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October 28, 2005

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» ELIOT NESS 2005 from The Heretik
YOU HEAR A LOT about the letdown yesterday of “just Libby” and non “substantive” charges in the what is now the PlameOut prosecution. Oh, and the White Knight of Democrat and Liberal Hopes Patrick Fitzgerald pulled up short of [Read More]

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What about the possibility that Russert and Libby had discussed Valerie Plame Wilson, but got their stories mixed up? Russert denies they ever descussed it, and Libby says that he heard it from Tim. This seems more likely to me.

The indictment doesn't say he testified about the Pincus article, only that it appeared. We also don't really know whether Libby ever testified that Cheney told him in June about Wilson's wife. Clearly, if he did, it was only recently, when Fitz made it clear he had the notes. In any event, neither was part of the original cover story.

The story he concocted and told the FBI and Grand Jury was he learned in mid July from reporters. (See para I-26, 32; IV-2; V-2.)

So it is possible that (1) Libby concocted what may have seemed (to him) in the fall of 2003 (when Ashcroft was in charge of the investigation) like a plausible story and just stuck to it, even though more and more info came out that made it unlikely it would hold up. Maybe he thought the reporters would never talk.

Or maybe he was designated from the beginning to be the fall guy and to distract by obstructing and lying. If the investigation never went beyond his statements to the FBI in the fall of 2003, great. By March 2004 when he testified, Fitz was investigating, but no one knew how it would go. Libby stuck to the story. If Fitz figured out he was lying, then it would be a giant distraction from the culpability of others. If he didn't, great. So Libby becomes sort of the G. Gordon Liddy of the piece.

I think door #3 is right for Russert. He told the truth in August 2004, but didn't necessarily want it known. Remember, he didn't burn a source--he just testified to what he himself did or din't say. Maybe by that time Libby figured that if Russert told the truth--that they hadn't discussed Plame at all--it would help get him off on the IIPA charge. Who knows.

I've been raising this question in the comments section over at firedoglake. The Russert mystery is the weirdest angle of the whole thing.

The explanation that makes the most sense to me:

Libby testified to federal investigators hoping that Russert wouldn't be subpoenaed and told a blatant lie that was designed to make the investigation go away. He then repeated this lie in the GJ so as not to get a false statements charge. When Russert was subpoenaed, Libby knew that the game was up. His lie was too outrageous. If that's true, it means that Libby has known since August 2004 that he is going down. Way before JM even went to jail. He's just trying to protect Vice. Which means he will never flip.

The wildcard here is whether Judy knows that Cheney's involved. And I think she does.

Then the question is could they trust her -- and I think they thought they could. Until she got flipped for lying about the June conversations.

Which means -- in this fanciful scenario -- that Fitz has Judy giving him a grand conspiracy (which is probably true) about Cheney & Libby & aspens in Colorado and Wyoming. So he knows Cheney's in the ring but can't prove it yet because Judy is an unreliable witness.

Solution: turn the heat up on Libby and everybody in the VP office. Meanwhile, piddle around with Rove.

All speculation of course -- but I think you're right, the Russert conundrum is key.

Mimikatz

I think Russert ALSO told Fitz that Libby wanted him to lie. Haven't quite worked out how or why yet (I'm trying to find Libby's "instructions" for Russert--I recall he did something similar to what he did with Judy, "I'm happy for you to testify that you told me about Plame" or something like that--which is why everyone was so suspicious of his response.

I'm also curious why he basically continued to try to coach testimony (both in fall 2004 in negotiations with Abrams and more recently). I imagine he did the same, btw, with Russert. He may have still believed he would get away with this.

a

I agree Fitz is trying to get Cheney. But I'm also fairly convinced Judy still hasn't come clean. Judy's not done with Patrick Fitzgerald, I'm fairly sure.

emptywheel,

You may well be right about Judy.

But Libby I'm not so sure. He is a smart guy. I don't think it's realistic to expect that he thought Russert would be bullied into giving such a blatant lie, particularly as it would lead to whole second set of questions from Fitz to Russert about he came to hear the name in the first place. Maybe he could have bullied Russert into saying nothing or saying 'I don't recall.' But honestly expecting that Russert was going to regurgitate the you-told-me defense?

