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October 01, 2005


Laura Rozen says this is just how Libby writes, based on his novel. Just another weird dude.

But I'm not really interested, so much, in the Aspen shit.

I'm interested primarily in the stuff that demonstrably contradicts known reality. Not a stylistic thing. A content and logic thing.

Two things -- one, if it was indeed Judy or the NYT who decided to release Libby's letters to her, what happened to source confidentiality? At no point does Libby say "oh and feel free to print my letter on the front page of the NYT, too."

Second, a paragraph in the NYT article really jumped out at me:

A lawyer who knows Mr. Libby's account said the administration efforts to limit the damage from Mr. Wilson's criticism extended as high as Mr. Cheney. This lawyer and others who spoke about the case asked that they not be identified because of grand jury secrecy rules.
"A lawyer who knows Mr. Libby's account" -- wouldn't that be Libby's lawyer? And WTF is he trying to do pointing the finger in the NYT at Cheney?

Is he not so happy about being thrown to the dogs after all?

It's not necessarily an attempt to throw blame at Cheney.

Remember right after (or before) Cooper testified, Rove released a detail of an email to Hadley? I've always been convinced that was an attempt to explain away an email that was really part of the coverup.

This could be some of the same.

I don't know if I'm looking at exactly the same NYT article as you, but these paragraphs...

On July 12, 2003, four days after his initial conversation with Ms. Miller, Mr. Libby consulted with Mr. Cheney about how to handle inquiries from journalists about the vice president's role in sending Mr. Wilson to Africa in early 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq was trying acquire nuclear material there for its weapons program, the person said.

In that account, Mr. Cheney told Mr. Libby to direct reporters to a statement released the previous day by George J. Tenet, director of central intelligence. His statement said Mr. Wilson had been sent on the mission by C.I.A. counter-proliferation officers "on their own initiative."

...sound like they may be trying to provide an explanation for some Cheney communication that really indicates involvement directly in the plot to out Plame. For example, it could have been a clarification email about how they were going to spin the claim that Plame sent Wilson (that was about to show up publicly in two days). I mean, the explanation isn't really plausible. Why was Libby running interference with reporters, rather than one of the press people?

There's one other interesting nugget in that article, btw.

Ms. Miller spoke with Mr. Libby first on July 8, when the two met, and on July 12, when they spoke by phone. She was working on an article about banned weapons in Iraq that was not published.

At one level, this is just the NYT take on the Libby story that they were meeting about WMDs. But this is an article "about banned weapons in Iraq that was not published."

There were no banned weapons in Iraq.

Were they fixing to write another bogus article claiming there were banned weapons in Iraq? Were they fixing to rewarm their old claims about weapons related program materials? Because otherwise, I don't know how this article would differ from the July 20 article that basically admitted there were no banned weapons in Iraq.

Anyway, if they were planning to write another BS WMD article, it might invalidate the assertion I made this morning, that Judy couldn't corroborate Libby's story that they were talking about WMDs. Because if it was going to be an article where Judy claimed that the bioweapons labs were in fact bioweapons labs and the aluminum tubes were in fact for centrifuges, I can imagine Lelyveld didn't want to have anything to do with it.

I'm wondering if they were considering resucitating their dying myth of WMDs in Iraq as part of the response to Wilson? That might explain the reason why Libby was so interested in having Judy limit her testimony only to Plame. Because in that conversation, perhaps we were a lot closer to the Niger forgeries than we thought.

My head is spinning.

This is not quite on topic, but maybe someone here can clarify something that has always puzzled me: why didn't they arrange to "find" some sort of WMD in Iraq? Surely they could have arranged something through one of the contractors. Were they so sure that WMD would be found that they didn't see the need?

I think they thought it'd be easier to invent a person, as Judy did, who could explain them all away. Fewer loose ends that way.

My reaction to the quaking aspen phrase was that Libby's saying the jig's up for the White House crowd (TalkLeft specifically suggests the Iraq Group) so go ahead and talk. Perhaps I'm too optimistic.

Stephanopoulous said on THis Week that a source told him both Bush and Cheney were involved in Plamegate! I emailed Crooks & Liars to get the clip ip.

