March 06, 2007

Libby Verdict Roundup

Here's a quick round up of reaction to the Libby verdict:

Howard Dean: "Today the American legal system did something the Bush Administration hasn't, by holding Scooter Libby accountable for his illegal actions..."

Speaker Pelosi: Today's guilty verdicts are not solely about the acts of one individual. This trial provided a troubling picture of the inner workings of the Bush Administration.

Majority Leader Reid: "I welcome the jury's verdict. It's about time someone in the Bush Administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics..."

Chris Matthews: Why did Cheney's chief of staff call and complain so fatefully when Wilson's claims were repeated on "Hardball?" Could it be that Cheney feared that if the country knew it was his inquiry that led to the Africa trip then he, the president's right-hand man, could be expected to have gotten a full report on the trip's findings..."

Video: Fitzgerald Press Conference on Libby Verdict | Judge Napolitano Breaks Down Verdict |

February 26, 2007

And Then There Were 11

The Libby jury loses a member.

September 26, 2006

A Confession

I confess I don't have the attention span to sift through David Corn's response to Christopher Hitchens on Niger/yellowcake/Wilson/Plamegate and Hitchens' subsequent response to Corn. It sure looks interesting, though.

September 03, 2006

What's in the Referral? - Jed Babbin

There is a document - maybe several versions of it - that if disclosed to the public would shed much light on the genesis of the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation of the Plame non-leak. We know, or think we know, much about Joe Wilson and his "mission" to Niger, the leak of Valerie Plame's employment apparently by then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and the fact that the Justice Department knew of Armitage's responsibility for the leak before Fitzgerald was even appointed. But we yet don't know:

• How Joe Wilson, contrary to decades of CIA policy, was sent to Niger without a security agreement requiring him to remain silent about the mission and what he found during its course;

• Why the CIA never required a written report from Wilson;

• Who - within the CIA and the State Department - crafted the mission, chose Wilson (Plame, a low-level analyst, lacked the clout to do more than recommend) and enabled him to blab about his "findings" when he got back; and

• Why did the Justice Department apparently reject the CIA's request for investigation at least twice, and why did George Tenet reportedly call to demand the investigation, and what was the basis for his demand?

Some or all of this - clearly the last point - must be contained in the demand for an investigation. Called a "criminal referral," it's the memorandum any agency can send to Justice to demand an investigation. The Plame/Wilson investigation was launched by such a referral, one that was classified at least at the "secret" level by CIA. It has never been disclosed.

The Justice Department should disclose this document forthwith. Whatever "classified" data in it will almost certainly have - long since - lost their value as secrets. Any that remain valuable can be redacted. The public should know what the basis for the investigation demand was, and why the CIA was so adamant about it. And there's one other thing.

If there are intentional misstatements in that memo, whomever signed it may be guilty of a criminal act. Maybe this is something Fitzgerald could more profitably spend his time on. No, actually, a regular US attorney should be tasked to do it. No more special prosecutors. Enough is enough.

August 30, 2006

Plamegate: Another Hitch-Slap

First Juan Cole, now Michael Isikoff and David Corn. Christopher Hitchens nimbly points out the hypocrisy and sheer chutzpah of Isikoff and Corn being instrumental players in ginning up allegations that Plamegate was a blatant Bush administration hit job, and then turning around (and making money on a book, no less) and fingering Richard Armitage as Novak's original source. In other words, there was never any "there there."

This is how Corn responded on his blog last night after Hitchens' story went up:

A bunch of emails arrived today from people asking for (or, demanding) a response to Christopher Hitchens' attack in Slate on me and my coauthor Michael isikoff. I'm going to refrain from taking the bait, as we prepare for next week's release of our book. HUBRIS has plenty in it to discomfort anyone taking his or her cues from my former colleague.

