some ammo to use at trial to show there were a lot of people, including press people, discussing her status, and many of them, like Libby, have dim recollections about who said what to whom. But the case is clearly strong enough to take to trial, and at this point I think it will indeed go to trial. Should be fun.

Cecil Turner

Cecil - That is uncharacteristically dishonest of you.

Is there some lefty style guide that requires opening insults? They're getting really old. (Suggested replacement: "I disagree . . .")

It's true he subsequently makes the more assertive claim you cite, but in light of the first one, there is no way you can claim that his theory of the case depends on the more assertive claim.

Whatever. That's the story he told, and he's likely to see it again (when defense counsel proves it wrong). It also seems fairly critical to the claim Libby was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls. It certainly wasn't helpful.

However, Pincus is quite emphatic that Woodward did not tell him -- or anyway he received no such information -- and I assume that Fitzgerald will be interviewing Pincus to get that info under oath.

I'm having a hard time believing Pincus, who appears to have excellent contacts among current and former intelligence officials, didn't already know it. He was certainly having detailed conversations with Wilson and related CIA sources (and, later, he was the go-to guy for the CIA ops types to shop Kostiw's infamous bacon shoplifting incident). His sworn testimony on the subject is overdue.

Geek, Esq.

That's inconsistent with Woodward's testimony, and it's hard to see how Fitz not knowing of an earlier leak from someone else could be Libby's fault.

1) It still remains undisputed that LIBBY was among the first to know, rather than one of the last to know. And he certainly knew about it before any reporter did--Woodward's testimony doesn't change that.

2) Whether he was the first or second leaker really doesn't matter to his obstruction charges. Press conferences aren't indictments.

3) Regarding LIBBY's charges, remember that it's highly unlikely that he'll get up in that witness chair. Testifying would automatically waive his right against self-incrimination. If he were to testify, he'd then be between Scylla and Charybdis--either he admits that he WAS confirming what the reporter was telling him (which is a big no-no) or he is stuck with the premature Alzheimer's defense.

Not to mention that three separate reporters will get up there and flatly contradict his version of events. Not to mention the fact that not a single reporter has testified or otherwise stated that they told LIBBY about Wilson's wife.

And, good luck getting a sympathetic jury in D.C.

Syl

emptywheel

On that article, there are no quotes, only the reporter's understanding of what he heard.

On the perjury, just as you believe Libby was saying he forgot, I believe that other words in Libby's statement show that he was learning the info for the first time unofficially...not for the first time ever.

Enough reasonable doubt, I think, for a jury to ponder.

Jeff

Syl

You sound like my grandmother with your "capiche?" (Obviously, I mean that as a compliment.) That said, in addition to what emptywheel says, since Fitzgerald had previously said in the press conference that Libby was the first official known to have told reporters, nothing rides just on the discovery that in fact Libby is now known to not be the first official to tell reporters. The assertion that Libby was definitively the first to leak was no part of Fitzgerald's theory whatsoever. And remember Fitzgerald's claim in the press conference that Libby had thrown sand into his eyes so that he was unable to get to the bottom of the matter. Fitzgerald's point was not that he had nevertheless gotten to the bottom of the matter anyway, discovering that Libby was the first to tell reporters. His point was that he has been unable to up to the present moment.

Geek, Esq.

Reality check for our friends on the right:

Fitzgerald sees new grand jury proceedings

Drip, drip, drip . . .

Syl

Jeff

Fitzgerald's claim in the press conference that Libby had thrown sand into his eyes so that he was unable to get to the bottom of the matter.

Exactly

The problem here is that what Fitz considers sand, was actually light. If Fitz had been able to go fishing among reporters he would have learned that wilson's wife, cia, was, indeed, the gossip that was going around among at least some of the reporters.

Instead fitz considered that looking for this 'unofficial' gossip was a wild goose chase...caused by Libby. Hence he considered it obstruction.

Jeff

It also seems fairly critical to the claim Libby was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls.

I disagree, and I don't see how that is so. Look at the lies Libby is accused of telling in the indictment, and show me how the information we have from Woodward affects them. Furthermore, Fitzgerald's claim is not that there was one and only one chain of phone calls or whatever (though we still only know of one). The point, rather, is that Libby said he was at the end of a chain of phone calls that in fact he was at the beginning of. And unless there is some way that Woodward's source in fact can be linked in some chain to the chain of phone calls relevant to Libby, then the fact that Woodward had another source makes no difference. And as I argued above, from what we've heard from Woodward and Pincus, it appears there was no intersection between the Source-Woodward-Pincus (maybe) chain and any other chain of information, including the chain of phone calls Fitzgerald alleges Libby lied about.