Emptywheel is right that there's nothing "boring" inthe Plame affair. What's so fascinating about this case is how complex it is and how little is known about what Fitzgerald is up to. Witnesses and their lawyers all profess complete ignorance about what's really going on, because Fitz has done what so few others have -- kept quiet.

So what we have a is big mystery. And for those of us who love solving mysteries, it's irresistable.

question of the morning:


E&P Link:

"But a new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged in recent weeks from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case.

"They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose.

"Lawyers involved in the case interviewed for this report agreed to talk only if their names were not used, citing Fitzgerald's request for secrecy.

"One source briefed on Miller's account of conversations with [I. Lewis] Libby said it is doubtful her testimony would on its own lead to charges against any government officials. But, the source said, her account could establish a piece of a web of actions taken by officials that had an underlying criminal purpose." [emphasis mine]

Good question, obsessed.

In this post I argue that there may be two, not three leakers here, one of whom is a Miller lawyer. Plus the two anti-conspiracy anti-crime lawyers (who might or might not be named Luskin and Tate) cited later in the article.

If we assume the Miller lawyer is either Bennett or Abrams (or a surrogate for them), I'd bet Abrams over Bennett. Mostly because he seems to believe, rightly, that Tate was holding out on the waiver until the end. He made a point of exposing Tate's comment about work-related waivers, and the NYT made a point of publishing all that correspondence. Bennett, on the other hand, seems like he could be a pro-BushCo Judy lawyer, sent in to get her to testify in a way that helps BushCo.

As to the other lawyer? Well, I think it highly possible that Ari Fleischer, Mary Matalin, George Tenet, and/or Powell are talking to Fitz (as well as some former associates of Powell and Tenet). Any one of these people would have knowledge and evidence of a conspiracy. While I think Ari's lawyer has been remarkably silent, even when Ari was getting accused in the news (so I doubt it's him), and Powell is reputed not to have a lawyer in this affair, I think it possible that a CIA-associated lawyer might want the world to know everyone could go down, particularly with Tenet's recent threats in response to the IG's report on Iraqi intelligence.

One more unlikely guess. Isn't Carville, technically, a lawyer?

I think it highly possible that Ari Fleischer, Mary Matalin, George Tenet, and/or Powell are talking to Fitz

Don't forget John Hannah!

Cheney Aide John Hannah may have been the original leaker to Novak, and for all we know could have "flipped" long ago on his higher ups. There was a lot of press about Hannah when the Fitz's Plame Investigation was first cranking up, and then suddenly his name dropped completely off the radar screen. That could be consistent with a sealed guilty plea in which he agreed to cooperate with Fitz's investigation.

More here: http://www.thinkprogress.org/leak-scandal#hannah

The only reason I don't put too much credence on the Hannah thing is that the story is eventually sourced solely to the Moonie Times. And, AFAIK, Hannah remained in the WH after he was supposed to have been flipped. Matalin and Ari have the benefit of having remained separate from the WH since they would have talked. And in Matalin's case, there were stories right around the time she testified that claimed she was going to work on the 2004 campaign. But instead, she started writing children's books.

Yes -- Hannah stayed in the White House. But -- as is shown on most cop tv shows -- the best witness to bust a conspiracy is one who stays in the conspiracy after secretly pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate, such as a member of the mafia secretly getting indicted and then wearing a wire to all the mafioso meetings.

Thanks for the great explanation. And yes, Carville is a lawyer. ... but could Stephanopoulos get away with characterizing him as "representing a witness in the case"?

If we examine Carville's statements on this whole affair, are they consistent him having inside knowledge that Mary Magdalene is the mole (or one of them)?

It's certainly interesting that Novak's infamous outburst followed a provocation by JC. (JC, Judith Escariot, Mary Magdalene, Adam Levine ... proof of intelligent design?)

Matalin is working for Simon & Schuster in NYC setting up book deals with Republicans, one potential deal being a book from Miller.

Carville is a lawyer. ... but could Stephanopoulos get away with characterizing him as "representing a witness in the case"?

It seems to me you could certainly characterize him as "representing" Mary Matalin who is certainly a witness in the case. And, of course, she would also have had a very nice vantage point from which to assess what Cheney, at least, knew and didn't know.

