Sure, Libby's a published novelist and I'm not. But the guy's fiction sucks.
I'm not talking about his maudlin Aspen prose poem to Judy. I'm saying his lie never made any sense. Either that, or one of the characters he cast in his lie didn't play his or her role faithfully.
Let's start by laying out what the indictment says Libby was claiming. Because by showing where his story doesn't make sense--and where he took unnecessary risks--I think we may understand a little more about what he is hiding.
Libby's story is basically that he heard from Cheney in June about Plame's connection to Wilson (basically everything in the INR memo, whether it came from there, from Tenet, or indirectly from Bolton). But then, he forgot about it and didn't even remember that he forgot when he started hearing the same story again in July. And at that point, he'll have you understand, all the journalists in DC knew about Plame's connection to Wilson. Poor Scooter Libby was the last to know.
But now look at the four journalists mentioned in his indictment.
Pincus is named with regards to his June 12 2003 article. The indictment doesn't say it (perhaps to respect Pincus' attempt to keep a source confidential?), but we know that Libby was one of Pincus' sources for this article. It doesn't appear that Libby was asked about this conversation (or at least he didn't lie about it). So we can assume that Libby's Tale doesn't include Pincus sharing the news--that all journalists in DC knew--that Plame was connected to Wilson. I'll just write that off to Pincus being too old and too dignified to either know or share with Libby the news about Plame. Or perhaps Libby would have you believe that the MSM went from not knowing about Plame to ALL knowing about Plame in less than a month. I'll consider that an outstanding question about Libby's Tale. But not a fatal question yet.
Then he talks with Judy on July 8. Apparently, Pulitzer Prize-winner Judy Miller isn't enough of an in-journalist to know about Plame or to be chummy enough with Libby to tell him about her, because Plame doesn't come up over breakfast at St. Regis.
On July 10 he talks with Russert, after he has safely avoided learning Plame's identity from Judy. Russert must be (must be? why do I question these things?) the President of the in-journalist club, because he not only knows about Plame's identity, but he is sufficiently chatty with Libby that he'd share the news.
On July 10 or 11, Rove tells Libby that Novak is going to write a story on Plame. I guess then, according to Libby's Tale, Novak is also a full-fledged member of the in-journalist club, who not only knows Plame's identity, but is sharing the news with White House officials.
On July 12, Cooper calls Libby to confirm the story he had just gotten from Rove. Cooper--only on the White House beat for a few weeks at this point--apparently is enough of an in-journalist to know of Plame's identity. But not enough of an in-journalist to chat a lot with Libby about it. Libby basically just passes along the gossip to Cooper. He doesn't confirm the story (how could he, after all, since he had forgotten he had been told by the Vice President of the United States that it was true, and believing that it was just a journalist's rumor, he didn't know that it was "true" at this point).
Finally, by July 12, Libby was willing to share the news the in-journalists were talking about with poor Judy Miller, always the last to know. But since he had forgotten he had had the information confirmed by the Vice President of the United States, he didn't know if the news was true, and told Judy that.
So the basic jist of Libby's story is that he was told in June by Dick that Plame was connected to Wilson. But he promptly forgot it. (I guess his legendary mastery of details is as mythological as Harriet Miers' turned out to be.)
It wasn't until all the journalists in DC started telling him about the story that he managed to retain it in his memory. All the journalists in DC must have learned sometime between July 8 and July 10, because in his conversation with Judy and earlier with Pincus, the Plame news didn't come up at all. But after July 10, Russert, Novak, Cooper--all the journalists in DC seemed to know the story. Except that loser Judy, whom Libby still had to tell when he spoke to her on July 12. Poor Judy.
What the Tale Tells
So knowing what we know, there are several things that stick out about Libby's tale.
First, he tried really really hard to hide what Judy knew and when she knew it. There he was, telling her in June about Plame, yet his Tale doesn't have her learning the news until July 12, well after all the journalists in DC already knew about it.Maybe Judy told the truth about the July 8 chat because she didn't want to be perceived as being the last to know such good gossip, even if it incriminated her or Libby. And, apparently (assuming that June 23 didn't come up, which isn't entirely clear), he wanted to hide their meeting in June altogether. As did Judy, of course.
Now here's an odd little detail. Libby's charges are Obstruction (for the his Tale in general), Perjury (for lying to the GJ that he first found out from Russert), Perjury (for lying to the GJ that he heard it from journalists and not Dick), False Statement (for lying to the FBI about what he told Russert), and False Statement (for lying to the FBI about what he told Cooper). The only place his Judy Miller lies appear are in the Obstruction charge. Odd fact, no? So maybe some of the Tale STILL hasn't been told. Or maybe Fitz doesn't trust Judy's testimony enough to make it into a False Statement charge all of its own.
Which is why it's so odd that Fitzgerald seems to trust Russert's tale.
The Russert Tale
Judy's Tale aside, I'm really confused about what Russert is supposed to have said. Russert testified under very specific terms. He got a deal with Fitzgerald to limit testimony to what Russert said to Libby, and not vice versa.
The deal was not, as many assumed, for Russert's testimony about what Libby told him: it focused on what Russert told Libby.
