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October 31, 2005


Very interesting - so do think Rove & Luskin were trying from the beginning to pin this on Libby or that they only went this route recently?

Do you mean Libby or Ari? I think they've been trying to make Ari a fall-guy for a while. Ari probably made the right choice, to cooperate, with these guys, because they don't trust him and would have sacrificed him immediately anyway.

I think Rove's and Luskin's attempts to pin it on Libby are inconsistent. They still need him, to a degree, because if one of them talks, they'll both go down hard. But the Bush side and the Cheney side are both seeking a way to preserve their side of the WH, even if it means taking down the other side.

Frankly, I think the prisioner's dilemma wargaming is just too tough in this case, and they're bound to miscalculate, and bring about mutually assured destruction.

Great insight EW. This makes me think that Rove and Libby had concocted a plan to pin this all on Ari.

Essentially, they would testify to a scheme whereby this was a bipartite leak, all they told reporters is that the OVP did NOT order Wilson's trip, someone at CIA must have, and that reporters told THEM "Might that someone be Wilson's wife?" which they refused to confirm or deny, but said, "Well I've heard that." Meanwhile, either Ari's going around telling reporters that he knows that Wilson's wife is CIA (which I would find hard to believe!) or either in parallel confirming that this is something that's going around (as per Rove's instructions). I think Ari eventually got wind of this (or realized it once he was "shown" the INR memo), and got out of there in a hurry. Might explain why he's cooperating now, not only does Fitz maybe have the goods to nail him on IIPA if he doesn't tell the truth, but he also realizes that this admin had just used him as a patsy, and he wants to get back.

The key of course, was in finding the right journalist "smart" enough to connect the dots, but "ethicaly-challenged" enough to report an unconfirmed rumor as fact. Novak seems to have fit that bill to a T.

The real question, is of course, who started the "Plame is CIA" gossip-whisper campaign in DC? Clearly VP Cheney knew as early as June 12 (when Libby was told). So, some time in the month of June, this information was selectively leaked as gossip through the Washington DC insider/press circle. Perhaps it finally got back to Wilson in late June/Early July, prompting him to write the op-ed piece as payback. Methinks Judy might know a little more on THAT subject (what really happened at their June 23rd meeting?).

Also, this might explain why Fitz always refers to Valerie as Valerie Wilson in the indictment. My guess is that the gossip was that "Valerie Wilson works at CIA and helped her husband get the Niger trip, Cheney had nothing to do with it", and the name "Plame" never came up (which ties her to Brewster Jennings and the NOC status). SO the journalists essentially bought into the whole "Valerie Wilson is a CIA analyst" meme, and when they passed this gossip along, they had no idea that she was covert.

Wilson fights back with the op-ed, which enrages Cheney et al even more, so they decide to start up the Get Wilson operation by having Scooter and Rove (and Ari) orchestrate a Wilson smear with variations of "Wilson was sent by someone at CIA, not by us.," and to direct them to Ari's press briefings where he implicated either Wilson was meeting with Iraq agents seeking yellowcake (the sloppy grammar) or that Wilson's real report actually agrees with our assessment that Saddam was trying to get yellowcake from Iraq in 1999.

So this whole scandal is nothing more than push-counter push between Cheney/Libby and Wilson/other CIA elements, and with each cycle, the stakes got higher. I don't know if Libby and Cheney ever intended to leak the name "Plame" and expose the covert status, or if they wanted to stick with possible analyst Valerie Wilson meme, but somehow Novak found out, and the rest, as we say is history.

So ew -- in your heart of hearts (and brain of brains) -- what do you think the currents odds are that Rove will be indicted?

Also, what if any bearing does the current status of only Libby being indicted have on Wilson & Plame's earlier plan of bringing a civil suit and against whom would the civil suit be brought? Only Libby? Wilson was on a morning talk show today -- I don't think he mentioned it.

Another insight I had... this is probably why the last minute flurry of getting the FBI to question Wilson's neighbors. Because this is all a classic "the left hand has no idea of what the right hand is doing" story.

I'd bet that most of the Washington press had no freakin' clue that Wilson was covert, just that she worked at the CIA on counterproliferation per the rumor (of course the smart ones, like Pincus, probably realized this from the start and kept their mouths shut). SO they all just passed this info amongst themselves, confident that now THEY KNEW why Wilson was sent to Niger, and why he was "hated" by the OVP. And I'd bet they testified to that fact, leaving the grand jurors confused about whether or not an IIPA violation has occurred.

