You wouldn't think that I--after babbling about this for two years and beating up the press for ignoring it--would miss an opportunity to highlight the super-secret Libby-Novak meeting, do you? Only that's what I did yesterday, when I was puzzling through the remaining two-page gap in the Tatel opinion. Duh.
My post yesterday made the argument that, in addition to laying out the background for the Cooper-Rove conversation (and Rove's prevaricating about it) and pointing out the discrepancies between Rove's story and Novak's, the two-page gap must explain why a bunch of seeming extraneous quotes from grand jury testimony appear in the unsealed portion. Those quotes include:
- Two details of Cheney's involvement tied to Libby's leaks without a larger explanation of Cheney's importance in the leaks
- A description of Armitage's somewhat implausible story of learning he was Novak's source
- The following claims from Novak as to the sourcing of his column:
Novak identified Armitage’s comment as an “offhand revelation” from “a senior administration official” who was “no partisan gunslinger.” (II-20.) He referred to Rove simply as “another official” who said, “Oh, you know about it.”
One thing that could very logically tie these loose ends together is a discussion of the Libby-Novak conversation that happened on July 9. After all, it would provide a way to reintroduce (and explain) the Cheney involvement, it would provide a reason to doubt the "Armitage as primary source" story, and it would provide a reason to question Novak's claim that he had two and only two sources.
While this all remains wildarsed speculation at this point, it is a delicious possibility. For it means that Fitzgerald presented--and Tatel found credible--the possibility that Novak's and Rove's coordinated stories served to hide Libby's conversation with Novak (which, in fact, they did and still do for the unthinking members of the press corps). We know that FBI found Armitage's claim to be Novak's primary source to be questionable in Fall 2003:
David Martin of CBS News at 5:03 of the 11:55 CBS video clip:
"What was their [DOJ/FBI] reaction to you coming in and laying it all out on the table?"
"I think they, uh... One of them actually said - it's somewhere - well you can't be sure you're the only one that talked or you're the initial source, and I said well I, I - I'm telling you what I think."
Is it possible that suspicion remains? Or remained true at least through the journalists' appeals (though I can't see how Cooper or Judy could allay that kind of suspicion)?
Now the possibility is interesting for several reasons. First, it would mean that Fitzgerald already knew of the conversation in late 2004. While this doesn't preclude the possibility that Novak only testified about his conversation with Libby after the Libby indictment (something Lomonaco and I have suspected since Anne Kornblut reported that Novak appeared before the GJ after the indictment), it does mean it was out there as a possibility much earlier.
But also, the possibility (remember, this is wildarsed speculation here) that Fitzgerald highlighted the
June July 9 conversation in his affidavits and that Tatel found those highlights persuasive might explain some of weirder Novak bits in his trial testimony. I'm going to go lay those out in a separate post--but for now, suffice it to say there was abundant evidence that Novak was either fibbing at the trial about his June July 9 conversation, had fibbed before the grand jury, or both.