Dangerous Liaisons: Wilson, Armitage and the MSM

In an article shamelessly ignoring its role in the Wilson hoax and solicitous of the leaker, the New York Times, on a holiday weekend Saturday, mentions that Richard Armitage was the source of the leak of Plame's identity.* It  focuses on whether Fitzgerald was right to continue the prosecution after he knew Novak didn't learn about Plame from Rove or Libby, the people the paper railed against from the moment Nicholas Kristof megaphoned Ambassador Munchausen's fabulous tale of his Mission to Niger more three years ago:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 — An enduring mystery of the C.I.A. leak case has been solved in recent days, but with a new twist: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, knew the identity of the leaker from his very first day in the special counsel's chair, but kept the inquiry open for nearly two more years before indicting I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on obstruction charges.

Now, the question of whether Mr. Fitzgerald properly exercised his prosecutorial discretion in continuing to pursue possible wrongdoing in the case has become the subject of rich debate on editorial pages and in legal and political circles.

To me, it's an "enduring mystery" how the paper which was the first to print as truth Wilson's lies and which trumpeted them for three years, can write this self—protecting bilge with a straight face.

Still, if you still believe anything they publish, there  are two eyeopeners in this article:

He turned over his calendars, datebooks and even his wife's computer in the course of the inquiry, those associates said. But Mr. Armitage kept his actions secret, not even telling President Bush because the prosecutor asked him not to divulge it, the people said.

Of course, the President had, from the day a leak was claimed, asked everyone in his Administration to tell him if they had leaked. He certainly would not have agreed to an investigation nor demanded his people cooperate with it, even signing waivers of press confidentiality, had he known who the leaker was. He would have just fired him or kept him on with the explanation —— which no one much questions —— that it was inadvertent, regretful and had not in any way harmed national security.

Had Armitage followed his boss' orders, the Administration would not have been kept in the dark and frequently pummeled for three years in the NYT for "outing Plame," punishing a "whistleblower" and damaging national security (ironically even as the paper itself deliberately leaked critical national security secrets which the Administration and a bipartisan Congressional delegation begged the paper not to publish). 
 
Another question is the identity of this "prosecutor" who, by the Times' account,

asked him not to divulge it, the people said.

Fitzgerald wasn't appointed until months after Armitage's miraculous memory recovery about Novak. No one in the DOJ could have asked him not to tell the President.

And, if Armitage had turned over his calendars, why did the prosecutor  apparently fail to ask him about the meeting with Woodward on June 12? This failure to ask about notations of conversations with other reporters looks to me like even more evidence of the skewed nature of this probe. Kind of like Durham, NC DA Mike Nifong's using a photo identification which showed only the faces of the Duke Lacrosse team when asking the alleged victim to identify her attackers. (Hey, pick a fish out of  only this barrel for me to prosecute.)

Mr. Armitage had prepared a resignation letter, his associates said. But he stayed on the job because State Department officials advised that his sudden departure could lead to the disclosure of his role in the leak, the people aware of his actions said.

Better to have left Libby and Rove dangling than tip them off to the truth? Got it. Prince of a fellow. And boy, those unnamed State department officials are paragons of loyalty and virtue. Real statesmen.

The Washington Post called Wilson a liar and  dubbed the denouement of his fable "End of an Affair." I'd call this new series of disclosures "Dangerous Liaisons" because at the moment a lot of people in the Capitol remind me of the Marquise de Merteuil after her schemings have been discovered. As for the New York Times, I have to say its continuing reportage on this matter is to me  simply indescribable.
 
In the meantime, even the Washington Post's volte face is deficient in a number of respects. And it is a volte face.  Tom Maguire notes, because he is so fair, a number of occasions where several of the Post's writers, Woodward, Dana Priest and Walter Pincus, downplayed the incident.

Still, other writers at the Post did continue the Wilson fable, which Pincus began, and the paper waited two and one—half years to correct those lies, even after the SenateSelectCommission on Intelligence and  the Butler and Robb—Silverman Commissions established that the claims made by Wilson were fabrications.  
 
