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October 05, 2006


If Cheney is in Fitz's crosshairs, doesn't pardoning Libby move up the timetable of Cheney's indictment?

Thank you for commenting on this article. I have to say after reading it yesterday, I was down. At least there is a little hope that this may not be in the best interest of the administration at this point.

Wouldn't a pardon render Libby immune from ALL LIABILITY, including civil liability, damages, punative measures of all kinds? The pardon power (I think) inherits all the facets of the pardoning power of english kings, which is unlimited.


I have learned a lot since I came here a few weeks (doggone it was it it months ago) looking into the Rove-Plame thing (remember that?).

I have a different opinion than you on a lot of this but I have grown to appreciate your efforts as nothing less than Herculean in magnitude. If there is something there at all you will ferret it out, and you will make tremendous effort to prove it as close as you can.

On the Libby matter though and predicting the future and strategy, which I am fair at, there will be no pardon of Libby until after the Nov 2008 Elections. I will bet on that. That assumes that Libby needs one of course. I would expect a group of pardons from Bush like we got from Clinton in the last weeks.

I agree that Dick Cheney is NOT AFRAID OF MERE MORTAL MAN and baring physical illness he will handle himself with "aplomb" making all the Democrats, liberals, and media hate him that much more. More I think than they hate Bush.

Remember this. Bush and Cheney's time table extends to Election Day Nov 2008. After that it is all gravy.
I would expect delays in the Libby trial, etc. And no civil case of Cheney until after 2008 if ever.
I expect the Wilsons to wilt away. I don't predict it. I just expect it.

Oh yes, I forgot. Even if Libby is convicted of something, he will appeal and the matter will still be pending Nov 2008.

On Presidential Pardons, I think (only think) that they don't cover Civil actions, from what I remember from some class or something.

Someone will correct me if I am wrong.

Once Libby is pardoned, doesn't he lose his right to silence? With the possibility of a Democratic Congress, I would think the WH would think twice about creating someone who HAD to testify before a congressional committee or another grand jury.
Of course he could lie, but ... I'm just looking at the every-man-for-himself spectacle that the Foley thing is becoming, and wondering if that's what might happen. One could hope, anyway.

From my sister the Lawyer: Pardons cannot excuse civil liability. However, should Libby be pardoned for criminal offense, he will have available to him the defense that his actions were in the course of his official duties, and therefor not actionable, and it MAY be (thus far unlitigated) that a pardon would render that defense absolute by placing the question of the legality of his actions beyond justiciability.
One caveat: constitutional law isn't her area of expertise.

Fly Safe
be busy
Fly Safe
I'm looking forward to that book!
appreciate all your efforts.

Right--if Libby is pardoned, he still has to testify in the civil suit. I kind of think it'd be difficult, if not impossible, for them to pardon until they figure out whether the civil suit will go forward. And the key question is the one lizard brings up--if the leak was something done in the ordinary course of their jobs, then the entire suit may be rejected. I just don't know when THAT judgment will be made. I think it'll be after the election, but I'm not sure how long after (that is, before the trial or no). And, as Jodi points out, Libby won't go to jail right after he is found guilty. He'll appeal. And at this point, I think his graymail strategy is just designed to lay the groundwork for an appeal, not to get the whole thing dismissed at this point.

You know, the first time I read the words "Libby" and "pardon" together, I saw the word "Liddy" instead. Took me a few seconds to crawl out of the rabbit hole...

Is the one indictment still sealed?

Jodi -- You haven't met Joe Wilson, have you?

I agree Cheney thinks he'll be Ollie North, but considering his track record of success, I think there's an equal chance he'll be Col. Nathan Jessep from A Few Good Men.

And remember, North's testimony wasn't good enough to get him acquitted. He got off on a technicality, because he'd been given immunity to testify before Congress. So even if Cheney is as good on the stand as North, that may not be enough.

(BTW, my Marine father-in-law hated North, because he wore his winter uniform to testify in the summer because it looked more impressive, and he cried on cue. Marines just Don't Do That.)


Not only that, but I can assure you Dick Cheney can't cry on cue.

Redshift - I fall somewhere between Jodi and you.
Wilsons will not wilt away, but will settle - say, at
$3M to $4M range.

John Dean said, during his appearance on FDL, that he's quite certain Bush will pardon Libby at the end of his term. He also said that everything will comeout in the civil case. The people over on TMs site believe the Wilson's civil case will be thrown out FWIW.

I have no special knowledge of Bush's intentions, so I can only say this: typically, pardons like this come at the end of the term, even if the person they're pardoning has to spend a few months in the clink. That way, not only does the president not have to deal with the fallout, but some segment of the population is willing to accept that the time served is punishment enough.

Now, perhaps in some time long since passed, the "embarrassment" of having spent time in jail for your crimes would have been punishment enough. But as we all know now, serving jail time is just an additional marketing point for your tell-all book, or your syndicated radio talk show.

On top of that, I observe this: the Bush "administration" appears to delight in turning traditional practice on its head, particularly where moderation and/or "shame" is supposed to be a mitigating factor. How many times has Bush dared to do precisely that which the staid and proper Washington punditry had just declared he "wouldn't dare?"

That's the problem. And that's what has me unable to settle on a prediction about the timing of a pardon, should it become necessary. Further, the necessity of the pardon may not even bear on the decision to grant it. This nutjob president may issue it just to prove he's got the gumption.

Time it right, and he and his party can get away with it, too. America can't sustain outrage over the long haul. Too many channels.

Wasn't there a graymail hearing before Walton within the past couple of weeks (I seem to recall someone mentioning that this would be very important to the case)? What came of that?

first off, a pardon would extinguish scooter's 5th amendment protections, and open scooter up to any prosecutor with a subpeona

second, RICO has a 10 year statute of limitation

third, presnit bush has his own ass hanging in the wind here

a pardon for scooter assures that scooter would testify at the Wilson Civil suit, and be available for questioning by a Congressional Investigation (probably led by Congressman Conyers)

and a pardon would probably allow Patrick Fitzgerald to drag scooter before another Grand Jury

I don't think george wants that

but george ain't the sharpest pencil in the box here, so all bets are off

Interesting to tally up what Bush's options are prior to November and then before new Congress goes into session. Iran, N. Korea, John Conyers, Censure, Medicare Part B crash, bankrupt economy, inventory-less military, fending off Russia & China, UK w/o Blair's allegence, Tenet's book coming out in Jan, Musharef's book on the shelf. The tally speaks volumns against Bush trying to pardon anytime before the end of his reign because he's going to need to rebuild his bubble pretty soon.


Wednesday, February 28, 2001

This appears to be an overview for the IANAL crowd like me


Pardon section of Pitt Law School site



The hearing was closed, so I doubt we'll learn about the results one way or another.


I agree the normal time to pardon is January. But there's also the history of pardoning the guy who can expose your own involvement.

Perhaps the best way to prevent a pre-emptive Bush pardon is to talk about how only sissies, like Poppy Bush, would resort to such tactics.

One of the interesting aspects of EdlV seems to be her appreciation of the earnestness of the principals who are still in office; I would expect Libby to retire and write; but to remain engaged as an intellectual for his Causes, postPardon. The EdlV article November 2005, serves as a reminder there are a few other people enmeshed in Fitzgerald's investigation though not declared targets; and Christie has written eloquently from that perspective as well. One needs true broadband to visit fdl these days, though.

Much information developed at TNH has clarified the SODDI tactic (linked article) has limits. Though I appreciate EdlV's contributions for their thoroughness and timeliness.

Sometimes I sense the Libby prime defense is to read TNH, and ask Karl about timeing in response to material developed here. And I would estimate a simple solution has become paying a reader writer to monitor TNH.

I am sure Jane has her own requirements and creative plans. I was looking at a creative parallel to the PowerPoint defense, though my project seems delayed. One interesting strategy is to publish with Jen late; let Libby create some evidence to spread the SODDI defense thin.

I worry about the graymail gambit as applied to the separate civil action, as well. But that is actually the forte of the petitioners there. Something about the incentive to arrive at a resolution seems to me likely to produce less vigorous a defense at either trial, the one brought by Fitzgerald or the one in the civil forum, as the Agency seems to have succeeded on many fronts recently, especially with obtaining congressional permissions to conduct its blackbox affairs; and the judiciary so far has sheltered that coziness.

Still, I wonder what NYT and Newsweek might have in a private archive germane to a Fitzgerald exploration. I think it is that kind of assessment, in anticipation, that must figure in a putative strategy for a pardon. I like ew's simple view, though; Ted and company could take this to trial and prove their bluster had merit; talk about contrarian advocacy.

If Libby recieves a criminal pardon, and is requested to testify in a civil suit about actions he claims are in the course of his official duty, it is entirely possible that executive privelege can be claimed. In the Nixon cases, exacutive privelege was claimed, covering both the traditional, information-gathering and decision-making areas, and also several matters of executive ACTIONS. Privelege was denied because the actions were unlawful, and the question of wether it would apply to lawful actions was not reached. If the pardon in fact renders the lawfulness of the actions unjudiciable, privelege may, in fact, apply. With the current makeup of the court, (Stevens is squishy of executive issues) it might even be upheld.

De La vega is a former federal prosecutor, EW. I think her 20 years of experience in this field says a lot. Your argument doesn't cut it. I hope you will make a better argument for the book then you just don't hire a legal team.

Joe and Valerie Wilson settling this case would be like McCain, who was tortured in Vietnam (and who signed a false confession in 1968), agreeing to....

...well, agreeing to run for President, and pledging to cover up for everything this administration did.

Anyone notice that McCain sold off his greatest political asset? What was that torture "compromise" but a chip called in for neocon support (or for the Diebold guarantee)? Who could ignore the suspension of habeas and the retroactive nine-year immunity clause?

Joe and Valerie Wilson know the stakes. $3 or $4 million? LMAO... This isn't about money for them, and I think you misunderstand the motivations of the suit entirely if you think they are seeking a cash award as an end in itself (if it ever gets that far, it will be a jury who gives it out, and it's pledged to charity in any case).

There's an obligation to history, to our children, to know exactly what this administration did to punish a policy critic after initiating the Iraq War. The civil suit offers the potential to fill in some blanks. If we had an honest administration, if Bush had fired everyone involved as promised (but of course he authorized it, so how could he do it?), there would be no need for a civil suit. I'm quite sure the Wilsons would agree about that.

More for Pete on the graymail/privilege hearings -

There was indeed what looks to have been a hammer-and-tong set of closed CIPA Sec. 6(a) hearings last week and this week. They started a week ago Wednesday - the morning of the bomb scare at the federal courthouse. That first hearing finally got underway at about 1:30 p.m. apparently. The hearing was continued the next morning - and ran presumably for most of the day. Then they continued again this Tuesday morning, and again this Wednesday morning. Don't know how long the latter two sessions ran each day, but it looks like the hearings may now be concluded. In the midst of it all, both sides filed briefs on Monday this week, addressing some questions the Judge raised in the first two hearings about the Federal Rules of Evidence.