Libby had to know that Russert turned on him. And he's known that for a year now. What could he possibly have been thinking in the meantime?

emptywheel,

I keep thinking that the speculative bubble around the significance of the Plame name will be broken any moment. I thought for certain that it would be broken today. But it wasn't.

So, the fun, speculative, jeapordy Answer/Question for us continues to be:

Answer: Plame (hmmm, or "Flame")

Question: What is the name that appears in every analysis of Fitzgerald's press conference, including your own (i.e., emptywheel's) but which Fitzgerald never utters?

Is this a 4th instance of the Plame name per se being significant in some way?

Transcript of Fitzgerald's press conference here. Notice that Fitzgerald never uses the Plame name. Questioners use it but he never uses it.

Analysis of at least 3 other ways that the Plame name is significant is here.

CNN reports that "official A" is Rove. No great surprise.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/10/28/friday/index.html

It seems to easy. Why did Libby lie if he knew that he wouldn't be the only person interviewed. Lets assume that he is very intelligent, why would he put himself in a situation that would lead to resign?
The answer, I think, lies in the charge by Fitzgerald - Obstruction. Fitz said that they could not make the charge of outing a cia agent because of Libby's obstruction.
So, my theory is, Libby fell on his sword to protect his master.

Of course Libby fell on his sword. He is awaiting a pardon and a cushy job doing bad talk radio and 2hrs a week night on Faux News now...He's gonna get his cherry popped (I mean like in Goodfellas..although he may get that other thing during his brief stint in the slam, come to think of it), he's earned his bones, he gets to live "G" Gordon Liddy's life now...

I'm still wondering about Fitzgerald's endgame, and think you are right that he has been looking at Cheney. If Libby is too loyal to flip, then is it possible that Fitzgerald has been trying to get some damaging information about the VP from Rove? I didn't think that Rove would be close enough to the VP's office to know much about its inner workings. But if, as some suspect, Rove has already cooperated to some degree in a deal with Fitzgerald, then I have to wonder if he sees Rove as the key to a case against Cheney.

It seems all the top bloggers have been twisting themselves into knots trying to explain Libby's testimony. Libby's talked to so many people about Plame that it's hard to believe that he really thought he could cover this up by coaching everyone.

IMO, the only explanation that makes sense is this: Before Fitz was appointed and Ashcroft was running the investigation, Libby thought it would be brushed aside so he just came up with what looked like a good story using reporters as his cover. Libby thought investigators wouldn't look at reporters.

Then Fitz came along and Libby knew his cover story was going to be blown, so now he had 2 choices:

1. Tell the truth by "remembering" all of the other conversations he had, which would bring down the whole nest of weasels infesting the WH, including his master Darth Sidious Cheney.

OR

2. Mantain the lie to protect his Master.

So Libby picked Door #2.

Basically, I think Libby chose a bad lie in the beginning before he realized this thing was going to blow up on him and he got stuck with it.

He never in a million years EVER thought he would get caught.

Thus much of the hair brained story.

Good post by publius tonight, on why the IIPA is a better fit for this prosecution of Libby than is the Espionage Act:

Libby’s outing of Plame is precisely the kind of conduct that the IIPA was intended to deter and punish. Libby’s conduct is thus within the “statutory essence” of the IIPA. And based on what I read today, it’s pretty amazing Fitzgerald didn’t ding him on it.

sorry, here's the link to Legal Fiction.

I think Saugatak is correct. With Ashcroft in place, they thought the FBI would go away.

Plus, I think Libby coordinated with Rove, and sought to make up a joint story. Both talked to reporters. Both knew that was a problem. Rove's bright idea was that the reporters told them.

Plus, they had a weakness for that cover story because it was part of their original plan. Originally, they wanted to just tell Miller enough to get her to ferret out the story. Ironically, the NY Times may have impeded that plan by having put limits on Miller. I doubt Libby and Rove knew that at the time.