I'm having a hard time believing Pincus, who appears to have excellent contacts among current and former intelligence officials, didn't already know it.

This is irrelevant to the issue of whether the fact that Woodward had a source affects Libby's indictment and Fitzgerald's theory. Just to clarify, my point was that Pincus has a funny story in the Times suggesting Woodward may have said to Pincus something about Wilson's wife and Pincus didn't hear him, so the point is whether Woodward thinks he told Pincus or not, Pincus did not get info on Plame from Woodward, hence did not pass that info on. He may very well have gained info otherwise in June -- we don't know yet, though I doubt it -- but that too in and of itself would not affect Libby's indictment. We need more for that.

Syl

Geek's link shows us this:

Fitzgerald's comments about bringing proceedings before a different grand jury were contained in court filings in which he backed off seeking a blanket order to keep all documents in the CIA leak case secret.

Fitz backed off that blanket order (the blanket order being pretty much standard as I understand it). Does this just mean he needs to be able to show the new grand jury all the documents? Is that standard too?

Syl

Jeff

If the obstruction charge cannot be proven, if what Libby was claiming--that there was unofficial gossip going around--turns out to be true, then the false statements and perjury become immaterial to the investigation.

Jeff

The problem here is that what Fitz considers sand, was actually light.

Again, go back and look at the actual indictment, it is very specific, much more specific than you are being, about the lies Libby is alleged to have told. It's not just that Libby said there was gossip about Plame circulating among reporters. It's much much more specific and concrete than that.

And again, I just don't see how you get around the fact that he told investigators something he heard from a reporter on July 10 was as if he were hearing it for the first time, when he himself had been discussing that very matter three days earlier as well as numerous times over the course of the month since he had heard info about Plame from Cheney, which he says he had forgotten. So here's my question: how do you get around that? Seriously. And there are two questions really: 1) Do you seriously believe Libby, as a simple human matter? 2)Or are you just talking on the level of the criminal case against Libby? That is, are you looking for ways that Libby might get off legally, regardless of whether you acknowledge he clearly lied? And I absolutely do not begrudge Libby and his team their most vigorous effort to get off legally, even if he lied. But that's not all that matters.

emptywheel

Syl

I'm not saying my account of the memo is definitive. It's got a different take than the two passages TM cited. Both of which, I might point out, also don't include quotes. So you've got several contradictory accounts. Which do you believe? One sourced to someone "familiar with the memo" but not with any clear connection to what went on in State? Or one who is willing to provide more information about who he is, and that information shows he's got direct knowledge of the question at hand. Well, as I said, if Armitage has reason to hide something, you believe the more vaguely sourced story. But barring that scenario, the more detailed, better sourced story is likely to be the correct one. Particularly since similarly vaguely sourced stories spent the summer trying to place the memo in Ari's and Powell's hands at a time when it wasn't even pertinent to the case, thereby discrediting the two most important witnesses against Libby and Rove.

Cecil Turner

It still remains undisputed that LIBBY was among the first to know, rather than one of the last to know. And he certainly knew about it before any reporter did--Woodward's testimony doesn't change that.

We know Kristof didn't know about Wilson's wife when he wrote his first article? (Who was that "someone present at the meetings" source, anyway?) Or Pincus? (Who set the scene with how Wilson's "family prepared for a Fourth of July dinner . . .") Not only do we not "know" any of that, but I seriously doubt it's true.

Apparently the rules of this game are that Administration personnel have to tell what they know, under oath. But except for certain circumstances, we aren't even allowed to ask reporters. Any discrepancies result in perjury charges for the former. Nice. (I also don't share your confidence about reporters' testimony.)

And, good luck getting a sympathetic jury in D.C.

Concur, and that's the main rub (and the only reason this stinker is still wending its way through the judicial plumbing). However, I still doubt it'll ever get to a jury.

Geek, Esq.

I imagine that LIBBY will be able to call Kristof et al before a jury.

Cecil Turner

. . . show me how the information we have from Woodward affects them.

It shows the information was available to those Libby claims told him. (Which makes his story a lot more believable.) Any of those reporters could have heard things from a number of sources, possibly tested Libby or others for reaction, and subsequently forgotten about it. (And in fact, some of their notes tend to suggest precisely that.)

Fitzgerald's claim is not that there was one and only one chain of phone calls . . . Libby said he was at the end of a chain of phone calls that in fact he was at the beginning of.

This is not a one-dimensional problem. We're tracking a web of phone calls (mostly short and not terribly memorable, apparently) over a period of months. Good luck proving where in that mess Libby was. If we subsequently find reporters were talking amongst themselves . . .

