This is the Archive site for Firedoglake. To go to the main site please click on the following link

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why Scooter is Screwed -- in Plain English

Much talk recently about poor how poor Scooter is falling on his sword to save his boss Dr. Evil. The WaPo over the weekend wanted to know why Scooter would lie to the Grand Jury in direct contradiction of his own notes, and came up with the notion that he was protecting Cheney. For which he, no doubt, probably deserves to be counted a Great American.

Color me dubious.

While he may well be protecting Cheney in the bargain, Scooter's lies were meant to protect himself -- from an Espionage indictment. Sort of a two-vultures-with-one-stone deal. Fitzgerald knows it, and hammering away at the lies that keep him from indicting Libby under the Espionage Act are at the heart of his case.

He has Scooter dead-to-rights on a handful of lies, but let's start with his claim that Tim Russert told him on July 10 that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. According to Russert, the two never discussed it. Now according to The Wall Street Journal and others, Libby's planned defense will be to attack the credibility of Big Russ and others. All I can say is, good luck.

Let's say that by the time Scooter's case comes to trial We Are All Tom Maguire and we believe Russert is full of shit. What Fitzgerald is maintaining is that Libby lied to both FBI investigators and the Grand Jury when he went in and told them that when he spoke to Russert, he had forgotten that he first heard that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA from Cheney (and thanks to Grandpa over at The Next Hurrah for setting me straight on this one). Russert's story one way or the other plays no part in it.

That Scooter would tell such an outrageous, weird lie is made even weirder by the number of people amassed by Fitzgerald who claim to have discussed Valerie Wilson with Scooter prior to the purported July 10 conversation with Russert:

. June 11 or 12 -- Mark Grossman, Under Secretary of State told him Wilson's wife worked at the CIA
. June 11 -- "A senior officer of the CIA" told him Wilson's wife worked at the CIA
. June 12 -- Dick Cheney told him Wilson's wife worked at the CIA
. June 14 -- He discussed "Joe Wilson" and "Valerie Wilson" with his CIA briefer
. June 23 -- He told Judy Miller that Wilson's wife might work at the CIA
. July 7 -- He told Ari Fleischer that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA
. July 8 (or earlier) -- Catherine Martin told him that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA
. July 8 -- Libby told Judith Miller that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA

And yet, in his testimony before the grand jury, Scooter could still look everybody in the eye (we assume) and say that on July 10, when he purportedly spoke with Tim Russert, he had totally forgotten he'd ever heard this information before:
Libby: And then he said, you know, did you know that this excuse me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson'’s wife works at the CIA? And I was a little taken aback by that. I remember being taken aback by it. And I said he may have said a little more but that was he said that. And I said, no, I don'’t know that. And I said, no, I don'’t know that intentionally because I didn't want him to take anything I was saying as in any way confirming what he said, because at 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. And so I said, no, I don'’t know that because I want to be very careful not to confirm it for him, so that he didn't take my statement as confirmation for him.
Note that Scooter is very careful to say that he thought that this was the first time he had heard this. And he goes on to say that when he went forth like Scooter Appleseed to scatter this tidbit of news to journalists, he always told them he had heard it from another journalist:
Fitzgerald: And you're, you'’re certain as you sit here today that every reporter you told that Wilson'’s wife worked at the CIA, you sourced it back to other reporters?

Libby: Yes, sir, because it was important for what I was saying and because it was that'’s what...that's how I did it.
Why would he tell such a stupid lie? Fitzgerald certainly has an idea:
Fitzgerald: And let me ask you this directly. Did the fact that you knew that the law could turn, the law as to whether a crime was committed, could turn on where you learned the information from, affect your account for the FBI when you told them that you were telling reporters Wilson'’s wife worked at the CIA but your source was a reporter rather than the Vice-President?

Libby: No, it'’s a fact. It was a fact, that's what I told the reporters.
Repeatedly telling an outrageous lie like that, both to the FBI and the grand jury, one that would never stand up in court (unless the "I forgot" defense is a lot stronger than I have any reason to believe it is) is because admitting the truth -- namely, that he was knowingly and recklessly spreading classified information to people who were not authorized to have it -- made him guilty under the Espionage Act.

Here is Fitz from his press conference:
I think, knowing that he gave the information to someone who was outside the government, not entitled to receive it, and knowing that the information was classified, is not enough. You need to know at the time he transmitted the information, he appreciated that it was classified information, that he knew it or acted, in certain statutes, with recklessness. (my emphasis)
As a lawyer, Libby knew that as long as he maintained he was only passing on heresay from other reporters they might get him for charges related to egregious lying, but at least they couldn't get him for Espionage, and they kill people for that. If he can throw a little shade Big Time's way in the bargain, well so much the better.

The indictments go on in an attempt to crack holes in Libby's contention that every time he talked to a reporter, he sourced it back to another reporter, and said he did not know if the information he was passing on was true. In each and every count of the indictment, Fitzgerald seems to be punching holes in the aspects of Libby's story that would keep him from being indicted on Espionage.

With regard to Tim Russert, he basically blasts the source of the lie -- that Russert told him in the first place (Counts 1, 2 & 4)

With regard to Matt Cooper, he asserts only that Libby told Cooper without qualification that Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA and never said that he first heard this information from other reporters (Counts 1, 3 & 5)

And with regard to Judy Miller, he only claims that Libby didn't tell her he heard it from other reporters, and that he never asserted that he didn't know if the information was true or not.

Now, Judy's credibility may indeed be dubious. But if Libby was claiming he first thought he heard this info from Russert on July 10, the fact that Judy has notes backing up conversations about Valerie Wilson from June 23 and July 8 are going to do much of the talking for her. The indictments don't really rely on her for much more than that.

Scooter is screwed. Half the administration is going to be dragged in to bust him in his "I forgot" defense, and the journalists his lawyers are so anxious to devour play a much smaller role than I am sure they would like.

And if the grand jury was treated to Mr. Fitzgerald's open skepticism as to Scooter's motives in all of this, i.e. lying to evade an espionage indictment, here's hoping that a jury of his peers is likewise entertained.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)