I am conviced that Rove and Libby knew Plame was covert since at least May. But they knew that they had to always pretend to think she was an analyst. Otherwise, what is the big deal about revealing Wilson's wife works at the CIA. No, Libby knew that Plame was radioactive; that's why he morphed into a former Hill staffer.

I have a nagging feeling that we are all suffering from tunnel vision. Something else was going on at the same time as the events that we so lovingly analyze. There is a missing piece.

JWP, with all the information that Libby had access to, I agree with you that Libby probably knew she was NOC.

But I don't think Libby told Rove that Plame was NOC.

So Libby gets the whole telephone game started, then Rove picks it up from there and says, "Yeah, I heard it from all the other reporters" to fan the flames.

Then Wilson goes on TV and says, "I'm shocked these clowns at the WH are outing my wife because she is undercover and they are committing a crime."

According to Wilson, after he made that statement, the phone calling to reporters about Plame stopped.

I think that's why Libby was charged and Rove still might have a chance to weasel out of it. Rove could always claim, I was just playing hardball politics, never thought I was committing a crime.

It's also why I think the WH has set up Libby as the designated fall guy. I don't think the Bushies have a problem with the scummy things that Libby did; the problem is that he had people doing the dirty work without informing them of the risks involved, i.e., careful how you leak this, she's NOC.

Saugatak,

Interesting, and plausible. But I doubt it for one reason more than any ohter -- if Libby knew that Plame was NOC, then Cheney knew. Libby did nothing on his own (that's how you get to be a Libby in DC).

I have long suspected that Plame (not Wilson), Brewster-Jennings, and some part of CIA were the target. Some sort of dance was going on. Cheney decided to take them out.

Also, somehow, whatever was happening in England simultaneously was related to all this.

In the background, the spooks were fighting. If we knew what Plame was doing, we might understand better.

Colm:

My question isn't so much "why did Libby lie" it's "why did Libby tell the crappy lie he did?" Like Tom Maguire, I just think any idiot could have been able to lie better. But the two crucial questions to me are:

Why did he place his "first" (second) exposure to the story with Russert? Well, maybe because he wanted to place it after July 6, so it appeared to be a response to Wilson. But Russert wasn't the first journalist he spoke with that week. Judy was. So did he place it with Russert because he thought Russert would be compliant and he wanted to shield his conversation with Judy (I think this is what was going on).

But then why try to hide his conversation with Judy so hard? Perhaps because he also wanted to shield the other aspect of his conversation with her? Prehaps because he feared it would lead back to the June 23 conversation (which would scotch the post-Wilson story and also make the "forgot the news from Dick" claim less plausible)? Or is there another reason he made Judy the last to know?

Russert said yesterday when he was interviewd by Brian Williams right after the indictment was released that when Libby called him to complain he informed his boss about his conversation with Libby. So there would be evidence of his conversation with Libby to an NBC executive that contracted Libby.

emptywheel... you wrote...

"But then why try to hide his conversation with Judy so hard?"

There is a possible and plausible answer to this question implicit in my upthread post.

The possible answer is that Libby gave Judy an additional piece of information that he realized later was extremely dangerous.

Was there anything in Judy's behavior at any time that she later realized that that information was dangerous? Well, yes, there was. She tried to hide that information.

Was there anything in Fitzgerald's behavior that indicates that that information is significant? Well, yes, there was.

saugatak--

If what you suspect is true about Libby having Rove and lieutenants spreading around the "Plame is CIA" meme and knowing full well that she was NOC, but not informing them of that, does not that still fall under the IIPA?

aspTrader

You're saying Judy is the only person Libby used the name Plame with? But then realized he couldn't let that name get out?

Then who told Novak to use it?

I'll connect aspTrader's dots, since he/she doesn't seem to want to: Flame, not Plame.

Interesting theory.