Geek, Esq.

Cecil: From what we can see, whether the underlying crime does appear to be a mess.

However, we don't know everything that Fitz knows and we don't know what he will discover.

So anything regarding the underlying offense is indeed speculation.

However, Scooter's perjury is a relatively straightforward matter. He did not learn about this from reporters, and was fully aware of Plame's status on each and every occasion on which there is testimony that he discussed the case with a reporter.

owl

Yes Cecil...my point earlier. How does the SP get around that breakfast? Too many people were talking about this story and they all seemed to be reporters and Wilsons.....long before Libby.

Jeff

Let's imagine all the reporters knew about Plame. Let's further imagine that Tim Russert lied or misled the grand jury, and in fact on July 10 or 11 he did in fact tell Libby that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA and that all the reporters knew it. Even given all that, does anyone actually believe that Libby was not lying and deliebrately misleading when he told the grand jury,

at that point in time I did not recall that I had ever known, and I thought this is something that he was telling me that I was first learning.

Remember, Libby himself told Ari Fleischer three or four days earlier that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA -- unless you think Ari is lying. Two or three days earlier Libby told Judith Miller he believed Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, unless you think Miller is lying too. Libby talked to Cheney's counsel -- Addington, I believe -- two or three days earlier about what paperwork would exist if a person who was sent on an overseas trip by the CIA had a spoouse who worked at the CIA, which I take to imply knowledge of Wilson's wife's employment at the CIA, unless you think Addington was lying or Libby had something else in mind. Then there are five other relevant conversations about Wilson's wife's employment back in June, stretching from early June or so through June 11 and 12 to the 14th and on to the 23rd.

So, any takers? Does anyone believe that Libby genuinely thought he was learning about WIlson's wife's connection with the CIA for the first time during the purported conversation with Russert on July 10 or 11?

I don't believe it -- which is not to say that I feel confident that Libby will be convicted of perjury, or deserves to be. That remains for the trial. But he was lying. And that's just one instance. And nothing we know from Woodward changes that, so far at least.

Cecil Turner

I imagine that LIBBY will be able to call Kristof et al before a jury.

Sorry, I wasn't clear. I meant that I don't think the story they'd tell would be all that helpful to the prosecution. (I also suspect they'd be resistant to testifying to the point of obstruction, but that's a different subject.)

From what we can see, whether the underlying crime does appear to be a mess.

Concur. The other problem is that the leak is in response to a leak (and putting those reporters on the stand to testify about their contacts in the CIA Operations Directorate will put that nicely into perspective). I'm not sure how far afield the judge would allow, but it certainly has bearing on the perjury charge, and I seriously doubt we'll ever get to the bottom of it.

boris

Scooter's perjury is a relatively straightforward matter.

Broken record.

Libby: I did not recall that I had ever known

Known what ???

Libby: What Russert was telling me

If the claim is Russert didn't tell him anything then there's no there there.

If the claim is Russert did tell him about Wilson's wife, then every other claim in the indictment is a lie.

Libby doesn't have to convince a jury he forgot about Wilson's wife, he only has to convince them he forgot what Russert told him.

JM Hanes

Boris -

"At this point the Libby Lied argument breaks down. Russert say's he didn't tell Libby anything."

That's the one truly bizarre element of the indictment, isn't it? If, per Russert, Plame never came up, then why would Libby's claim to be hearing it as new be any more of a lie than claiming it was not news to him? If Russert is to be believed, it means that Libby made up that entire part of the conversation. He'd be lying about what he would have said and thought, but couldn't have said or thought if they never talked about it.

Prosecutor: "Isn't it true that instead of lying about hearing this as new, you should have lied about hearing it again? Russert didn't mention Plame in this imaginary conversation, did he? You did."

boris

JM LOL

Makes me wonder how it is that what somebody remembers thinking during a conversation that never took place could be material to anything. Add reasonable doubt and it all goes poof.

owl

JM Hanes.....since that actually makes more sense than most of this, I know I must go on Leak Vacation at this point.

boris

Maybe ....

Russert: Scooter, did you know that Mrs WIlson was the real life prototype for Sydney Bristow

Libby: You don't say, I don't recall ever knowing that !!!

And that's how Russert spilled the beans to Libby that Val was CIA in a plausibly deniable way.

Jeff

boris - Is your claim that all Libby has to do in front of the jury is say, "I misremembered in extremely specific, concrete and material terms on several occasions what Russert told me on July 10 or 11" to get off? Is that what you're saying? And what about what he tells Cooper, according to his testimony?