And then, according to Fitzgerald's letter to Tate,
I also understand that counsel for the Washington Post and counsel for NBC each verified the validity of the waiver executed by Mr. Libby with you.
The NBC statement reiterates that Libby had asked that Russert testify.
Mr. Libby had previously told the FBI about the conversation and had formally requested that the conversation be disclosed.
In other words, this was a waiver specifically negotiated between Fitzgerald and Russert, and then between Russert and Libby. Presumably Libby wouldn't have given the waiver if he didn't know what Russert was going to say. But then here is what Russert said.
During the interview, Mr. Russert was asked limited questions by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about a telephone conversation initiated by Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, in early July of last year. Mr. Russert told the Special Prosecutor that, at the time of that conversation, he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby. Mr. Russert said that he first learned Ms. Plame's name and her role at the CIA when he read a column written by Robert Novak later that month.
Hmm. That doesn't resemble what Libby said he was going to testify to at all!
It just doesn't make sense? Why would Libby claim Russert had told him, and then give Russert permission to speak, if Libby suspected that Russert would totally discredit his story? According to the indictment, it's worse that this. Russert said Plame didn't even come up.
On or about July 10, 2003, LIBBY spoke to NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert to complain about press coverage of LIBBY by an MSNBC reporter. LIBBY did not discuss Wilson’s wife with Russert. (7)
It seems to me there are three possibilities. Perhaps, Libby believed he could direct Russert to testify that Russert had told Libby of Plame. And Russert basically told Libby to go fuck himself with his testimony. Libby tried to tamper with Russert's testimony, and failed.
Or, Russert told the truth and Libby's just dumb.
Or, finally, there's the possibility that Libby's waiver to Russert was nowhere near as voluntary as NBC would like you to believe. Libby thought he could rely on Russert's silence as well as Judy's (Cooper's testimony was nowhere near as damaging to Libby, I guess, so he didn't have to rely on someone he didn't trust). But then NBC twisted Tate's arm, and forced a "voluntary" waiver, and Russert told the truth--that Libby has just been complaining about unfriendly coverage.
I'm beginning to lean to the last possibility. Obviously, Fitzgerald doesn't have enough faith in the veracity of Judy's testimony to attach a separate False Statements charge to it, as he has with Libby's FBI testimony about Russert and Cooper. Which suggests he's got a really good reason to believe Russert, while he doesn't believe Judy as far as he can spit. I wonder why?
Which says, all this time that bloggers have been attacking Russert for being so silent, assuming he was actually a source for Libby, he may have been hiding the fact that he had turned in Scooter Libby for Obstruction way back in August 2004.
Tom Maguire has his own version of the "Libby is a crappy fiction writer" post. The higlights? The title.
Maybe Libby Can Try An Insanity Defense
And this paragraph.
Finally, Libby's general story - he learned about Plame from reporters - was daft. Libby had multiple conversations with government officials (State, CIA, the VP, Ari Fleischer) involving Plame. Did he think they would *all* forget when they talked to investigators? If I weren't reading his testimony, I would not believe he had gone down this road.
But the whole thing is worth reading.
Russert weighs in:
MSNBC: So, your sole contact with Scooter Libby in the period in question here was he called to complain about programming, something that was said or covered on one of NBC’s cable news programs.
Russert: Correct. And that was the extent of it. I immediately, obviously, called to the president of NBC News and shared the complaint — which is why it was memorable in my mind.
And to the notion that I somehow was the recipient of a leak, which wasn't the case, or that I had shared information that I did not know — the first time I heard of Valerie Plame and the fact that she was a CIA operative is when I read Robert Novak's column the following Monday.
Further Update 10/29:
Via Josh Marshall, Byron York also suspects that Fitzgerald has some reason to give Russert's story a good deal of credence:
The observers also suspect that Fitzgerald has some strong but as yet unrevealed evidence to support the centerpiece of his perjury charge against Libby, that is, Libby's testimony to the grand jury about his conversation with NBC's Tim Russert on July 10, 2003, in which Libby swore that it was Russert who told him that Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA:
"Mr. Russert said to me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife, or his wife, works at the CIA? And I said, no, I don't know that. And then he said, yeah – yes, all the reporters know it. And I said, again, I don't know that. I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't confirming anything for him on this. And you know, I was struck by what he was saying in that he thought it was an important fact, but I didn't ask him anymore about it because I didn't want to be digging in on him, and he then moved on and finished the conversation, something like that."
What is striking about the indictment, observers say, is that Fitzgerald does not say simply that Russert has another recollection. Instead, the indictment says:
In truth and fact, as Libby well knew when he gave this testimony, it was false in that: a. Russert did not ask Libby if Libby knew that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA, nor did he tell Libby that all the reporters knew it; and b. At the time of this conversation, Libby was well aware that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA...
In another place in the indictment, Fitzgerald states flatly that "Russert did not ask Libby if Libby knew that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, nor did he tell Libby that all the reporters knew it." That sort of definitiveness has led the observers to suspect that Fitzgerald has some sort of evidence that clearly supports Russert's account of the conversation.
If you've got the intestinal fortitude to brave NRO, check out York's speculation that Rove is off the hook. It reminded me that York is the person who accused Cooper burning Rove (back in July) because Cooper he reported skepticism about Rove's Valerie Plame spin in 2003.