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Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Hadley Email

This morning's WaPo article contained a new bit about the Stephen Hadley email sent by Karl Rove on July 11, 2003 following his conversation with Matt Cooper. According to the article:
Shortly before his client's second appearance before the grand jury in October, Luskin personally conducted a review of thousands of e-mails Rove had sent during the crucial weeks in 2003, including those from accounts reserved for personal and political correspondence, a source familiar with the situation said.

Amid the e-mails, Luskin found one sent from Rove to Stephen J. Hadley, then deputy national security adviser, in which Rove mentioned his conversation with Cooper. The e-mail was written from Rove's government account, which investigators searched early in the inquiry. It is unclear why the e-mail was not discovered at that time.

Once found by Luskin, the e-mail was shared with Rove and then quickly turned over to Fitzgerald, the source said. Rove then testified that the e-mail "established that he had in fact had a conversation with Cooper," the source said.
Up until now, the explanation -- as dictated to the Rove-friendly Michael Isikoff -- has been:
Why didn't the Rove e-mail surface earlier? The lawyer says it's because an electronic search conducted by the White House missed it because the right "search words" weren't used.
This new information about the email production just makes no sense. I can't even figure out why they would want to put it out there. And someone who knows more about document production can correct me, but based on my limited experience, the chain of events as sketched by Camp Rove is supposed to look something like this:

1. Abu Gonzales sends the an email telling everyone to turn over relevant documents regarding Joe Wilson, the Niger forgeries and any contact with media.

2. White House IT people do a document search that curiously does not contain the words "Wilson," "Niger" or "Time Magazine."

3. Hard copies are usually made of all the relevant documents and in addition to being turned over to Gonzo for production to the DoJ, copies would most certainly go to Rove's personal attorney.

4. Luskin combs over the documents for the low low price of $900/hr. or whatever the hell he charges.

5. After hearing from ViVak whatever he heard about his client, he has all Rove's emails delivered to him in some form. (Does Luskin even have the security clearance to view all Rove's emails?)

6. Luskin reads all the emails, discovers the incriminating document 10 months later, calls Karl and says "oh my gosh, Karl, you'll never believe what I just found!" Karl faints from shock.

None of this, of course, makes any sense. Presuming we know even a fraction of what is going on, there are only two explanations I can come up with. One, they are going for something really weird like it took Luskin 10 months to read them all.

Or, we are in a situation like we were when the Dick Cheney leak got floated in the NYT four days before the Libby indictment: somebody may feel like indictment day is just around the corner and is trying to get information out there so its impact can dissipate before the boom lowers.

Poorly Chosen Words

Then there is the wording of the Hadley email, which has always been peculiar:
"Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he's got a welfare reform story coming," Rove wrote Hadley, who has since risen to the top job of national security adviser.

"When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger. Isn't this damaging? Hasn't the president been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn't get Time far out in front on this."
But as we know from Matt Cooper's account that the conversation went nothing like that. Combine that with the fact that it was not produced in response to the initial September 30, 2003 document request and in fact did not surface until some time before Rove's October 15, 2004 appearance before the grand jury and it has lead many to presume it might have been forged ex-post-facto. I'm not of this theory, but understand why many are.

Anyway, pollyusa leads us to a comment by Billmon over at Jeralyn's which makes a lot of sense:
The memo itself is an interesting artifact. When I first read about it, I interpreted it as Rove's attempt to establish an alibi -- i.e. "Cooper tried to get me to talk about Wilson's wife, but I didn't go for it, nosirree." But in hindsight, it looks more to me like Rove was trying to con Hadley into believing that he (Rove) was not poaching on his turf. My guess is that there was an agreement in place that the NSC would respond to questions about Niger, which Rove and Libby of course were violating with their trash Joe Wilson campaign.

Rove and Luskin, of course, have tried to spin the email as exculpatory, even it doesn't jibe at all with Cooper's account of the conversation. I'm sure Fitzgerald doesn't see it that way, which is why I think the LONG gap between Novak's chat with Luskin and the production of the email may end up playing a role in his decision to indict.
That's the most plausible explanation I've heard so far for the wacky wording, and if so it may mean that Hadley was not in fact part of the "get Wilson" campaign.

Most everyone I speak to agrees that this Hadley email is going to take center stage in whatever happens to Rove, and possibly to others. But the thing that argues against Hadley not being part of the campaign is that a search on his end did not turn up the document, either. Coincidence? I'm having a hard time with that one.

Update: Swopa has more on the Hadley enigma.

Update 2: Hadley will be on whatever that Sunday morning CNN show with the bearded one is called.



David Corn announces that he has "solved the Not-So-Great Mystery of the Second Novak--at least in part:"
Luskin, according to sources close to Viveca Novak, was a longtime source of hers, not a close friend (as has been wrongly reported).
Well that's good to know. It was not a social engagement, it was an official, job-related interview. Then as a good reporter, she most certainly took notes in between highballs that she turned over to her editors about a meeting with the lawyer of the man who was going to let her colleague go to jail. I'm sure they came in handy when Time, Inc. was spending millions to defend itself in court.
Now, according to completely trustworthy sources close to Viveca Novak, this is what happened. Novak wasn't trying to tip off Luskin or to help him. During a conversation, Luskin said to Viveca Novak that Rove had never spoken to Cooper about Valerie Wilson. Novak instinctively pushed back, in the way many a reporter would challenge a source whom he or she believes is spinning or lying. "She assumed that Luskin was giving her BS," one close-to-Novak source says. "And she replied with something along the lines of, 'This is not what I hear.' She assumed that Luskin did know about the Rove-Cooper conversation and that she was not telling him anything he did not already know."


I've known Viveca Novak for close to 20 years, and this all squares with my nothing-but-positive impression of her. (Interest disclosed: I used to regularly play basketball with her husband, a career labor lawyer, whom I always had trouble guarding.)
Maybe if they'd been a little better friends she might have told him that her meeting with Luskin took place "over drinks" in February, 2004 before he went out on a limb defending her.

I guess she's better friends with Jim VandeHei.


GI Jokers

As if by accident, John Tierney almost writes a column worthy of reading today. He takes a swing at the Pentagon for planting articles in the Iraqi press, though with a Tierney twist: "the private sector could have done it cheaply and discreetly, but the Pentagon made a mess of it."

Anyway, no news here. The amusing part comes when Tierney quotes one of the articles written by the Pentagon that they tried to have placed, which includes the line that soldiers "fight for freedom, wherever there is trouble."

For a hundred million bucks you might expect something more nuance and cultural sensitivity than the theme song from the GI Joe cartoon. But then again, when you consider the fine minds of the deep thinkers who launched this fiasco of a war in the first place, probably not.

(hat tip to reader Jeff)


Product Image Disaster

No, not the Jaguar, although you think Ford might be a bit concerned.

In a new WaPo article, the Rovians further engage in what Pachacutec so aptly describes as the octopus ink strategy: swim fast and try to cloud the waters:
Now, Rove is relying on that casual exchange [between Vivica Novak and Robert Luskin] as part of a broad effort to convince a prosecutor he did not lie about his role in the CIA leak case, the sources said.
V. Novak is now providing the backbone of Rover's defense. Nice.
According to a source familiar with Novak's conversation with Luskin, the two were having a casual conversation over drinks sometime in early 2004 when Luskin insisted that his client, Rove, faced no danger in the leak investigation. Novak, described as fishing for information or trying to test Luskin's statement, begged to differ. She said she had heard at the magazine that Rove had been a key source for Cooper on information he published about Plame.
What, no cocktail weenies?
One person familiar with the case said the Novak-Luskin conversation is not what prompted Rove to change his testimony in the case. In fact, this person said, Novak told Luskin about the Rove-Cooper connection before Rove's first appearance before the grand jury in February 2004.
Well that's certainly a new spin. I guess the story has changed now that the earlier saga was greeted by such thundering rounds of derisive laughter. Someone should tell Mr. Fitzgerald that the conversation took place in or before February. He had requested her testimony for any conversation with Luskin after May 2004. Oddly, this is never addressed. A small quibble I guess in an article otherwise stunning for its unquestioning stenographic excellence.
Shortly before his client's second appearance before the grand jury in October, Luskin personally conducted a review of thousands of e-mails Rove had sent during the crucial weeks in 2003, including those from accounts reserved for personal and political correspondence, a source familiar with the situation said.