The two sides answered somewhat different questions for the Court. Libby focused on "cumulative" evidence exclusions and claimed every PDB summary, etc., is "critical" to his defense, and Fitzgerald focused on the fact that the rules and the law allow the Judge to exclude from trial "relevant evidence" - without impinging on Libby's Constitutional right to present a defense - if the relevant evidence wanders too far afield and simply ends up confusing the issues. This is with regard, of course, to all the PDB highly classified document summaries, Libby's classified notes and the classified Wilson/Niger documents. A telling quote from the Fitzgerald brief:

"...the defendant in this case proposes to introduce in support of his memory/preoccupation defense evidence that is so extraordinary both in breadth (i.e., the topics are wide-ranging) and in depth (i.e., the level of detail) that the evidence takes on a misleading aura, is confusing, and would be so time consuming that all of these dangers would substantially outweigh its probative value - particularly where there is no dispute as to the defendant's overall point that he was busy and worked on national security matters."

Emphasis added.

So if the hearings have now concluded, the ball is in the Judge's Court... He will be issuing written rulings about the admissibility of every classified piece of proposed evidence (presumably not publicly), and that will dictate what comes next. It may take some reading between the lines for awhile to figure out where things stand, since things are taking place under seal and behind closed doors, as the jet-setting EW points out.

Actually the word would be "crucial" (not critical) to Libby's defense. Pardon me..:)

Also of interest in the Monday brief is the fact that Libby is apparently trying to avoid a stipulation about his preoccupied state of mind and the relative importance of nine different national security matters vs. the national security matter of outing an undercover WMD-tracking CIA officer named Valerie Plame -- Libby dismisses such a stipulation as "dismissive" and asserts he would nevertheless have the right to admit classified evidence that would say the same thing if such a stipulation was in fact made by the government.

There's also a point in the Libby brief where he tells the Judge that if he were to remember "with some precision" details of the nine important national security matters he was so engrossed in because they "were of surpassing importance" to him, without needing to reference the classified documents to refresh his memory, the jury just might get the idea that there is nothing in the least wrong with Mr. Libby's "extraordinary" memory... So therefore the Judge should let classified documents in as evidence at trial in order to cover up this inconvenient fact for Mr. Libby...

Jodi, I appreciated the very positive comments you made about emptywheel. WRT the Wilsons, occasionally Joe shows up on an FDL book salon thread. I bet he'll comment when Keith Olbermann shows up.
emptywheel, I know I am going through emptywheel withdrawal, but I really appreciate you making the sacrifice to focus on the book. YOU deserve to get paid for your genius and the selfless way you share it with us. Let it rip.

pow wow

Thanks for that. The last bit strikes me as pretty clever. Is it your sense the CIPA 6(a) hearing is over because the last entry in Pacer doesn't have a note about when it will be continued?

robbie c

Any sign of that hearing transcript for us?

Thanks pow wow.

The deal that typically goes with the January pardon timetable is that you're promised that pardon so that you don't expose the boss. You go down for perjury, obstruction, and anything else you have to swallow to keep the big guy out of trouble, and then you get pardoned for all crimes, the underlying act, and the incidentals you picked up along the way.

But then again, Bush might pardon early just to prove he can. And to let the outrage (if any) wear off some before '08.

Should a Democratic led House and/or Senate be elected in November, I suspect Bush's instinct will be to immediately go on the offense against them -- an effort to grab the innitative in effect. Part of that could be an "in your face" Pardon slightly before the trial begins. This would not be specifically for the purposes of saving Libby the difficulty of trial, it would be a political offense move all about exercising his political power perogatives. I suspect he would use it to tie the Democrats in knots should they try to examine Libby before a committee, probably trying some novel arguments as to whether a congressional committee had to right to testimony from someone presidentially pardoned. We would then expect two years of appeals around that argument, and then Bush would be gone. My rule of thumb is that they want to re-litigate all the constitutional issues they view as decided wrongly during Watergate -- and think they now have courts that will overturn those precidents.

Redshift, at first I didn't know who Joe Wilson was. :) I thought he was a commentator, and thought who the heck is that I might be compared to. Then I realized it must be Ms Plames husband.

No, I don't.

Let me explain what I was thinking. A civil trial! Who will be desposed? Only Mr Libby! Oh, no.
Who will be called at the trial? Only Mr Libby. Oh, no.
Mr Wilson will be called for deposition, will be placed under oath on the stand at the trial.
I don't think Mr Wilson will do any better than the last time he testified under oath.
It will be pointed out that he retracted many statments that he had made. Identified them as (well) false. The very statements he claims the White House tried to discredit him for saying.

That is what I mean. I know the people here consider Mr Wilson a Knight in Shining Armor, and Mrs Wilson/Ms Plame as a damsel wronged.
And the Knight always beats the Windmill at tilting, doesn't it?

On some questions above. I do remember that the Presidential Pardon can be specified for broad events, and covers all actions related to those events and/or times, before and after and that it is just about useless to try to find something that wasn't covered.

The statement "S*** out of luck Jack!" comes to mind.

One wonders if a pardonee for say actions concerning say a fraud scheme, also murdered a witness to hide the fraud, would that also be covered? That was my thought once in a discussion group.

Anyway the Pardon if needed for criminal or civil purposes will be delvered in December 2008 probably after Christmas.

A Merry Christmas folks, to each and every one.

emptywheel you just can't pay much attention to the opposing coach when they indicate their strategy for the coming game. Don't go for the head fake.

There's one interesting little detail in the introduction Joe Wilson has apparently written for a new book, which I saw reprinted online. It concerns who Wilson talked to after his trip:

Before I departed Niamey, I shared with the Ambassador and a member of her staff my conclusions, which mirrored her own. Upon my return, two CIA officers came to my home and I told them the same thing. That was my last official contact with the CIA on the matter. I also briefly shared my conclusions with an official in the State Department Bureau of African Affairs.

Wilson has always been vague on the last bit, about telling someone at State in D.C. about his conclusions. But that person is almost certainly Walter Kansteiner or his principal deputy, whom Wilson in his book mentions clearing his trip with before he went. My suspicion, given how little Wilson has said about this and his description of it here as brief, is that this was, and was understood to be, more informal than formal, and generated no paper or any further action at State at the time. That said, it does mean that Kansteiner or his deputy is a contemporary witness to the essence of what Wilson said about his mission right after it happened; it would be worthwhile to hear from him what that was.

Sara presents the possibility of an offensive by Bush: an effort to grab the [initiative] ... an "in your face" Pardon slightly before the trial begins. This would not be specifically for the purposes of saving Libby the difficulty of trial, it would be a political offense move all about exercising his political power p[r]erogatives. ... they want to re-litigate all the constitutional issues they view as decided wrongly during Watergate -- and think they now have courts that will overturn those prec[e]dents

I think Sara's scenario deserves serious attention, and that she's onto something that will be very important for the next two years.

Last week I took a day off to refine into a general strategy paper what the Democrats and their allies in the military, legal, and human rights organizations could have done to successfully block the torture/habeas-stripping/tribunal bill.

What came across clearly to me was that the single most important step was at the very beginning: to imagine the very worst, most outrageous, always-grab-the-offensive maneuver that this administration could take, and prepare for it. In the context of the piece I was working on, this would have meant, in July,
1) looking at the electoral landscape and seeing that all the Rs could run on would be terror/national security, and
2) thinking about the Hamdan decision from the perspective of Cheney and Bush.

So, people who will be organizing to hold the administration accountable need to make plans that feature, not just include, ways to counter and pre-empt the most offensive Bush-Cheney scenarios possible.

Another question they'd likely raise: who has the final say in executing a Congressional subpoena, anyway?

I expect that to be a question that comes up, whether in the context of an investigation of Libby, or of anything else.

The Congressional subpoena power is effective to the extent that it is backed by the ability to bring contempt charges. But the ability to bring contempt charges is effective to the extent that the Justice Department is willing to prosecute them.

Well, it's probably nothing to get to excited about for our purposes, but interesting that Susan Ralson has resigned, caught in the Abramoff mess. Doubt she'll have anything new to say to Fitzgerald, but it would be nice.

Maybe the Abramoff scandal is finally making its way to Ralston & Rove.

I just watched the very well-done and lengthy NPR Moyers documentary on Abramoff & DeLay ... you can watch the whole thing online:


Is there any chance that Ralston could help herself in the Abramoff thing (assuming she has a problem), by helping Fitz out with the Plame stuff (assuming she has something new to spill)? Is there any chance for that, or am I really grasping?

Here's my wishing thinking scenario:

1) she's indictable for accepting gifts from Honest Abe while working at the WH

2) she rolls over on rover

If #1 is true, #2 doesn't seem that much of a stretch

jeff, you do know that Peter Zeidenberg, Fitzgerald's number two is also the lead prosecutor on Abramoff.

JOM has new fitz and libby filings

Congressional subpeonas are served by the Capital police

in addition, Congress can cede special prosecutorial powers to a special counsel, who would most likely be a senior US Attorney (Patrick Fitzgeral maybe ???), and who would have full subpeona and arrest powers

I doubt that the Justice Department would refuse to cooperate with a Senior US Attorney acting with the full powers of the US Congress

Aside from the Plame thing, what's interesting about the Ralston resignation is its timing. No, not that it was on a Friday afternoon. What's interesting is that she resigned right now, only a month before the election. You'd think they'd have waited until the day *after* the election before pushing her out the door.

It makes me wonder if there's going to be movement on the legal front in the near future, and if the White House wanted to play it safe and make sure Ralston was gone in time. I don't think the general public (or the media, for that matter) seems to care about the Abramoff scandal, but maybe an indictment of Rove right-hand-woman would garner a few headlines.

Yes, Jeff, precisely. The latest 'Minute Entry' on PACER noting the 10/4 hearing did not indicate a date for continuance - and there's nothing on Judge Walton's schedule next week about this so far.

Originally, October 10 was to be the start date for the next phase of CIPA hearings, I believe -- those would be the hearings about proposed intelligence community redactions of any classified documents admitted as evidence. That date may have slipped by now. But I think Judge Walton's Sec. 6(a) rulings will soon be on their way.

robbie c - That doesn't really make a difference to my point, which is, basically, that while it would be nice, I'm skeptical that whatever trouble Ralston is in will have any impact on Rove's status in Fitzgerald's investigation.

Jim E. - The emails documenting all the shady stuff Ralston was involved in just came out, so I'm sure they saw a chance to get her out of there before the press turns back to that stuff, which got submerged beneath the Foley stuff, like everything else. So while there might be legal action, I think the timing was precisely in order to take it off the table for the election.

pow wow

So presumably they've gone through all the documents and what has to happen now is Walton has to decide on which ones are admissible, right? I assume that Walton's statement, in writing, of his reasons for his decision on each item of classified information will not be made public; but he's got to make that. And then there is the hearing about possible substitutions by the government for the admissible classified information (which I note may include but is not limited to redacting the actual documents - it can also be full-scale substitutions, a statement admitting relevant facts or a summary of the classified info). And then Walton decides, and then we go from there, either it goes forward, Fitzgerald can appeal, or Gonzales can shut the thing down (unless Fitzgerald has the power to decide on that, with his powers, an interesting question maybe).

