Jane does some heavy lifting this morning (last night?--I notice people were on a 24-hour Plame watch both here and, especially, at Firedoglake) on the timing of Woodward's bombshell, particularly as laid out in this Time piece. Jane's post is inconclusive but it suggests certain conclusions that I'd like to explore.
The folks in the haloscan Firedogswamp seem to be split over whether Rove is Mr. X or Rove flipped on Mr. X. I lean toward the second theory--that the tidbit Rove offered Fitzgerald right before Libby's indictment basically gave away Mr. X's role in this. But I don't think Rove told Fitzgerald directly who and what and when Mr. X is. Rather, I think Rove used knowledge that Woodward had gotten the leak to expose Mr. X without doing it himself.
Here's what I think happened (all the caveats about speculation apply).
Rove Floats Woodward Rumors as Part of His Campaign to Avoid Indictment
Rove was desperate to avoid an indictment and was in mad negotiations all week with Fitzgerald to avoid it. He couldn't get Fitzgerald to back off of a felony indictment, so Rove didn't give him the full details before Friday. But he made sure to set up the story anyway. Around the end of the week, some leaks go out that Woodward's sitting on a big story.
ISIKOFF: No, look, this is the biggest mystery in Washington, has been really for two years and now as we come down to the deadline of tomorrow the city is awash with rumors. There's a new one every 15 minutes and nobody really knows what's going to happen tomorrow. Nobody knows what Fitzgerald's got.
I talked to a source at the White House late this afternoon who told me that Bob is going to have a bombshell in tomorrow's paper identifying the Mr. X source who is behind the whole thing. So, I don't know, maybe this is Bob's opportunity.
KING: Come clean.
WOODWARD: I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. I'm sorry. In fact, I mean this tells you something about the atmosphere here. I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best "New York Times" reporter on this saying exactly that I supposedly had a bombshell.
WOODWARD: Finally, this went around that I was going to do it tonight or in the paper. Finally, Len Downie, who is the editor of the "Washington Post" called me and said, "I hear you have a bombshell. Would you let me in on it."
Isikoff receives a leak from
Rove the White House, someone with good CIA access at the NYT received a leak (no mention of where), and someone at the WaPo got enough of a leak (no mention of where) to convince Downie to press Woodward for more information. All perfectly consistent with Rove leaking to, say, Isikoff (his most obliging mouthpiece and conveniently on Larry King with Woodward that night), VandeHei or Leonnig, and JehlJohnstonStevenson that Woodward had a big scoop. Which of course led them to ask Woodward, either directly or indirectly, what the scoop was.
Now Woodward doesn't reveal when Downie approached him, or when the CIA via NYT leak came back to him. Let's presume it happened at least the day before the Larry King interview, on October 26. Which would be perfectly consistent with Downie's contention that Woodward first told him he received a leak "just a few days before the indictment."
Woodward's Larry King Talking Points
Now, Woodward really really really didn't want to tell his story. I'm not sure precisely why (I've got theories, none very complimentary to Woodward). It's worth noting, though, in that same Larry King interview, Woodward tried to justify the original leak. First, he brought out the notion that this was all gossip and--critically--that it was not originally a smear campaign.
WOODWARD: But Michael's point is exactly right. There is deep mystery here. It only grows with time and people are speculating and there are -- there is so little that people really know.
Now there are a couple of things that I think are true. First of all this began not as somebody launching a smear campaign that it actually -- when the story comes out I'm quite confident we're going to find out that it started kind of as gossip, as chatter and that somebody learned that Joe Wilson's wife had worked at the CIA and helped him get this job going to Niger to see if there was an Iraq/Niger uranium deal.
And, there's a lot of innocent actions in all of this but what has happened this prosecutor, I mean I used to call Mike Isikoff when he worked at the "Washington Post" the junkyard dog. Well this is a junkyard dog prosecutor and he goes everywhere and asks every question and turns over rocks and rocks under rocks and so forth.
KING: And doesn't leak.
WOODWARD: And it doesn't leak and I think it's quite possible that though probably unlikely that he will say, you know, there was no malice or criminal intent at the start of this. Some people kind of had convenient memories before the grand jury. Technically they might be able to be charged with perjury.
But I don't see an underlying crime here and the absence of the underlying crime may cause somebody who is a really thoughtful prosecutor to say, you know, maybe this is not one to go to the court with. [emphasis mine]
Then, Woodward goes on to try to explain the whole source of confusion. He even reaches into his pocket to try to bring out either the SSCI report or the actual CIA report on Joe Wilson's trip to prove, presumably, that Wilson's report didn't refute the Niger claims.
WOODWARD: I agree but there is some factual problems here. When Wilson went to Niger before all this blew up, in fact before there was a war, he came back and reported and Michael and others who have read the Senate Intelligence Committee on this know his report was very ambiguous.