JM Hanes asks,

If, per Russert, Plame never came up, then why would Libby's claim to be hearing it as new be any more of a lie than claiming it was not news to him?

It wouldn't be any more of a lie, it would just be a different lie. But the lie he allegedly told is the one he allegedly told. And presumably that makes a difference to the case Fitzgerald will lay out, to Fitzgerald's theory of the case. Part of that theory is, there's no way Libby could have been surprised about hearing that information from Russert, since he'd told it to Fleischer three or four days later. He lied in saying that he was surprised, and so on and so forth.

JM Hanes

Indeed! I expect there's more than one house of (plausible deniability) cards under construction as we speak.

Cecil Turner

Does anyone believe that Libby genuinely thought he was learning about WIlson's wife's connection with the CIA for the first time during the purported conversation with Russert on July 10 or 11?

In his [weak] defense, he doesn't quite say that. (But no, even with the rambling, it's not believable.) On the other hand, does anybody believe Pres Clinton didn't lie repeatedly on the stand? Does anybody believe a conviction was ever even a remote possibility? Does anybody believe Starr should have tried to charge him anyway? Are Libby's obfuscations more material? Is this case more egregious? What's the real standard?

If it can be shown reporters were in bed with CIA ops leakers, and Libby, et al, were trying to contradict Wilson on specific falsehoods and misimpressions, and they believed Plame's employment was as a garden-variety CIA desk-jockey (all of which I believe is true), then his dissembling is not very material and not very important. In any event, I agree with the Washington Times piece that a conviction is not at all likely.

noah

Where is clarice today?

I am a neophyte among experts here but I am puzzled about why Libby's legal team can't have his indictments thrown out on the grounds that the CIA referral was bogus to begin with. Bogus because altho the it is known who leaked to Novak no crime has been charged in that regard. How plausible or reasonable is it to believe that only after the leaker was identified that it was determined that no law had been broken?

Syl

Jeff

I do not acknowledge more than a possibility that Libby lied. I and others have said many times that if you look at the entirety of Libby's quoted testimony vis-a-vis Russert it has incriminating bits and exculpatory bits and is overall extremely inarticulate. How could someone claim to have just learned the information (as if) for the first time yet be concerned about not confirming it?

Libby either made it up out of whole cloth, or a reporter did, indeed, mention to him about wilson's wife and that's how he reacted to hearing the information for the first time unofficially.

That Russert claims he didn't tell Libby nuthink surely does make it look like Libby is lying through his teeth.

And that, obviously, is the position fitz takes.

As a human matter, I believe Libby did hear from a reporter about Wilson's wife. It may have been Russert (and Russert simply does not remember) or it may have been another reporter (and Libby doesn't remember who).

So, again, as a human matter (your term) I do not believe Libby was lying.

boris

boris - Is your claim that all Libby has to do

My claim in this instance is strictly relevant to the charge that Libby said he did not recall something that he admittedly knew. That is the only charge that supposedly does not depend on conflicting testimony from reporters.

What Libby claims he "did not recall" that he ever knew is something Russert says he did not tell him in the first place.

Therefore, even this particular charge hinges on recollections of what was said.

That's all I have claimed in my posts on this thread.

Syl

noah

How plausible or reasonable is it to believe that only after the leaker was identified that it was determined that no law had been broken?

Good point.

I think fitz is reaching for something much bigger than 'who leaked to Novak'. He's looking for something that he can neither pin down nor prove...a conspiracy to commit gossip.

And he's looking at the WH.

The leaker to Novak may be outside the WH so who cares.

In all of this, fitz hasn't even shown that Libby leaked anything to anyone besides Miller.
And the info given to Miller was not enough to lead to what Novak printed.

Just because fitz can't prove anything, doesn't mean that anyone obstructed his investigation, it can also mean there's nothing there to prove and that's why he can't find it.


r flanagan

Not Armitage.

As an old pro, it would be second nature to avoid outing a spook .Perhaps , as TM thinks , the CIA later found no damage. But the leaker couldn't have known that in July 2003.

So Armitage would have risked that only if the game were worth the candle . But clearly the Powellites were less motivated to defend the pre war "marketing" than, for example , those had been part of that new product introduction .

The leaker is someone more driven to justify the war and less aware of the downside of outing an agent.

Syl

I think whoever told Woodward never actually saw the Memo. He/she may have been told the info about wilson's wife (by someone who did see the memo) without having been told that that paragraph was marked 'secret'.