I've been intrigued for a long time by the quickly-defunct HBO series, "K Street," that "starred" Matalin and Carville. It was a mix of fact and fiction that made it impossible to figure out exactly where one started and the other left off. Each episode was made in one week and aired the next Sunday, which made it very topical. And the series dates? September 14, 2003 to November 16, 2003 just as the Plame leak investigation was gearing up.

Consider the description of Episode Five, aired on October 12, 2003: "Mary Matalin defends herself against rumors that she may been the source of the recent leak of a CIA agent's identity."

Two weeks later, in episode seven: "The FBI puts a scare into the employees of Bergstrom Lowell and on the advice of legal counsel nobody can talk about what's going on."

And, perhaps the most interesting piece, weeks 9 and 10 were suddenly consumed with an obviously fictional plot that ended the K Street lobbying firm at the show's center and the whole thing quickly faded into HBO history. To my knowledge, no episode of this show has ever been re-aired. Rather curious since HBO isn't exactly well-known for airing shows just once. And this was a well-hyped series with George Clooney as director but, apparently, after a mere ten weeks, they had had enough.

It would be well worth the time and effort to review these shows, if only they could be found somewhere. I've looked for either transcripts or a video to purchase of the series but, alas, no luck.

And, emptywheel, a couple of little points. I wouldn't read quite so much into Libby's "if any" qualifiers. It strikes me more as a simple waffling point inserted for the sake of lawyering.

And, as for this quote:

Because, as I am sure will not be news to you, the public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me, or knew about her before our call.

and your response:

Second, it should be news to Judy--to all of us--that "every other reporter" said they didn't discuss Plame's identity. Because we know Cooper, at least (and Russert, too, although his testimony is famously unclear) did discuss Plame's identity with Libby.

I think you may be misreading this. Libby was saying that those who did discuss Plame with Libby, i.e., Cooper at least, already knew about Plame. Cooper testified that he asked Libby for confirmation.

As for the curious little paragraph about the aspen trees, I was struck by the They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Sounds to me like a plea to stay together with a vague threat included if you try to go your own way.


One of the interesting things about that series is that, I suspect if Matalin flipped, it would have been in January 2004, after the series was dead. It's only after Fitz came on that anyone tried to offer deals to people (indeed, that was one of the reasons Comey said they needed a Special Prosecutor).

You're right about that sentence--that's a good explanation. I've been puzzling over it because of its weird grammar. There's not a strict parallelism between the first and second clause.

Does that suggest, though, that Libby is trying to pin this on Rove? Because if he's pointing to Cooper knowing of Plame before their call, then he's basically saying, "Hey Judy, Karl is set up to take the fall for this."

In which case, you couple the Aspen comment with Rove's universal rejection there, and one possibilitiy is that they were going to turn on Karl.

I just added both K Street DVD's to my NetFlix queue!


emptywheel --

I agree that if Matalin told all, it would have happened after K Street went off the air. In fact, what I am suggesting is that K Street went off the air because the investigation was getting too close to Matalin and she (and James) simply couldn't live up to the agreement they had made to do this reality/fiction show any more. Reality had closed in and they were both looking at the possibility of serious legal trouble down the road. Talking with lawyers about how to stay out of jail on this kind of a charge wouldn't be something that I would want filmed, to be shown to a national audience less than a week later. I think K Street had to be cancelled because of the Plame leak and what Mary Matalin knew about it. Hence, the phony ending storyline of the last couple weeks and the permanent drop into the memory hole that is so uncharacteristic of HBO.

As for Libby trying to pin it on Rove, my guess would be that Libby is trying to make sure it does not get pinned on himself and, even more importantly, his boss. If protecting Cheney means taking down Rove, I don't think either Cheney or Libby would give that another thought. The venom for Wilson was certainly flowing more heavily from the VPs office than from the Oval Office, I think it's safe to say.

Also, FWIW, probably not much, Dick Cheney and George H.W. Bush were both scheduled to attend an event (invitation-only) at the University of Wyoming in mid-October (16th or 19th, can't remember.) Last week, the word came down that Cheney won't be there. That makes the second time this summer he has bailed out of announced plans to be in Laramie, Wyoming. I'd like to think it's because of our peace group's regular Friday afternoon "Honk for Peace" stand-ups, but my guess is that he's both sicker than we know (physically) and hunkering down.


Thanks! It's great to know that the DVDs ARE out there! I will have to order them.


