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July 19, 2005


Speaking of 'prosecutibility':

A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document.

A special prosecutor is investigating whether Bush administration officials broke the law by intentionally outing a covert intelligence operative. Investigators are trying to determine if the memo, dated June 10, 2003, was how White House officials learned that Valerie Wilson was an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.
[Karl Rove]

News that the memo was marked for its sensitivity emerged as President Bush yesterday appeared to backtrack from his 2004 pledge to fire any member of his staff involved in the leaking of the CIA agent's name. In a news conference yesterday that followed disclosures that his top strategist, Karl Rove, had discussed Ms. Wilson's CIA employment with two reporters, Mr. Bush adopted a different formulation, specifying criminality as the standard for firing.

"If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration," Mr. Bush said. White House spokesman Scott McClellan later disputed the suggestion that the president had shifted his position.

The memo's details are significant because they will make it harder for officials who saw the document to claim that they didn't realize the identity of the CIA officer was a sensitive matter. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, may also be looking at whether other crimes -- such as perjury, obstruction of justice or leaking classified information -- were committed.

Damn, I didn't get my Billmon entry in before he closed comments. So now here it is. The questions, of course are:

1) Will there be indictments?
1) Who will be indicted
1) Under what count

Bonus question of when.

Here's my answer (as always, I'm optimistic to a fault).

Yes, there will be indictments.

First, the people who will receive immunity: Mary Matalin, Ari Fleischer, Adam Levine, and Carl Ford

John Hannah will be charged with IIPA violation--but he will get a reduced sentence in consideration of his cooperating with investigators.

David Wurmser, conspiracy
Cheney, conspiracy
Rove, Classified info violation, conspiracy, perjury, racketeering
Libby, classified info violation, conspiracy , perjury, racketeering
Fred Fleitz, conspiracy, forgery
Novak, conspiracy, perjury
Judy Miller, conspiracy, criminal contempt

John Bolton and George Bush will be accused publicly of conspiracy, but Fitzgerald won't be able to find the proof to convict them

Also, I think Fitz will issue an indictment for the Niger forgeries: Michael Ledeen, conspiracy, racketeering. He will try to extradite three more people from Israel and Italy, but their governments won't hand them over.

When will this start? The Hannah IIPA and the Miller Contempt will come first, in about 3 weeks. Not long after, we'll indict Wurmser, and Libby and Rove on the classified info violation. Then, about 3 or four months from now, we'll get the conspiracy and perjury cases.

Elliot Abrams committed a crime, and he serves in your administration, Mister President, sir.


all of what you said is too much to hope for!

and DemFromCT, just trying to imagine Karl going after Karl is mind-bending in the extreme.

Joe in D.C. on AmericaBlog says there's a Scotus pick and it isn't Abu Gonzales. If that's true, they will have successfully changed the headline—for a while:


If its true, as he says, lets see if the media can juggle two stories at one time. I would add, can the public pay attention to two stories at once?

Kagro, he meant what he said and he said what he meant. An elephant faithful 100%.

Dr. Seuss knew his 21st Century Republican.

RevDeb, it's SCOTUS until indictments. But even SCOTUS will only change the story and focus for a brief time. O'Connor's retirement is old news now.

He meant he's moving the goalposts again. If somebody commits a crime and is not pardoned by someone in my immediate family, he will not serve in my administration.

My question on SCOTUS.

Is Bush going to have to do something he otherwise wouldn't do because of this pressure.

For example, I find it HIGHLY unlikely he'd nominate Abu Gonzales, because of his possible ties to the Plame thing (hey, while I'm at it, add AbuG to my list about for an indictment on obstruction of justice. Just for fun.)

But also, I wonder whether Bush is going to pick a less controversial person because he can't afford to have another big battle--he doesn't have the "political capital" to spend.

Then again, I'm wondering whether his consulting with Dems (well, not Teddy Kennedy and Barbara Boxer, I assume) is just a show to satisfy Lindsay Graham. Or is he really consulting?

If someone is convicted of a crime and is a former Clinton appointee, and is deceased, he will absolutely not serve in my administration. Unless he changes party.

SCOTUS focus will be the order of the day. 5th circuit appointee? A surprise like Cornyn?