Hey squirm,

That's it. I've been out today so didn't have a chance to reply earlier. Also, it's not my habit to be out on a speculative edge like this even using an alias. 8-)

For new readers, my earlier post on the 3 behaviors that imply that the Plame name "Flame" is significant is here.

emptywheel,

It is striking to me that the name Plame is noticeable by its absence of mention in both the indictment document and in the Fitzgerald press conference by Fitz himself. Take a look at the press conference transcript. Lots of reporters use the name Plame in their questions but Fitz never uses the name, not once. The name is Valerie Wilson thank you very much.

Someone made an insightful post earlier that to the effect that Fitzgerald used the name Valerie Wilson out of respect for her wish to be known as such. Fair enough. Mr. Fitzgerald is a gentleman I'm certain. But would he really not use the Plame name more than he did merely at Ms. Wilson's request?

I think we ought not to dismiss from research and analysis the fact that this name Plame/"Flame" continues to be interesting.

Another poster noted in a post comment that this White House had a penchant for using nicknames to identify people. I believe we all know who the person is in the WH with that habit.

So, to your question of "...why try to hide his [Libby's] conversation with Judy so hard?" an answer might be this:

Perhaps Judy was the only reporter with whom Libby shared the "Flame" name. Libby may very well have seen Miller's notebook that contained the "Valerie Flame" scrawl.

Now speculate with me just for a moment that "White House Nicknamer A" was the originator of the "Flame" name for Plame or at least knew about it and it was common knowledge that he knew about it.

In that case, Judy Miller's mouth and notebook entry implicates said nicknamer.

And, on this speculative Saturday night, that, in itself, is a possible explanation for Libby believing that Miller's testimony about this episode was the most critical to try to stop.

More than this, this "Flame" name for Plame speculation (and that's all it is: speculation) also explains Fitzgerald's non-use of the name: There can be no giving away of what he knows and what he doesn't know about the name.

Viget, as emptywheel posted, I think Fitz is gunning for everyone and is just playing close to the vest.

This was not a normal indictment. Usually, you put just enough info. to indict, you don't want to give too much away. But Fitz put in more than he had to in the indictment, and he did it for a reason. Fitz is a pro, every word in that indictment is there for a reason:

1. tell people who has flipped and isn cooperating--sows seeds of distrust and then it becomes "every man or woman for himself" and you know, the deals are better the earlier you come in.

2. there's enough facts there to indict more than just Libby. Again Fitz is telling people, I'm gonna hold back a little longer, but if you don't come and cooperate now, you'll be proofreading Libby's bad novels in the slammer!

3 Fitz is gunning for Cheney and, I think, Bush. It's clearly such a planned conspiracy at the highest levels to nail Wilson and cover-up intelligence that it's not believable that Cheney and Bush were not involved.

I really think Fitz is taking it slow and being conservative because he has enough info to end Bush's presidency, and he wants to be real careful and measured, make sure that he's got everything, before he takes Cheney and/or Bush out.

Look what happened to Ken Starr. He was supposed to be a future Supreme Court nominee but he overreached on a Prez and now his reputation is in the doghouse. This could be the pinnacle of Fitz's career, or it could end it.

As for whether Rove knew that Plame was NOC, it's hard to tell. But Libby was so heavily and personally involved in trying to nail Wilson that Rove can credibly use some ignorance defense, "I didn't know, Libby was running the show. Libby told me the reporters already knew."

aspTrader

Sorry to be so thick. But I think I understand your speculation about Bush. But here's what I thought you were saying, for a moment. That Plame isn't her covert name. That Flame is. Which would make sense that Novak would make the "mistake" of using Flame in October, when he was making sure BJ was destroyed forever. Are you going there?

Saugatak

I definitely think Fitz used this indictment to put fear into people. But I'm almost certain he didn't give hints about who and how has flipped. That is, we know Ari is going to cooperate--he's the key witness to prove that Libby told someone else about Plame a day before he says he learned of her identity from Russert. But Ari is not a surprise. If you believe my contentions from July--which said that spottings of Ari holding the memo in the AF1 lounge were an attempt to impugn one of the key witnesses in this case (there were similar leakings about Powell)--then they've known Ari was cooperating since at least July.