Amid the e-mails, Luskin found one sent from Rove to Stephen J. Hadley, then deputy national security adviser, in which Rove mentioned his conversation with Cooper. The e-mail was written from Rove's government account, which investigators searched early in the inquiry. It is unclear why the e-mail was not discovered at that time.
What happened to the "bad search parameters?" I thought it was the computer's fault?
"There's no way that Viveca Novak knowingly, wittingly gave up a confidential source to Robert Luskin," [Time's managing editor Jim] Kelly said.
Did he slip her a couple of roofies? I'm not getting that one.
A source familiar with the exchange said the fact that Rove was Cooper's source was known by only a few at the magazine, including Cooper, his Washington bureau editor and Kelly, but it was not as closely guarded a secret as Time editors now believe it should have been.
I guess not.
Kelly declined to comment on when Novak notified the magazine that Luskin planned to seek her testimony before Fitzgerald.
Matt Cooper quite nearly went to jail. Karl Rove never intended to give him any kind of waiver, it happened by pure fucking big-mouth Luskin accident. Do you think Karl Rove lost one minute of sleep thinking he was provoking a constitutional crisis? And can you imagine? Going to jail to protect Karl Rove? Think about that. You think V. Novak might have wandered into her editors at some point over the past year and a half and said "you know, I don't know how this might fit into anything, but before they send Matt to Romania for waterboarding maybe I should mention..."

Karl Rove would be quite happily driving around in his Jaguar scarfing White Castles with no remorse whatsoever for all of this. Even if you accept that stuff like this travels around newsrooms with more freedom than it should -- and it does -- once the stakes become clear you have to decide what team you're on. And it is not entirely apparent at the moment to what team Ms. Luskin Novak thinks she owes her allegiance.


Friday, December 02, 2005

It's a Blue Highlighter Kind of Night

I've been poring over Patrick Fitzgerald's response (PDF) to Dow-Jones motion to unseal the 8 redacted pages of Judge Tatel's concurrence to the decision that ultimately sent Judith Miller to jail, one of the long-time "Holy Grails" of Plame-ologists.

Just to recap a bit: On February 15, 2005 Judges Tatel, Henderson and Sentelle handed down a decision saying that Judy Miller and Matt Cooper could not claim journalistic privilege and refuse to testify in the CIA leak case. Eight pages were redacted from Judge Tatel's concurrence, and people have been speculating wildly ever since about their contents. Dow-Jones filed a motion saying that the eight pages should now be released, and Fitzgerald is agreeing to release certain sections.

Basically, what Fitzgerald says is:

1. The documents have been reviewed for classified information, and as of November 30, 2005 there is none.

2. Continued secrecy relative to portions that relate only to Libby is not necessary, since most of the investigation into his participation has been publicly revealed in the indictment.

3. However, he says that:
"[T]he Special Counsel has concluded that secrecy continues to be necessary with respect with the remainder of the redacted pages, in order to protect from embarrassment or ridicule individuals whose status as grand jury witnesses or subjects has not been publicly disclosed as well as to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation."
If they haven't been revealed as witnesses before, it ain't gonna happen now.

4. He says that as a result of the indictment, certain information from the redacted pages has become publicly known, and thus can be released:
a. The fact that Libby was a subject and target of the investigation.

b. The names of witnesses who gave testimony that directly contradicted Libby's testimony -- this would include Cooper and Russert but presumably not Miller, who as of February 15, 2005 had not testified before the grand jury at all (Cooper having testified at this point about Libby but not Rove).

c. The substance of the testimony of witnesses who were summarized or quoted in the indictment -- again, Russert and Cooper.

d. Curiously: "All but one of the witnesses discussed in this portion of the redacted pages have publicly disclosed the substance of their own testimony before the grand jury." Presumably Russert and Cooper have made such public disclosures." So there is one more witness discussed who has not talked about what they testified to, though presumably they are known to have testified or they would have been knocked out under (3) above.
Fitz also claims that "the additional details include quotations from testimony summarized in the indictment, and the identities of certain persons who were identified in the indictment solely by job title."

That would include, from the Libby indictment:

"Under Secretary" -- p. 4 -- Marc Grossman
"Senior CIA Officer" -- p. 4 -- unknown
"Vice President of the United States" -- p 5 -- Richard B. Cheney
"CIA briefer" -- p. 5 - unknown
"Libby's principle deputy" -- p. 6 --Eric Edelman
"White House Press Secretary" -- p. 7 - Ari Fleischer
"Counsel to the Vice President" -- p. 7 -- David Addington
"Assistant to the VP for Public Affairs" -- p. 7 -- Catherine Martin

Though one would assume just by virtue of being named in the indictment all of these people have testified, the only ones I know of who have had it publicly acknowledged are Martin, Fleischer and Cheney.

Since we know "Official A" is Karl Rove, and Rove is still a subject/target, he would not be this person.

But potentially I suppose it could be anyone who is publicly known to have testified, and that list is rather long.

Further, Fitz says that "the part of the investigation that specifically focused on Mr. Libby's conduct has largely been concluded." But considering how carefully he parses his words and the fact that he's been saying the investigation has been "largely concluded" for over a year, I take this with a grain of salt.

Jeralyn, Emptywheel and Armando have more.


All Aboard

This sounds about right. From Media Matters:
Recent revelations in the CIA leak investigation indicate that Time magazine Washington correspondent Viveca Novak may have injected herself in the investigation by alerting a lawyer for White House senior adviser Karl Rove in mid-2004 that her colleague, Time White House correspondent Matthew Cooper, might be forced to disclose to a grand jury what Rove had told him about then-undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Novak reportedly warned Rove attorney Robert Luskin that Rove could face legal scrutiny over omitting mention of the conversation with Cooper in his own grand jury testimony, thereby providing Luskin with information that might prove crucial to Rove's defense in the case. Novak never disclosed her conversation with Luskin or her knowledge of Rove's conversation with Cooper to special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald or to Time readers, despite working on several articles about the case after her reported conversation with Luskin.
There are rumors that Vivac may have been questioned in the matter already. If true it does not bode exceptionally well for her that she is being hauled into Principal Fitz's office once again.
Novak, an experienced journalist working for a prestigious publication, disclosed to Rove's lawyer information that she did not give to her readers and that Cooper would zealously try to withhold for more than a year on the basis of the purportedly sacrosanct anonymity agreement between a reporter and a source. Second, Novak may have affirmatively helped Rove -- a source the magazine covers and will continue to cover -- beat a perjury rap, not by exonerating him through a story in the course of her job, but by providing his lawyer with information in a private conversation.
She's really bucking for that Judith Miller Excellence in Journalism Award, eh?
Whether Rove is guilty of intentionally hiding his conversation with Cooper, Viveca Novak undoubtedly aided Rove's defense by telling his lawyer that inaccuracies in Rove's testimony would likely become apparent to Fitzgerald.
They will most certainly have to invent some new circle of hell just for her if it turns out Rover skates because of her actions.
Novak's alleged involvement in the case did not prevent her from continuing her reporting on it, though she wrote no reports on the key information she gave Luskin.

As recently as October 24, Novak co-wrote an article with Time White House correspondent Mike Allen, which reported that "Fitzgerald appears to be seriously weighing a perjury charge for Rove's failure to tell grand jurors that he talked to Time correspondent Matthew Cooper about Plame, according to a person close to Rove." Novak wrote more generally on the Plame case for Time as recently as November 18.
Before everyone breaks out the kazoos and starts screaming partisanship, I just want to mention the fact that ViVac wrote a scathing book about Guantanamo Bay and Luskin himself is a Democrat. People who want to divide this drama into black/white, liberal/conservative, us/them dramaturgy fail to see that these players are at the very least triangulated -- at a certain point money, access and power trump politics and it is the failure of people in the media to maintain appropriate boundaries with their subject matter just such as this that has compromised their ability to play the role of ethics watchdogs.

As Wolcott recently said of Bob Woodward, "he's got a heavy lineup of Christmas parties to attend. Those cocktail wieners don't eat themselves, you know." If there's a failure in this particular instance it probably comes not from an apparachik's desire to preserve BushCo. hegemony as much as it is a base desire to keep one's seat on that free weenie train.