Interesting. Corn's credibility is disappearing faster than a martini in Hyannisport and he says he is not going to "take the bait" - which is a euphemism meaning he won't "answer legitimate questions." Corn concludes by saying that his book is "far more about the fraudulent selling of the war than the leak case." The question at hand, however, is the media's fraudulent selling of the leak case and David Corn's central role in it.

Plamegate is turning out to be, as some have long suspected, exactly the opposite of what we've been led to believe. It was not a revenge-inspired hit job by the Bush administration, but an example of D.C.'s insider culture at its worst: a public, partisan, and dubious attack launched in the op-ed pages of the country's biggest newspaper, followed by innocent gossip between a reporter and a high-level official (and the subsequent shameful silence of that official, influenced by interdepartment fears and rivalries), followed by a firestorm of media speculation and innuendo, followed by an investigation, followed by an indictment for obstruction of justice over a crime that was never committed, followed by revelations that the whole thing wasn't what it was portrayed to be by critics of the administration and the media.

July 13, 2006

Plamegate Redux

Unable to get any frogmarch satisfaction out of Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame (Wilson) has now sued Vice-President Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and 10 other members of the Bush administration for "conspiring to destroy her career." Come again? Doesn't destroying someone's career mean ending it? Last I checked Plame was still a desk-jockey at the CIA.

June 16, 2006

Rove Gives Paper the Vapors

From the looks of this editorial, the good folks at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette appear to have come down with a case of the vapors over news of Karl Rove's non-indictment:

Sometimes it feels like there's no justice. That's a sentiment likely to be shared by many Americans in the wake of this week's announcement that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has decided not to charge top White House aide Karl Rove in his investigation of the Valerie Palme leak case.

The feelings of frustrated justice are not just partisan sour grapes, although some of that certainly exists among Democrats who were prematurely convinced of Mr. Rove's legal complicity. The truth is that disappointment might be felt by any fair-minded person who remembers what exactly was at the heart of this case and who was involved. [snip]

Mr. Rove may yet be called as a witness in Mr. Libby's trial -- as perhaps Mr. Cheney will too. Unfortunately, as we have lamented before, the trial won't occur until after the November elections, so whatever is learned there won't inform the voters in time. Optimism is limited in any case. For all his vaunted independence and thoroughness, Mr. Fitzpatrick doesn't seem to have achieved much.

In the meantime, Mr. Rove is pictured smiling like the cat who swallowed the canary. And who can say he is wrong? Yes, sometimes it feels like there's no justice.

Liberals were so heavily invested in the frog-march fantasy, I can understand their disappointment in getting a big lump of coal for Fitzmas.

June 14, 2006

'Fitzgerald Called. Case Over'

That's the message that popped up on Karl Rove's Blackberry as he prepared to take off to New Hampshire on Monday afternoon, according to Anna Schneider-Mayerson's interview with Rove lawyer Robert Luskin the New York Observer. Luskin also has some choice words for Truthout's Jason Leopold and the unseemly role the lefty blogosphere played in spreading lies about his client:

The weekend Mr. Leopold's story went online, Mr. Luskin said he had "mainstream-media reporters calling me saying, 'I'm embarrassed to make this call, because I know this can't be true--I've covered this story, I understand the process, I've got my sources--but my editors tell me I need to call and ask, "Is there any truth in this?"' "That is a function of the tension that there is now between the mainstream media and the blogosphere. On the one hand, it seems to me that the CBS National Guard stories were the poster child for the principle that sometimes the blogosphere keeps the mainstream media accountable, and it seems to me that this story is, if you will, the poster child for the fact that the blogosphere is itself often not accountable, and that there are a universe of folks out there who have got personal or political agendas who were masquerading as news sources. That is just as destructive in its own way, or more than the mainstream media's insularity is on the flip side."

The "Anti-Rathergate" is not a bad characterization of Truthout's role in the affair, especially since Leopold and his boss Mark Ash continue to cling to their now thoroughly discredited story of a Rove indictment much the same way Dan Rather did (and probably still does) cling to his belief in the forged TANG documents.