Congressional subpoenas are served by U.S. Marshals. The Capitol Police have a very limited jurisdiction, not extending beyond the physical safety of the Capitol complex and its environs.

And I'm not sure Congress has any prosecutorial powers beyond bringing inherent contempt charges, which are tried in the Senate like an impeachment. So once you get to that point, your problems are almost over, anyway.

The Reagan and Bush 41 administrations perfected the art of refusing to honor Congressional subpoenas, with HUD Sec. Samuel Pierce and Commerce Sec. Mosbacher both refusing to comply. Reagan AG William French Smith laid the groundwork, claiming Congress' subpoena power really was only effective in pursuit of information necessary for legislative purposes, and that subpoenas in pursuit of oversight powers were, if not of outright questionable validity, then at least of considerably less interest to the executive on the question of compliance.

Expect to see it again.

Another article by Robert Novak on the CIA leak case, in this case an attack on David Corn pitched as a review of Corn's book with Isikoff, Hubris. It shows all of Novak's characteristic level of forthrightness and honesty.

Wow!! What is going on with Novak?!! thanks, Jeff for the link.

My take on Novak's latest article, which is mainly aimed at taking Corn down, as well as the usual misleading effort to salvage his own reputation. In this comment, I'll take up what Novak says aggrieved him most, then in another one get to his other problems. Novak says

I am most aggrieved that the book not only fails to use what I have written in my columns as my account of the case, but also distorts my position. I wrote that I had faced "a dilemma" on December 30, 2003, because Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was going to confront me with waivers from every official who conceivably could have told me about Valerie Plame Wilson.

"I did not believe blanket waivers in any way relieved me of my journalistic responsibility to protect," I wrote last July 12. Since I could not reveal their names, I feared facing the same legal juggernaut that sent Judith Miller of the New York Times to jail.

The dilemma was resolved when Fitzgerald showed up to interview me with waivers only from my three sources. The prosecutor had learned their names on his own, so there was no use in not testifying about them. Hubris misrepresents me by saying my dilemma came after Fitzgerald appeared with the three waivers ("crunch time for Novak") and that I gave up their names under pressure from the special prosecutor. This is such a misreading of my clear account that it must have been derived from either sloppiness or malice.

The one element of truth in this is that Isikoff and Corn do transpose the perception of a dilemma on Novak's part from before Fitzgerald told him he knew the identity of his two or three sources to after. But even this can be forgiven, since Novak's actual column - July 11, 2006 - does not make very clear that this move on Fitzgerald's part resolved the dilemma. The only hint is one "However." (Moreoverm Novak does his usual thing of setting up a strawman, accusing Isikoff and Corn of offering an explanation - pressure from Fitzgerald - that they don't actually offer, as best as I can tell. Rather, Fitzgerald wanted more than the FBi had asked for, and Novak gave it. No suggestion of pressure, but rather Novak decided to answer Fitzgerald questions.)

Novak offers no explanation for how this resolved his dilemma any more than he offers an explanation - beyond foisting off responsibility for his initial decision to tell the FBI at the very outset about his conversations, just without identifying his sources, onto his lawyer's advice - for his conduct throughout. I'm not even saying the decisions he made were wrong necessarily. But he simply refuses to offer an explanation for them. And they certainly look odd, if you compare them to what other reporters did.

Thus, Novak talked to the FBI from the outset. Why? Why not wait to see how far they would push it, wait until the subpoena arrived at least? Phelps and Royce went this route with Fitzgerald, and they never got their subpoena.

Or compare this to Pincus. Pincus offers a full explanation for his actions, which notably differ from Novak's, in that PIncus did not identify his source even once his source had identified him- or herself to Fitzgerald, and more importantly, Pincus had his lawyer check with his source's lawyer to see that the waiver was meaningful before testifying about the substance and timing of their conversation. Did Novak check with his sources? Or was it good enough that Fitzgerald knew their identities? Why? And why, again, did Novak give over the substance of his conversations so easily, when Pincus pushed further - indeed, went through the rigamarole of a subpoena and the better part of a court fight, giving up perhaps when it was clear he was going to lose the court fight and set a bad precedent (which is one of Novak's concerns, he says).

And how about comparing Novak and MIller? Novak talks about the legal juggernaut that jailed Miller. But in fact Miller went to jail after Fitzgerald told her he knew the identity of her source, whereas Novak describes this issue as occurring to him before he knew Fitzgerald knew. And again, Miller refused to give up the substance of her conversations, whereas Novak had already done that. Furthermore, Miller again had to determine that her source's waiver was really voluntary (whether that was a rationalization to get out of jail or not, it was an arduous process). Did Novak do any of this?

Again, maybe there are explanations for Novak's conduct. But the fact that he refuses to explain himself, the way Pincus, Phelps and Miller have, is indicative of his fundamental moral sneakiness and dishonesty.

So not only is Isikoff and Corn's imprecision understandable, Novak himself does not explain why he resolved the dilemmas he faced the way he did.

Thanks for the link Jeff.

A couple of things strike me about the Novak "book review."

  • Its publication venue--Weekly Standard!?!?!? Not exactly Novak's brand of conservatism
  • Its tone--it tries to engage rationally, which is not Novak's strong point
  • Its desperate attempt to claim Corn is partisan and Isikoff not, even while admitting Isikoff did a smear job on Clinton
  • His continued flacking of the same lies (the "dilemma" story, the "Republican majority vindicating his story of Valerie's role, the Aldrich Ames ~ not covert story)

Mostly though, the column comes off as a pathetic attempt to try to defend a case that Isikoff and Corn have already found to be unconvincing.

Here's some more on Novak's article.

In Hubris, Corn never comes to grips with the fact that Armitage could not be prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act because Valerie Wilson was not a covert operative under the terms of the law. A 463-page book that is endlessly discursive does not seriously consider that she was no longer assigned to foreign missions because her cover already had been broken. It never even mentions the report that Mrs. Wilson had been outed long ago by the traitor Aldrich Ames.

This is a twofer. As a simple glance at the index and use of it would indicate, Isikoff and Corn do indeed raise the issue of uncertainty about whether Ames outed Plame. It's right there on p. 284, in the long footnote attached to an assertion that Plame returned to CIA headquarters in 1997.

Beyond this, it is hardly a fact, as Novak asserts, that Plame was not a covert operative under the terms of the law. This is, of course, a favorite rightwing talking point, foisted on us primarily by the unfortunate Victoria Toensing. Novak appears to be alluding to two different forms the claim might take. One is obviously wrong, one less obviously, though in my judgment wrong nevertheless. First, as the 422(a) of the law and the legislative history make perfectly clear, even if Ames had identified Plame as CIA to the Soviet Union, that doesn't mean she's no longer covert under the IIPA. It's a defense against prosecution under the IIPA if the United States has already publicly acknowledged or revealed the individual's intelligence relationship to the U.S. And that clearly didn't happen with Plame. The other issue is whether Plame fit under the definition of covert agent in the IIPA which specifies that the individual has to be serving or to have served outside the United States within the last five years. In this regard, we learn for the first time from Hubris that Plame did in fact work overseas within the previous five years before she was outed. There is a question as to whether what she did - brief trips rather than being posted overseas - counts as "serving" under the IIPA. That question, as far as I can see, cannot be easily resolved by looking at the act itself, at the legislative history, or at precedent. In other words, it would have to be determined through litigation. So it's unclear what the definitive answer would be. But it surely is not clearly the one that Novak and Toensing - who likes to pull rank by saying she worked on producing the IIPA as a staffer, but who curiously, to the best of my knowledge, has never cited one bit of legislative history to back up her claim that what the act means defines service as a longer-term posting overseas - would like it to be. Furthermore, I believe a close reading of Fitzgerald's 8-27-04 affidavit indicates that he does indeed believe Plame fit under the IIPA. I'm not going to rehash my interpretation of the relevant footnote. But at the very least, Novak's categorical statements that Armitage could not have been prosecuted under the IIPA is wrong.

More from Novak. Novak says that Armitage was misleading in his public accounts of their conversation, which is true at least insofar as Armitage was evasive about the fact that he identified Plame as employed in CPD at the the CIA, which is significance since anyone with any knowledge of the CIA would know that that was on the DO, clandestine side of the Agency. Novak is somewhat misleading when he goes on to say that Armitage

unmistakably signaled his expectation that I would write about her in my column.

Even on Novak's account, what Armitage said that sent this signal was considerably more ambiguous than Novak makes it out to be, and it was certainly not the expression of an expectation. At most it was encouragement, and it comes across as a plausibly deniable one at that, which doesn't mean it wasn't real and all the more nefarious by that token, it's just that Novak is again indulging his habit of foisting responsibility for his own untoward actions - publishing Plame's identity - onto someone else.

What is interesting about this, however, is that Novak comes very close in saying this to saying that Armitage gave him the information about Plame because he wanted, in Novak's judgment, Novak to publish - and not because he wanted to distance the State Department from Wilson and his mission or just because he wanted to gossip. I should note that that idea is consistent with what I've said above. That is, even if the signal was as clear as Novak made it out to be, it's perfectly possible Armitage was indeed encouraging Novak to publish.

This from Novak, however, is ridiculous:

Corn cannot give up the idea that I was part of a White House conspiracy to discredit Wilson, even though nobody from the Bush White House ever contacted me about Valerie Plame.

This is deeply misleading. Consistent with his other recent accounts, Novak completely underplays Karl Rove's role as his second source on Plame - indeed, righties have gone so far as to try to erase Rove's role altogether. Novak here leaves the impression that he had no contact with White House folks in the Plame matter. But in fact all he is doing is casuistically relying on the fact that he called Rove, rather than Rove calling him. So what? Rove knew very well the call was coming, and was carefully prepared for it. Yes, if a government official reaches out to a reporter completely unsolicited to offer him some leak, that is something distinct and more obviously a planned leak. But Rove knew exactly what he was doing. And there is no reason whatsoever to think that Rove was taken by surprise. Rove prepared for the conversation, and it is almost certainly the case that he knew from others in the White House (specifically, Adam Levine) that Novak was asking about Wilson's trip.

I'm not even going to get into the way Novak caricatures the book's account of a recent episode where Novak and Rove were in sympathy with each other's aims, so that Novak can then respond to the strawman he's constructed, rather than the actual claims made in the book. In fact, there is so much more bs, but most of it does not have to do with Novak's own role.

One last thing. Novak takes Isikoff and Corn to have positively identified the source for the Post's 1x2x6 story as Adam Levine. It wasn't all that clear to me that that was the case, though they certainly gesture in that direction. Best as I can see, the book has Levine wondering whether he had been the source, but clearly saying - contra Novak - that he had not used the word "revenge," which is used in one of the key quotes from the source in the original Post story.

Oh, and on Ralston, I fully expect she has retired to a nice post at a think tank or something. They had her resign to apparently cleanse themselves of direct ties to Abramoff. But they surely have found a way to keep her silence.

But they surely have found a way to keep her silence.