Showtime is free for cable and satellite viewers this weekend, so be sure and take the chance to see Homecoming, part of the Masters of Horror series that is playing tonight at 10pm. It transposes the political horror show we're all currently being treated to over an actual horror movie, with more comedy than your average SOTU speech. Thinly disguised versions of Ann Coulter, George Bush and Karl Rove turn out to be the real monsters who are far more frightening than the undead soldiers who just want to make some sense of their tragically truncated lives.

It's directed by Joe Dante and written by Sam Hamm, and its unapologetically political tone is a delight -- nobody else has the guts to be showing rows of flag draped coffins on television right now. And even though the actress who plays the thinly-veiled Coulter isn't really manly enough for the job, since the role calls for sex scenes I think a grateful public will happily grant the filmmakers artistic license on that front.


Not So Fast, Mr. Rove

This is all becoming a bit clearer. Today on CNN, Bob Franken says:
We're picking up that there could be two principals in this getting deposed next week giving sworn statements. Those two would include Karl Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin and Viveca Novak of "Time Magazine."

Now it really comes down to, when all is said and done, a question of who said what to whom when.

And the who is very important because we're being told by a variety of sources that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, was planning to indict Karl Rove for misrepresenting during the investigation an interview comments that he had made to a reporter. However, there was a key conversation, sources say, and there may have been a misunderstanding by the special prosecutor that a conversation that he was attributing to Rove with Viveca Novak of "Time Magazine" may, in fact, have really been held by Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin.

As we've talked many times before, you and I, and just about any reporter who's been involved in this, has had conversations on the record with Luskin.

So now comes the process where Luskin is going to be testifying under oath during this deposition then Novak. Then Fitzgerald is going to have to make a decision on whether he will change his mind about indicting Rove.
What we're supposed to believe (i.e., the Rovian spin) is that Fitzgerald erroneously thought that Rove had "mis-testified" about a conversation he had with Viveca Novak (and there are rumors that she has been interviewed by Fitzgerald before). But, voila! Turns out the conversation was not with Rove but with V. Novak's good pal Robert Luskin. Fitzgerald's mistake. Luskin will go in, clear up the whole mess, and poor honest Karl will go into the back yard and chop down a cherry tree then confess to Karen Hughes over pie and ice cream before bedtime.

I am hearing through sources that the Franken story is crap, 100% spin. Fitzgerald is supposedly busy right now dealing with Bob Woodward, who may have earned himself a trip to the grand jury next week for his efforts, and with Woodward's source, whoever that may turn out to be. Only then will he start dealing with Viveca Novak, and the "Fitzgerald made a mistake" rumor is pure bullshit. And nobody at this point is buying the story that Luskin himself is going in to testify.

(thanks to bkny in the comments for the transcript link)



From Atrios:
According to CNN both Luskin and Viveca Novak will be testifying next week. At issue appears to be the fact that Fitzgerald "misinterpreted" (uhh) and thought that a conversation between Luskin and Novak actually happened between Rove and Novak.
I did not see the Bob Franken segment, but Digby did and emails that according to the report, Fitzgerald misunderstood and was about do indict Rove based on the fact that V. Novak had spoken to him and tipped him. Then Luskin came forward and said V. Novak had spoken with him, not Rove, which is why Luskin is now going to be deposed.

I find this all confusing, and I frankly don't see how Rove getting the information directly via V. Novak as opposed to through his lawyer makes that much difference. It's also one helluva mistake for a "very careful" prosecutor to make. If anyone saw the segment and can shed any more light on it please let us know in the comments.

PS: Jacki Schechner had a really good spot on the Situation Room where she gave us props for beating the NYT to the punch on the V. Novak story. Much appreciated.


Let the Frogmarch Begin

From the comments over at Jeralyn's, I thought these observations by Grampa really help to clarify why Luskin might think Viveca Novak's testimony could help Karl Rove. It also outlines what a risky gamble this is for his client, who obviously must not have many options left:
Novak's testimony is as likely to hurt Rove as to help him. In the summer of 2004, Rove is probably feeling pretty safe because the White House missed his email to Hadley (he would know that because Luskin would see everything produced), and because Cooper is either resisting the subpoena, or is agreeing to testify only about Libby. It is quite possible that Rove also kept Luskin in the dark about Cooper. Rove admitted being a confirming source for R. Novak, but he was an original source for Cooper, so that is the interview he would prefer to forget.

Then, two things happen that shake Rove's sense of security. Luskin learns about Cooper from V. Novak, and Fitzgerald begins pressing Cooper for the name of his original source. I'm not sure it matters which of those events came first, but together, they provide a powerful incentive for Rove to recant.

Luskin confronts Rove about Cooper. It wouldn't be the first time that a guilty client lied to his lawyer. Luskin says, "we need to have the White House check again for any evidence of discussions you had with Cooper." Again, Luskin would have reviewed any evidence produced, and so, once he found the email, he would have told Rove that the email must be handed over to Fitzgerald. Faced with that, Rove says, "you know, Bob, I think I now kind of do remember a brief conversation I had with Cooper." Whereupon, Luskin would have to advise Rove to go back to the grand jury and correct his testimony.

Luskin is not obligated to tell Fitzgerald about his conversation with V. Novak, but he does need to come up with SOME plausible story about how, when, and why Rove forgot and then remembered something so important. Luskin's first effort was probably to say that they had discovered this email. But that would not have satisfied Fitzgerald, who would naturally ask what caused them to take a second look. Eventually, Luskin would get to his conversation with V. Novak.

Bringing in this conversation is a very risky and desperate strategy. First, as mentioned above, it is as likely to incriminate as to exculpate. Equally important, Luskin cannot explain this sequence of events without testifying himself, and possibly exposing his conversations with his client. Once that Pandora's box is opened, it is not at all clear how much they can limit the waiver of attorney-client privilege. If Fitzgerald starts asking Luskin how Rove responded when he was told Novak's news, the results could be very damaging to Rove.
The story makes perilously little sense, but then again it rests on an assumption that nobody I talk to is willing to make -- that Karl Rove did indeed "forget" these critical conversations for over a year.

It can't bode well for Hadley either. With so much riding on the production of this email, you have to wonder when, exactly, he made his own appearance before Fitzgerald. Was he a victim of the virulent DC amnesia virus too? Given how rampant it is in the nation's capitol these days, we might speculate that it was a sexually transmitted disease were the thought just not too abjectly horrible for words.


American Penitente

I have to admit that having watched one too many interviews where Judy Miller struggles to nail herself to the cross, I just didn't have the stomach to sit through the new BBC interview. But Brad Blog has it up, and it is indeed further proof that if you keep talking long enough it becomes difficult to keep your stories from shimmying out from underneath you:
BBC INTERVIEWER: Who was it who told you that Valerie Plame was a spy?

JUDY MILLER: I don't remember who supplied the name. I remember and I testified before a Grand Jury to who it was that told me that Valerie Plame worked at the agency in the WMD area and that individual was Lewis Libby.. Scooter Libby.
She doesn't remember. Okay. We get it.
BBC INTERVIEWER: But if it was Karl Rove, for example, you'd remember.

JUDY MILLER: I'm not going to talk about who my other sources were or were not.
B..but, I thought you couldn't remember, Judy?

She better get her story straight before Libby's attorney gets her on the stand -- which he most certainly will -- and grills her about other administration officials she "can't remember" -- which he most certainly will. I don't frankly think she's clever enough to keep it together under that kind of pressure.

Oh and then there's always that enjoyable moment with the Beeb when she says she is "deeply sorry" for everyone else being wrong about WMDs.

I hear sack cloth and ashes will be all the rage at the trunk shows this year.

(hat tip PollyUSA)


Jack Abramoff's Dilemma

There must be something to this Christmas thing, 'cos it's the most wonderful time of the year:
With a federal corruption case intensifying, prosecutors investigating Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist, are examining whether he brokered lucrative jobs for Congressional aides at powerful lobbying firms in exchange for legislative favors, people involved in the case have said.
No. You are shitting me.
The attention paid to how the aides obtained jobs occurs as Mr. Abramoff is under mounting pressure to cooperate with prosecutors as they consider a case against lawmakers. Participants in the case, who insisted on anonymity because the investigation is secret, said he could try to reach a deal in the next six weeks.
Redd, reporting in from Phoenix, says this is a very, very bad sign for young Jack. No matter what your client plans to do, she says you always maintain you're going to trial. And if you're leaking to the media that you're looking to deal, it probably isn't some fleeting thought that just happened to spring to mind.
Many forces are bearing down on Mr. Abramoff. Last week, his closest business partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in exchange for cooperating in the inquiry, being run by an interagency group, into whether money and gifts were used in an influence-peddling scandal that involved lawmakers.