Wilson's a liar

The leaker was someone at State -- or at least the CIA thought so. That's why they asked for ther investigation. Armitage most certainly would have had a reason to leak about Plame, if he thought it would hurt the CIA to leak to the press that CIA was so incompetent that it sent the boob husband of a low-level analyst on a sensitive fact-finding mission, and it proved to be such a botched job that they didn't even tell Tenet about it. I'll bet all those State guys laughed their asses off over this whole thing -- until Armitage found out a few days ago that Bob Woodward was about to publish a blockbuster story telling the whole story and naming names, including his. Now Woodward's credibility is shredded, so that story is back on the shelf. The Post would not dare run it now. And the leaker's identity is still secret. Pretty smart move, I'd say.

This has nothing to do with helping Scooter Libby - somebody at State is doing some desperation ass-covering here.

JM Hanes

Jeff -
"He lied in saying that he was surprised, and so on and so forth."

More accurately: He lied in saying that he would have been surprised.

The formulation here will make a big difference in how the defense lays out its case too, and I believe Fitzgerald's emphasis on the "as new" factor may have been a mistake. It's part of trying to establish the pre-meditated invention of a "compelling story," (intent to obstruct) but it complicates the narrative on the other charges (acts of obstruction) themselves.

"You lied about hearing of Plame from Russert," is just a much easier line to pursue than "You lied about being surprised at hearing of Plame from Russert." The fact that Libby heard about Plame from Cheney may actully help the prosecutor less than the fact he didn't deny it helps the defense. All said, in a case with as much inter-witness he-said, she-said as this one is going to have, the narrower the focus can be the better.

CW lists overcharging near the top of prosecutorial errors, and the obstruction charge may be a piece of overreaching which weakens Fitzgerald's hand in the end.

JM Hanes

noah -
"I am a neophyte among experts here but I am puzzled about why Libby's legal team can't have his indictments thrown out on the grounds that the CIA referral was bogus to begin with."

Fitz had his mandate officially expanded to cover ancillary crimes about 3 months into his investigation.

Dwilkers

Yeah well.

"So at State, senior officials may well have been pushing the "real" story of the futile, inconclusive Wilson trip as yet more evidence that State was right, and the CIA was wrong about Saddam and his nuclear ambitions. And, hypothetically of course, as the seniors at State retold their tale, the tidbit about the whole pointless Wilson exercise being orchestrated by his CIA wife was not a talking point - it was a punchline."

This is a very compelling narrative TM. In fact, with the developments of the last few days I am all but positive you've nailed it.

Don't sit around waiting for the pulitzer committeee to call or anything, but I'm pretty damn sure you've figured it out.

Bookmark this post and the previous one, I suspect we'll be congratulating TM over them in a year or so.

Jeff

p. 18 of the indictment, Libby says nothing about being surprised about what he would have heard. He says he was surprised by what he did hear. I understand Libby can say he misremembered the whole thing. But what I don't get about boris' point is that of course it's a matter of recollections of what was said. But do you think that there's no such thing as perjury, false statements or obstruction with regard to past conversations? Are you just saying that LIbby's defense will be that he misremembered the whole conversation with Russert, and therefore the bit about being surprised is just another piece of misremembering, even though it could not have been true? That is, Libby is going to argue: okay, maybe no conversation with Russert took place, I misremembered it, and I misremembered that I felt something that could not have been true. Or is it: I disagree with Russert's memory, but I misremember how I felt.

r flanagan

Did the source see the memo?

Perhaps naively I think anyone whose
eyes actually fell upon that INR memo knew that Secret meant Secret. However ,if instead Valerie's role was discussed in Grossman's oral brief at the WH on June 11 or 12 then (as Empty Wheel speculates in the Next Hurrah ) repeating something picked up from an oral presentation might not
seem to rise to that level and also fit Woodward's characterization as "gossip".

JM Hanes

Jeff -

I'm talking about what how the language in the indictment will actually play out in court and about what Fitz will have to be able to prove whether Libby decides to testify or not.

To oversimplify: You put Russert on the stand. He says the Plame bit never happened. Now, are you going to prove that Libby lied about what he heard or that he lied about being surprised at what he heard? If you want to prove he lied about hearing it as new, you've got to compromise your own witness (Russert) to do it, because they had to have been talking about Plame.

richard mcenroe

I'd be curious to know at what stage in the grand jury proceedings did Fitz decide he wasn't going to be bringing charges about outing a covert agent, for whatever reason. Wouldn't everything after that pretty much be a textbook case of perjury entrapment, since with no crime left to investigate, he is basically trying to create a brand new one?

JM Hanes

Richard -

I expect any number of questions along those lines will be raised in pre-trial motions!

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Wilson/Plame