Exactly my point. It's only the House Republicans who do idiotic things like fire a key staffer who knows where the bodies are buried and then try to scapegoat him overtly as he walks out the door.

One thing that has stuck out for me for a while now is Novak's claim that Plame was outed by Aldrich Ames. Where did he get that from? He's the only person who has made this assertion. Also, any ideas where he would have gotten such information? Why does Novak claim that Plame was not really covert when Fitzgerald has already said she was in court documents?


I agree with what you say about the IIPA (and haven't yet read your thorough unpacking of it at Maguire's place). But, at least given what we've known, Fitz couldn't have indicted Armitage on IIPA. By all accounts, Armitage didn't know Plame was covert--and he could prove it by showing the provenance of his information. I'm less ocnvinced he did so convincingly after the Woodward leak (that is, I believe he didn't get the memo itself, though he may have gotten the notes). But he couldn't be indicted strictly on the basis of the knowledge learned from the memo.


My claim only goes to Novak's assertion that Plame was not covert under the IIPA, and therefore Armitage (and anyone else, for that matter) couldn't possibly be indicted under the IIPA. I didn't mean to suggest there was no reason Armitage couldn't be indicted on charges of violating the IIPA. There may well be. Hubris says the same about Rove and Libby. But at least they blame it on the poorly drafted law.

LATimes writing today about Ralston pretty much agrees with ew, see also the vague rambling intro to the report now available in five parts on the govt reform committee website.
Reading Sara, above, maybe it is time for Jen to program the timeline 'Plame Turning' the way Glenn did; then the CD version with the graphics could appear subsequently; tried to get the title of the book correctly there.

Right again, Jeff. That's a pretty good summary above about where things seem to stand in the Libby case. One key thing about the top-secret PDBs is that they have all been (laboriously) turned into topic summaries already by the CIA for the purposes of Libby's discovery. So those documents have in effect been redacted/summarized up front. I'm not sure how much of a difference more summarizing or restating of those PDB topic summaries would make to their sensitive content, if the Judge rules them relevant and admissible. A 'statement admitting relevant facts' is perhaps what the government would be most comfortable with making public at this point. And therefore Libby will probably do his best to object to such a solution.

Well, Judge Walton opened this door when he required (topic summaries of) the PDBs to be produced to Libby in discovery. We'll see if he can now successfully shut that door or manage to find another way to stop Libby's 'classified evidence for the sake of classified evidence' tactic, that will help ensure that the trial will proceed in accordance with the actual charges filed, as Judge Walton has pretty skillfully done elsewhere in this case to date.

[I wonder who else shares that "Washington office building a block from the White House" with Robert Novak and Michael Isikoff... I guess Novak's lovefest with Brian Lamb on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, where Novak badmouthed David Corn left, right, and center, without interference, didn't quite have the desired effect. So here comes Take Two, with a little extra disinformation thrown in around the edges for good measure. I'll give Novak this much, though: Why Corn and Isikoff (and most of the rest of the media - maybe not including David Martin of CBS judging from his Armitage interview) are buying Armitage's story with basically unquestioning credulity does beg for an explanation and/or further exploration.]

pow wow

Don't forget, Isikoff and Corn's Armitage sources are current government employees--not former State officials (with one exception). So they may have good reason to buy Armitage's story, beyond the reason I buy it--that Plame was primarily about a conflict between OVP/DOD and CIA/State, which means there's almost no way Armitage was willingly part of it (unwittingly I'd believe in a heartbeat).

What about Collateral estoppel? It that prevents a person from relitigating an issue. In this case, the Wilsons can leverage the criminal case including the finding of fact -- even if Libby is pardoned.

Also, accepting a pardon is also an admission of guilt. Libby must legally admit to lying to the FBI and under oath to a grand jury to obstruct an investigation. He'd be under oath to go tell the truth in a civil trial.

I followed the MS anti-trust trial and when MS was found to be a monopoly that used monopoly power illegally, it was a huge loss for the company -- the findings could be applied to any other lawsuit by any other party seeking damage. They need only prove damages and need not relitigate MS's monopoly swtatus or monopoly abuses.

Well, in general, I certainly buy your overarching premise easily, EW, about the Cheney/Rumsfeld vs. Tenet & Co./Powell feud. But the storyline breaks down for me in the details, with regard to Armitage's role. At least, in the details I'm familiar with - which would be a fraction of the overall scene you've analyzed, I imagine. But just to air out the argument a little:

I want it all to "add up" -- but Armitage's actual behavior as Deputy Secretary of State - or at least his public words that I've read - do not add up for me as part of such an overarching feud, on the main subject at hand - invading Iraq and the promotion thereof. Unless, that is, Armitage found himself on the Cheney/Rumsfeld side of the feud (unbeknownst to Powell?). Armitage's true believer and WHIG-aligned comments pre AND post invasion make me question where his feud with Cheney and Rumsfeld (and therefore Bush) was, exactly, and how it was implemented or expressed.

Even Novak now is grudgingly acknowledging that "I do credit Isikoff for at least one reference to my being an opponent of U.S. intervention in Iraq, and much more publicly than Armitage." This statement is made after Novak's earlier repeat in the same article of his (in my opinion) disinformation which tries to claim (without any back-up) that Armitage was "an internal critic of the administration's Iraq policy." [Novak claimed Armitage "was a foremost internal skeptic of the administration's war policy" in his 9/14/06 column - again listing no evidence.] Where's any evidence of such internal dissent by Armitage in the lead-up to the invasion? From Novak or anyone else? One small anecdote from Powell's CoS Wilkerson about Armitage's contempt for the lack of military service of many Bush administration men is all I recall hearing on that front. And since Armitage, if much more pro-war than Powell, would presumably be going to pains to hide that fact from not only Powell but from others in the State Department, that one statement on its own doesn't carry much weight. With all the books coming out by Woodward et al, surely there would be some mention of Armitage's hidden role of resistance, if it actually existed. [Maybe the new book about Powell has something in it?]

It's just too "conventional D.C. wisdom" for me, I guess. [Though Novak now claims Isikoff was very much focused on whether Armitage was really Novak's "principal" source as Hubris was being written. Are the only people who confirmed that for Isikoff a few people at State who heard Armitage's version of events from Armitage after the DOJ investigation got under way? That's interesting, but are those sources really Armitage confidants? I'd rather hear a lot more about why and how the Armitage meeting with Novak came about - which I gather Hubris did do a good job of trying to establish - and other such details that don't necessarily come from the actors directly involved.] Novak, Isikoff, Corn, major media, Woodward, Powell, Bush -- EVERYONE who is "anyone" is accepting or promoting Armitage's (apparently) very close friendship with Powell as proof that Armitage was all about protecting State's turf at the expense of OVP and DOD. Whereas the few details we know about Armitage's actual role in the Plame leak seem to contradict that, as do his public words about the invasion of Iraq. Is there anything that Armitage has done [that we know of] with regard to the Plame leak aftermath that has damaged or implicated either the OVP or the DOD - the agencies the conventional wisdom says Armitage was engaged in feuding with - while Armitage himself was very much on the line for the actual leak itself?

To me what "adds up" is the Bob Parry source who says that Rove and Armitage had a back-channel connection going throughout Armitage's tenure at State. I just dunno. But Armitage was simply not credible to me, in his few public appearances and explanations about his involvement in the Plame leak. So that's where I'm stuck at the moment.

pow wow, I'll add, per Corn, that Armitage was offered both the DCI and DNI gigs. It's difficult to imagine that the OVP didn't immediately bury that idea if Armitage was as hostile to them as reported.

pow wow
First of all, you have to go no further than Woodward book Plan of Attack to find precisely that, Armitage at odds with Libby on several different occasions, both in protecting Powell, and on the war specifically. Then you can go to Rise of the Vulcans to see Armitage's animosity with Cheney going back a decade and a half. Then you can go to any number of newspaper articles (there's one by Glenn Kessler, for example, that appears right in the middle of this period in 2003) which talks about this dynamic. THen you can look at the actions in Iraq, in which State activites that Armtiage was running were directly opposed--with troop movements--by OVP. If that's not enough, you can go to any number of Neocon articles that explicitly blame Armitage for things that go wrong--Armitage is second only to Clinton as a catch-all scapegoat. And finally, there was a recent smackdown in the NYRB (I think) that lays to rest the whole "Armitage as PNAC" meme, which shows that the one PNAC plan Armitage signed was actually a reasonable plan to use the northern and southern no-fly zones to avoid a coup or miliary overthrow.

Is that not enough? Because those who speak to the counter (including by naming the Parry article, taht contradicts all of Rove's known behavior) never seem to offer this level of evidence.

At base, the best evidence, IMO is that both Rove's and Libby's behavior are the exact opposite of what you'd expect if Armitage were an organized part of this. If Armitage were, you can be sure Rove would never have been in danger of a perjury charge.

As to the Corn DCI or DNI gig (keeping in mind that, for all his history as a Death Squads afficianado, Negroponte is considered a State entity), do you really think they wanted to give DCI/DNI to someone they cared about? That job exists soley to oversee a massive failure. They want that person to fail a bureaucratic battle in favor of Rummy (as Negroponte currently is doing).

One more question about Armitage--if he's so tight with these guys, why is there a blame game between Novak and him going on?

I'm not opposed in principle to the Armitage as insider story--except that 1) the right wing doesn't want him (the leak was treated as blame game from the start), and 2) none of these other pieces of evidence are addressed who harbor a suspicion about Armitage. The evidence he is, thus far, makes zero sense.

Somewhat OT from the 1990s in TX, though Novak's flak could rank a close second for Off-topicality.

Thanks, EW - that helps me to see why you are drawing the conclusions you're drawing. I haven't read either Plan of Attack or Rise of the Vulcans, so that's part of the background I'm missing. I do remember reading an excerpt about Armitage's interaction with Cheney with regard to whether Cheney would support Armitage for a position in a previous administration - the one where Cheney took Armitage aback with his lack of personal support/loyalty. That excerpt was too much in isolation for me to draw much from it. So was an anecdote about Libby vs. Armitage from somewhere else, which struck me as a fairly routine bureaucratic scuffle between the two of them. [I'd still like some better evidence about what the two of them were privately meeting about in early June, 2003.]

One thing underlying all this is that Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby are obviously not very pleasant people. Even those who worked with them, and supported them, probably had periodic run-ins with them on different issues. And I can see Armitage working with Rove, who was working with Libby/Cheney as a matter of convenience during the period in question, without Armitage necessarily being bosom buddies with Cheney, for example. Think of all the stories about how the offices of the Vice President and the President are basically independent, warring entities, at odds with each other from across the street. Well, Rove was in one office, and Libby was in the other, but they were sure working hand in hand throughout the Plame affair at least.

The new article about Armitage's tenuous PNAC connection sounds very much to the point. I need to read that too.