Despite charging Indian tribes that were clients tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees, Mr. Abramoff has told friends that he is running out of money.
Atrios is right, the specter of Abramoff flipping is probably sending more DCers into prickly heat than even TraitorGate. Abramoff knows where the bodies are buried. You know, figuratively speaking and all. Not literally. Okay sort of literally.

(Illustration by Roberto Parada from a Mother Jones article on Abramoff that is also well worth the read.)


Belly Laugh


BTW, I messed up and am obviously remedial at time zones. Redd will be on Air America Phoenix starting at 11am ET/8am PT. You can listen to her here.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

MSM Plays Catchup With "Fact-Free" Blogs (Thank You, Tina Brown Edition)

Well well well. What do you know. Just up, from the NYT:
A conversation between Karl Rove's lawyer and a journalist for Time magazine led Mr. Rove to change his testimony last year to the grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case, people knowledgeable about the sequence of events said Thursday.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, spoke in the summer or early fall of 2004 with Viveca Novak, a reporter for Time magazine. In that conversation, Mr. Luskin heard from Ms. Novak that a colleague at Time, Matthew Cooper, might have interviewed Mr. Rove about the undercover C.I.A. officer at the heart of the case, the people said.
Well there you have it. I think we ran this story mmm.....yesterday, if memory serves me.

Update: People have commented on the "summer or early fall" bit. That sounds like awfully carefully parsed Luskin-ese to me. Matt Cooper was subpoenaed in late May of 2004. Technically Luskin could be talking about the conversation having taken place a couple of weeks later.

PS: I should add -- many, many thanks to all the people who passed through here and added their thoughts and sounded out their ideas on this story over the past 24 hours. MSM writers don't have that luxury. We may not have news bureaus in Aruba, but when it comes to taking advantage of "group think" we bloggers really do have a leg up.

Update 2: Jeralyn has more thoughts on the legal implications of the situation. And John has a few choice words for Tina "fact-free" Brown.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Viveca Novak, Karl Rove, Robert Luskin and Kobe

Kobe says his mom has a new article up on Yahoo News about Viveca Novak and her Robert Luskin chatfest re: Karl Rove. Kobe would like you to vote for his mom's article on Yahoo if you think it deserving. Kobe would also like to thank his friend Monk for making him the star of this spectactular graphic that looks a little more like reality than his mom is comfortable with which is weird because his friend Monk has never seen his mom and him but you can be sure he hasn't because he's a bit confused about who calls the shots.


The War on Christmas and the Battle of Ralph Reed

The War on Christmas is working, despite the best efforts of Bill O'Reilly to dam the floodwaters of father-raping secularists who would strip the baby Jesus of his throne as poster boy for the annual retail crap bonanza that bears his name. I know it to be true because my non-denominational winter solstice wish list is already being fulfilled.

Ralph Reed is in deep shit.

It seems that while professional fundie flogger Ralph was sucking in $4.2 million in lobbyist fees from Jack Abramoff to whip the gun-rack-and-Gaither-set into a full-on anti-gambling lather that gave John Cornyn cover as Texas AG to shut down the Indian casinos competing with Abramoff's clients, he failed to register in the state of Texas as a lobbyist:
Under Texas law, Reed was required to register as a lobbyist and disclose his client and his fees if he was compensated more than $1,000 in a calendar quarter for lobbying Texas officials. Reed was reportedly paid many times that amount. Failure to register is a Class A misdemeanor and can bring a civil fine of up to three times the amount of unreported compensation.
Let's see, $4.2 million times three...carry the one...that's...well, a shitload more money than Ralph's gonna want to part with, that's for sure.
In electronic correspondence released by the U.S. Senate, Reed repeatedly told Abramoff that he was in direct contact with Cornyn's office, including the head of Cornyn's criminal division, over the casino closure battle. Reed's correspondence also indicates that he was in direct contact with Gov. Rick Perry's office and with unnamed state lawmakers who were willing to introduce helpful legislation.

The Texas Observer has reported that a 2003 Abramoff memo credits Reed with persuading then-Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff to kill a 2001 bill that would have kept the Tigua casino in business. Ratliff acknowledged speaking with Reed but said that they discussed redistricting rather than gambling legislation.
You better step it up, Bill, 'cos if Rick Perry goes down too we'll all be eating tofurkey and hoop cheese for Kwanzaa this year, big fella.

Update: And Bill heardeth our plea and he answereth our entreaties. "Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born," he says, rendering all attempts at satire irrelevant. It's so reassuring to know the counteroffensive is being launched by someone who really gets what Christmas is all about. (via Atrios)


Redd on the Radio

Redd may be on vacation this week, but she's going to be dropping in at the studio of our good friend Charles Goyette at Air America Phoenix tomorrow from 9am - 10am PST. Charles is great, one of the most well-informed talk show hosts around and it should be a really fun Rove roaster of an hour.

Will Redd out herself and use her real name? You can listen online here or clicking the banner above to find out.


And While You're At It, Don't Bomb Us Either

Over at Don't Bomb Us, the blog of Al-Jazeera employees, they link to a CNN poll that says 70% of 139,032 people who voted think George Bush spoke about bombing Al-Jazeera with Tony Blair. They also point over to BlairWatch, where it is being reported that Peter Kilfoyle MP confirmed that there is not one but two memos in circulation that document the Bush/Blair conversation, one published by the Times and another one published by the Mirror.

Meanwhile Wadah Khanfar, Al-Jazeera's Director General, is being stonewalled in his efforts to find out what the hell is up, insuring that the story will continue to have legs:
I brought many questions with me to London; it would seem that I shall return to Doha - where al-Jazeera is based - with even more misgivings. Officials in Britain have come up with nothing, and their silence is likely to reinforce suspicion and mistrust. This will not be the end of the road; we are taking legal advice and won't rest until we know the full truth.
Scott McClellan denies most of it and refuses to answer the rest, and what other confirmation does anybody really need to know that a story is true.

(Graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Making The World Safe For the War Party

eRiposte continues his excellent coverage of the Niger forgeries and their origins, and this time delivers an article (not available online) from Private Eye which contains the following:
When the US State Department finally gave international weapons inspectors its “evidence” that Saddam was trying to buy uranium from the African State of Niger in 2003, they held back the one document even their own analysts knew was “funky” and clearly a forgery”. Experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency quickly discovered that all the papers were fake, but they did this by spotting errors that had slipped passed the State Department and CIA: The fact that the US government handed over the whole bundle of what became known as the Niger Forgeries” except the one paprecognizedcognised as a hoax suggests they were trying to pass off documents they knew were phoney as the real thing.
This is the document they are talking about.

eRiposte's work has been top drawer on all of this, and he doesn't think anything "slipped" past the CIA, more like this is now the cover story being offered. If you haven't read his work to date on the subject, it's worth taking some time with it.


Crooks & Liars

I know I hit this once yesterday briefly but I'm going after it again today. The GOP spin masters are in the midst of a mad Sufi dance trying to prove that corruption is corruption, as likely to strike Democrats as Republicans. Here is Chris Matthews talking about Duke Cunningham with former White House counsel Stan Brand:
MATTHEWS: Is this basically nonpartisan, this kind of corruption?

BRAND: Oh, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Just stealing money?

BRAND: Because look, in the past, we've certainly had Democratic scandals. There were more Democrats --

MATTHEWS: So there's no difference in the saliva test of these guys. The corruption is in a person's character, not in their politics?
Wrong-o. I had this conversation with Digby one time, and I don't think Digby has blogged about it (or at least I couldn't find it). But Digby says that one of the enduring "truisms" about Democrats that the Republicans managed to exploit so well in their recent pole vault to power was the stereotype ingrained in the American psyche that the Democrats are tax-happy bleeding hearts.

But if that's true, the parallel stereotype for Republicans is that they're thieves.