So, I think Fitz tried to convince them by showing that it was not even general knowledge that Valerie Wilson (let alone Plame) worked at the CIA among their neighbors and close friends. Thus Fitz is trying to indirectly prove covert status by equating "Valerie Wilson worked at CIA, and this was not widely known" with "Therefore she must have been covert" and thus IIPA applies (or maybe Espionage act).

It seems possible to me that maybe the GJ just didn't buy this. I'm sure the whole request to interview neighbors was a GJ-initiated one (it would explain Fitz's comments that this GJ was not like most GJ's in that they asked a whole lot of questions).

I really enjoy your work, EW, and would like to ask yet another one of my naive questions. You write that the Bush and Cheney wings are approaching the point where Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD-how appropriate for this crew) is the probably outcome? Why? Let's say that Cheney refuses to testify in the Libby trial by invoking executive privilege. Libby is convicted, but decides not to rat out Cheney on the condition that Bush will pardon him in '09. What incentive does Libby have to tell the truth about Cheney? (I'm assuming of course that Fitzgerald is particularly interested in the conversation on Air Force 2 in july '03 and wants to be sure that Libby will support Catherine Martin's testimony). Who on the Bush side would know enough to sink Cheney at that point? And why would they do it? Did the Bush people work enough with the OVP to put themselves at risk?

Odds of Rove being indicted?


The civil suit?

The civil suit gets filed at precisely the time Fitz makes indictments that might spark pre-emptive pardoning. The suit is not necessarily to get money (Plame strikes me as the kind of person who would HATE the attention of the suit). It's designed as a threat--pre-emptive pardon, and we'll still get to the truth. And FWIW, I think there are fewer executive privilege excuses not to testify for a civil suit (see also Paula Jones) than for a criminal suit. Maybe Fitz sees the Rove indictment as that indictment, where they need to hold the civil suit over Bush's head. And that, when Fitz decided to hold off on Rove, he signaled to Wilson to hold off on the suit. It'll come, I think.

The neighbor visits

I think that was just designed to get a news story, right before the indictment, having a lot of nice DC people talking about 1) the fact they didn't know Plame was covert and 2) what a nice mom with 2 kids she is. Fitz is not just a genius in the courtroom, I think.


Well, Rove gets you to Cheney. He's a member of WHIG. Right now, Libby way well go down. It's not clear Bush will rescue him with a pardon though, unless there's a way of doing so that will rescue Rove (if you're Bush and you feel like Libby brought this on, and you're a vindictive fuck...). But once Rove gets indicted, then Rove can take down Cheney. Libby will need to up the ante to prevent Rove from getting Cheney. So Libby may bring down Condi--or add to the Hadley stuff (although I think Hadley is probably liked by both camps). But if Libby goes after Condi, watch out. BOOM! MAD. Not pretty.

I think you were more correct when you suspected Eliot Abrams in your earlier piece (The Judy Saga - First Impressions). Both Pincus and Novak go way back with Abrams. Pincus covered Ira-Contra for six years and he seemed to wink at a degree of CIA "misbehavior" and dirty deeds, and Novak almost praised Abrams for his illegal work "fighting communism." Joe Wilson named Rove, Libby, and Abrams as prime suspects in the leak.

Of course, maybe you are right about Fleischer being the source for Pincus, but wrong about Novak. Novak originally said his source was from CIA, and that would probably be Fleitz, and that would possibly explain the name "Plame", but still leaves unexplained why Fleitz is not indicted.

Many unanswered questions.


I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't Ari. (I can't see Ari as a Pincus source, FWIW, but maybe that's because I respect Pincus.) If it weren't for the "Not in the WH," I'd say Hadlet got into the act. And there's still the option of someone like Bolton. But Abrams doesn't fit the SAO label.

But you're right, Abrams is involved somehow. Just not sure how. Maybe he was in charge of the pedestrian, indiscriminate leaking.

There is a whole lot of disinformation out there, but one source we can trust is the indictment itself. This is what it says.

21. On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House ("Official A") who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson's wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson's trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson's wife.

If you look at the construction, you will see that this information must have come from Robert Novak. It seems to describe a situation where Official A has a conversation with Novak before 10 July, then Official A advised Libby on or about July 10 or July 11 that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson’s wife. Then Libby seems to have called Novak and told him what Official A had said.

Novak’s two sources were Official A (Karl Rove) and Scooter Libby.

... it is probably a red herring because it's no longer needed for the story.