In fact, most of the analysts at the CIA said that Wilson's findings when he went to Niger supported the conclusion that there was some deal with Iraq. Now that's, I mean the Democrats -- the Democrats and the Republicans all signed that report. That is a fact. And, you know, there are other facts and speculation.
DODD: That report didn't go into all of that. The report was about other issues. I mean...
WOODWARD: No, but it did. I've got it in my pocket. I'll read it if you want.
Now, call me crazy, but this looks like precisely the kind of stance someone would take if he had been coached with talking points. "Tell them this, Booby. Tell them we had a legitimate reason to look into Wilson's trip because his claims didn't match what was in the CIA report. And just by accident, virgin birth if you will, we found out that Plame is Wilson's wife and that she was the one who first sent him. All in the normal course of a day full of office gossip, you understand. And, sure, a couple of us had 'convenient memories'--yeah, that's good, use the term 'convenient memories'--when we testified. But there was no underlying crime, so we really shouldn't be prosecuted. Got that? Good. Now go wow Larry King!"
Which suggests Woodward heard journalists were onto his Mr. X, he panicked, talked to Mr. X, and got a set of talking points to try to back down indictment buzz.
Okay, that takes us to the night of October 27.
Early the next morning, really desperate now that he'll be indicted, Rove sends Luskin to tell Fitzgerald that Woodward received a relevant leak.
The Libby Indictment
Now, before we can figure out how much Rove told Fitzgerald, we should consider a few things. Why did Fitzgerald go ahead with the Libby indictment as written? Why did he go ahead and make two allegations in the press conference that Libby was the first known person who received this leak?
There are two possibilities. Perhaps Rove told Fitzgerald who leaked to Woodward and when. But Fitzgerald went ahead and claimed Libby was the first to receive the leak anyway, in hopes it would increase the chances Libby would flip. After all, Libby had overseen all of Woodward's conversations with Dick. So if Mr. X were Dick, then it would mean Libby probably also knew that Dick had leaked to Woodward in early to mid-June. (Hell, there's a distinct possibility Rove knew about the Dick to Woodward leak because Libby told him!) By naming Libby as the first leaker, Fitzgerald would create a false trap, allowing Libby's lawyers to believe they were refuting Fitzgerald by disproving the Libby was first claim.
My biggest doubt about that theory, though, is the that Fitzgerald didn't caveat the Libby was first claim. As I've said, I don't think the Woodward leak affects the Libby indictment one whit. But just to prevent all the wingnuts from claiming Woodward had proved Fitzgerald wrong, you'd think he'd have caveated his claim better if he had known of the Woodward leak.
So the other possibility is that Rove only told Fitzgerald who leaked to Woodward, but not when, so Fitzgerald still believed Libby was the first leak recipient. And Fitzgerald went ahead with his indictment, knowing that it sent a pretty clear message to Dick that he had the goods on him and he was coming after him. I don't believe this though--Rove was desperate, and probably needed to provide real details to stave off the indictment.
Why Did Mr. X Come Forward?
Which brings us to when and why Mr. X came forward. Well, actually, we know when Mr. X came forward--he came forward on November 3. What we don't know is why.
November 3. A fairly long time after the indictment for Mr. X to sit and wait. Now, as Woodward tells it to Time, his source came forward after Woodward contacted him:
Woodward realized, given that the indictment stated Libby disclosed the information to New York Times reporter Miller on June 23, that Libby was not the first official to talk about Wilson's wife to a reporter. Woodward himself had received the information earlier.
According to Woodward, that triggered a call to his source. "I said it was clear to me that the source had told me [about Wilson's wife] in mid-June," says Woodward, "and this person could check his or her records and see that it was mid-June. My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor.
Asked if this was the first time his source had spoken with Fitzgerald in the investigation, Woodward said "I'm not sure. It's quite possibly not the first time." But it is the first time Woodward had contact with Fitzgerald, even though Woodward's name shows up on various White House officials' calendars, phone logs and other records during June and July, 2003, the time frame that is critical to determining whether a crime was committed when information about Plame's employment was shared with reporters. Those White House records were turned over to Fitzgerald long ago.
Something happened between October 28 and November 3 that caused Mr. X to come forward and then, in turn, for Woodward to testify. Perhaps Fitzgerald (in the scenario that says Rove didn't say who leaked to Woodward) simply called Woodward and said, I know you received a leak, time to come in. Or maybe Woodward put two (all the leaks that he had a bombshell) and two (not Libby's indictment, but Rove's lack of indictment) together to realize Fitzgerald had him. Or maybe Fitzgerald called Mr. X (in the scenario that says Rove said who the leaker was) and said, "remember when we chatted in June 2004? Well, you seem to have forgotten something." Or maybe Fitzgerald first called Mr. X, who responded, I did no such thing, and then Fitzgerald called Woodward, who said, hmmm, let me call Mr. X. I kind of lean towards the last scenario, but then that means Woodward's self-hagiography ("I called my source") is a bunch of bunk. Big surprise.