I would say there's a very restrained blame game by Novak against Armitage - around the edges only, without touching the core "agreement" (to my mind) that Armitage was Novak's first and primary source. Novak seems to think that Armitage deserves at least as much flak as Novak has received, and apparently figured that would happen by itself once Armitage was revealed as a source. Because Armitage has basically been left untouched by the media, Novak seems to be trying to stir the pot a little in that regard, for the sake of his own reputation, but without damaging their core story about how Novak heard the news. Armitage has certainly uttered no public condemnation of Novak, nor criticized him for taking advantage of their first interview and meeting to reveal an undercover CIA agent without clearing the scoop with Armitage first (in my opinion that's because Novak's version of Armitage pushing the story on Novak is probably correct).

I would also suggest that once the Plame investigation was underway, Cheney may very well have pushed against Armitage's interests (re developments in Iraq) in a way that might not have happened before the investigation began, knowing that Armitage was basically sidelined by that time.

Armitage strikes me, also, as basically a DOD guy. He and Powell were the military team heading the State Dept. And if in fact a back-channel between Armitage and Rove existed, on both ends it may well have been a hushed-up connection (the kind of stuff Rove loves). So Armitage would not be telling many people he was now a pal of Rove, and vice versa, and the public perception to the contrary could be used to their advantage, as, for example, in how Novak is helpfully spinning things of late.

I explain away Rove's lies early in the investigation by assuming that Rove knew that Armitage would take the fall, and that Rove assumed that Armitage's "confession" would pretty quickly and effectively end the Ashcroft investigation, as long as Rove and Libby could bluff out the DOJ upfront convincingly enough. "Hubris" by Rove perhaps, but par for the course in most of Rove's dirty tricks.

But in the end, I think what it probably comes down to is instinct. I have an instinct about Armitage and his role based on his interview(s) and activities, and I'm probably discounting evidence against that bias and highlighting evidence for it. And you have a different instinct (based on much more research and background material) and therefore the evidence I discount you highlight because it underscores your instinct.

Lukery's comment is a great example of that: lukery's read is exactly the read I would put on Armitage being offered those intelligence jobs through Card (a job I believe Armitage was said to be after for a long time). To me, that information helps to verify my bias against Armitage's "innocence" - they'd (Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush) never want a "Powell Man" heading the CIA (or DNI) in opposition to them, I figure. But your theory works to make that same information back up your instinct that Armitage is basically an innocent caught in the crossfire between OVP/DOD and State/CIA.

Well, I was sure Novak's source couldn't be/wouldn't be Armitage, and had to be Hadley, or someone else. But I was wrong. So I'll look up some more about Armitage and PNAC and Kessler's article, etc., and see what else I'm missing.

pow wow

Thanks for the response. That's the kind of thoughtfulness many people pushing the Armitage theory aren't offering, I appreciate it. And again, I'm not opposed in principle the Armitage's involvement, but there is abundent evidence that he's not.

A few things to think about.

First, the way administrations have worked for some time and this on in particular is that the Deputies do the real work, while the principals serve as figureheads. So Wolfie and Libby and Hadley and Armitage met very frequently to hammer out policy disagreements on the part of their bosses. That's one of the reasons you can't separate Armitage from Powell (in addition to their well-documented friendship)--Armitage really did functionally serve as Powell's right hand. And in doing so, he had to fight Wolfie and Libby on all these issues. And those issues really do go back quite a ways. In April 2003, for example, DOD/OVP had decided they were going to impose Chalabi on Iraq. Bush had agreed, but hadn't told anyone else. When Powell found out, he got Blair to intervene, and spent a lot of time trying to prevent that by sponsoring all these conferences in Iraq. This is also one of the factors leading to Bremer's appointment. And a lot of this activity really pitted Armitage against OVP/DOD.

Second, there's a big difference (again, particularly in this administration) between the civilian Pentagon and the military. Yes, Rummy has purged the Generals who disagree. But there is a fundamentally different approach on the part of the miliary, not least because they appreciate the costs and limitations of war. So while Powell and Armitage were the military guys, that didn't mean they shared any interest with DOD.

Third, I'd be careful of believing that Rove + Armitage thing until we see it in more places. The Parry article is the only place I've seen it, and it doesn't fit with what we know about Rove's personality in general. More likely, Armitage tries not to let factionalism guide his judgments, which allowed him to work with Rove.

And in any case, you need to look beyond Rove to explain why Rove and Libby's behavior doesn't make sense with Armitage involvement. Had Armitage been designed to take the fall, then he would have done so in such a way that also covered up Libby's involvement. He would have come forward and admitted to it all. Because at the same time, Libby was doing the things that Armitage would have been doing if he were really the designated fall guy, such as hiding Rove's and Dick's involvement. Remember too that Rove and Novak were fairly shameless about sharing stories. So far as we know, the Duberstein conversation was not as shameless. Armitage's efforts to coordinate stories (if his Duberstein call was that) just don't look like Rove's and Novak's, which suggests it's not the same thing.

Finally, Novak is accusing Armitage of one thing about which there is much contestation--he's saying Armi was the source of the CPD information. Aside from the fact that Novak hasn't always said that (indeed, he keeps changing his story there), that is an accusation that Armi is thought not to have possibly made, and it is an accusation that would put Armi at risk for IIPA violation. That's a pretty aggressive attack against Novak, and we have all reason to believe it is an inaccurate attack. Further, it's an attack that helps out Rove and/or whatever other source told NOvak Plame was covert. So even in recent days, Novak's behavior treats Armi as outside to the cover-up involving Libby and Rove.

A little local color from Meet the Press today:

MR. RUSSERT: Have you spoken to the president or the vice president since this book came out?

MR. WOODWARD: The vice president called me I guess as it was coming out 10 days ago.


MR. WOODWARD: Well, he called to complain that I was quoting him about the meetings with Henry Kissinger that he and the president had. I had interviewed Vice President Cheney last year a couple of times at length about material I’m gathering on the Ford administration, on-the-record interviews, but he volunteered, he said, “Oh, by the way, Henry Kissinger comes in” and he, Dick Cheney, sits down with him once a month and the president every two or three months. And Cheney was upset I was quoting him. And I said, “Look, this—on-the-record doesn’t have anything to do with Ford, you volunteered that.” He then used a word which I can’t repeat on the air. And I said, “Look, on the record is on the record,” and he hung up on me.

MR. RUSSERT: What, what do you mean, he swore at you?

MR. WOODWARD: He, he said what I was saying was bull-something.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Tony...

MR. WOODWARD: No, but he, but he hung up. Now, look, I can, I can see, I went back and looked at the transcript that he can—ever had a disagreement about ground rules with someone. Have you?

MR. RUSSERT: Well, he thought he was talking, he thought he was talking to you for one project and you used it in another project.

MR. WOODWARD: Well, exactly. But it had nothing to do with it, and it’s clearly spelled out that it’s an on-the-record interview. And so—now, what does he do instead of saying, “Well, OK, I look at it this way, you look at it that way.” It’s a metaphor for what’s going on. Hang up when somebody has a different point of view or information you don’t want to deal with.

Very good points, EW. Part of my impetus in understanding Armitage's role is to make sure that you (and others trying to get at the truth) are on real solid ground as you go forward (especially now with the book rapidly approaching), and that you have a chance to doublecheck and rebut other theories as you go, so nothing catches you by surprise down the road a bit. But mostly, I want the innocent to go free and the guilty to be held to account in this affair (as I guess we all do).

Here's a Glenn Kessler article excerpt from the Washington Post's Sunday front page on January 12, 2003, that buttresses your first paragraph about the deputies doing the work, and gives a little information about Armitage's war-planning role:

Then, in April [2002], Bush approached Rice. It was time to figure out "what we are doing about Iraq," he told her, setting in motion a series of meetings by the principals and their deputies. "I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go," Bush hinted to a British reporter at the time. "That's about all I'm willing to share with you."

At the meetings, senior officials examined new but unconfirmed evidence of Iraq's programs to build biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and considered connections between Baghdad and Palestinian terrorism. They argued over which elements of the Iraqi opposition to back, ultimately deciding to push for unity among the exiles and within the U.S. bureaucracy.

By many accounts, they did not deal with the hard question of whether there should be a confrontation with Iraq. "Most of the internal debate in the administration has really been about tactics," an official said.

Powell sent his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, who had signed the letter to Clinton urging Hussein's ouster, to many of the meetings. As a way of establishing Powell's bona fides with those eager for action, Armitage would boast -- incorrectly, as it turned out -- that Powell first backed "regime change" in his confirmation hearings.

Serious military planning also began in earnest in the spring. Every three or four weeks, Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, would travel to the White House to give Bush a private briefing on the war planning for Iraq.

On June 1, Bush made another speech, this time at West Point, arguing for a policy of preemption against potential threats. "If we wait for the threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long," Bush said. That month, two major foreign policy headaches -- a potential war between India and Pakistan and the administration's uncertain policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- were also resolved, freeing the White House to turn its full attention to confronting Iraq.

Only later did it become clear that the president already had made up his mind. In July [2002], the State Department's director of policy planning, Richard N. Haass, held a regular meeting with Rice and asked whether they should talk about the pros and cons of confronting Iraq.

Don't bother, Rice replied: The president has made a decision.


This is chilling and sickening to read at this stage of events, but it's a damn good article by Kessler in that period of time. Using the anonymous source rule of thumb about people quoted by name in the article, I assume that at least some of the many anonymous quotes in Kessler's article are from Armitage, especially with regard to Powell.

The Chalabi-manipulation taking place during spring/summer, 2003 certainly gives added perspective to the Plame affair.

Honorable "military" types would be at least as likely to be in opposition to the DOD civilian leadership as in sync with it, wouldn't they, with Rumsfeld as Secretary.

I have definitely not fully examined what we know about Rove's and Libby's responses to the investigation in fall, 2003, vis-a-vis their potential knowledge of an Armitage confession, and how such knowledge would and would not lead them to react in their own interviews. That one is kind of a mind-twister for me...

And yes, I brushed off that CPD disagreement between Armitage and Novak too lightly. That's certainly getting pretty close to the core of the matter. I imagine that if the choice is between covering for Rove or covering for Armitage, Novak would expose Armitage in the blink of an eye, if it meant keeping Rove "safe."

I'll keep reading up on Armitage as I can.

Jeff, thanks for posting that excerpt. I hadn't grasped that Cheney called Woodward because he was tape-recorded about another matter, and thought Woodward would (as usual) honor their little chitchat and gossipy asides... I had wondered how Woodward got Cheney to agree to being tape-recorded... I imagine Cheney didn't agree to that lightly. And I guess Woodward knows his bridges are well and truly burned now with Cheney and Bush (no interviews with either since Woodward forced Armitage to go to Fitzgerald, and made his own role public, I guess).

pow wow

Thanks for challenging me--that's what this is all about, challenging assumptions. So I do appreciate it!


As I said to someone else who quoted that--it looks like Cheney is missing his Cheney's Cheney about now, who used to vet every set of questions that Woodward asked the Veep.

Good point, emptywheel. But it also helps that Woodward is no longer on their side.

pow wow

By the way, I looked at the schedule for this week, and it looks to me like there's a good chance the next part of the CIPA is going ahead: Walton has a status conference in a different case tomorrow at 9 or so in the morning, and then there's no listing for him until Friday at 11. Obviously he may be up to something else, or the time may be reserved but may go unusued, but I presume there would be no listing for this hearing because it's sealed, very much behind closed doors.