Great point; I've been meaning to post on that myself. But I'm going to interpret it in a totally different direction ... :-)

I can't see Ari as a Pincus source, FWIW, but maybe that's because I respect Pincus.

Don't forget, though -- Pincus dismissed the leak out of hand as being untrue. Wouldn't that be an understandable reaction if it came from Ari?

The suit is not necessarily to get money ...

Yes and no, I'd say. See here.

I'm kind of amused by the thought that Ari is a professional liar, and he wouldn't just give away high-quality lying for free.


You keep finding a different take on this, if you don't we'll never get to be Laurel and Hardy. I vaguely remember us agreeing recently, but don't know on what...

Pincus and Ari? The biggest reason I doubt Ari is Pincus' source (there's another reason too, that I forget right now) is that it's not Pincus' beat. Pincus already has access to the real policy makers, so why would he go through the communication side when he can go straight to the people who know?


That is pretty funny. Pity for him that his agreeing to talk has probably gutted his intended consulting business.

Official A (assume it's Rove), who told Libby that Wilson's wife was discussed and that Novak would be releasing an article, does not have to be the same as the person who leaked the information about Plame to Novak. I believe that Libby and Rove were getting antsy because Judy Miller had not taken the bait on the Wilson's wife story, and, with the pending publication of Wilson's NY Times op-ed piece about which I' almost sure they knew (maybe Miller told Libby), they looked for another way to leak the Wilson's wife smear. I think this is where Abrams may have come in. Rove surely knew Abrams had close ties with Novak, and that Novak is a dependable shill for the adminstration. Rove couldn't take the chance of calling Novak himself, so he used Abrams as a back door channel, then verified when Novak later called.

Joe Wilson has been right in his assumptions so far, as stated in his book, so I think he was right about Rove, Libby, and Abrams being the leakers.


Interesting factoid. Wilson went on Press the Meat the day his op-ed came out. The host? Andrea Mitchell. One of the other guests? Robert Novak.

CORRECTION -- (sorry, bad cut and paste on my part above)

Official A (assume it's Rove), who told Libby that Wilson's wife was discussed and that Novak would be releasing an article, does not have to be the same as the person who leaked the information about Plame to Novak. I believe that Libby and Rove were getting antsy because Judy Miller had not taken the bait on the Wilson's-wife-nepotism story as of July 8 (Libby's second meeting on that subject), and, with Wilson's NY Times op-ed piece gaining momentum, they looked for another way to leak the Wilson's-wife-nepotism smear and get it in print as quickly as possible. I think this is where Abrams may have come in. Rove surely knew Abrams had close ties with Novak, and that Novak is a dependable shill for the adminstration. Rove couldn't take the chance of calling Novak himself, so he used Abrams as a back door channel, then verified when Novak later called.

Joe Wilson has been right in his assumptions so far, as stated in his book, so I think he was right about Rove, Libby, and Abrams being the leakers.

Roosevelt Democrat,
Thanks for the reply.
But does it matter whether or not Abrams smoothed the way for Rove?
Novak sourced to two, not three officials. Official A and Libby, according to the indictment.
Libby and Official A are the two leakers, According to the indictment, which is the only unimpeachable source.
Am I missing something?

I wasn't aware that Libby had talked to Novak directly. What indictment paragraph says that?

Roosevelt Democrat,
It's implicit in para 21 (see first post).
How does Fitzgerald know what Official A told Libby, yet does not know exactly when (July 10 or 11)?

It HAS TO come from Novak.
So Libby phoned Novak and introduced the subject of Wilson's wife by recounting what Official A had told him.

I cannot think of any other scenario that explains this key paragraph.


Great read. And my point: we are living through one of the first electronic, real-time, reality-based Whodunnits, with every person with access to the Internet being able to be part of the enormous, globe-spanning sleuthing taking place around Plamegate.

What a wonderful world ...

But think a bit about what this means for a cabel of officials who function best through disciplined, well-kept secrets, taking decisions in closed rooms, using others to carry out their tasks (perhaps unwittingly) .... what chance have they to control things and shape things when all the world is hunting them?

Poor prey. Every utterance, every half-baked assumption, every talking note issued: all subject to 24/7 analysis and rebuttal.

Poor prey - their days are numbered. And deservedly so.

Carry on hunting, all ye bloggers!