From Teapot Dome to Richard Nixon to the S&L scandal, when it comes to Republicans Americans have a deeply rooted belief that they're crooks and you better keep your hand on your wallet. So say it loud and say if often, because it's true and it's part of the culture and people are predisposed to believe it. Don't let them get away with this "it could happen to anyone." That's bullshit, and it completely ignores the institutionalized corruption this GOP hierarchy has birthed.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Karl's Big Break

In Redd's absence, Jeralyn takes a look at the Viveca Novak rumor and speculates on how her testimony might affect Rover's defense. The answer? Not much:
This seems to be the Rove version: Rove testifies in February, 2004 and does not remember Cooper. Cooper gets subpoenaed about Libby in May, 2004, and Viveca Novak says something about Libby being Cooper's source that jogs Luskin's memory about Rove. In the fall of 2004, he finds the Hadley e-mail and on October 15, 2004, sends Rove back to testify and correct the record -- which just happens to be two days after Matt Cooper was held in contempt for refusing to testify against Rove.

Rove can say since he was the first one to come forward with the disclosure of the Cooper call, he gets to assert recantation to avoid being charged with perjury in the fall of 2004.
I personally think this probably came as news to Luskin ("Hey, Karl? Anything you forget to tell me? No, it's not my birthday...") but Jeralyn thinks that Rove is attempting to wiggle out of perjury and obstruction charges by virtue of "recanting" his testimony to the grand jury (her earlier posts point out that you can't "recant" testimony to the FBI, which would still leave him on the hook for making a false statement to investigators in the fall of 2003).

Jeralyn cites the conditions under which Rove can recant his testimony:
Where, in the same continuous court or grand jury proceeding in which a declaration is made, the person making the declaration admits such declaration to be false, such admission shall bar prosecution under this section if, at the time the admission is made, the declaration has not substantially affected the proceeding, or it has not become manifest that such falsity has been or will be exposed.
If Rove didn't clean up his lie memory lapse to the grand jury until he knew that a) Cooper considered him his first source, and b) Cooper lost his bid to quash the subpoena, wouldn't that sort of screw him up when it came to the part about "such falsity has been or will be exposed?"

Luskin's ability to spin the major media outlets aside, it looks like Rover may at the very least have a lot more free time to battle Britney for those fried Snickers bars and cocktail weenies.

Update: Swopa gives an excellent chronology of events, and says "if Viv said this in May 2004, I assume it would have been Rove's duty to come forward then rather than five months later." Ah, but the story all along has been that the email jogged Rover's memory back into place. The V. Novak blab to Luskin caused him to ask for a new document search with better "paramaters." Either that or the email Karl held back because he thought it would do him too much damage and he figured Fitzgerald didn't have the balls to start seizing White House computers suddenly seemed like it might help him and it was time to cough it up. My guess is the latter.

Update: Over at Jeralyn's, Grampa gives a clear picture of what I think is happening:
It looks like Luskin is trying to show Fitzgerald that Rove recanted because of a "recovered memory," not because the falsity of his testimony was about to be exposed. If Luskin can lay down a plausible sequence of events leading to that recovered memory, and if those events occurred before it was clear that Cooper would testify, the recantation defense might cause Fitzgerald to doubt the strength of his case. It's not a great strategy, but Luskin has very few arrows in his quiver.
Sounds right to me. Desperate, but right.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


And the Winner Is...

While still no match for the Alien-like ratings rapacity of Bill O'Reilly and the War on Christmas, it seems that our favorite Keith Olbermann has bested Nancy Grace in the steel cage death match that is the prime time cable news ratings war. Does this mean informed content has finally trumped Judge Roy Bean with tits? (Thanks Steve, I really can't top that one.)

Maybe the Hardball crowd will have themselves a good serious think about the implications of this. While we applaud the efforts of Matthews & Co. to cover L'Affair Plame at length, we have to question the wisdom of having Deborah Orrin on night after night to whinge on ad nauseam. Dig it: people who enjoy listening to Deborah Orrin just want this story to go away. People who are interested in hearing about this story just want Deborah Orrin to go away.

(hat tip Talk Left)


From the Unsubstantiated Rumor Mill

According to a source who wishes to remain anonymous because they don't want to be identified (got that from a WaPo article on Paris & Nicole yesterday and I've been dying to use it -- good one, huh?) Viveca Novak is indeed being called to testify before Fitzgerald at Luskin's request. Rumor has it that in May of 2004 when Cooper and Russert were first subpoenaed, "inveterate gossip" Viveca knew that Matt Cooper's source was Karl Rove and she just happened to mention it to her buddy Luskin. Luskin is now claiming that this surprise revelation to his memory-challenged client is what prompted them to go hunting through his emails and call up the one he had written to Hadley.

Sounds like another goat rope of the Adam Levine variety, but since Viveca Novak will presumably be writing a story about her chat with the Special Counsel, hopefully we will soon find out.


Who's Jack Abramoff Gonna Take With Him?

Everyone must know by now that I love logic problems and puzzles. So I'm right there as Roger is trying to nail down the identities of the Abramoff Dozen:
U.S. News has learned that the conduct of at least a dozen representatives and senators is now being scrutinized by a small army of federal prosecutors and FBI agents. According to sources familiar with the inquiry, a federal task force, which includes investigators from the Interior Department -- which has authority to regulate Indian reservations -- is examining the relationships between lawmakers and Scanlon and Abramoff.
We've all heard the rumor that the list includes DeLay, Doolittle, Nay and Burns. Roger also sites an article in the OC Weekly referring to the Abramoff 6, which includes Dana Rohrabacher, Dave Vitter and Tom Feeny (sorry no Doolittle).

Since the US News article goes out of its way to say "a dozen representatives and senators," my personal hopes are pinned on Cornyn, who as Texas AG at the time was said to have had his response to flaming fundies demanding the shutdown of Indian casinos "choreographed" by Ralph Reed, who was taking money (through Abramoff) from the competition. (Cornyn did, in fact, eventually shut down the casinos.)

So help Roger out, cast your votes. As Howard Dean says, 2006 is looking mighty good for Democrats.

And for those who find this all too confusing, check out emptywheel's fine post on the K Street Project. It's a good reminder as to why all those rumors of Democrats being involved are just so much smoke and mirrors. That "power corrupts" thing? It's crap. While there have certainly been corrupt Democrats in the past, for the GOP it's a reason to get up in the morning.


Condi's European Vacation

Might not be such a picnic:
The question of whether European nations have been complicit in the administration's actions has seized the attention of Europe's press, public and politicians since The Washington Post first reported on Nov. 2 that prisoners had been secretly held in bases in Europe or transported through them.

The newspaper withheld the names of specific nations at the request of the Bush administration, which has not confirmed or denied any details since then. Several European governments have denied playing a role or have demanded explanations.
Like you thought they were going to give up all those choice opportunities to be spun by Former Hill Staffers? As if.
European and American officials say Ms. Rice is beginning to realize that the issue has become so inflamed that she will probably have to prepare a more lengthy response before traveling to Europe next week.

"It's becoming one of the public issues she's going to have to address on her next trip," said a European official, asking not to be identified in discussing the delicate matter of pressures on the United States. "The mood in Europe is one of increasing concern over what people call the American 'gulag' and the reports of all these stopovers in Europe for prisoners."
Oh for the days when all a girl had to worry about was blowing up her hair dryer with the wrong power adapter. How is she going to explain the efficacy of "playing a little smackey-face" to people who've never even seen NYPD Blue?


Mama Weer All Crazee Now

As we prepare this morning to greet the words of wisdom with which Fearless Leader hopes to tide us over until the State of the Union Address in January, I thought it might be helpful to reflect on who it is that will be addressing us at this point, because according to Seymour Hersh, it isn't the same man who was trying to fill his daddy's shoes five long years ago:
Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.


Murtha’s call for a speedy American pullout only seemed to strengthen the White House’s resolve. Administration officials “are beyond angry at him, because he is a serious threat to their policy—both on substance and politically,” the former defense official said. Speaking at the Osan Air Force base, in South Korea, two days after Murtha’s speech, Bush said, “The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. . . . If they’re not stopped, the terrorists will be able to advance their agenda to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, and to break our will and blackmail our government into isolation. I’m going to make you this commitment: this is not going to happen on my watch.”

“The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,” the former defense official said. “He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”
I marvel at those still looking for a "motive" for the smearing of Joe Wilson. Good lord just look at their response to Murtha, he's the new Joe Wilson, he dared to challenge them. It's all the motivation that kind of unbridled, hair-trigger arrogance needs to snap into Defcon Three.

The ego and the delusion are staggering. I'm sure they're hoping they can keep Dubya from a public crack-up of the Nixonian variety, but I won't be wagering any heavy money on it myself.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

George Bush, Bubble Boy

What does it say about the president of the United States that he won't go anywhere near ordinary citizens any more? And that he'll only speak to captive audiences?