FYI, Jeff, in case you wander back this way:

Though the Section 6(a) hearings were held behind closed doors, 2 or 3 of them were actually listed in advance on Judge Walton's schedule. I noted the first one (called a "Motion Hearing") and at least one of the continuances (called a "Status Conference") and the times they were set to start (provided bomb scares did not intrude...) on his daily or weekly schedule. And then, of course, all four were noted by Minute Entries in the docket as CIPA Motion Hearings on the day they took place. So keep a look-out -- closed Section 6(c) hearings (if any) may very well get noted on the schedule in advance too. Meanwhile, I imagine Judge Walton is using his "free time" this week to crunch out his major ruling on admissible/inadmissible classified evidence, which a lot will turn on.

Also, I think we will know when Judge Walton issues his Section 6(a) ruling, even if we can't read it. As with the closed session Section 6(a)/6(b) CIPA transcripts (from the court reporter for the first two hearings) now noted on the docket (filed 10/10), we'll get a summary sentence noting that Judge Walton's ruling has been filed, but won't be able to access anything further, I presume (as per the sealed CIPA filings made by both sides to date which were noted on the docket, but weren't accessible to the public).

pow wow

Yeah. I take it back. Further evidence: Fitzgerald did a press conference announcing an indictment or something yesterday in Chicago. So by a different route, this morning I got the same conclusion as you: Walton is probably busy working up his decision and written rationale for CIPA 6(a) ruling.

I just want to alert everyone to a follow-up article to the one this post focuses on, from Elizabeth de la Vega (out today I believe):


[Scroll down a bit - the title is "Who Said All Roads Lead To Karl?"]

It happens to fit my bias/view of Armitage's role, but it is a very meaty, well-researched analysis of the Armitage spin, and the mysterious involvement of 'master fixer' Ken Duberstein in all this. Very informative and very helpful in revealing some of the hidden connections of these people [Duberstein could be behind Libby's new job at the Hudson Institute, for example]. I think I agree with most of her points, although I don't really accept that the '04 election was uppermost in the leakers' minds in the summer of 2003. They weren't thinking that far ahead, when it came to rebutting Wilson - something much more immediate was on their minds, I think.

This is a just very valuable, skeptical addition to the information contained in Hubris, etc., from a former federal prosecutor who's seen the 'fall guy' stunt from actors in a conspiracy before. I completely agree with her analysis that the information about Armitage's role that Isikoff was given for Hubris was green-lighted by Armitage himself. I also think it possible one of the conditions for that scoop to Isikoff was that the "spin" Armitage wanted about his role was taken, and printed, at face value in the book. Elizabeth de la Vega deconstructs that spin beautifully in this piece of writing.

Not to overlook some minor Errata in the de la Vega article:

The trial, we've established here, is due to start on January 16, 2007, not January 17. [I've made the same mistake before by using the number in the year in the place of the date (1/7 for 1/8/07, etc.).]

"Official A" in the indictment is pretty definitively Karl Rove, not Richard Armitage (although they both spoke to Novak), and Elizabeth surprisingly confuses the two [although I agree with her point in that sentence that Libby's lawyers have known for some time that Armitage was the 'Official One' (or however Jeffress referred to him in that one court hearing) who spoke to both Woodward and Novak, though apparently they couldn't admit as much].

Here's the part of her article that really resonates with me:

"By this point in the story, all of my vestigial prosecutorial hackles were fully raised.

For starters, by early October, Armitage not only had an obvious reason to shade the truth; he also knew precisely how to do so. The requirements for proof of an Intelligence Identities Protection Act violation had been much-discussed by then, so Armitage was well aware that there was no violation if he had not acted intentionally. It is not surprising, therefore, that this Deputy Secretary of State, a savvy and scrappy thirty-year veteran of government affairs and political intrigue, suddenly transformed himself into a cross between Mr. Rogers and the famed gossip columnist Liz Smith. Even though he had met with Novak on a day when the Bush administration was in full crisis mode about Joseph Wilson's criticisms and was actually answering a question asked by Novak, Armitage insisted he had merely told Novak offhandedly, as "just gossip," that Wilson's trip had been arranged by his wife who was a CIA analyst working on weapons of mass destruction.

Armitage did not confess on October 2, 2003. Instead, while professing to be forthright, and after discussing his story with at least three people, he admitted to no wrongdoing whatsoever. Fortunately for Armitage, however -- according to Hubris -- the prosecution chose not to charge him because it could not prove he knew Mrs. Wilson was a covert agent.

At the same time, from the perspective of the White House, Armitage's "admission" would get Rove and Libby off the hook. If the investigation had focused solely on the genesis of the disclosures that led to Novak's column, as the Bush administration obviously thought it would, Libby would not have been at risk at all and Armitage's story would have absolved Rove as well. Armitage claimed he had acted inadvertently and Rove, on his part, was merely confirming a rumor to a trusted columnist. This is, in fact, just what Rove and Libby have been saying all along.

Coincidentally, this MO for the two leaks to Novak precisely mirrors the information-laundering technique Rove is famous for using, especially with Novak. As Corn and Isikoff explain, Rove will frequently give information to Novak off the record, suggesting that Novak call someone else to confirm it, thereby using "Novak to play political brushback without leaving any fingerprints."

And what of Armitage's voluntary trip to the FBI in October 2003? The nonconfession confession, such as the one he offered that day, is an old ploy in multiple-defendant cases. You offer up one person as a fall guy -- a scapegoat -- who suffers only minor scratches because he admits to nothing more than inadvertence or confusion, all the while appearing to be remorseful and disarmingly honest. Everyone else then blames that person, maybe even seeming to be angry with him. If the plan works, the case will go away and all can ride off happily together into the sunset."

Thanks for trying to make sure that the leakers' little "plan" doesn't work, emptywheel, commenters, Elizabeth, et al...

pow wow

I agree, the DLV is pretty compelling, though I am not yet convinced (she doesn't answer a lot of questions, and frankly hedges on the real illegality, wrt the IIPA). But her take on Duberstein is more compelling than any other argument I've read.

Here's what I wrote at lukery's to add to my take:

I did make it home safe and sound. But I don't know when I'll be able to comment at more length on DLV (though I will say--as I said to luke in an email--it is far and away the most compelling argument for Armitage's participation in the coverup I've seen). I, too, don't buy the 2004 argument. But I could see Armitage taking the fall to protect Bush. That would solve the biggest objection I've got (Armitage's strong animosity with OVP--why would he take the fall for LIBBY). And would make his actions consistent with the Iran-Contra pattern, that whatever you do, you protect the President. Of course, that would also mean Bush was directly implicated in this, which he would be if he gave the approval for the leak, which seems to be the logical conclusion for the NIE lies.

Eliazabeth - er, I mean pow wow ;)

Two major problems with DLV's argument. First, as you emphasize

If the investigation had focused solely on the genesis of the disclosures that led to Novak's column, as the Bush administration obviously thought it would, Libby would not have been at risk at all and Armitage's story would have absolved Rove as well.

But it is almost certainly false (much less obviously true) that the Bush administration thought the investigation would focus on the disclosures that led to Novak's column after September 28, 2003, when the Post published its explosive 1x2x6 story, which really got both the public controversy and the investigation going. Now, it's conceivable that the situation was as you describe before that, but we know that Rove and Novak talked on September 29 and Duberstein and Novak talked on October 1. So I guess the point is that a White House effort to hide its role is at least as, and probably more, consistent with what we know than an administration-wide effort with Armitage as the scapegoat.

Second, I just find it implausible beyond belief that Armitage would agree to be the fallguy for Libby and Rove and Cheney. Again, I buy DLV's description of what Armitage did in October: it wasn't a real confession, merely an apparent one and so on. (Hubris offers some intriguing details in this regard, suggesting that Armitage's initial story to investigators was considerably more vague than what he is saying now, with regard to how he learned about Plame, just what he learned, and so on.) But the account of his motivation is unconvincing. So I share emptywheel's objection on this count. And I also share her notion that the bottom line rule is protect the President. And I think that helps to explain the character - as we know it - of LIbby's testimony, Cheney's, and Bush's. But as Armitage himself intimated in his CBS interview, his keeping the White House in the dark about his own role also performed that function quite nicely.

For those keeping track, I see that they're going to do the hearing on Libby's memory witness on October 26, the same date initial motions in limine are due. I also have gathered that there's no action in the case this week or next. I would assume that means they're going to do the next round of CIPA hearings earlier in the week that starts October 23.

Ans welcome back, emptywheel.

You make good points I want to think about some more, EW and Jeff.

At first glance, I absolutely buy a 'protect Bush' at all costs motive for Armitage in taking the fall. Armitage's comments about Bush as "his" President in all sorts of different ways show Armitage to be a 'bow before the leader' loyalist of the first order. Even last year, while no longer a part of the administration and contrary to Powell I believe, when Bolton was up for nomination at the UN, Armitage indicated he'd support the President's choice (Bolton), just because the President made it...

Yes, the timing of that 1x2x6 article is very important, Jeff, you're right. Thanks for the reminder. I'd actually been trying to tie that in to how cover stories might have been created, when this new article came out. I was figuring that probably Rove and Libby knew they had to account for two White House sources (for the FBI) - so Rove would cop to confirming to Novak, and Libby would cop to revealing to Cooper (even though he only confirmed), or something to that effect, in order to try to throw the FBI off the scent of the main story. Hasn't gotten me very far yet - all very preliminary and incomplete - but I think there may still be a way to account for the 1x2x6 details and still account for Armitage's collusion.

Another possible motivation for Armitage, in addition to his Bush loyalty, may lie deeper, and relate more directly to the CIA role of Valerie Wilson. Armitage has been a devious operator for decades now - mixed up with the Israelis on the Iran weapons for hostages/cash deal - and clearly lying like a rug to Lawrence Walsh's investigators (and I think to Congress as well), in order to protect Armitage's "boss" at that time, Caspar Weinberger, as well as himself and "his" President Reagan. Never mind the whole eeriness of having one of the only guys who could contradict Armitage's story at that time (with written, contemporaneous evidence about a key Armitage meeting with Oliver North - which could have been backed up with credible testimony) not getting a chance to testify to Walsh because the witness died in a suspicious airplane explosion in Pakistan (where he'd become Ambassador), along with Pakistan's leader... Just this August, Armitage issued an editorial praising Pakistan's efforts in the fight against terrorism, that was co-written with one of the staffers at his Armitage International "shop" [most of his AI staffers were at the State Dept. with Armitage as well]. Also, good old Wil Taft was along for part of the ride at the DoD with Weinberger, Armitage, Powell and the rest at that time, too. These guys stick together, come what may, even if ethics, truth, the national interest, and duty to country are all sacrificed in the process of maintaining such personal, cult-like loyalties.

And yes, very glad you made it safely back past all the fall-out and tropical depressions, EW.