My guess is a Thursday announcememnt this week, or Monday next week. it all depends on Rove coverage. And then indictments/new developments sweep away the SCOTUS story.

Oh, Kagro, wouldn't it be delicious is Helen whipped that out in today's gaggle.

Trying to gauge how much resistance you're going to encounter counts as consulting, in his mind. "Look, here are pictures of Democrats coming out of the White House. I consulted! This proves it!"

I never thought he had Gonzoles in mind for this seat, anyway. But he was happy to have the name floated, knowing that the fundies would cry, and then he could give them a "win" by not naming him. Then he throws out another name, and either says, "you already got your win" if they cry again, or more likely, gets the job done before they can organize their thoughts about whichever question mark of a judge he throws out there.

Here's the SCOTUS markets story:

A North Carolina professor has created his own stock market to predict the next Supreme Court nominee, and you can participate.

Kevin McGuire's Supreme Court Futures Market lets you buy and sell play-money shares in any of 15 potential nominees to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The higher the price for a potential nominee's share, the more likely it is that President Bush will choose him or her, McGuire's theory goes.

McGuire, a Supreme Court expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and other political researchers said simulated markets such as these are valid and powerful means of prediction. That's because they're sensitive to new information and unbiased when it comes to real-world political situations. Investors are likely to overlook their own political attitudes to make money, academics said. McGuire thinks it will work even when the money isn't real.

He cited the Iowa Electronic Markets, which has predicted every presidential race correctly since 1988 with a smaller margin than most polls, as his inspiration.

The link is www.scotusmarket.com. I'm not a believer, but they're fun. Edith Brown Clement leads all comers.

So now the question for us becomes, do we fight a blank slate? And if so, how do we sell our skepticism?

They're already prepared to say, "I told you so" if we object. But of course, that's a set-up, and shouldn't be regarded as a reason in itself not to object.

Will it make us look obstructionist? See above. That charge has already been made, in pre-written press releases that are just waiting to have the name of the nominee typed in.

Will it distract from Rovegate? It shouldn't. As in, "We believe Senators have a duty to examine all nominees carefully, particularly when the balance of the Court is in question, and when such a shift is set in motion by an embattled president, whose administration labors under an ethical cloud, and who as a result has lost the trust of the American people."

DFCT- just posting to say thanks for the email--you are a buen dude. Tried to reply but got caught in your spam trap.

Essentially, I am feeling like I did when at 19 I decided to take my own life ---a choice forced upon me by the selective service, and inspired by my own insanity.

Watching again at the prophecy of George Romero.

Its nightime in America,


I suspect that the Valerie Plame Affair increases the likelihood that Bush will name a controversial SCOTUS nominee. This serves two purposes for him:

1) It maximizes the distraction level. After all, at this point the LAST thing Bush wants is name someone and have Ted Kennedy say "Yeah, we can live with her." The less controversial the pick, the less dust it kicks up - and Bush needs a dust storm just now, to distract from the Plame story.

2) It rallies his base, and Bush badly needs to pump up his most fervant supporters in the face of unfolding scandal and possible indictments this fall.

-- Rick Robinson

The Plame affair won't go away, SCOTUS or no SCOTUS ... and it's not even the big story. The memo (see TPM this a.m. for another hot take) is more like a homing beacon embedded in the Death Star's achilles heel. (Or is it their achilles dick?)




Notable, GOP defensive formations yesterday had retreated and hunkered down behind a puff of smoke -- the claim that Joe Wilson himself said his wife was not a clandestine operative.

In numerous media appearances, I didn't see any news-head call them on this. Remarkable. Of course it's clear from context that Wilson meant she was no longer clandestine the moment Novak's column appeared. [Expect to see this tape in high rotation as the story catches up.]

We've smoked 'em out of their holes, we've got 'em on the run. Gonna bring 'em to justice. Yeah.

So here's a non-serious theory on how everyone found out about Plame's identity. I thought of it after reading this over at TPM, from JMM's reader:

Since she's a looker, he certainly would have remembered her face and name.

So here's what really happened, I'm sure of it. Scooter's over at CIA supposedly to beat heads to make intelligence come out the way Dick wants it to. But it turns out one of the heads he's supposed to beat is this beautiful blond. So instead of beating heads, he asks for a date. Said analyst says, "No thanks, I'm married." At which point the furious Scooter Libby starts asking around to find out who she's married to.