President Bush's safety zone these days doesn't appear to extend very far beyond military bases, other federal installations and Republican fundraisers.


During last year's campaign, White House advance teams began screening audiences at Bush events to insure that only supporters were allowed in. After the election, that policy gave way to a new, "invitation only" approach, in which tickets to so-called public events were distributed largely by Republican and business groups. Now Bush is in phase three, where almost everyone he appears before is either on the federal payroll or a Republican donor.

I've written a lot about Bush's bubble before. In particular, I've wondered if Bush suffers from being so sheltered from dissent, and I've raised the question of whether taxpayers should be funding presidential events to which the public is never welcome.
Does anyone else worry that the Preznit might be going a little Michael Jackson on us?

Three words: hyperbaric sleep chamber.


Andrea Mitchell Watch Day 3 -- Anatomy of a Circle Jerk

Andrea Mitchell on Hardball, following Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference on Oct, 28, 2005 (Crooks & Liars has audio/video of all the following):
I think the prosecutor made a very broad claim, whether you buy it or not, that the disclosure of any CIA officer's identity is a threat to our national security, that we are at a stage in our country where we need to recruit people, we need to guarantee that they will have anonymity and that you cannot recruit people to work in these difficult jobs, nor can you be sure that by disclosing their identity that you are not putting them in jeopardy. I happen to have been told that the actual damage assessment as to whether people were put in jeopardy on this case did not indicate that there was real damage in this specific instance.
Wow, Andrea, that's amazing. You GO GIRL!!! Where exactly did she get this exclusive, insider information? Well, maybe she watched Bob Woodward the night before on Larry King:
They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that [former ambassador] Joe Wilson's wife [Plame] was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone, and there was just some embarrassment. So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldrich Ames or Bob Hanssen, big spies. This didn't cause damage.
I get goosebumps just being in proximity to this top-secret information being whispered to me by all-knowing insiders. I guess Tucker Carlson does too, because even the King of the Yellow Elephants went on to quote Andrea Mitchell as his source:
In fact, as NBC's Andrea Mitchell has reported, an internal CIA investigation found that Plame's outing caused no discernable damage to anyone.
So where is this mysterious assessment? According to the Washington Post and the CIA, it doesn't exist:
[A]fter Plame's name appeared in Robert D. Novak's column, the CIA informed the Justice Department in a simple questionnaire that the damage was serious enough to warrant an investigation, officials said.

The CIA has not conducted a formal damage assessment, as is routinely done in cases of espionage and after any legal proceedings have been exhausted.


Intelligence officials said they would never reveal the true extent of her contacts to protect the agency and its work.
Except, we are to believe, to a bunch of blabby right wing journalists.

Come on, guys and gal. Your credibility -- such as it is -- is on the ropes here. Time to put up or shut up. Who did you hear it from? Where is this report? And how convenient it all comes out just as Patrick Fitzgerald announced the Libby indictment. So very handy for you to be able to waltz before the cameras with that little snippet of spin just in time to do damage control for the administration.

One would think you might be the victims here of the Mighty Wurlitzer that lies with impunity and knows you will never hold them to account. So c'mon, give us the straight skinny. Where did this special little piece of bullshit come from?


Same As It Ever Was

According to the New York Post, Valerie Wilson is leaving the CIA:
Plame, 42, wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson, will retire next month from the CIA after 20 years tracking proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, CIA officials confirmed.


Friends and colleagues told The Post the leak scandal forced Plame, mother of 5-year-old twins, to leave the CIA early because the exposure effectively ended her spying career.

She remained at the CIA for the past year in order to be eligible for a full government pension.

"She doesn't know yet what she will do other than to devote herself 100 percent to the twins. I think she always wanted to keep going — doing both. She loved her work," longtime friend Jane Honikman said.

"But her life was turned upside down. She was going into work and nobody was talking to her," Honikman said.
Robert Novak may have cussed his way off CNN, but he still has his column. Scooter Libby has a $5 million defense fund from his rich Republican den of thieves friends. Karl Rove is still working at the White House with full security clearance.

That Patrick Fitzgerald, the country's leading expert in prosecuting terrorists, is now prosecuting this case strikes some as ironic.

There is nothing ironic about it.

Update: Larry Johnson says that Valerie is, indeed, resigning on December 9, when she will have completed 20 years of service.

(graphic courtesy Monk at Inflatable Dartboard, and hat tip to emptywheel in the comments)


Red State Revolt

I was surfing around, looking at posts about how David Addington is now saying the law does not apply to Dick Cheney and he does not have to report his travel expenses. I found someone who said it better than I could, Buddy Don of the Wandering Hillbilly blog:
we wuz tole we had to git rid of the dicktater saddam on a counta how he had dun such awful thangs to his own folks, but nary a wurd wuz sed bout other evil dicktaters la kim jong-il or the folks runnin places lack the sudan (they gut slaves still) or liberia or probly duzens of other places with evil dicktaters. fack is, takin out evil dicktaters that aint never attacked wuznt sumthin we dun, period. thay wuz even a treaty on it name of the treaty of westphalia whar ye couldnt justify yer war on a counta wontin to force regime change. that treaty lasted frum 1648 till mr bush gut us to go agin it.


corse we bleeve in usin tortchur (thankee mr cheney fer deefendin our rite to tortchur, long as tiz dun in secret lack ye lack to do everthang else) n go agin the rule of law on a counta how awful them terrsts is. n turns out them iraqis on bof sides lacks to use 'exter-legal' means.

whut duz it take to run that place n have wurking lecktricity moren four hours a day or runnin water or securty innyway? a evil dicktater?
I'll spare everyone the lecture about the history of the Scotch/Irish dialect in Tennessee and just say that as someone who comes from a long line of inbred Robertson County hillbillys he gets it right.

The next time someone wants to pay Bob Shrum way too much money to go lose a big election in the south, they should save themselves a few bucks and hire this guy instead.


Money Can't Buy Love

An article in the New York Times on the new editor at Harpers was interesting for a couple of reasons. One, as Jack Shafer notes, they are owned by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation, and have "a seemingly bottomless philantrhopic fund to finance it." Secondly, they publish monthly and their circulation is 227,538.

We get that every week.

I was interviewed a couple days ago for Congressional Quarterly, and I was trying to explain to the writer why blogs are so fundamentally different from magazines or newspapers. It's also something that my journalist friends have a hard time grasping. Unless you're looking at Powerline or Instapundit (which I don't think of as blogs, they're more like Ken Mehlman's printing press), blogs are interactive -- it used to be you would pick up your paper, be really angry or puzzled or happy with what you read and have nobody to express it to. Now you can open up a comments box and there you are.

And it's a two-way street. If I write something, it's instantly vetted by thousands of people who are going to tell me if I got my facts wrong or if they think I'm off base or if they've got something to add to the dialog that changes its shape and dimensions. The authors of most popular blogs tend to be quite accessible, and the news doesn't seem to be so much dictated to a passive audience as it is organic; it's a free-flowing, two-way street.

Curious to know what you think.


Duke Pleads Guilty, Admits Taking Bribes

California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham entered a guilty plea yesterday in U.S. District Court.
Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and tax charges and tearfully resigned from office, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to conspirators.

Cunningham, 63, entered pleas in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004.

Cunningham answered "yes, Your Honor" when asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes from someone in exchange for his performance of official duties.
Next time someone tells you that political corruption cases never get anywhere, tell them they don't know what they are talking about. Ahem.

May this be the first of many more to come. The GOP -- Heckuva Job Brownie and all the competence you can...erm...well, not so much. Okay, try again. The GOP -- we don't accept bribes...erm...that doesn't work either. The GOP -- we are tough on defense and the rule of law..erm..oh, hell. Vote for Democrats.

More from the WaPo here. From the NYTimes here. And the LATimes here.

A 19th century Louis-Philippe commode? Oh yeah, that's some bribery. Ahem.