But the Post piece insinuates that even if the prosecution was based on a false premise that is no excuse for lying or obstructing it, giving more weight to the actual claims in the indictment than they merit. In fact, this adds insult to injury. The charges in the indictment are as warped as the rest of the investigation and prosecution. Tom Maguire has some fun with this:

With Cooper, it is clear (to some) that after Karl Rove learned from Novak that a column about Wilson and Plame was imminent, Rove ruthlessly sat by the phone and waited for Matt Cooper to call him and ask about Niger.

Then when Cooper interviewed Libby the next day, Libby was so brutal and crafty that he never raised the subject of Ms. Plame, but offered something like "I heard that, too" when Cooper asked him about her.

But it's worse than that. In pretrial disovery the judge found that the documents in Time's possession showed that however Cooper testified, his testimony would be impeachable at trial. Let me clarify what this means. It means Time has had in its possession  from the outset evidence that Cooper said one thing in the newsroom and another to the grand jury. What else can this mean?

As to Miller, Tom observes mordantly,

"And the Judy Miller leak?  Libby was so intent on besmirching Wilson with the nepotism charge that he forgot to tell Judy that Ms. Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Niger.

And Special Counsel Fitzgerald still can't prove that Libby was aware of Ms. Plame's classified status back when he was conspiring to punish Joe by outing hs wife.  (Too bad Libby didn't use his psychic powers to get the truth about Saddam's WMDs...).  Oh well — Fitzgerald only had two years to look into this.  The truth will emerge any day now, or at least, within the next 24 business hours."

As to Miller, the Judge has held that documentation in the New York Times' possession  MAY impeach her testimony depending on how she testifies. After she testifies Libby will get to see and use it. In any event (even by her reports of her testimony) it was so unintelligible, the variations in her and Libby's testimony is only a factor in an  obstruction charge, not an independent perjury or false tesimony charge.

I wonder if Armitage's calendar  shows notations of conversations with Miller? If so, I wonder whether the prosecutor ignored those as he apparently did the notations respecting Woodward? Her notes, after all, showed she had Wilson's name and phone number and numerous references to  VictoriaWilson/Plame /Flame? which she said were not references to her conversations with Libby, and by agreement with the Prosecutor those sources were not revealed.

This leaves, the Russert/Libby conversation .As I've detailed more fully:

Libby testified that on July 10 or 11, 2003 he had a conversation with Tim Russert of NBC. According to Libby's grand jury statement, Russert asked him if he (Libby) was aware that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and told Libby 'all the reporters knew it.'

According to the indictment Libby and Russert did not discuss this at all.

Since Woodward has come forward, he has said he might well have approached Libby about that time about Wilson and Plame, right after his conversation with Armitage on June 12, 2003. His notes indicate he intended to ask Libby about Wilson and Plame and may well have. He does not believe Libby responded to this because he has no notation that he did.

So, it is entirely possible, assuming Russert's testimony is credible, that he never discussed this at all with Libby, Libby may have confused his conversation with Russert at about the very same time with the one he had with Woodward.
Woodward unsuccessfully  tried twice in 2004 to get a waiver from Armitage so that he could tell the Prosecutor about his conversation with Armitage.
He has said,

And my sworn testimony is that [this conversation with Libby is]  possible. I simply don't recall it, and he certainly said nothing. But after long interviews and you have long lists of questions, you can't really say, "Gee, did I ask that or that." At least, two years later, I can't. Maybe the next day I might have been able to.

If Armitage had given Woodward the early waiver he sought, and Fitzgerald then asked Woodward about any conversations with Libby, this might have finally concluded the matter, for it is patent that Libby might well have believed that having had two conversations on the same day——one with Cheney and one with Woodward ——that he confused who told him first. And absent any notes of the chance meeting in the hall with Woodward, he may have well confused  the discussions with the two reporters,attributing the remark to Russert.

And Libby is the man charged with obstruction?

*The Times did mention Armitage on August 30th, in this article. We regret the earlier misstatement that it hadn't.
 
Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC, who has covered the Plame/Wilson/Fitzgerald/Armitage scandal extensively.

