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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

How Secure is Patrick Fitzgerald?

After stalking the Grand Jury like a bunch of shameless paparazzi, ABC News is reporting that two more people testified before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury in the Plame Case last Friday -- Susan B. Ralston and Israel Hernandez, both of whom have worked as aides to Karl Rove. David Johnston at the NYT subsequently wrote that they were both questioned about Rove's July 11, 2003 conversation with Matt Cooper of Time Magazine.

It all seems to indicate that one prong of Fitzgerald's inquiry is dedicated to pursuing perjury charges against Karl Rove, since both his lawyer, Luskin, and a memo he sent to Stephen Hadley shortly after the July 11 conversation indicate that his version of the story is somewhat different than Cooper's. Cooper claims the phone call was pointedly about Plame, Rove said it was initiated about welfare reform.

Now, I'm as happy as the next guy about the idea that Rove might be indicted for perjury, and if the next guy is Hugh Hewitt probably a whole lot happier. But it seems like small potatoes for the con jobs who willingly threw national security to the dogs for their own political ends. I know I know, Bill Clinton, perjury before the grand jury, blah blah blah. But I want the Full Monty.

And therein seems to lie the rub. How secure is Patrick Fitzgerald, and what does he need to make his case against BushCo. under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 or the Espionage Act of 1917, and is he going to have the time he needs to do it before BushCo. either a) fucks up his case or b) sacks him?

Some attempt to separate fact from fiction:

1. A lot was made about the resignation of James Comey this week, Fitzgerald's boss and the one who purportedly assigned him to Plame in the first place. It didn't help matters when it was announced that BushCo. put forward former Tyco attorney Timothy Flanigan to take his place this week. It looked like the justice department was trying to ease Comey out and put in someone who would be more amenable to firing Fitzgerald off the Plame case, which -- at this point in time -- it seems they could conceivably do.

But Comey announced his resignation in March of this year; he'd had his eye on the AG job, and when that went to Abu Gonzales it was well known that he would probably return to the private sector where he could make some serious bank. It hit the headlines because the Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed Flanigan this week, and Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced that the dude made him queasy. It probably wasn't the news a lot of folks thought it was.

2. Former Illinois Senator Peter (no relation) Fitzgerald announced this week that Republicans were rumbling about Patrick Fitzgerald not being re-appointed to the job of US attorney in Illinois come October. Which has nothing to do with his job on Plame. Bush could very well decide to appoint someone else in Illinois just to fuck with him, and I'm sure the announcement this week that Fitz's day job might be in jeopardy was designed to do just that. A flexing of Rove's flaccid little muscle, so to speak.

As was the announcement that "legal ethics experts" were looking into Fitzgerald's hiring 8 months ago of a woman who formerly worked for Peter Fitzgerald and who may have helped her former boss gather information that lead to Fitz getting the job in Illinois. Eight months later, and this is the best they can do? Anyone who wants to argue that this wasn't part of some Rovian overture needs to stop picking through the carpet fibers for crack.

3. Pat Roberts' (R-KA) Senate Intelligence Committee announced that they would be holding hearing into, among other things -- Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. Shades of Oliver North and John Poindexter leaped into the eyes of many, who remember how Congress granted that dirty duo immunity for their (largely useless) testimony regarding the inquiry into the Reagan administration's arms-for-hostages deals after they had already been convicted by independent counsel Lawrence Walsh.

The notion was enough to make Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) hinky enough to draft a letter of caution last Friday to both Roberts and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

"The (congressional) hearings should not be used as a ruse to provide White House officials with immunity," said Lautenberg. Neither Roberts nor Hoekstra would comment.

4. It would appear from all this rumbling that Rove is at the very least attempting to try to intimidate Fitzgerald, to make his presence known and let the prosecutor know that Rove Has A Big One. And while I have no way of knowing the value of the testimony provided by Ralston and Hernandez, at the very least hauling them in was an excellent elbow back to the ribs.

But how real is the threat to Fitzgerald? Can Rove derail his investigation?

From what I've been able to glean, Fitzgerald can't be fired from Plame -- after he hands down indictments. But he doesn't want to indict too soon, or over too little. And what does he need to make a large case? Well, it just might be the testimony of -- you guessed it, Jailhouse Judy.

Rove and Libby's story has seemingly been that they heard of Plame's identity from a reporter. And GOP attack dogs have dutifully repeated that the reporter they heard it from is Judith Miller. Which is probably all bullshit, but until Miller will testify to that fact, Rove and Libby's stories don't fall apart. Further, nobody swings under the 1982 Identities Act, because if Judy Miller was indeed the source, and the leak can't be traced back to someone who had the clearance to officially know about Plame's identity, Fitzgerald has bupkis.

So -- and here's where the brass balls part comes in -- can Fitzgerald crack the case before Rove blows the whole thing up? Both sides are obviously aligning their chess pieces on the board. And it may come down to Fitzgerald filing criminal contempt charges against Judith Miller before she talks (she's now in jail for civil contempt, which only lasts for the duration of the grand jury). While she's happy playing the martyr until October, her willingness to protect her "sources" (and her own ass) may be somewhat compromised when she's looking at a serious stretch of jail time.

My money is on Fitzgerald. I say he cracks Judy and that Rove and Libby swing, along with a host of others involved in the conspiracy to FALSIFY INTELLIGENCE AND LEAD THE UNITED STATES INTO AN IMMORAL AND ILLEGAL WAR (because please let us not forget what this is all about). But here are two questions I'd like answered, that in my scouring I haven't seen addressed:

a) Why were Cheney and Bush allowed to give their statements while not under oath, unlike Clinton, who as a result wound up with a perjury rap?

b) No one seems to know who Robert Novak cut his deal with. It may have its origins pre-Fitzgerald, an agreement made with Ashcroft before he recused himself from the case. If that is in fact what happened, it may explain why Fitzgerald has had a hard time honing in on Novakula -- he inherited Ashcroft's dirty laundry.