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

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Crap! Those Pesky Records!

New Waas article up on National Journal. Reading right now -- will post shortly.

Judy...Judy...Judy. You were so nailed.

The beauty of being a Federal Prosecutor with a mind like a steel trap and a loyal staff of lawyers and investigators is that you have all the means at your disposal to try and track down every single piece of evidence: every scrap of paper, every note, every receipt, every entry log every photo, everything you can get your hands on, before ever asking a question of anyone on the record in court.

As an aside, having defended clients in federal court in criminal matters, I can tell you the first major drug case that I worked was an eye opener in terms of just how thorough federal agents can be. After my client was arraigned by the federal magistrate, agents brought my discovery in to me: nine full boxes of it. And promised to deliver the remainder of my discovery items to my office the next day, because they didn't want to weigh me down all at once. These guys mean business, and they are also quite good with the theatrics involved in making their point to a defendant.

In this particular matter, what Judy and Scooter forgot is that they are dealing with a professional. Not some slackass, just out of law school, wet behind the ears kid. Not some political social climber who would sell his mother for a Senate seat or a nomination to the Federal bench. Not some guy who was going to phone it in because he didn't want to piss off the high and mighty and powerful. This guy is a professional prosecutor, who does his job. Period.

You don't prosecute the Gambinos, Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman, Osama Bin Laden and former Governor Ryan of Illinois just for kicks. Those cases are all long, hard slogs, and potentially very deadly to your career as well as your person.

And when you do your job, you find things like this: all government buildings after 9/11 (and even before 9/11 in a lot of cases) require that you sign in and out. That goes double for buildings where you have the potential for someone being around national security documents or highly placed government officials, because you don't want something disappearing without some written record of who has had access to the building. You follow the paper trail, the evidence in hand, the usual patterns of behavior, and sometimes even your gut -- but it is the little details that nail someone to the wall.

During her first go at her testimony, Judy was evasive and could not recall whether or not she had ever met with Scooter on June 23rd, when asked specifically about this by the Special Prosecutor. (Note to witnesses: If the prosecutor is asking you about a date certain, he has something that he will nail your ass with unless you are completely truthful. Keep that in mind in the future.) According to Waas, it went something like this:

When a prosecutor first questioned Miller during her initial grand jury appearance on September 30, 2005 sources said, she did not bring up the June 23 meeting in recounting her various contacts with Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. Pressed by prosecutors who then brought up the specific date of the meeting, Miller testified that she still could not recall the June meeting with Libby, in which they discussed a controversial CIA-sponsored mission to Africa by former Ambassador Joe Wilson, or the fact that his wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA.
A gotcha moment can be a rare and beautiful one for any attorney, and usually occurs over some very specific detail on which you can hang the person on the stand. But it is almost always a detail that the witness thought was so insignificant that no one would ever bother with it in a million years.


For Judy Miller, that detail was a Secret Service log from June 23, 2003. It showed her entering and exiting the Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House to meet with Scooter Libby.

When a prosecutor presented Miller with copies of the White House-complex visitation logs, she said such a meeting was possible.

Gee, ya think? "Now that I have confronted your weaseling ass, could you perhaps stir that organ you call your brain and see if something pops out of it regarding the June 23rd meeting, before I have to charge you with obstruction, perjury and perhaps even conpiracy to obstruct with Mr. Libby? That would be most helpful."

According to Waas, after Judy's "fear of God" moment with the Special Prosecutor, she then "found" her "missing" notes and came back for the second round of testimony. Sure does explain why the contempt citation was held over until the completion of her testimony, doesn't it? And the look on her face as she left court that said she'd just been made to swallow a whole gallon of vinegar.

But the Times pieces where Judy was laying her soul bare for all the world to see the glory of her commitment to the First Amendment? As it turns out, not so truthful, since Judy neglected to tell us all about the fact that Fitz caught her hedging and nailed her with everyday, commonplace records. Ooops.

Waas also writes:

Miller also testified about telephone conversations she had with Libby regarding Plame and Wilson on July 12, 2003. In her Times article she wrote of a single phone call from Libby that day.

But telephone records presented to Miller during her grand jury testimony indicate that she twice spoke with Libby on July 12, although one conversation was brief, according to attorneys familiar with her grand jury testimony.

The first phone call lasted three minutes, the phone record indicated. Miller testified that she believed she might have taken the call on her cellphone in a cab, and told Libby she would soon talk to him after she arrived home, although she was unsure of this, according to the sources familiar with her grand jury testimony.

The second telephone conversation between Libby and Miller lasted for 37 minutes, according to telephone records examined by attorneys familiar with her grand jury testimony. Miller told the grand jury that she believed that telephone conversation took place after she had arrived at her home in Sag Harbor, N.Y., although she was not entirely sure.
Seems like our boy Fitz and his investigative team have been very thorough indeed. Bravo. And to all the potential defendants in this matter, you had best cut a deal now -- because the blue light specials will end soon, and full price is a heavy one to pay indeed when a prosecutor is this good at dotting all his i's and crossing all his t's.

What does this do down the road for this case? Waas previously wrote that Libby also failed to disclose the June 23rd meeting. Well, it certainly puts the letter from Scooter into an even sharper focus with its July conversations with reporters with whom I never discussed Valerie Plame in a whole new bright and shiny spotlight, doesn't it? It's not as though we didn't all know that it sure seemed like coaching. But the fact that Judy seems to have tried to run with the coaching, now that's a bit of news.

Wouldn't you think in Washington, D.C. that the phrase "It's not the crime, it's the coverup." would be plastered in humongous posters in every office, just in case? Clearly, no.

My read on all of this is that Scooter is in very big trouble. And Judy is on a very, very short leash. If Fitz finds out that she has lied about anything else, held back anything, tried to cover for anyone else's ass, she's toast. As in big, burnt up piece of toast. If I had to predict, sitting here today, I would say that Judy has spilled every single thing that she knew -- and that may include her other sources, if indeed there ever were any other sources beyond Scooter -- she just didn't bother to be honest with her Times "tribe" about this because she was trying to preserve her First Amendment martyr persona. Being a prevaricating, co-conspirator kind of ruins that mojo, doesn't it?

Wonder how the most recent public shaming will go down at the Times newsroom? If I were Judy, I'd be getting my own coffee from now on.

That Fitz was ready and waiting for her? Well, I believe
Jane had it right the whole time. (And so did Emptywheel at Next Hurrah.)

UPDATE: Also, please take a read at Swopa's post on Needlenose. This dovetails nicely into my theory of all crimes I ever prosecuted: if the criminals weren't so stupid, we'd all be out of a job. (Fabu title, btw.)

UPDATE #2: Crooks and Liars has posted an excellent interview with Lawrence O'Donnell that is a must watch/listen. Fantastic information and insights. Kudos -- C&L, as always, gives up awesome video for the benefit of our obsessive little brains. Thanks!

UPDATE #3: This is hilarious! Hat tip and thanks to reader Valley Girl for the link.