This post follows on my wildarsed guess that one of the things that appears in the two-page gap is discussion of Libby's and Novak's super-secret July 9 meeting. I'd like to point out--and speculate on--several weird bits in Novak's trial testimony. Full credit: Jeff Lomonaco identified several of these in a conversation with me, but I happen to know he's at an undisclosed location with crappy Toobz access, so I'm going to run with it and he'll just have to call in any comments!! Jeff and I have discussed some of these at some length, but I think they make more sense if, indeed, the Libby-Novak meeting is mentioned in the two-page gap.
To make it up to Jeff, here's a link to his book, from which I'm transcribing these bits.
The first weird bit is a successful objection Fitzgerald makes when Wells tries to get Novak to say he testified--before the grand jury--that Libby hadn't told Libby anything about Plame. Ted Wells is trying to establish that Novak testified willingly at all times, including about his conversation with Libby. Novak has just laid out how he agreed to discuss Armitage, Rove, and Harlow in an interview after the prosecutors brought waivers from those three people. Then Wells moves to Rove's grand jury testimony:
Wells: I'll show you a copy of your Grand Jury testimony, dated February 25--
Fitzgerald: We'll stipulate to the date, February 25, 2004.
Walton: Very well.
Now, reading this with some distance, it appears that Fitzgerald is trying to prevent Wells from handing Novak his grand jury testimony. I seem to recall, though, that this exchange was a response to Novak's earlier (in his discussion of the interviews with Fitzgerald) claim to have forgotten dates, so it may be entirely innocuous.
Throughout this exchange, however, watch Wells' language. It's never clear (and he seems determined to ensure it remains unclear) whether this grand jury appearance was Novak's only appearance.
Wells: The government has stipulated that you testified before the Grand Jury on February 25, 2004. Is that the first time you testified in the Grand Jury concerning Mr. Armitage and Mr. Rove?
Novak: Yes, sir.
Wells: And you told the Grand Jurors that Mr. Armitage had been your primary source and Mr. Rove your secondary source?
Novak: Yes, sir.
Wells: Did there come a time when you received a waiver with respect to Mr. Libby?
Novak: Yes, sir, at some time I did receive a waiver from Mr. Libby indeed.
Wells: Do you recall when that was?
Novak: No, I don't.
Let me make several points about this. Notice, again, the ambiguity on the date of this waiver. Novak won't give--and Wells doesn't press--for even a rough guess of when this is. One reason for this, I suspect, is that Novak didn't admit to his conversation with Libby until forced to do so later in the case, after his February 25 grand jury appearance. And Libby never admitted to the conversation in his grand jury testimony, so Team Libby doesn't want to provide these details, either. Furthermore, the whole exchange appears to obscure key details about the waiver. In a November 2006 filing, Team Libby suggests that Novak treated his Libby conversation with Libby differently than he did his Rove, Armitage, and Harlow conversations, in which he testified solely based on their written waiver.
Messrs. Kessler, Pincus, and Russert testified about their conversations with Mr.
Libby in reliance on the waiver.
Kessler, Pincus, and Russert testified based on the waiver and verbal reassurance from Libby's lawyer. The other two journalists who testified about Libby, in addition to Novak, are Judy and Cooper, both of whom insisted on direct reaffirmation of Libby's waiver from him. In other words, this line either seems to suggest that Novak stood on his earlier insistence that he only be asked to testify about the three people he described as his source, but then had to testify otherwise. Or, he spoke to Libby personally and got an okay to testify. Wouldn't that be news, given how long both of these men hid this conversation, if Libby got to send Novak some kind of verbal aspen letter before he testified?
Back to the trial, though. Wells tries to get Novak to testify that he didn't give Libby any information about Plame, but Fitzgerald objects.
Wells: And did there come a time when you testified in the Grand Jury concerning Mr. Libby?
Novak: Yes sir.
Wells: And you told the Grand Jury that Mr. Libby had not given you any information--
Fitzgerald: Objection, Your Honor.
Wells: --about the wife?
Wells: We're going to work out a stipulation.
Here Novak was about to say he had told the Grand Jury that Libby had never told him anything about Plame. Fitzgerald objects--and his objection is apparently sustained, because Wells drops this too. As I noted in the liveblog, Novak appeared really pissed about the interchange. Now, as you read the following exchange, keep in mind that the Defense never did get a stipulation to whatever they were trying to elicit from Novak. I suspect some of what follows explains why the Defense dropped that attempt.
Fitzgerald Gets Novak's Lies on the Record
During his cross-examination, Fitzgerald starts by raising what I suspect are two matters of inconsistency in Novak's Rove testimony.
Fitzgerald: Did you have any feeling when you left the green room that you didn't like Mr. Wilson?
Novak: Well, what I--can I give my feeling of how I felt about him when I saw him?
Novak: He was, usually in the green room people are circumspect, reading papers, reading notes. He was giving his opinion at some length on how things had been done in the Clinton administration versus the Bush in a very loud voice. I thought that it was kind of an obnoxious performance even though I kept it to myself.
Fitzgerald: Did you share that experience and your views with Mr. Rove when you spoke to him that week if you recall?
Novak: I think I might have. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I believe I might have.