But as I laid out in a later post, Fitz gave absolutely NO indication about what Hannah and Wurmser and Fleitz are doing. And there are a few more people he doesn't mention (Matalin, I think). I think that's a deliberate attempt to hide his best stuff and to increase the paranoia in the White House.

emptywheel,

I hadn't been thinking about Plame's covert name. My only point is that this Plame/"Flame" appears somehow to be important because the behavior of key players in this drama appears to indicate that it is. In my post above, I tried to summarize one reason why the name might be a sensitive topic (i.e., that "Nicknamer A" had named her). That her covert name was Flame is an alternative explanation for the name's sensitivity.

It has seemed to me that a lot of attention has been paid to the Plame outing per se and not to the later Brewster Jennings outing in October by Novak (and followed by Pincus if I remember correctly). There is good reason to believe that Plame was the target: 1) Joe Wilson says it's all about him, 2) The panel of judges used the phrase "the plot against Joe Wilson".

But the focus on Plame alone doesn't seem to me to explain the later Brewster Jennings outing. I hadn't put together the coincidence of timing of Novak's "'Flame' name mistake" and this final thrust against Brewster Jennings.

Very interesting.

Emptywheel, Fitz both revealed a lot and hid a lot.

People he names by position, it's not hard to figure out who those people are. Fitz is basically telling Libby, your lie is blown and these are the people who ratted you out.

Frankly, I think if Fitz had his way, he would have just continued this investigation and kept everything hidden close to the vest, that seems to be his style, keep silent and then unload the bomb.

With respect to Fitz keeping as much of the information hidden on the conspiracy as possible, I agree with you there. BUT, by revealing so much information pertaining to Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice, Fitz is telling people, look how much I know. If you thought you could lie low and escape, think again.

Well, this thread is way way down on the list by now, but I thought I'd offer up a bit of speculation on the flame/plame thing, and this looks as good as any other thread. As others have noted, f/p are easy to confuse in certain circumstances. One possibility, which I haven't yet seen mentioned, is that a fax printout will often obscure an f and p. Perhaps one of the brainiacs at the WH faxed something interesting to, oh, 6 reporters, in mid-July 03?

But, the covert name thing, that's certainly more fun to speculate. Pretty corny, which, well, makes it seem on the mark, now that I think of it.

Been thinking just a little bit more. These folks are dim, but they're not that dim. No way they faxed a backgrounder, and the name got screwed up.

Flame is her agency name, and the reason it was bandied about early on is that they wanted this to smart. That's why Novak used the name in the same column as BJ.

It's raioactive because the name itself is Prima Facie evidence of treason.

Squirm,

I think you're onto something.

I've been thinking about this too. One of the things that must be explained was Novak's complete inexplicable departure from the CNN set. I had been thinking that implicating the "Nicknamer A" in the WH was the explanation.

But outing the CIA agency name is a much scarier offense to be seen doing. Great work.

Now we need to get emptywheel's back down in this thread to reply...

Hey there,

Yeah, that's pretty much what I was thinking.

Novak uses Flame when, to get Tenet back at recommending this, they're intently screwing with BJ. Flame is the name that will ensure it gets ruined for good.

And the reason Novak was so sensitive is because he couldn't plausibly use Flame (which he did) and use the Who's Who defense (which he did). Carville, et al, were going to point that out on the set.

One other observation I'd like to add to this: the particulars of the whole Plame/Wilson affair have clearly been known by the kool kids for quite some time. I think Carville did this purely to make Novak squirm, not out of any desire to inform us. From Novak's POV, though, he *had* to barge off that set, because, any defense of the 'typo' would clearly land him right back in front of the GJ.

Perhaps Carville just guessed at the significance of the 'typo'. I'm not so sure. I think many, many reporters know much more of the back story, perhaps all of it.

What would it take to get *them* to spill?

Squirm,

You may already know this but if not... Carville is married to Mary Matalin, a member of the White House Iraq Group. So, we assume he learned something about these issues from her.

aspTrader: yup, I know. I'm sure that's how he found out. I was just pointing out that Carville is likely not the only 'insider' who knows the particulars of this case.

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