Monday, November 28, 2005

No Church Bingo For Kobe Tonight

I heard Jim VandeHei was on Countdown pimping a barn burner of a story in the WaPo tonight that was going to rip the lid of this pig and exonerate Karl Rove from the legal miasma of TraitorGate. So I cancelled my plans for the evening, bullied the dogs into a hasty poop and settled down with some popcorn and my "refresh" button:
Viveca Novak, who has written intermittently about the leak case for Time, has been asked to provide sworn testimony to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald in the next few weeks after Rove attorney Robert Luskin told Fitzgerald about a conversation he had with her, the two sources said.
Oh this is getting good. I feel a heat rash coming on from all the excitement.
[A] person familiar with the matter said Luskin cited his conversations with Novak in persuading Fitzgerald not to indict Rove in late October, when the prosecutor brought perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges against Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

"This is what caused [Fitzgerald] to hold off on charging" Rove, the source said.
B...b...but...(lip quivering, eyes watering)...I thought that was Adam Levine?
Luskin presented evidence, including details of his own conversations with Novak, to Fitzgerald at a secret meeting at a downtown law office shortly before Libby was indicted on Oct. 28, according to a source familiar with the case.
So...Fitzgerald's been what, waiting in line for Stones tickets for the past month?
It also shows that Rove, who, like Libby, was dragged into the case for talking to reporters, is now hoping that a reporter will help pull him out.
Excuse me, did he just use the word "dragged?" Kinda like John Gotti got "dragged" into court because Sammy the Bull got chatty.
Luskin has worked behind the scenes to convince Fitzgerald that Rove is guilty of nothing more than a faulty memory.
Again, funny choice of words -- "behind the scenes" -- for someone who has to be pulled off the stage with a hook.
Time has not disclosed what information Viveca Novak might have that is relevant to the case and Rove's defense. In a brief article Sunday, the magazine reported that she has been asked to discuss conversations with Luskin starting in May 2004, when she first began to report on the leak case.
What, were "sources familiar with the case" not familiar with the fact that Viveca Novak wrote articles on the case on January 2, January 12 and January 22, 2004? I guess not.
Time has not objected to Fitzgerald's questioning Novak. The magazine waged a lengthy legal battle to keep Fitzgerald's grand jury from questioning Cooper before acquiescing earlier this year. Unlike Cooper, Viveca Novak is not seeking to protect a confidential source and was not subpoenaed to testify.
Well it does make a certain kind of sense that Luskin is sending Fitzgerald on another goat rope of the Adam Levine variety and providing Viveca Novak with a waiver to testify. It would explain why Time isn't getting all hinky over it. It does not, however, explain the timing. VandeHei's spinners sources seem desperate to prove that there is "nothing new" here, we're in "loose ends" territory.

Kind of amusing, really. The "sources" lie freely knowing that Fitz is leak-proof, and reporters keep printing the lies only to have their asses handed to them days later when another camp leaks and spins back. The reporters never bust their "sources" in order to preserve the privilege of being lied to. Fitzgerald finds new ammunition with every leak and the reporters just wind up looking like prize chumps.

(In VandeHei's defense, he does quote "another person familiar with the conversations" who said that all this does "not appear to significantly alter the case." It keeps safely him out of Deborah Orrin territory anyway.)

If Luskin is dragging in Viveca Novak to substantiate something he said, then it seems likely Fitzgerald has some piece of evidence her testimony is intended to counter. Something within the timeframe must indicate that Rover wasn't being completely honest with either the FBI or the grand jury, and they hope to prove that if Luskin was out there selling his own client's special brand of bs then Fitzgerald should buy it, too.

Lord, if only Fitz were a red state fundie with an 8th grade education whose heartfelt desire was to nuke Syria and have sex with farm animals Rover's job experience would be ever so much more applicable.

Update: Jeralyn says "I'm just waiting now for Bob Woodward to pop back up in the story." Agreed.

And Arianna is now calling Woodward the "dumb blonde of American Journalism." You have to feel for VandeHei a bit. It must be rough when your biggest story to date is about how your paper's own superstar fucked you over and wouldn't talk to you about it.

(graphic courtesy The Heretik)


Andrea Mitchell Watch -- Day 2

Andrea Mitchell on October 3, 2003, on Robert Novak's source:
MITCHELL: Joe Wilson, he now inappropriately suggested that Karl Rove may have been the person ... But it's really
... Inappropriate, I think, for any of us to suggest that someone might have been involved, because we're talking about a possible crime, and we have no evidence of that.
Right-o, Andrea. Oh you are so right, how very white of you, you are the very model of a responsible journalist. No, you are certainly not one to indulge in idle speculation about the identity of Robert Novak's source, especially since a crime has been committed and all. Bad, bad Joe Wilson.

Mitchell on Don Imus, November 12, 2005 (via Crooks & Liars)
IMUS: Did you talk to the same source Woodward talked to?

MITCHELL: I don't know who Woodward talked to. I have my own suppositions but I have no factual basis.

IMUS: Well who do you think it was?

MITCHELL: I think a lot of people are speculating about Dick Armitage because he the only one of now a legion of Washington players who have said, "I wasn't the source." Everyone's coming forward to say they weren't Woodward's source. And of course now there's also speculation Don that Woodward's source and Novak's secret source could be one in the same person.
Let's revise that initial axiom just a bit. It's irresponsible for Joe Wilson to speculate that your boss Karl Rove might be Robert Novak's source, but it's fine for you to throw Dick Armitage under the bus with absolutely no evidence at all because he is after all BushCo.'s Fantasy Dream Team Leaker, and doubly so when you're trying to pry Don Imus off your back for busting you on your all-too-convenient memory lapses.

We'll save you a seat for you between Jeff Gannon and Armstrong Williams at the next Blogger Ethics panel, Andrea.


Credulous Bob Rides Again

Nora Ephron has an insightful post up at the HuffPo where basically she says you can trust Bob Woodward to tell the truth because he's too dumb to lie. In the words of Joe Biden I'm not sure I'm "there yet," but she does have an interesting observation about why Woodward went out of his way to bash Fitzgerald:
If you don'’t talk to Woodward, you'’ll be sorry. I mention this not because it's precisely true (look at me), but because it's an operating truth in official Washington. What'’s more, it'’s the only explanation I can come up with for why Woodward was foolish enough to trash Fitzgerald'’s investigation; I suspect that Fitzgerald is the only powerful figure in Washington who does not pour his heart out to Woodward on a weekly basis, and Woodward was telling him that he'd better get on the train.
I can actually see how in a simple, Woody-centric universe this would make a tragic kind of sense. I guess a few terse minutes with the Special Counsel smartened him up real good, huh?


Loose Lipped Luskin and the Sinking Ship Rove

Reader TerriGirl sent me a Ryan Lizza story from TNR last summer on Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin that is just too much fun. Since it's behind a firewall and speaks volumes about why Viveca Novak might be called to testify about her conversations with him, I'm going to quote at length:
In at least one Washington law firm this July, the summer associates are earning their keep. Their boss is one of the lawyers involved with the Rove-Plame scandal, and he's keeping them busy with a surprisingly thorny task: Tracking the public comments of Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's attorney. Over the last two weeks, Luskin has flummoxed Washington's Fourth Estate with spin and legalisms. He has embarrassed reporters who ran with the cleverly worded denials he dished out. He has contradicted himself, sometimes within the same news article. He may have accidentally paved the way for Matt Cooper's Wednesday grand jury testimony about Rove. In short, he has made life difficult for those summer associates. "Every day," says the lawyer involved in the case, "I have my associates put together a chronology of the things Luskin is saying about Karl Rove. He's just all over the place. Even in the last few days, they are not consistent."


Luskin has represented Bush's strategist for months, but it was only in July, when the extent of Rove's role in the Plame case emerged, that the lawyer became a Beltway star. Previous legal celebrities, such as Ginsburg, became famous for their addiction to the cameras. Luskin has become famous for his word games. It is no surprise when a lawyer resorts to technicalities and evasions to defend his client. What sounds like an absurd defense and bad politics in the public arena may make perfect sense inside the courtroom. But Luskin's comments seem to be legally inept as well.