Just joking. Thought it would lighten things up.


Moreover, one of the things I discovered when I wrote my WH Conspiracy post is that, when some administration people leaked the name of Plame's front company in October (to send CIA a message, I speculate), they say that they found out about the company because Plame reported Brewster Jennings on her 1999 tax returns. IIPA says you need to have been a covert agent within 5 years. 2003-1999 = 4 years. So even the info BushCo are leaking themselves (or were leaking, back when they thought they could white wash this) proves she was undercover within the required time period.

RonK - I suspect you're right in the big picture, but the WH is surely going to generate whatever distraction it can.

Also, in the nature of things, the Plame Affair may not (and probably won't) stay at the current level of intensity for week after week. These things feed on new revelations. We got big ones this last week, and we may not get more until Fitzgerald lays down his hand. He's the anti-Starr; leaks out of his investigation have been minimal if any, and he certainly doesn't go for the leak of the week.

If this DOES keep roiling week after week, it will be because of leaks from elsewhere, such as people in the WH scrambling for the lifeboats. But that also goes with ginning up every possible distraction.

-- Rick Robinson

Rick -- Expect leaks from elsewhere, as the whole herd of cats is walked backward.

The mosaic will speak, after all.

Don't forget (as the Daily Kos front page C&J shows), this is now nighttime comedian fodder. Rove is guilty in the court of public opinion.

They have their pulse on America as well as anyone.

emptywheel - I think the IIPA specifies covert agents who have been stationed abroad, or served abroad, in the last 5 years. (Not sure of the exact wording.)

I don't think Plame had been *stationed* abroad for more than 5 years. However, she might have made short trips abroad in her role as a "Brewster Jennings" consultant, so the exact wording might be critical here.

As flippant as your "Scooter hit her up" comment was, stranger things have happened in the world of spookdom. ;)

One interesting aspect of this I've only seen mentioned a couple of times: When did Ari Fleisher resign? Wasn't it shortly after this stuff first broke? I do wonder if he didn't want to get himself in any deeper, or at minimum avoid McClellan's fun experiences of the last week.

-- Rick Robinson

The Note was actually helpful today. Just as someone friday could speak for Rove, stories about Fleischer seem very well sourced. How would anyone know Fleischer didn't return Novak's call?Also from the Note:

The folks at Bloomberg get what is still rare: a vaguely unsupportive quote from a GOP MOC:

"A few Republicans, while supportive of Bush, were more reserved. `The real issue is whether or not it's true,' said Pennsylvania Representative Phil English, who said he's known Rove since 1976. Democrats `have every right to insist this matter be fully investigated. It remains to be seen what kind of detail he knew,' he said."

I'm not so sure that some of those "sources familiar with the case" aren't from Fitzgerald's office. He's a top prosecutor not because he's "no nonsense," but because he knows how to win. And sometimes that means, well, let's say, an effective use of the media.

Phil English, by the way, has always been a fairly reasonable guy. Which is surprising for someone who says he's known Karl Rove for so long. Even in the age of Kool-Aid drinking, non-reality-based Republicans, it's rare to find Phil English seriously out of position.

By the way, emptywheel, did I read that right? Her 1999 tax returns? Who had her tax returns, and why?

Silly Kagro, if you're trying to smear someone, the first place you go if you own the executive branch is to the IRS. Although, yes, I suppose it's a good point, isn't it.


There are actually several hirings/firings/movings that are pertinent here:

Ari resigned the week of the leak, although had given notice several weeks before (July 2003)

David Wurmser (Bolton's assistant and about as neo-conny as they come) moved from State to OVP September 16 2003, before an investigation was officially started but during the period when the CIA was asking for one

Carl Ford retired the day the investigation moved to State (don't know whether he had given notice) (October 2003)

Tenet and one of his deputies resigned at roughly the same time that Bush lawyered up (June 2004)

There's also an INR WMD analyst who worked on Iraq who "appeared" to commit suicide just around the time the INR memo started showing up in media reports as an INR memo (Died November 2003)

Also, about the leaks, I'll re-register my opinion that there's a bit of scrambling in the White House to have this blamed on other people. Rove's people trying to pin it on Powell (Rove: "Hey, Luskin, let's have some fun, shall we?"), then Powell's people trying to pin it on Ari (although I'm actually guessing the Ari leak comes from Adam Levine--I'm trying with no success yet to figure out when he left the administration, but he's one of the only others who has left in the interim).