Now I've always believed this Novak story was an attempt to invent an explanation for why, when Novak ran into Wilson's friend on the street on July 8 at a time when Novak claimed to have not yet spoken to Rove or Libby, he called Wilson an asshole. In other words, this seems like Novak's explanation for animosity to Wilson that, in all probability, actually comes from Libby or Rove. And note--three times over the course of questioning, Team Libby tries to get Novak to state that his Rove meeting happened on July 9; all three times, Novak stated he was unsure of the timing, and the first time the date came up, Novak said he thought it was July 8. So Novak seems to be really determined to sustain the ambiguity on the timing of his conversation with Rove, ambiguity that may also pertain to Novak's testimony surrounding that run-in with Wilson's friend.
Next, Fitzgerald raises the 1999 trade delegation to Niger--watch the way this is described.
Fitzgerald: Do you know if, during your conversation with Mr. Rove that week, you discussed anything about a 1999 trade delegation from Iraq to Niger with Mr. Rove?
RoveNovak: I think I did because that was part of the whole issue of the question of whether there had been an attempt to buy yellowcake uranium, an Iraqi attempt to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.
A couple of points about this. First, Fitzgerald doesn't say whether this is the Mayaki part of the Wilson report, or whether it's the al-Zahawie intelligence tied to the Niger forgeries. Remember that both Libby (on July 8, to Judy) and Ari (on July 9, in public) appear to have conflated these two reports. Further, this is something Novak includes in his column, though in botched form (Novak used 1988, instead of 1999, which if there were a deliberate attempt to conflate the two reports would place an Iraqi-Niger trade delegation at a time when Wilson was in Baghdad). From Novak's column:
Wilson made an oral report in Langley that an Iraqi uranium purchase was "highly unlikely," though he also mentioned in passing that a 1988 Iraqi delegation tried to establish commercial contacts. CIA officials did not regard Wilson's intelligence as definitive, being based primarily on what the Niger officials told him and probably would have claimed under any circumstances. The CIA report of Wilson's briefing remains classified. [my emphasis]
Now this question is incredibly significant given the bits of the Tatel opinion unsealed yesterday. For in the newly unsealed material, Tatel includes a quote from Novak's testimony that he appears to be setting up as support for the argument that Rove was lying.
According to Novak, when he “brought up” Wilson’s wife, “Mr. Rove ... promised to seek declassification of portions of a CIA report regarding the Niger trip, which Rove said “wasn’t an impressive piece of work or a very definitive piece of work”
Tatel appears to believe this is statement supports an argument for perjury; so either Rove testified he said no such thing, or there is a discrepancy about what was said. But consider another really important aspect of this. On July 8 and 9, when Rove is reported to have had this conversation, this report was still classified (as Novak's column makes clear). Yet, Novak says, Rove discussed it and--from the content of Novak's column--someone gave him details of it. This issue is all the more interesting as it would mark Rove as having seen the classified report from the CIA, even while he claimed not to know about Plame. In either case, either Rove leaked details of the report even as he told Novak the report was still classified, or someone--Libby--leaked Novak those details after the Rove conversation.
In other words, this question, from Fitzgerald, appears to be him forcing Novak to repeat testimony that got to the core of the inconsistencies between Rove's, Libby's, and Novak's testimony, inconsistencies that go straight to the question of who leaked Novak classified information.
Fitzgerald finishes off by getting Novak (I'm guessing) to recant some grand jury testimony he has given. Here's the exchange:
Fitzgerald: As you sit here now, is it fair to say you have no specific recollection of discussing Ambassador Wilson's wife with Mr. Libby that week?
Novak: I don't have any specific recollection, as I said in testimony. I might have raised it, but I am not sure. I don't have a specific recollection.
Fitzgerald: The one thing you are clear on though is that you did talk to Mr. Libby that week?
Novak: Yes, sir.
Fitzgerald: So it would be accurate to say that you and Mr. Libby spoke that week?
Novak: Yes, sir.
Fitzgerald: And inaccurate to say that you did not?
Novak: Yes, sir.
Given the earlier dust-up over Well's planned stipulation that, in his grand jury testimony, Novak said he had not spoken about Plame, I suspect Fitzgerald is forcing Novak to admit that in one of his grand jury appearances (presumably his first) he gave inaccurate testimony. That is, I'm guessing that on February 25, 2004, Novak testified that he hadn't spoken with Libby. And then when he was forced, in a later grand jury appearance, to admit that he and Libby had had a significant conversation on July 9, he recanted his earlier testimony.
The Missing Libby Conversation and Tatel
This is why my wildarsed guess that Tatel included details about Libby's Novak conversation is so interesting (well, to me, anyway, and if you've read this far ... !). In the trial, there are a lot of weird exchanges that make a ton of sense if 1) Novak lied in his first grand jury appearance about his Libby conversation, then 2) under some duress and after receiving a verbal waiver from Libby, Novak did testify to correct his earlier testimony that he hadn't spoken to Libby yet 3) there are inconsistencies remaining in Novak's story pertaining to:
- Why he called Wilson an asshole before, he says, he spoke with Rove and Libby
- Who leaked him still-classified information from the CIA report on Wilson's trip