I see Ash and Leopold have now moved on to the diabolically insane gambit of trying to resurrect their tattered credibility by questioning Luskin's:

The entire basis for the information that "Rove has been cleared" comes from a verbal statement by Karl Rove's attorney. No one else confirms that. As Karl Rove's attorney Robert Luskin is bound to act - in all regards - in Rove's best interest. We question his motives.

Truly and utterly pathetic.

April 07, 2006

What He Said

As expected, Tom Maguire has a detailed, definitive rebuttal to the New York Times editorial team on the latest "Bush leaked" story. Read the whole thing.

Another Blow For Bush

It seems clear from most of the reports I've read this morning that President Bush had full authority to declassify information from the NIE to rebut claims made by Joe Wilson. Here is a clip from Josh Gerstein's report in the New York Sun:

A Republican attorney and former prosecutor, Joseph DiGenova, blasted Democrats and the press for describing Mr. Bush's alleged actions as an instruction to "leak."

"This was not a leak. This was an authorized disclosure," the ex-prosecutor said.

Mr. DiGenova said the fact that Mr. Fitzgerald has not brought any charge in connection with the release of the intelligence estimate shows Mr. Bush and his subordinates acted legally.

"If Pat Fitzgerald, a guy who gloms onto every illegal and unethical thing he can, thought he could sink his teeth into this, he would have," Mr. DiGenova said.

Still, the former prosecutor said the White House made a "tactical error" by providing the information to Ms. Miller at a hotel.

"I never understood why they didn't bring the best possible person to the podium at the White House and just rip Joe Wilson to shreds," Mr. DiGenova said.

I couldn't agree more. Joe Wilson declared open war on the administration by publicly accusing the White House of lying. They had every right and every reason to respond. The problem, however, is the administration seems to have reacted quickly and defensively (a common and understandable impulse in most White Houses) using backchannels to get information out to try and defend itself instead of waiting and making a more full throated public defense - something they eventually did by officially declassifying parts of the NIE.

The result is that, once again, the administration has opened itself to attacks and is coming off looking badly, with Democrats and the press characterizing President Bush as "the leaker in chief" and citing yet more parallels (as unwarranted as they might be) to the Nixon administration. For a taste of what I'm talking about, here's a roundup to more Libby/Cheney/Bush stories from this morning's major papers:

David Johnston and David Sanger
in the New York Times

R. Jeffrey Smith in the Washington Post

David Jackson in USA Today

William Douglas in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Craig Gordon in Newsday

Michael Krainsh in the Boston Globe

This sort of coverage is bound to take its toll on a White House already struggling with low approval ratings.

November 18, 2005

Woodward's Source

I've been watching the Woodward/Plamegate saga from afar over the last two days. But this new piece by Viveca Novak just posted on contains an interesting passage:

According to Woodward, that triggered a call to his source. "I said it was clear to me that the source had told me [about Wilson's wife] in mid-June," says Woodward, "and this person could check his or her records and see that it was mid-June. My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor. I said, 'If you do, am I released?'", referring to the confidentiality agreement between the two. The source said yes, but only for purposes of discussing it with Fitzgerald, not for publication.

So according to Woodward the source didn't go to Fitzgerald on his/or her own with the intent of trying to help Libby and/or discredit Fitzgerald. Chris Matthews is going to be devastated.

In fact, a straight reading of Woodward's account shows this source to be very much by the book, claiming "no alternative" but to contact Fitzgerald once Woodward jogged his or her memory. It certainly doesn't seem like Woodward was threatening the source with "either you contact Fitzgerald or I will" and the source looks to have granted Woodward the waiver to speak to Fitzgerald without any fuss. Of course, if we learn that the source had already been interviewed by Fitzgerald the odds of it being an innocent oversight on his or her part decrease significantly (but don't disappear altogether). 