One more detail on Mr. X. If you believed Woodward was just the naive recipient of a leak, while Mr. X was the criminal mastermind, then whom would you want to interview first, Woodward or Mr. X? Woodward, I'd presume, because you'd learn precisely what to ask Mr. X. And maybe, it would provide the evidence you needed to justify subpoenaing someone who had thus far relied on executive privilege. It certainly might explain why you very publicly started presenting evidence to a grand jury again.
What Was the New Information?
There's one last bit I'm not sure about. Woodward told Time that he had gotten some new information, which is what led him to talk to Downie.
In the final weeks before the grand jury indicted vice presidential aide I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby on Oct. 28 for perjury and obstruction of justice, Woodward says he was asked by Downie to help report on the status of the probe. In the course of his reporting, Woodward says, "I learned something more" about the disclosure of Plame's identity, which prompted him to admit to Downie for the first time that he had been told of Plame’s CIA job by a senior administration official in mid June 2003.
And, as Jane points out, there were a lot of rumors about Fred Fleitz that appear to be connected with Woodward's big bombshell.
As I've mentioned before, many denizens of Traitorgate world -- including Steve Clemons, myself, the Washington bureau at the NYT, Michael Isikoff and apparently Len Downie himself -- had spent the day before the Libby indictment trying to track down the rumor that Bob is working on a "blockbuster" story that some had heard involves Fred Fleitz.
I'm not sure what that Fleitz rumor might be, although I have been saying for months that Fleitz may have offered up Plame's covert status when Fleitz and Bolton had an opportunity to vet the INR memo sometime before the memo was finished on June 10. By that scenario, Fleitz is aware people are shopping incriminating information on Wilson before June 11 or 12 when Grossman briefs at the White House and before June 12 when Dick passed on the information from Tenet.
So let's put two floating factoids together. Woodward's big bombshell may be in some way connected to Fred Fleitz. And Booby is hiding the date of the leak as fiercely as he is hiding Mr. X's identity. Woodward's hiding the date, I'd warrant, because the date will either reveal another inaccuracy in Fitzgerald's chronology, it will reveal a channel of information on Plame not included in Fitzgerald's chronology, or it will reveal the identity of Mr. X as surely as just announcing his name.
Or some combination of all three.
So let me make a stab at Woodward's new information. First, I suspect that Woodward learned that Fleitz was the source of Plame's covert status, not Tenet, as Libby's notes are reported to have said. Not only that, Fleitz said more than Tenet is reported to have said (Tenet is reported to have said that Plame worked in DO, which should have informed Libby and Cheney that Plame was probably covert, but still left some doubt). I'm betting that Fleitz said clearly and unequivocally that Plame was a NOC. And possibly, Woodward learned of this because he realized that Cheney (or Hadley) learned of Plame's identity not through Grossman nor through Cheney's CIA source because he had been leaked the information before either of these conversations transpired, perhaps around June 8, around the time Fleitz was vetting the INR document. And it wasn't solely the claim that Libby was the first to receive the leak that Woodward reacted to when he read the indictment. It was also the claim that Plame's identity came through somewhat legitimate channels, through both Grossman and Tenet.
Is it possible that Woodward called his source and confronted him with the fact that he--Bob Woodward, journalist extraordinaire--had been lied to when he was told this was just gossip?
Well, there are a few problems with this story. Most seriously, it would mean Woodward is really pushing all normal standards of "mid" when he says he received the leak in mid-June. Not a fatal flaw to this theory, I think. Because Booby may be lying at the request of Fitzgerald. Or he may just be a shill.
Another problem with this story is that Woodward still appears to be carrying Mr. X's water. Remember, when Woodward and Bernstein believed they had been lied to by an FBI agent during Watergate, they confronted the agent's boss, justifying outing a source because they had been lied to. If Woodward was misled about the intent of the leak, he should and could reveal Mr. X's identity. Then again, he may just be a shill.
Woodward's Changing Mood
But one observation that may explain some of this. Not only did Woodward change his mind about testifying sometime between October 27 and mid-November. But he also changed his mind--dramatically--about Fitzgerald. On October 27, of course, he considered Fitzgerald a junkyard dog prosecutor, chasing something that wasn't really there. But he revealed to Time his impression of Fitzgerald is vastly different:
During his time with the prosecutor, Woodward said, he found Fitzgerald "incredibly sensitive to what we do. He didn't infringe on my other reporting, which frankly surprised me. He said 'This is what I need, I don't need any more.'"
Could mean that Fitzgerald didn't ask about things aside from Woodward's source (like Fleitz, perhaps). Could also mean that Woodward has a very different impression about the underlying justice of this investigation now than he had on October 27.