The hole in the "oil spot" strategy for Iraq.

A mostly political Weblog.
Nov. 14 2005 3:46 AM

The Hole in the "Oil Spot" Strategy

Plus--You Can't Shut Anyone Up Anymore.

(Continued from Page 13)

And here's the Wall Street Journal ed board'shighly misleading account:

So, we are left with this. Did Mr. Libby offer the truth about Mr. Wilson to Mr. Cooper "without qualifications," as Mr. Fitzgerald alleges, or did he merely confirm what Mr. Cooper had heard elsewhere? Did he, or did he not, discuss Mr. Wilson with Tim Russert at all?

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But special prosecutor Fitzgerald does not need any of these reporters' testimony to show perjury. He does not, most importantly, need Russert.  Fitzgerald has a simpler perjury charge that doesn't rely on a he said/she said with any member of the press. Specifically, the indictment alleges that Libby testified that

At the time of this conversation [with Russert] Libby was surprised to hear that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

(Libby allegedly said, under oath: "[A]t that point in time I did not recall that I had ever known, and I thought this is something that he was telling me that I was first learning.")

In fact, Fitzgerald argues, Libby wasn't surprised. He couldn't have been surprised because

At the time of this conversation, Libby was well aware that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA; in fact Libby had participated in multiple prior conversations concerning this topic ...

Fitzgerald then gives six or seven occasions on which Libby discussed Wilson's wife's employment with other government officials. (The discussions with Judith Miller of the NYT are redundant bonus incidents.)

How could what Russert told Libby possibly matter on the issue of whether Libby was surprised to hear about Wilson's wife? Russert can testify that he never even discussed Wilson's wife, or Wilson himself, in which case Libby can't have been surprised by the information. Or he can admit that he actually disclosed to Libby that Wilson's wife worked at Langley, in which case Libby still can't have been surprised by the information--or at least Fitzgerald is in a good position to prove that.  It's not "he said/she said" because we don't really need to know whether what Russert remembers is accurate (unless he remembers, 'I told Libby and Libby seemed genuinely surprised,').

P.S.: Fitzgerald's lucky he doesn't need to rely on Russert. As Maguire points out  a) Russert's statements remain alarmingly Clintonesque, leaving open the possibility that he did, in fact, tell Libby that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA (just without using her name or revealing that she was an "operative"); b) it's highly probable Russert and Libby in fact at least discussed Wilson, if not his wife, because (as Michael Crowley and TalkLeft note) Libby didn't just call Russert to complain about "some programming," as Brian Williams vaguely put it--the "programming" Libby was complaining about was almost certainly a Hardball program about Wilson!**  What's more, while Fitzgerald said at his press conference that Libby and Russert "never discussed"  Wilson's wife, it's slightly hard to believe they didn't, because in that Hardball episode, Chris Matthews seemed to make the very charge that Valerie Plame's employment was relevant to rebutting--the charge that Wilson was sent "down to Niger" by the "Vice President's office" (as opposed to by the CIA at the suggestion of his wife).***

**--If that's true, then Michael Duffy of Time's suggestion that Libby "confected [the Russert conversation] out of whole cloth" would seem to be wrong, as Maguire argues. And maybe a wee bit defamatory! Duffy's story might certainly have benefitted from at least mentioning that Russert had in fact talked to Libby, probably about Wilson.