One more detail about timing--the investigation into State started on October 3, presumably partly in response to Armitage's "confession" (and I agree it was incomplete). That doesn't necessarily protect Libby as it exposes some of the INR information that otherwise might have remained secret, and therefore gets Fitz back to Libby in June.

Two other questions I've got. First, what of the Armitage surrogates who were saying Armitage was the biggest source against Rove? It may be that Wilkinson, who has gone a bit rogue, was the source. But if it was anyone closer to Armi, it seems State really was willing to take down Rove at one time.

Also, there's still the issue of Novak's pushback on Armi wrt the CPD revelation. That seems to have served two purposes. First, to cast suspicion off Rove. And second, to force the Wilsons' hand to add Armi to the Civil Suit. Neither seems like the kind of treatment you give the designated fall guy.

I guess I feel like 1) Armi was in no way defending Libby; 2) Armi probably wasn't primarily helping Rove; 3) He may have inadvertantly helped both in his efforts to shield Bush.

And one final question. How does the Armi as fall guy theory work with the timing of the Armi revelations? I've always read it as an effort on Rove's part to cast suspicion on the one witness against him. But you could argue the timing--post-indictment--also offered one bone to Libby (someone he could pin the "journalists knew" story on, Woodward). But at the same time, Woodward is now a key witness discrediting the NIE story, so it seems to be a wash, at best, and quite possibly the thing that will shine this more directly on Cheney and through him Bush.

In other words, forcing Armi to come forward on Woodward doesn't help Bush.

But at the same time, Woodward is now a key witness discrediting the NIE story, so it seems to be a wash, at best, and quite possibly the thing that will shine this more directly on Cheney and through him Bush.

In other words, forcing Armi to come forward on Woodward doesn't help Bush.

Well, I've wondered whether there wasn't a horrible - for the White House - coincidence: as the end of the grand jury's term expired, as a last ditch effort to derail indictments, they leaked to Woodward, the journalist with, in some sense, the most credibility and starpower in the world, the fact that Armitage was Novak's initial source. But Woodward couldn't publish because, completely unbeknownst to the White House, he himself has been an earlier recipient of the Plame leak from Armitage. So that effort failed, but generated enough buzz to reach Isikoff and the best NYT reporter on the beat.

Interesting theory, anyway. You're saying the Armi leak during indictment week was solely limited to Novak? Huh. I'll have to think on that for a while. We know how Rove would have learned of Armi (through Ashcroft's FBI briefings?). I guess the question is, did Woodward mention it or not to Card.

This is still pretty rough, but may shed some light somewhere:

Libby could not have 'taken the fall' by pretending to be the source for Cooper without colluding with another leaker, correct? Self-preservation would have prevented that, I assume.

So if that's true, then Rove and Libby (at a minimum) were coordinating their stories for the FBI. The angle I'm focusing on now is, that they both knew that Armitage did major leaking regarding Plame as well, and they knew to whom. The "heard from reporters" angle was calculated by Libby and Rove to eventually trace back to Armitage, and his leaks to [Woodward and] Novak - who they knew would be confirming Armitage as a source upfront pretty quickly. They figured this would compute for the FBI as logical, and make all roads lead back to Armitage's "confession."

[A wild guess about Mitchell also receiving the leak would make more sense of Libby's claim that Tim Russert told him this news -- because Libby could have figured if the FBI discovered that Mitchell was told by ? (which apparently hasn't been discovered if in fact it occurred), the logic would be there for Russert to have heard about it from her.]

So then Libby and Rove divvied up the remaining leaking that went to the publications that published it (in part to account for the "two White House sources" of the 1x2x6 story): Novak's column and Time/Cooper, and Libby also admitted to a 7/12 leak to Miller [Libby "told a couple reporters what other reporters had told us" per his March 24, 2004 Grand Jury testimony]. My only reason for Libby covering for Rove with Cooper is because Rove was going to admit to confirming to Novak, and maybe also confirming for (or leaking to?) Mitchell? [We don't know what Rove may have testified to in this regard, as far as I recall.] So (presumably) too much would be on Rove's plate if Libby didn't take on the Cooper leak? That leaves Libby telling Cooper and Miller, and Rove confirming for Novak, and maybe telling Pincus (though Rove was on vacation that day) and confirming for someone else? [All conversations taking place AFTER Libby talks to Russert on July 10 or 11 supposedly, except Rove got caught talking to Novak earlier, didn't he, and had to improvise?] FWIW so far.

Bottom line cover story for Libby, per his Aspens letter: Any reporter who talked to him already knew about the wife OR else Libby only revealed to reporters that REPORTERS were saying that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA [with 'and sent him' being inferred and not stated?] but DID NOT give the reporter the name Plame or the division name at the CIA where she worked.

To try to answer some questions:

I forget the source, but Armitage I believe at first 'couldn't recall' how he knew that Mrs. Wilson worked at the CIA, if I'm not mistaken. So the INR memo may have been dug up independently of Armitage's confession at a somewhat later date. Although certainly State and its involvement might have been ignored for a while if not for Armitage's early testimony.

I must have missed the information about surrogates talking about Armitage as a source against Rove -- so that one I can't help with.

On the CPD -- maybe Novak feels it's safe to push that at this point, because he assumes Armitage is now off the hook, as far as legal jeopardy is concerned, and he knows that he testified that way (Novak, that is), and wants to stick to his story (on behalf of Rove). Of course, if Novak did testify that way, it would seem that Novak's impossibly poor credibility may have helped prevent charges against Armitage. Is it possible that Novak wasn't let in on the Fall Guy role of Armitage in this affair? Rove may have kept that information segregated, I suppose, while still coaching Novak on what to say.

Forcing Woodward to out Armitage may just have been very short-term political calculation, in the panic of the moment. They probably weren't thinking ahead very clearly, and didn't take into account how the NIE/Woodward stuff would eventually stack up against Libby's story (if they even knew the details of his testimony in that regard). [Which lines up pretty well with Jeff's theory I think.]


That's what I'm thinking, more or less. We know Woodward only learned for sure that Armitage was Novak's source until days before Libby's indictment (Hubris, p. 406), though assuming this is what prompted him to go to Downie to tell him he had a Plame source, it had to have been by October 24 at the latest, which is the day he talked to Downie. So how did Woodward learn that Armitage was Novak's source? My guess is the White House, hoping to have him publish to derail or at least defuse the power of indictments. And then somebody, presumably in the White House again, though it could be people at the Post, spread the word around that Woodward had a bombshell coming that week. But little did the White House know that Woodward wouldn't be able to publish because he himself had been a recipient of the leak from the very same source.

I will just add that on Cspan Novak affirmed that his reliable sources had told him that the White House had known that Armitage was his source for a while. We don't know how long he means, but it was not news to them.

Woodward is pretty clear that he did not mention Wilson's wife to Card. He's got no recollection of it, and the tape recording of the interview doesn't reflect it.

It does seem, though, Jeff that if Woodward knew he was being given a scoop for publication, and he wasn't comfortable using it because he happened to have the scoop's subject as a confidential source himself, didn't it behoove him, as Deputy Managing Editor of the Washington Post, to forward this huge scoop on to someone else at the paper who could write about it, even if they weren't informed about the source of the scoop? Or is that too much of a stretch for such a story? Of course, I know Woodward is covering for Armitage like he's his best friend, but nevertheless. [Also recall how Woodward claims he went into 'serious reporting mode' or something after learning from the indictment announcement that he was an earlier leakee, before he contacted Armitage again.]

pow wow

I'm saying (as is Jeff, it looks like) that WH knew of the Novak Armitage leak, but not the Woodward one--otherwise it would make no sense for Libby and Rove, working together, to push the Armi line, because it opens up the NIE lies as a gateway to Dick and Bush. That is, for Libby there is a net even on the Armi to Woodward leak at best, if it means that Woodward will tell about receiving the NIE leak from Libby before, according to Libby, it was declassified. (Also, this whole scenario ought to be able to explain why Armi discouraged Woodward from coming forward, which doesn't quite fit with this scenario.)

But here's a question about that, Jeff. If WH didn't know about the Armi-Woodward leak, then how did Novak find it out with such certainty? By December 2005, Novak knew his source was also Woodward's (though it was pretty widely leaking by that point--why? From whom?)

And I still think there's a distinct possibility Armi was set up both times--with a question to bring it out of him. So if Armi did cooperate to some degree to defend Bush (though I don't know that that's necessary), then he's an awfully forgiving guy (I've found about 2 more "Where's Waldo" Armitage instances, of the Neocons blaming him for stuff, in the last week.)

As to how Armi learned, don't forget the RNC was leaking purported versions of the INR memo in Fall 2003. They didn't really have the document--but they clearly knew about it and wanted people to be talking about it. That's a dangerous strategy if Armi is supposed to be the fall guy (because it pissed off CIA further and, if it can be traced to June 10, also brings you back to the Grossman meeting). And they obviously used the INR memo when they (Rove) went on offense in July 2005, to impugn Ari.

When it comes right down to it, though, there seems to be at least some dissension between Libby and Rove--the visible signs that Rove was p.o.ed that Libby had fucked up a perfectly good smear. Consider, for example, the way that McClellan was willing to exonerate Rove in Fall 2003, but would only do so for Libby after the intervention of Dick and (IIRC) Bush. And if I'm right that the Ari w/INR memo leak was all Rove, the first leak impugned Ari and Powell and Libby (it said Libby was still a target, at a time when his involvement hadn't been publicly verified). And the RNC came out hard for Rove in July 2005, too, in a way only the Neocons have for Libby. For those reasons, I've always believed Libby was told to take the Fall for those he had incriminated (Rove and Pincus' source, if that's not Rove) because he botched the leak. And that Armi was just gravy.

I guess I'm still disinclined to believe Armi is part of the cover-up, because the WH seems to be concerned exclusively with Rove and Libby in Fall 2003. If you wanted Armi to take the Fall, you'd leak his name earlier. So he may have reacted as he did to protect Bush. But I still don't think he was cooperating with Libby, and probably not (though possibly) Rove.

pow wow

Part of my response is just to note that whatever the source of the scoop - whether from the White House or by other means - your question as to why Woodward wouldn't pass it on to another reporter applies. So that in itself makes my guess neither more nor less plausible. But as for the explanation of why Woodward didn't pass it on, I'd guess it's a combination of lack of generosity rationalized as hope that he could use it in the future in a book or something, and anxiety that the other reporter would get too close to Woodward's own role.

As for what Woodward meant about going into super-aggressive reporting mode, beyond using his fingers to dial Armitage's number, he's never revealed.


I've become increasingly convinced the CW is right that Armitage was not part of the same set of actions as the White House's, and is no sort of fallguy for the White House. And there is no doubt Armitage had a major motive to protect himself as well as Powell and State more generally. But that doesn't rule out having mixed in another motive, which is to not disclose information to the president in order to keep him out of the loop, so that Bush could continue saying, honestly, he didn't know.

Thanks - I got the distinction on the second pass about the Woodward vs. Novak Armitage source difference, EW. [Aggressively dialing Armitage - that's about the size of it, Jeff!]