In an article shamelessly ignoring its role in the Wilson hoax and solicitous of the leaker, the New York Times, on a holiday weekend Saturday, mentions that Richard Armitage was the source of the leak of Plame's identity.* It  focuses on whether Fitzgerald was right to continue the prosecution after he knew Novak didn't learn about Plame from Rove or Libby, the people the paper railed against from the moment Nicholas Kristof megaphoned Ambassador Munchausen's fabulous tale of his Mission to Niger more three years ago:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 — An enduring mystery of the C.I.A. leak case has been solved in recent days, but with a new twist: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, knew the identity of the leaker from his very first day in the special counsel's chair, but kept the inquiry open for nearly two more years before indicting I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on obstruction charges.

Now, the question of whether Mr. Fitzgerald properly exercised his prosecutorial discretion in continuing to pursue possible wrongdoing in the case has become the subject of rich debate on editorial pages and in legal and political circles.

To me, it's an "enduring mystery" how the paper which was the first to print as truth Wilson's lies and which trumpeted them for three years, can write this self—protecting bilge with a straight face.

Still, if you still believe anything they publish, there  are two eyeopeners in this article:

He turned over his calendars, datebooks and even his wife's computer in the course of the inquiry, those associates said. But Mr. Armitage kept his actions secret, not even telling President Bush because the prosecutor asked him not to divulge it, the people said.

Of course, the President had, from the day a leak was claimed, asked everyone in his Administration to tell him if they had leaked. He certainly would not have agreed to an investigation nor demanded his people cooperate with it, even signing waivers of press confidentiality, had he known who the leaker was. He would have just fired him or kept him on with the explanation —— which no one much questions —— that it was inadvertent, regretful and had not in any way harmed national security.

Had Armitage followed his boss' orders, the Administration would not have been kept in the dark and frequently pummeled for three years in the NYT for "outing Plame," punishing a "whistleblower" and damaging national security (ironically even as the paper itself deliberately leaked critical national security secrets which the Administration and a bipartisan Congressional delegation begged the paper not to publish). 
 
Another question is the identity of this "prosecutor" who, by the Times' account,

asked him not to divulge it, the people said.

Fitzgerald wasn't appointed until months after Armitage's miraculous memory recovery about Novak. No one in the DOJ could have asked him not to tell the President.

And, if Armitage had turned over his calendars, why did the prosecutor  apparently fail to ask him about the meeting with Woodward on June 12? This failure to ask about notations of conversations with other reporters looks to me like even more evidence of the skewed nature of this probe. Kind of like Durham, NC DA Mike Nifong's using a photo identification which showed only the faces of the Duke Lacrosse team when asking the alleged victim to identify her attackers. (Hey, pick a fish out of  only this barrel for me to prosecute.)

Mr. Armitage had prepared a resignation letter, his associates said. But he stayed on the job because State Department officials advised that his sudden departure could lead to the disclosure of his role in the leak, the people aware of his actions said.

Better to have left Libby and Rove dangling than tip them off to the truth? Got it. Prince of a fellow. And boy, those unnamed State department officials are paragons of loyalty and virtue. Real statesmen.

The Washington Post called Wilson a liar and  dubbed the denouement of his fable "End of an Affair." I'd call this new series of disclosures "Dangerous Liaisons" because at the moment a lot of people in the Capitol remind me of the Marquise de Merteuil after her schemings have been discovered. As for the New York Times, I have to say its continuing reportage on this matter is to me  simply indescribable.
 
In the meantime, even the Washington Post's volte face is deficient in a number of respects. And it is a volte face.  Tom Maguire notes, because he is so fair, a number of occasions where several of the Post's writers, Woodward, Dana Priest and Walter Pincus, downplayed the incident.

Still, other writers at the Post did continue the Wilson fable, which Pincus began, and the paper waited two and one—half years to correct those lies, even after the SenateSelectCommission on Intelligence and  the Butler and Robb—Silverman Commissions established that the claims made by Wilson were fabrications.  
 