I also think there's a likelihood that at least one of the folks who has been interviewed by the grand jury has been granted immunity to talk. Ari is one possibility. (Levine is another.) So trying to pin this on Ari might be a way for Rove to discredit someone who will one day testify in a trial against him.

RE the IRS data--it was W-2, not tax returns. Here's the relevent quote again:

After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA. Plame's name was first published July 14 in a newspaper column by Robert D. Novak that quoted two senior administration officials.

The article does say the firm was outed because of FEC data (which is what Novak also said). But then why bring up her W-2?

So instead of beating heads, he asks for a date.

'Hi! My name's 'Scooter'!'

Not much to add when you live on the west coast and everyone else has been at this for hours but:

First, on the leaks: I notice the WaPo article that was in the SF Chronicle is sourced in part to "A former Justice Department official who talks frequently to people involved in the case" who opines that Fitzgerald is looking at the aftermath not the leak, which he may have concluded was not a crime, and at perjury, obstruction, and false statements. Couldn't be Comey, could it? Kind of hard to believe.

2. The WSJ story about the State Dept memo says that the info was marked with a code indicating sensitive, but "doesn't specifically describe Ms. Wilson as an undercover agent," per the person familiar with the memo, who could be in the Powell camp. He also said the memo didn't include a distribution list. (So probably Armitage or Ford.) The WSJ then alludes to its earlier (Oct '03) story about the memo without saying they actually saw it.

So it could be that Fleischer saw the memo and told Rove and/or Libby. Certainly he tried to steer reporters in the direction of Wilson's wife. But if the memo was really written in June, Libby probably knew about it already, maybe Rove too. It was the Wilson op-ed that caused them to ratchet up their attempt to discredit him, and the means was already at hand.

Fleischer may be the rumored person who told Fitzgerald early on that he was a source of the leak to Nokak but didn't know she was covert or a NOC or whatever, that caused Fitz to look at the coverup. And maybe at the earlier conspiracy as well, rather than the leak per se. The statements in the judges' opinions indicate some look at the orchestration of a plan to discredit Wilson then cover it up.

My guess is that Libby (conspiracy, leaks, obstruction) and Fleischer (leaks) take the fall, along with some lower level people like Fleitz or Wurmser or Hannah. Maybe Rove, but only if necessary to protect Bush, although the violation of some classified info offense looks pretty clear as to Rove. Cheney has a convenient heart attack, like Bill Casey's stroke. Bush's lame duckitude only increases, making him a very ineffective 2d term President, and the Dems come back in 2006 on a platform that stresses the need for divided government to ensure checks and balances. Then in 2008 they abrogate that strategy to try to take back the WH too.

SCOTUS? I always liked Connie the tap dancing queen as a dark horse.

So it's going to be Edith Brown Clement instead? Two points.

-She seems like a lightweight. This must really tick off all those heavyweights who had been rumored for the seat. Assuming she is, it might matter a great deal who she falls in with at the Court, who she forges relationships with. And whether the next Chief is a smoothie like Rehnquist or prickly like Scalia.

-This is a pretty frightening view:

"Clement joined a dissent that argued that the decision's rationale for protecting the bugs—to preserve the interdependent web of species—bore no relationship to Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. (GDF Realty Investments v. Norton, 2004)"

I gather that the SCOTUS nomination is coming down this afternoon, so we'll soon know if my guess of a confrontational pick is right or wrong.

The nomination was going to come down soon anyway, but I do wonder if it was pushed up to today in order to at least stop the short-term Plame feeding frenzy.

-- Rick Robinson

I do wonder if it was pushed up to today in order to at least stop the short-term Plame feeding frenzy.

I don't. It was meant for next week.

I'm betting some good money Fleisher has been granted immunity (whether he saw the memo or not). He's a turd, but he's not a turd from Texas, and BushCo never really trusted him. So Ari, unlike everyone else in that Administration, has little reason to keep quiet.

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