How involved were Matalin and Carville in writing that? I only made the comment about the timing because it's almost as if they were working out the possibilities in the fall for something that came true in the winter.

Well, that was the strange thing about the show. It was a total mix of truth and fiction. So I don't think there was much of a script, per se. I remember seeing an interview with Soderburgh (sp?) around that time ... because, watching it, I was trying to figure out what was true and what was scripted ... and my memory is that he said they had general story ideas to follow, if things got dull but, in general, little of it was scripted. In addition to Matalin and Carville, a slew of politicians, consultants, lobbyists, etc. showed up in each show. You could tell that people thought it was great fun to be on it. But there were also several regulars who were actors playing the role of associates in the Carville-Matalin PR firm. It was my understanding at the time that they (the actors) had some scripts and story lines to follow but that others really didn't.

And that's also what made the ending so seemingly odd to me. Suddenly, it was all about the fiction and then it was over.

it's almost as if they were working out the possibilities in the fall for something that came true in the winter.

I think the Justice Department investigation had just begun and they were in the middle of it. As a result, I suspect they realized the investigation was pretty serious and it wasn't going to go away.

If you have a timeline somewhere, check that late Sept/early Oct 2003 period and see if that's when the Justice Dept investigation began. My memory is that the early episodes had nothing to do with Plame and then something happened and the middle episodes were all Plame.

Here's the closest thing I've done to a timeline. But yeah, the investigation got announced at the end of September. That was also the time when Rove and Libby and Novak were almost certainly plotting their coverup. And at that point, the WH seemed to believe they could turn this into a whitewash (recall that Ashcroft was getting briefings on the progress of the investigation.

It's not until December that things look really serious, when Ashcroft recused and Comey appointed Fitzgerald.

FWIW, the INR memo seems to have gotten leaked (or re-leaked) in October 2003.

Silly me! I forgot the timeline done by my sister, littlesky, which is here. She puts the request from the CIA to the Justice Department on Sept 26. The months of September and October are jam-packed with events:

September 2003 - 9/26 - CIA requests DOJ investigate the outing of Plame. Ashcroft requires FBI to sign non-disclosure agreements. Ashcroft begins to receive briefings on the investigation (Christopher Wray and John Dion), including Libby's notes detailing the inner workings of the WHIG (Murray Waas - some of these notes are said to describe the effort to discredit Wilson). 9/27 - SAO tells Wapo that leaker contacted 6 other reporters after Novak column, says leak was purely for revenge against Wilson. 9/29 - Cliff May writes that Plame's name was "common knowledge" and points back to his July article as proof. 9/29 - Novak claims on Crossfire that no one in administration called him, says he was interviewing admin official about Wilson's trip when official told him Plame inspired trip & another SAO said same thing. Wurmser (AEI, part of OSP, INC supporter) is moved from State Dept under Bolton to VP's office under Libby.

October 2003 - 10/1 - Novak admits CIA asked him not to name Plame. 10/2 - WH says nothing illegal was done, Plame's name was common knowledge. 10/2 - Investigation extended to State and DoD. 10/3 - (FRIDAY) White House Staff Given Until Tuesday to Turn in CIA Leak Information. [or in other words, ladies and gentlemen, start your shredders] 10/4 - Novak reveals name of front company Plame worked for, and pushes the partisan political aspect of the story. 10/7 - WH rules out Rove - McClellan states"it's not true at all" that Rove was invloved, he rules out Libby, and Elliot Abrams also but not at emphatically. 10/8 - WH lawyers screen documents sent to FBI. Some 2,000 White House employees were asked to turn over telephone records, notes, correspondence, diary entries and other information that might help the FBI learn who leaked the identity of undercover CIA operations officer Valerie Plame.

And, the show of that week -- after WH employees are asked to turn over all of their information -- is the beginning of the serious heat on Mary Matalin. The time frame fits perfectly.

How about the quaking aspens "turning" in the fall just as a witness "turns?" Libby is saying that the conspirators in the White House Iraq Group are all "turning" States evidence so Judith should also?

It's very quiet - reminds me of the ominously still weather before the '89 earthquake.

I think this line of commentary misses one obvious point: this letter from Scooter to Judy suggests a love letter. Forget about Strauss - I suspect an affair here between two very strange people.

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