But the Post piece insinuates that even if the prosecution was based on a false premise that is no excuse for lying or obstructing it, giving more weight to the actual claims in the indictment than they merit. In fact, this adds insult to injury. The charges in the indictment are as warped as the rest of the investigation and prosecution. Tom Maguire has some fun with this:

With Cooper, it is clear (to some) that after Karl Rove learned from Novak that a column about Wilson and Plame was imminent, Rove ruthlessly sat by the phone and waited for Matt Cooper to call him and ask about Niger.

Then when Cooper interviewed Libby the next day, Libby was so brutal and crafty that he never raised the subject of Ms. Plame, but offered something like "I heard that, too" when Cooper asked him about her.

But it's worse than that. In pretrial disovery the judge found that the documents in Time's possession showed that however Cooper testified, his testimony would be impeachable at trial. Let me clarify what this means. It means Time has had in its possession  from the outset evidence that Cooper said one thing in the newsroom and another to the grand jury. What else can this mean?

As to Miller, Tom observes mordantly,

"And the Judy Miller leak?  Libby was so intent on besmirching Wilson with the nepotism charge that he forgot to tell Judy that Ms. Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Niger.

And Special Counsel Fitzgerald still can't prove that Libby was aware of Ms. Plame's classified status back when he was conspiring to punish Joe by outing hs wife.  (Too bad Libby didn't use his psychic powers to get the truth about Saddam's WMDs...).  Oh well — Fitzgerald only had two years to look into this.  The truth will emerge any day now, or at least, within the next 24 business hours."

As to Miller, the Judge has held that documentation in the New York Times' possession  MAY impeach her testimony depending on how she testifies. After she testifies Libby will get to see and use it. In any event (even by her reports of her testimony) it was so unintelligible, the variations in her and Libby's testimony is only a factor in an  obstruction charge, not an independent perjury or false tesimony charge.

I wonder if Armitage's calendar  shows notations of conversations with Miller? If so, I wonder whether the prosecutor ignored those as he apparently did the notations respecting Woodward? Her notes, after all, showed she had Wilson's name and phone number and numerous references to  VictoriaWilson/Plame /Flame? which she said were not references to her conversations with Libby, and by agreement with the Prosecutor those sources were not revealed.

This leaves, the Russert/Libby conversation .As I've detailed more fully:

Libby testified that on July 10 or 11, 2003 he had a conversation with Tim Russert of NBC. According to Libby's grand jury statement, Russert asked him if he (Libby) was aware that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and told Libby 'all the reporters knew it.'

According to the indictment Libby and Russert did not discuss this at all.

Since Woodward has come forward, he has said he might well have approached Libby about that time about Wilson and Plame, right after his conversation with Armitage on June 12, 2003. His notes indicate he intended to ask Libby about Wilson and Plame and may well have. He does not believe Libby responded to this because he has no notation that he did.

So, it is entirely possible, assuming Russert's testimony is credible, that he never discussed this at all with Libby, Libby may have confused his conversation with Russert at about the very same time with the one he had with Woodward.
Woodward unsuccessfully  tried twice in 2004 to get a waiver from Armitage so that he could tell the Prosecutor about his conversation with Armitage.
He has said,

And my sworn testimony is that [this conversation with Libby is]  possible. I simply don't recall it, and he certainly said nothing. But after long interviews and you have long lists of questions, you can't really say, "Gee, did I ask that or that." At least, two years later, I can't. Maybe the next day I might have been able to.

If Armitage had given Woodward the early waiver he sought, and Fitzgerald then asked Woodward about any conversations with Libby, this might have finally concluded the matter, for it is patent that Libby might well have believed that having had two conversations on the same day——one with Cheney and one with Woodward ——that he confused who told him first. And absent any notes of the chance meeting in the hall with Woodward, he may have well confused  the discussions with the two reporters,attributing the remark to Russert.

And Libby is the man charged with obstruction?

*The Times did mention Armitage on August 30th, in this article. We regret the earlier misstatement that it hadn't.
 
Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC, who has covered the Plame/Wilson/Fitzgerald/Armitage scandal extensively.