The Harvard alum and Rhodes scholar first started getting chatty with reporters back in December. He told the Chicago Tribune that the only way for the prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, to establish a pattern of wrongdoing by the Bushies was for him to drag reporters into the grand jury. "I don't see how you can conduct a leak investigation in a sensitive way," he said, sounding oddly detached from the case for someone whose client's fate was at stake. "You have to talk to everybody." Perhaps he was just sucking up to the prosecutor, but it seemed bizarre for Rove's attorney to publicly endorse a prosecutorial strategy that was tightening the noose around his client's throat.
It's this unseemly blabbiness that is making it so hard for Plamiacs to go back and try to untangle what it is that Luskin might have let slip that intrigued Fitzgerald -- there's mountains of stuff to comb through.
Luskin then went virtually silent for seven months. But, on Saturday, July 2, Newsweek posted an online story naming Rove as the source Cooper had kept secret for two years. In the piece, Luskin first unveiled Rove's new defense. The strategist "never knowingly disclosed classified information," and "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA," Luskin insisted. The first statement was standard legal obfuscation. The arcane statute making it a crime to blow a CIA operative's cover emphasizes that the deed must be done knowingly. Luskin's second statement seemed like a blanket denial. But, on July 9, when Newsweek revealed an e-mail between Cooper and his editor stating that Rove mentioned Joe Wilson's wife, rather than Valerie Plame, the press realized that it was actually a weasely Clintonism.

But, before that revelation, Luskin tried to snow every reporter he came across. In a July 3 story, he told The Washington Post, "Karl didn't disclose Valerie Plame's identity to Mr. Cooper or anybody else. ... Who outed this woman? ... It wasn't Karl." Maybe Luskin thought he was being technical and legalistic, but it's hard to see this statement as anything but a lie. For instance, one could say, "Karl Rove's lawyer accepted 45 gold bars worth $505,125 from a South American drug cartel." The statement does not actually mention Luskin's name, but even Luskin would have to agree it identifies him.
And let's remember that Matt Cooper might be sitting in jail right now if it hadn't been for Luskin's comment to the press that "If Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, it's not Karl he's protecting." Cooper and his lawyer lunged on that statement like Jonah Goldberg on a box of Ding-Dongs and the rest is history.
This episode launched an entirely new series of Luskinisms. Cooper publicly announced that his source had granted him consent to testify. Reporters naturally called Luskin to find out whether Rove was that source. No way, said Luskin. Rove had "not contacted Cooper about this matter," Luskin assured the Los Angeles Times. Get it? Rove didn't talk to Cooper. Their lawyers talked. What's bewildering about Luskin's evasion is that there was no legal rationale for it. After all, the prosecutor in the case knew exactly what had happened. When finally questioned by The Washington Post about this slipperiness, the lawyer was mum: "I'm not going to comment any further."
Oh and the money quote:
In the course of one interview with the Los Angeles Times, Luskin both refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of Cooper's e-mail to his editor and used its contents as evidence of Rove's innocence.
Is Luskin a sloppy media hound and a moron, or is he simply acting as Rover's battlebot? Is Viveca Novak's upcoming quality time with Patrick Fitzgerald just one more example of Turd Blossom's arrogance in thinking he can outsmart everyone and using his lawyer as an overpriced spin machine? Oh there is some cosmic justice at hand in this one.


It's Fitzmas Season!

We have a new store at Cafe Press with a logo designed by the extra fabulous and talented Monk (who, by the way, suffered a couple of broken ribs doing a good deed on Thanksgiving, so stop by Inflatable Dartboard and wish him well). As Redd says, "It is so zen, yet flame-y. It says 'kick ass, with yoga vibe' to me." (She will soon be snatched up by J. Walter Thompson no doubt.)

We have firedoglake t-shirts, mugs, mousepads, notebooks, and my favorite -- the barbecue apron. Kobe is a bit miffed that his picture is not on it, but he will get over it.


Mission Not So Accomplished

So you thought the Taliban wasn't a threat any longer in Afghanistan? You had the impression that things were going great there for the US and it's coalition partners trying to maintain security and for Hamid Karzai's government trying to sustain peace in the war-torn nation for the first time in years?

Well, things aren't so swell. Message to Bushie: Mission NOT So Accomplished. Stick that in your flight suit.

(Photo from Doctors Without Borders.)


I Call Partial Mulligan...

After quite a bit of late-night e-mailing with Jeralyn, and a subsequent good night's sleep (well, as good as it can get with an early-rising toddler in the house), I've decided that my theory on opening the attorney-client privilege to get to factual information may be fatally flawed. Funny how some sleep, and some fresh caffeine, can do that for you.

In the cold light of morning, I'm thinking that simpler just might be better. Evil Parallel Universe made an excellent point to me in e-mail, and I wanted to share it with everyone else:
If I have a point, it is that a corporation’s rights vs. those of an individual are very different, and it is much easier to get to corporate info or AC exceptions than it is for a real live person as a criminal defendant, especially when the corporate interest diverges from the employees interests.
This is absolutely correct, and something that should have occurred to me last night. Work product produced in the course of doing business is far more likely to be disclosed in a criminal investigation than, say, material produced solely for the purpose of criminal defense. So after much thought, I have to say that the attorney-client issue is likely not as plausible as I thought it might be last night.

But where does that leave things -- for Fitz and for the rest of us? There are several other options, and I think that all are plausible and deserve some serious discussion.

First, and all credit goes to Jeralyn on this one, it is highly possible that something Luskin said to Viveca Novak (and that was pubished with attribution to Luskin in Time, who gave a lot of on the record interviews) may call into question any perjury defense based on recantation that Rove may be trying to raise.

In order to stop a charge of perjury, a defendant may "recant" (or retract and correct) a statement made to the grand jury which was false. In order for a recantation defense to apply, however, the information (1) cannot have substantially affected the proceeding and (2) it cannot have become clear to the defendant that the lie has been or will soon be exposed. (The DoJ has fantastic information on how USAttys evaluate perjury cases and defenses.)

Which leads me to something that Tom McGuire brought up. What if Fitz is after information that may have been passed from Viveca Novak to Luskin and on to his client? If this information gave Rove a heads up that Cooper might soon spill the beans about their conversation, he might want to get ahead of that and make the offer to Fitz to go before the grand jury again to recant prior testimony.

It sure would explain the rush to testify under oath -- again -- but if Rove knew that something harmful was going to be said to his position prior to testifying, he no longer has a recantation defense.

And if Fitz can prove that, an indictment is more likely to be forthcoming as well. This is why defense attorneys generally keep their mouths shut about substantial factual details. We discussed this in comments yesterday, but I wanted to be sure it wasn't missed: criminal clients can be...erm...less than forthcoming with their attorneys, so criminal counsel normally play close to the vest on facts unless and until they have verified them.

Luskin has talked -- a LOT -- sometimes on the record, sometimes on background, all of which likely has a lot to do with Rove as a political figure. Most of which was probably directed by Rove to save his political skin, but this may have been the very thing that gets him into hot water in a criminal defense context. We'll see.

Second, there is the issue of the timing of all of this. As Emptywheel pointed out, there may have been an issue of Rove and Luskin trying to have their cake and eat it too in terms of using a scattershot approach to keeping Rove out of hot water: a reporter told me or, in the alternative, maybe Libby did. Yeah, that's the ticket. (Where is John Lovitz when you need him?)

This also raises a question about any attempt to use recantation for a perjury defense, if Rove was deliberately using Luskin to plant seeds of doubt on issues he knew would be raised -- by Cooper and others. And if it was meant to influence the testimony of a witness (say, Cooper via his Time colleague, Viveca Novak), then you have to start asking questions about possible witness tampering and obstruction. (Of course, this is complete speculation on my part, because we have no idea if that occurred. But it certainly is a possibility, since back in May of 2004 up until this summer, Cooper and Time were still fighting their subpoenas.)

The other issue which keeps nagging at me is Fitz's comments about state of mind considerations in charging someone under the Espionage Act.
FITZGERALD: I don't buy that theory, but I do know you should be very careful in applying that law because there are a lot of interests that could be implicated in making sure that you picked the right case to charge that statute.

That actually feeds into the other question. When you decide whether or not to charge someone with a crime, you want to know as many facts as possible. You want to know what their motive is, you want to know their state of knowledge, you want to know their intent, you want to know the facts.
It is entirely possible that something Luskin said goes to the heart of what Fitz and his team have been trying to puzzle out -- what was the intent of Rove and Libby (and perhaps a number of other actors who haven't been publicly implicated) in outing Valerie Wilson.

And wouldn't it be some form of poetic justice if it was Rove's own attorney, providing Rove-directed spin to the press to save Rover's political job, who provided the key to unlocking an entire criminal conspiracy puzzle? As an attorney, it is very difficult to wear more than one hat -- trying to act as a political spokesperson as well as a criminal defense attorney can be a tough balancing act. Here's hoping we find out soon if Luskin fell off the beam -- and why.