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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Oh, What a Tangled Web...

The story just keeps on spinning in the Traitorgate universe. There have been a spate of articles the last couple of days with multiple anonymous sources close to the case -- some legal, some investigative, some clearly with only spinning credentials to their name. It's enough to make a spider dizzy. The time has come to try and pick the latest spin apart, thread by thread. I'm going to make a start with some thoughts on Waas' article, and then do some more analysis over the weekend on some of the other very intriguing articles.

The most recent article that Murray Waas put together for the National Journal is a doozy. (Note to TraitorGate obsessives out there, Waas says on his blog that he will be adding more to the story over the weekend. Stay tuned.) A source dropped the bombshell (or the prepared ticking bomb for Rove to soften the blow for the Preznit) that Rove had just plain lied to Bushie when asked straight out if he had said anything to anyone in the press about Wilson's wife or otherwise. Or did he?

What Rove is reported to have said, according to Waas' article, is "he had not disclosed to anyone in the press that Valerie Plame, the wife of an administration critic, was a CIA employee...." Rove also reportedly told the Preznit that he hadn't done any leaking to the media in order to discredit Joe Wilson. Let's parse this, shall we? It may be true that Rove did not expressly tell members of the press or others that "Valerie Plame" was a CIA employee. (We're getting into the "definition of is is" territory here, so bear with me...) What Rove actually said was that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA (according to Matt Cooper at Time, anyway). See the enormous difference? No? Yeah, me neither.

And I think it is very clear that Rove made statements to a number of reporters, including Cooper and Bob Novak -- to name two whose statements about Rove's involvement have actually been printed -- which were intended to discredit Amb. Wilson.

Who was this source for Waas? My nominations and their motivations: (Please feel free to speculate in the comments if you have more to add. I know I'm missing someone. And...some of these are just for fun. Probably don't have to say it for the regulars, but I don't want wingnut e-mails. Some of those folks have a very small...sense of humor.)

- Karl Rove -- Falling on his sword for Bushie, earning GOP loyalty points and saving his machine for Mehlman to run for him while he's...ahem...away.
- Andy Card -- Saving Bushie, getting Karl out of his way so the Preznit can get back it is he does left to his own devices.
- Karen Hughes -- The Middle East listening tour? Not so fun, and she wants her old job back. But what to do with the Dough Boy?
- George Tenet -- Finding a place to stick that knife that Rove has been trying to put in his back. Never, ever mess with the Company.
- WH Counsel's Office -- Things aren't so peachy for Harriet at the moment. Might be a little distracting if Rove went down in flames.
- Scotty McCellan -- "See how you like the press briefings now, beeyatch."
- Scooter Libby -- If Karl goes down, maybe everyone will get a pardon.
- Barney -- That Rove guy smells like mothballs.

All kidding aside, for me the bottom line is this: it simply is not credible that Rove would just forget altogether conversations with Cooper, Novak, Pincus, Kessler, Russert and/or Miller (and whomever else that we haven't heard mentioned) after just a couple of months. (I know Rove hasn't been directly linked with every one of these journalists, but since they have all come up as having a WH source, I'm including them since Rove may have been involved in planning for the conversations with them.) That's too many conversations about a single subject over a concentrated period of time, when Wilson was on Meet the Press and other news shows and Bushie's poll numbers were dropping faster than the drawers of a whore with her rent due.

The discussions with these reporters occurred through June and July of 2003 -- after the Nigerian envoy op-ed in the Times but prior to Amb. Wilson's byline op-ed there in early July. The President spoke with Rove, according to Waas, in the early Fall of 2003. I know that Rove has a lot on his plate, but he had to know this would come up -- especially when his name was linked in media reports as a possible leaker at the time -- and he just didn't bother to think about the multiple conversations that he had with reporters where he mentioned "Wilson's wife" as being the least bit relevent? Especially the one where he told Chris Matthews that she was fair game?!? And that was closer in time to when the President would have been speaking to Rove. Come on!

This is either a very telling commentary on how the Preznit's staff truly thinks about him and his level of gullibility and ignorance -- or it is a telling commentary on what the entire Administration thinks about the gullibility and ignorance of the American people.

The grand jury is going to determine how credible they find Rove's "oops, I found my e-mail" story about his change of testimony (after Fitz got appointed as special prosecutor, btw -- the Sgt. Shultz "I know nothing" statements about only saying "Wilson's wife" and not knowing that she was a NOC by Rove to the FBI came while Ashcroft was still refusing to recuse himself from the case due to his blatant conflict of interest, Rove being a former client of his and all.). This whole sordid mess smacks of a group of people who thought they were too clever by half, and who relied on Ashcroft running the show and never making it past IIPA as his prosecution strategy. Sorry for your luck on that one. (Well, no, not really. And I'm awfully glad the statues at the DOJ don't have to wear togas any longer, too.)

I'm thinking that Judy's recent "Ooops, I found my notes." might make it appear like a habit for this group. And if it starts to look like a habit, that makes it very difficult for the grand jurors not to look at everyone with a slightly jaundiced eye.

One of my favorite quotes in the article comes from Stephen Gillers, a law profefssor at NYU, who says:

"Misleading the president, other officials of the executive branch, or even the FBI might not, in and of themselves, constitute criminal acts. But a prosecutor investigating other crimes-such as obstruction of justice or perjury-might use evidence of any such deception to establish criminal intent. And a lack of candor might also negate a claim of good faith or inadvertent error in providing misleading information to prosecutors."

Wass also includes a further quote from a former US Attorney in the DC office, saying that "if Rove purposely misled the president, the FBI, or the White House press secretary, a reasonable prosecutor might construe such acts as "overt acts in furtherance of a criminal plan."" This is absolutely right. If there is a pattern of corruption, a pattern of behavior that begins to form a nexus around a common plan or scheme to commit a series of acts in furtherance of that plan, with two or more members of the group, then you can certainly start to think about charging conspiracy. And that is almost certainly on the table in this case, just based on what we know publicly.

I vote for the next big dust bunny revelation to be Tenet's "Ooops, I found my detailed surveillance dossier and daily diary." Please, oh, please -- I've been very good this year.