The "fall guy" is not a public relations fall guy, to my mind. Armitage was the decoy for the criminal side of things (mostly or only), and therefore the White House - since I assume it is in on the conspiracy to cover up - would go out of its way not to make a scene about Armitage and the State Department as a result, publicly (which is what happened until quite recently) - because Armitage's "confession" was designed to take the criminal heat off the WH (even if it didn't exactly work as planned). But they weren't publicly supposed to know about that "confession" or its purpose, but they were grateful for it, so mum was the word.

In fact, if Armitage was a lone (set up) wolf, I can't imagine why the White House, the RNC, the neocons, and just about everyone else wasn't baying to the moon about Armitage's role the instant it was known (which I too imagine was very much in the neighborhood of the end of 2003/beginning of 2004). Of course, it would have been an unauthorized leak from the DOJ, but when has that ever stopped them. It would have gotten out. For the role he apparently played in getting the leak into the media, I'd say Richard Armitage has been treated with kid gloves by his colleagues in the Republican Party and certainly in the mass media, overall (which is why I think he was not a lone wolf).

So when I say I can see Armitage being the fall guy to help Bush, I mean to save Bush's criminal bacon personally (in other words, I guess, Bush's individual culpability, if any). Saving Bush's public relations bacon I need to think on a bit more - that does not seem to have been Armitage's primary purpose in this affair [although I think that is pretty much the role he is letting others put him in of late, since he (I believe) allowed his role as a source to be revealed in Hubris].

Right now I just have this feeling that there are other reporters lurking invisibly around the edges who played a part. I mean, how could Libby pretend to be the source for Cooper, without knowing that Rove wouldn't be admitting the same thing? And what was the point of that subterfuge? I don't get it, unless one or more other reporters were involved that we don't know about. Could Armitage have spoken to yet another reporter out there? Talk about blowing all credibility, if so. Armitage needed every ounce of credibility he could muster to bluff out his 'innocent and honest mistake' play-acting -- Woodward needed to stay quiet for that to happen, even though apparently the tape-recording is not very damaging to Armitage in his case. We now know Rove denied speaking to Cooper while sitting on e-mail evidence to the contrary (per Hubris) until he was basically trapped, and Rove has admitted saying only "I heard that too" to Novak. Meanwhile Libby was admitting upfront that he told two reporters what other reporters were allegedly saying about Wilson's wife. So why was Libby admitting to the Cooper leak for Rove unless Rove was doing the same for him, somehow. [I think you addressed that, EW, re Libby screwing up the leak - but I didn't grasp how Libby screwed it up. I guess that might possibly be one explanation though, if he did violate the ground rules... (But I can't imagine doing such a favor for Rove...)]

[Pardon the rambling. Armitage is so NOT innocent to me, now, that I feel compelled to try to make the case...]

Sorry, I'm still a bit jet-lagged. Are you saying you're not convinced by the DLV?

pow wow

I think the non-leaking about Armi is the most compelling reason to think that Armi, either by mistake or intentionally, was serving as fall guy for the WH. But it is not enough proof by itself.

As to Libby f-ing up the leak--I think it's a matter of leaving tracks, of going too far without keeping the WH safe. But it might just be a factor of the WH thinking Rove was more valuable than Libby, and knowing that Rove's activity was easier to hide.

In any case, I think you're wrong in saying there had to be an exchange. For two years, they maintained the illusion that Libby was tangentially-but not criminally--involved, whereas Rove was involved only after the fact. Ditto Pincus' source. That's why Libby's actions constitute obstruction, because he really was covering for other WH officials.


Correct. I am unconvinced both that Armitage's cover-blowing leaks were a part of one and the same set of deliberate actions as the White House's various cover-blowing leaks; and that Armitage was part of one concerted cover-up with the White House folks wherein he agreed to and did in fact take the fall. As you know, I've long thought Armitage's conduct was pretty suspect. But I also think we had at least a three-cornered fight, the CIA, the White House, and State.

EW - You mean 'an exchange' in the sense that I'm thinking that Libby was covering for Rove's leak to Cooper because Rove was somehow covering for Libby? If so, based on what we know so far, I have to agree that I can't actually make that case -- there seems to be no evidence of Rove taking 'ownership' of anything that Libby did, the way that Libby took ownership of Rove's leak to Cooper. But it does leave a huge question mark in my mind about what the motive for Libby was in doing that. [It seems to me Libby was at least as careful in his leaking as Rove was, but Rove had Novak's (and Libby's) lies to hide behind, after the fact.]

Rove, for his part, was withholding evidence from the investigation, may have primed Novak before he talked to Armitage, and definitely then confirmed for Novak after he got information from Armitage, and then also gave Cooper/Time the actual leak: in short, both leaks basically got out because of the actions of Karl Rove, in the end. And Rove then proceeded to collude with Novak (at least) to hide as much of his activity as he could, and to lie to the grand jury about his contact with Cooper, and to withhold evidence of his involvement. [He doesn't, however, seem to have withheld evidence of Libby's involvement; when those 250 pages of emails were unearthed, they supposedly didn't much impact the case against Libby.]

Maybe Libby and Rove didn't coordinate their cover-up. But Rove seemed to be certain that he didn't have to admit to the Cooper leak, because someone else already had [Rove 'doesn't have a Cooper problem' says Luskin while sitting on that Rove e-mail about Cooper's call]... But if you're right, and they basically told Libby (or he decided on his own) to sacrifice himself for the sake of Rove, that's quite a turn of events. It gives Rove the same level of importance as the President or the Vice President. [Which I guess, in the former case, may be understandable in this administration, though it's still astounding.]

Jeff - Do you take Armitage's story, then, at basically face value? How do you explain away the conduct of Armitage that you consider to be "pretty suspect"? [And, um, did you by any chance just sort of become 'more involved' (in a good! way)?? And if so, would you prefer I stay mum?]

there's a new article
at Prospect which picks up on EW's story about Cheney telling Libby to leak Plame, not the NIE

pow wow

I take Armitage's story at basically face value insofar as I don't think he was participating in the same coordinated effort as the White House to respond to Wilson in summer 2003, or participating in a coordinated cover-up with the White House of their actions in fall 2003. I do think Armitage at least lied by omission in his recent public account of his own role, making his own conduct appear less problematic than it was (which is not to say I believe everything Novak has said, far from it - but I think I could offer a systematic account of why both of them have been lying about different things).

And of course I am not interested in explaining away Armitage's suspect conduct. But there is just no reason to have recourse to the idea that Armitage was in cahoots with Team Cheney to explain (what we know of) Armitage's conduct.

Rather, like most everyone, Armitage had mixed motives, I think. But his predominant one, I suspect, was serving the interests of Team Powell, of which he was of course a major part. And in this regard, I would suggest going back to Wilson's initial appearance in this matter, as the anonymous source for Kristof's May 6 2003 column. To my reading at least, Colin Powell and the State Department are much more the targets of criticism for making the Niger uranium claim than OVP and even than the President, who also comes in for criticism. OVP gets barely a mention as having prompted Wilson's mission with its question. But Powell and State are repeatedly criticized for having continued to float the Niger claim.

We hashed this over here a while back, but my view is that State - including Team Powell - did not see itself as on the same team as Wilson in summer 2003. Hence the INR memo's tone. And hence, I suspect, the fact that Novak came away from his meeting with Armitage telling the stranger on the street who turned out to be Wilson's friend that Wilson was an asshole, his CIA wife sent him on his trip etc etc. Of course it's possible the tone and angle of Novak's comments relfected only his own view which he had quickly developed on learning the facts from Armitage. But Novak has repeatedly hinted, it seems to me, that Armitage's tenor toward Wilson was quite negative - though he has refused to come out and say it, allegedly on protecting confidential interview material, which is bs of course, so maybe he can't be trusted on this. But I am inclined to think that Armitage took a negative view of Wilson.

Thanks for elaborating, Jeff. I think I can definitely agree with your view that Armitage took a negative view of Joe Wilson. Just his Bush loyalty instincts could generate that, I suppose, but that's an interesting point you make about the Kristof article. I'll read that article again from State's perspective.

Yes, all kinds of mixed motives are involved, I'm sure, which makes easy black and white definitions of people's positions probably impossible.

But you've clarified, here, as I read it, that you think Armitage had a motive, which he acted upon, to retaliate against Joe Wilson. Meaning, I think, that being an "innocent" actor who was set up by Rove and Libby and Company is probably not the role Armitage played, and (especially) neither is the "inadvertent gossip" role that Armitage has claimed. You're in the middle, I'd say: half-way between what Armitage claims his involvement was, and what Elizabeth DLV is suggesting Armitage's involvement was. So you are taking a large part of Armitage's story with a grain of salt to that degree, for sure.

So something else for me to ponder: were there in fact 'two tracks' of parallel and independent 'slander Joe Wilson by using his wife' efforts underway that coincided and intersected in Robert Novak's column, and thus in the DOJ investigation?

I think the seemingly unlikely coincidence of such a turn of events is what first lead me to scoff at Armitage's "innocence" -- but truth is stranger than fiction, and maybe the coincidence shouldn't be dismissed as unlikely too lightly... Maybe that is in fact exactly what happened, as you seem to suggest. And before I discard the possibility completely, I should have clear and definitive evidence of a collusion and connection between the two tracks - which I think so far I've only drawn by inference and instinct. [One such inference I draw is from the seeming lack of any early coordinated, promoted leak about Armitage's role (which Rove would have learned about from Novak at the time, I'm sure) - if not about his early confession to DOJ - to try to take the heat off the White House, and to blame State in the bargain.]

P.S. On the Bush loyalty front, guess who David Corn just got an on-the-record interview with, for a Nation article about the growing problems in Afghanistan? Richard Armitage, no less, who was "outed" so the story goes, by Corn and Isikoff's (critical-of-Bush) book without Armitage's involvement... Well, the book doesn't seem to have perturbed Armitage enough for him to refuse to answer other questions from Corn, anyway - he's happy to speak with him about one of his favorite corners of the world (and with some at least oblique criticisms of the Bush administration and Bush himself thrown in for good measure -- maybe Woodward's new "candor" is catching...).

pow wow

I think the seemingly unlikely coincidence of such a turn of events

This is the thing, though: I don't think it's that surprising, since there was bound to be a lot of activity within the Bush administration around the Wilsons - or at least around Wilson - in the spring-summer of 2003, and not all of it would have been coordinated. Everyone wanted to make sure they were in the best possible position, which meant finding out as much as possible about the circumstances, and lots of people were asking and talking about it. Furthermore, there is the direct role played - though not designed by anyone - by the INR memo. Produced within the State Department evidently as part of the response to queries about Wilson's trip by Libby to Grossman, it apparently was seen by Armitage in June of 2003. So the point is, there is a way that the White House strand and the State Department strand are not completely independent, even though no one was coordinating anything between them, apparently.

I'll just add that it seems pretty clear to me that Isikoff and Corn were revealing Armitage's role with Armitage's consent - if not explicit to them, certainly tacit insofar as those other sources would never have talked to them without Armitage's approval.

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