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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Razor's Edge

One of the issues we have all been discussing here has hit the wires in a substantial way today in Murray Waas' latest piece for the National Journal. Looks like our boy Fitz is zeroing in on discrepencies in testimony between Scooter Libby, Judy Miller and a host of others.

Waas cites a number of items at issue for Libby, but the most critical in my mind is the overall impression that he and his attorney appear to have left that they were trying to discourage or shape Judy Miller's testimony in some way and where information was left out altogether. It becomes increasingly difficult, almost like swimming through a lake of tar, to overcome a series of impressions that you are a liar. And before a grand jury deciding your legal fate, that is not the place you want to play fast and loose with the truth -- no way you will do anything but sink under those circumstances.

From Waas:

According to a Justice Department official not directly involved with the Plame case, "Both intent and frame of mind are often essential to bringing the type of charges Fitzgerald is apparently considering. And not wanting a key witness to testify goes straight to showing that there were indeed bad intentions."

The jurors will have had all of the evidence laid out before them by Fitzgerald, all the witnesses and the investigators from the FBI.

Waas does an excellent job of putting all the testimony discrepencies that we know about from media leaks into a side-by-side context. This is exactly how you present things to a jury, by the way, and something Fitzgerald will likely be doing over the coming days (if not having already done it). It is striking as you look at just the accounts from Libby and Miller just how many discrepencies there are in fairly major details. This is not good, especially given that there are apparently corroborating sources for a number of the issues addressed.

Sure hope Fitz has other more credible witnesses than just Judy Miller, though, because I would hate to see him have to base a criminal prosecution on her word alone. I'm certain that is not the case, considering how many journalists have been subpoenaed and spoken with in this matter, but never want a witness who has claimed to have a security clearance that she likely didn't have, for starters.

A new aspect, and one that I find very troubling, is that a source who was apparently very close to Libby shopped around his version of testimony to three media outlets to be released the night before Judy Miller testified before the Grand Jury for the first time.

I have to say that from a prosecutor's perspective, my antennae would be up and running on something like this -- and I am quite curious as to how Fitz became aware of this. Did one of the media organizations call to voice a concern? Did the WaPo's published article (the only one of the three outlets that did publish the information) raise big red flags and they were able to track things down from there? Was it an attempt to influence what she would say, or to scare her away from testifying at all?

Four former federal prosecutors said in interviews that if Libby did anything to discourage Miller from testifying in the case, it might be construed as possible obstruction of justice or witness-tampering, and that a thorough prosecutor, such as Fitzgerald, would logically make an extensive inquiry as to what occurred.

In any case, this sort of attempt at coercion or signalling absolutely would interest me in this case were I prosecuting it, and I'm certain that Fitz has had his investigators working it from the minute it hit the wires, if not beforehand.

We've all known that Libby was a focus of the investigation for some time. Waas' article makes clear that his role is perhaps more well known in the public arena at this point, mainly thanks to the recent spate of "what did Judy know" articles and interviews. Where things are with the rest of the WHIG membership, and how that all fits into this puzzle that Fitz is piecing together is still very much a public mystery for now.

It certainly feels like the potential defendants in this case are all balancing on a very thin edge, though, doesn't it?

Somerset Maugham's amazing novel, The Razor's Edge, has always been one of my favorites, as has the Bill Murray movie version of the same name. Somehow, I keep coming back to a scene in my mind as we progress ever-so-slowly toward the closure of this grand jury process in Traitorgate. The scene where Larry confronts Isabel, after the death of his fiance Sophie, and that moment after Larry leaves her when Isabel realizes, only for a brief flash of clarity, the corruption that she has become.

I wonder if Scooter Libby has had that moment over the past few weeks.