No, emptywheel, it isn't implicit. Para. 21 says Official A talked with Novak, but it does not say Libby talked with Novak. If we assume that Official A is Rove, then we know that Rove "confirmed" the story to Novak on July 8. Supposedly Rove said, "I've heard that, too" when Novak asked him about the story, indicating that Novak had already heard the Wilson's-wife story before he called Rove on July 8. So, someone else besides Rove had to tell Novak before he called Rove. Novak originally said it was a CIA person who told him, then later retracted and said it was two administration officials. There is nothing in para. 21 to indicate that the someone was Libby, although Libby is definitely a possiblity. Novak said he had a long conversation with a senior administration official about why Wilson was sent to Niger, and that the Wilson's-wife story was mentioned offhandedly, then in another call he got the confirmation from Rove. I can see why you assume that Rove was reporting to Libby about Novak on June 10 or 11 because you think Libby had set the Novak thing in motion earlier, but we don't know that was the case from the indictment. If Novak had told Fitzgerald his sources were Libby and Rove, then why wasn't any conversation that Novak had with Libby prior to the Rove conversation mentioned in the indictment? Since it wasn't mentioned, I have to assume that Fitzgerald knows something about the original leak to Novak that we don't know. Since Joe Wilson thinks that Eliot Abrams was a leaker, I'm inclined to go along with him instead of Libby until I hear otherwise, and so I am assuming that Novak originally heard the Wilson's-wife story from Abrams (or someone else besides Libby and Rove).

Roosevelt Dem --

I agree that we don't know Novak's first source. Ari is certainly a possibility but I've never forgotten that Scotty said Rove, Libby and Abrams had nothing to do with the leak. And then Abrams totally vanished from the story.

And in my own head....

Last night, it occurred to me that you really had two separate operations going on. The OVP started to investigate and look into the Wilson trip early in the spring. I am not necessarily convinced that, at that point, it was even on the radar in the Oval Office. The Cheney machine could, and would, handle it.

Then it blew up with Wilson's op-ed and, with the Oval Office side out of the country for a week, things just slipped out of control. Everyone who now had an interest in snuffing it out -- and that was now true of both channels in the White House -- began trying to damage Wilson's credibility any way possible. That led to a lot of sloppiness and one hand not always knowing what the other is doing.

One of the things I find interesting is that it does appear that the two factions are again devolving into internal warfare, lending credibility to emptywheel's MAD theory. And, of course, it seems as though, now, Rove is out for Rove. He's concerned that the base be there for Bush because Rove needs the base to survive, too.

One sure hopes that Fitz has more answers for us down the road. Or that Jay Rockefeller gets a real spine and demands that the SSCI finish the job they set out to do.

I'm assuming Rove was the first administration official, Libby was the second.
The assumption that Rove was talking to Libby comes from para 21
(Official A") who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak

How does Fitzgerald know that unless Novak told him? Neither Rove nor Libby are co-operating.

How does Novak know that unless Libby told him?

Rove called first, maybe "confirming" Abrams.
Libby followed up and used his earlier conversation with Rove as a lead in to "Wilson's wife".

Rove must have told Fitzgerald that he had told Libby that Novak was doing a column. Rove probably learned in his July 8 conversation with Novak about the column, or assumed it. The fact that Rove told Libby about the July 8 conversation with Novak is in no way incriminating (no laws were broken), so there is no reason Rove would not have told Fitzgerald about this conversation between he and Libby.

The bigger question remains. If Rove told Fitzgerald who his sources are, and they are Rove and Libby, then why is there no mention of a Libby-Novak conversation about Plame/Wilson in the indictment? That would have constituted THE LEAK, and, after all, that's what Fitzgerald was mandated to find out.

The fact that Rove told Libby about the July 8 conversation with Novak is in no way incriminating

Au contraire. If Rove and Libby were discussing their respective leaks, that is Fitzgerald's conspiracy case. Against the entire White House.

The way I read it Fitz is squeezing Rove and Libby to admit to this conversation. At present he only has Novak's word, which is hearsay and not enough

The other problem about inferring that the information came from either Rove or Libby is that they would have known on which day it occured.
The formulation "On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003" suggests the source is someone who has been told about this conversation.
That suggests Libby used that conversation ("in the past couple of days"?) as the lead-in to "Wilson's wife" when he spoke to Novak.

Where is the indication that Libby spoke to Novak about Plame/Wilson, or spoke to Novak at all? It isn't in the indictment.

If Fitzgerald had testimony from Novak that he had talked with Libby about Plame/Wilson, then Libby would have been indicted for THE LEAK.