One final related oddity: why is Woodward giving this "web exclusive" account to Time?

November 04, 2005

Neither Criminal Nor Unethical

That's the title of a piece in today's Wall Street Journal by David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Lee A. Casey which serves as a follow up to their effort in The Washington Post on Saturday.  This morning they write:

"The reason Mr. Fitzgerald did not charge anyone with leaking Ms. Plame's name, then, is clear.  It was not because, as he implied at his Oct. 28 press conference, there was insufficient evidence.  It was, rather, because there was in fact no crime as a matter of law. The true scandal here is that, despite Ms. Plame's non-covert status, Mr. Fitzgerald pressed ahead, forcing numerous journalists to testify and actually jailing Judith Miller....

In view of this history, and precisely because the CIA was skeptical of the Niger claims, sending an outside expert to assess them was absolutely correct.  The fact that the expert chosen by the CIA was so closely connected to its own bureaucracy was indispensable in assessing the value of that expert's work - especially after he had openly waded into the debate.  In short, the revelation of Ms. Plame's name in connection to the CIA was a public service, neither criminal nor unethical." 

October 30, 2005

Watergate Cancer Or Not?

In The New York Times this morning, Frank Rich gives us his best effort at the "Watergate redux" argument:

To believe that the Bush-Cheney scandals will be behind us anytime soon you'd have to believe that the Nixon-Agnew scandals peaked when G. Gordon Liddy and his bumbling band were nailed for the Watergate break-in. But Watergate played out for nearly two years after the gang that burglarized Democratic headquarters was indicted by a federal grand jury; it even dragged on for more than a year after Nixon took "responsibility" for the scandal, sacrificed his two top aides and weathered the indictments of two first-term cabinet members. In those ensuing months, America would come to see that the original petty crime was merely the leading edge of thematically related but wildly disparate abuses of power that Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, would name "the White House horrors."

 On the same page David Brooks says the exact opposite:

On March 21, 1973, John Dean told President Nixon that there was a cancer on his presidency. There was, Dean said, a metastasizing criminal conspiracy spreading through the White House.

Thirty-two years later, Patrick Fitzgerald has just completed a 22-month investigation of the Bush presidency. One thing is clear: there is no cancer on this presidency. Fitzgerald, who seems to be a model prosecutor, enjoyed what he called full cooperation from all federal agencies. He found enough evidence to indict one man, Scooter Libby, on serious charges.

So who's right? Let's just put it this way, Brooks is writing about the facts as we know them and Fitzgerald's own declaration that the"substantial work" of his investigation is done . Rich is speculating (and fantasizing) about what might be in the future based on nothing more than his assumption that Bush is Nixon and Cheney is Agnew.

Another must-read piece of the puzzle is Matt Cooper's new column in Time Magazine. Cooper says the only thing Mr. Libby did was respond to a question by by him about Joe Wilson's wife working at the CIA with the phrase "yeah, I heard that too." It seems insane that Libby would grant waivers to all of the reporters in the case allowing them to testify about conversations with him before the grand jury and then go in there himself and purposefully lie.  Cooper seems mystified by this as well:

I was surprised last week that the Libby indictment even mentioned me. But apparently his recollection of the conversation differed from mine in a way that led the prosecutor to think he was lying. As for me, I still have no idea if Libby or anyone else has committed a crime.

October 29, 2005

Libby Indictment Is Wilma, Not Katrina

Since hurricane references are in vogue these days I'll use one for the Libby indictment: it's Wilma, not Katrina. I mean two things by that: first, that it could have been a lot worse. Fitzgerald apparently didn't have or couldn't prove a conspiracy charge and he couldn't indict on either of the main underlying laws of the case. An indictment (albeit a solid five-count one at that) of a single player in the Bush administration who is not well known to the public will not do nearly as much lasting damage to the Bush presidency as either mulitple indictments or the indictment of Rove would have done.

The second reason the Libby affair looks to me like hurricane Wilma is because if the Libby indictment is, in fact, all that ends up coming of Fitzgerald's probe, it's going to hit and be gone as a media event outside the beltway. The frenzy will continue through the weekend and the Sunday shows tomorrow,  but the Libby story won't be packing nearly the same punch on Monday or Tuesday morning when America wakes up to find that President Bush has nominated someone new to the Supreme Court.

I'm under no illusions that the mainstream media (especially those in Washington who live and breathe this stuff every day) won't try to keep the Libby story as big as possible for as long as possible.  But unless there is damaging new information that comes out or until such time as there is a trial with some very high profile witnesses, if the White House is smart and stays on the offensive with a SCOTUS appointment and big policy announcements, the Libby affair will go from being a Category 3 storm back to a tropical depression pretty darn fast in the eyes of the public.

October 26, 2005

The Betting Line on PlameGate Fallout

Washington is buzzing in anticipation of potential indictments from the Special Prosecutor either today or tomorrow. The excitement on the left is bubbling over in the hope that finally the Bush administration will be exposed as the criminals and liars they have always presumed them to be.

There is no question that the White House should be on edge before Fitzgerald lays down the law. However, because of the ratcheting up of the hype and expectations by the media there is plenty of room for some major disappointment on the left.  

The way things stand right now, anything less than an indictment of Rove will be, in political terms, a victory for the White House. Of course, the indictment of the Vice President's Chief of Staff is not on its surface a minor issue.  But because almost no one outside of Washington has ever heard of Scooter Libby (coupled with the massive expectations for much, much, more) indictments of Libby and one or two other smaller players from the Vice President's office won't be the Bush killing moment so many are hoping for.

On the other hand if Rove is indicted, along with a host of others, the President is going to have a problem he is going to have to deal with. It won't be the Watergate redux that so many in the media and on the left are pining for, but it would be foolish for Republicans to spin this as anything but bad news. If Rove gets indicted you can almost guarantee that the Miers nomination will be withdrawn (which would be a big plus for the President).

On the extremes of what Fitzgerald could do, no indictments at all will cause all of this frenzy and speculation to backfire utterly on the MSM and will be a huge boost to the President's climbing out of his current hole. And of course if the left-wing nirvana scenario comes down and somehow Joe Wilson is right and Cheney is indicted along with Rove, Libby, et al, the Bush administration is going to think the last 6 weeks weren't that bad in retrospect.

October 24, 2005

Bush's Frustration Mounts

Thomas DeFrank of the New York Daily News writes an account of President Bush's mounting anger and frustration at the direction of his second term.  Two paragraphs in particular deserve more attention. Here's the first:

The vice president remains Bush's most trusted political confidant. Even so, the Daily News has learned Bush has told associates Cheney was overly involved in intelligence issues in the runup to the Iraq war that have been seized on by Bush critics.

I agree with something Josh Marshall said last week, which is when dealing with a White House as notoriously disciplined and tight-lipped as this one, the presumption has to be that the leaks we're reading about these days have some sort of purpose.  To see a direct criticism from Bush about his Vice-President in print suggests to me the administration is indeed preparing for one or more indictments in Cheney's office this week and the attendant implication (perhaps real, perhaps not) that Cheney was aware of or directly involved in the campaign to discredit Joe Wilson.

Quote number two from DeFrank's article is this:

A second senior Bush loyalist disagreed, saying Bush knows "some of these things are self-inflicted," like the Miers nomination, where Bush jettisoned contrary advice from his advisers and appointed his longtime personal lawyer.

 The quote is inconclusive as to the balance of opinion (i.e. did Bush overrule a majority of his advisers who counseled against Miers or just a few?), but DeFrank's language certainly implies there were a number of people inside the White House warning him against appointing Miers. 

UPDATE: John Fund has more background on the White House dynamics of the Miers nomination.