If we assume that Novak told Fitzgerald what he knew, including the names of his two sources, then we can assume that Libby was not one of his sources because he wasn't indicted for THE LEAK.

If Novak took the fifth, then that could explain the lack of an indictment against Libby for leaking to Novak. However, indications are that Novak did not plead the fifth.

So, we still have a mystery leaker who is the first Novak source. It could conceivably be Libby or Rove (maybe Novak spoke with Rove on two separate occasions and did not have two sources in the White House), but it could be a third leaker as well.

It's not explicit, but it's implicit in para 21. Unless there is an alternative explanation for that strange formulation.

What indication do you have that Novak did not take the fifth - at least partially or informally as part of a deal?

It may be that Novak gave up everything that did not incriminate himself, like Libby recounting what Rove had told him (hearsay). But would not testify as to his sources.

So - Fitz didn't indict Rove, or, more importantly, a larger conspiracy, but at least didn't close the investigation. Libby gets arraigned Thursday. What are we hoping Fitz is doing now? Or are we just hoping that something will come out of the pre-trial and/or trial or Libby will cop a plea and testify against others?

What strange formulation?

On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003

Rove probably told Fitzgerald that he had a call from Novak on July 8, talked with him about Plame/Wilson for an article, then added that two or three days later, he can't be positive which, he told Libby about his conversation with Novak. I don't find that strange. I think that is believable.

Thanks, that's possible.
But if Rove has admitted telling Libby about his conversation with Novak, that he discussed "Wilson's wife", is he not giving Fitzgerals his conspiracy?
Remember, Fitzgerald cited the nondisclosure agreement which refers specifically to 18 USC 793. Rove signed the same document.
Under USSC Morison intent is not an issue under this statute.
Morison did something pretty innocent on his own and clearly had no intent to harm the United States. He was convicted.

If Rove admits to this it means he and Libby have conspired to do something pretty dirty which has undoubtedly harmed the United States. He'd be tied up in a pink bow.

Not trying to defend Rove, but if Novak called him on July 8 and told him about Plame/Wilson, and Rove answered, "That's what I heard, too" or "So, you know about that?", then Rove has not revealed any classified information (i.e., classified information that has not already entered the public domain), at least technically since Novak already knows the information. Merely mentioning the Novak conversation to Libby does not necessarily imply a conspiracy. If we back off and try to not ascribe the worst possible motives to Rove (hard to do knowing his personality, I know), as Fitzgerald is sworn to try to do in order to be fair, then this part does not seem illegal. However, Fitzgerald may have the whole story, not the glimpses we get from public sources and utterances.

But I'm going to interpret it in a totally different direction ... :-)

As promised: Who screwed up the State Dept. memo?

Tomorrow I have to start working on a book I update and publish every year (nothing to do with politics), so my time here is at an end for a month or two at least. I've enjoyed thinking out loud with you.

Now, let me say this about Plamegate. After studying the many opinions and the public documents, and apart from trying to prove what I'm about to say, I think it is obvious that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove, and probably others, were involved in a coordinated campaign to smear Joe Wilson and discredit his views, in part by outing his wife as a CIA agent.

I believe that Marc Grossman shared information with Scooter Libby about Joe Wilson and his trip as early as June 9, 2003 (and about his wife on June 11/12), and that this information was very soon thereafter shared with other senior administration officials in the White House, and specifically with Karl Rove.

I believe that sometime after June 11/12, the decision was made, probably by Libby and Rove and possibly by others (most likely WHIG or NSC members), to use the information to discredit and smear Joe Wilson by leaking the information to the media.

I believe that Karl Rove outed Plame/Wilson to Novak, probably on June 19 at Novak's anniversary party, and we know that Libby outed Plame/Wilson to Miller on June 23 and July 8 and July 12.

The rest is pretty much a series of events that happened after the outing of Plame/Wilson and those afterevents are recorded fairly completely in the indictment of Libby.

So, I feel certain in my heart after looking at the available evidence, that I can state that the White House, almost certainly acting with the full knowledge of the president and vice-president, undertook a coordinated campaign to smear Joe Wilson with malice, and with disregard for the national security of the United States and the safety and well-being of his wife Valerie.

I am pleased that, at least so far, it seems this whole sordid mess will eventually awaken the American people to the illegality of the Iraq War. I hope that Patrick Fitzgerald can soon bring the whole gang of thugs in the White House to some kind of justice.

Hi, EW, any chance you can take a peek back at this thread when you get a minute?

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