Monday, August 08, 2005

House Democrats ask that Libby grant Judith Miller a specific waiver to testify.

The ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary and the House Rules Committee, Reps. John Conyers of Ohio and Louise Slaughter of New York, wrote to I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, earlier today dryly noting that his "conduct may have fallen short of the President's pledge to full cooperation" with the investigation of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

The letter was apparently written in reaction to this story I wrote, and which was posted on TAP Online over the weekend, in which I disclosed a meeting between Libby and jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003. The meeting took place prior to the now infamous column by Robert Novak unmasking Valerie Plame as a CIA "operative."

Although Libby has granted a general waiver for journalists to testify before Fitzgerald's grand jury regarding their conversations about Plame, Miller has said she considers such waivers to be inherently coercive. As a result, she refused to testify regarding any conversations with Libby or other Bush administration officials, and has been jailed for more than a month now for civil contempt.

As I reported in my story, Libby has not offered a more specific, personal waiver to Miller, so that she might possibly testify. The letter to Libby also signed by two other Democrats, Rep. Rush Holt, of New Jersey, and Maurice Hinchey of New York, the congresspersons wrote. Below is most of the text of the letter:
As you are aware, in the matter of the ongoing investigation of the leaking of the covert status of a Central Intelligence Agency operative (Valerie Wilson), the President has promised that his Administration will "fully cooperate" with the investigation. We are concerned that your conduct may have fallen far short of the President's pledge of full cooperation. This is particularly important because the President has said he would only fire someone who actually committed a crime; your refusal to waive Ms. Miller's pledge of confidentiality is impeding the full cooperation that could lead to such an administrative sanction. We ask you to rectify this by immediately issuing a personal waiver to New York Times reporter Judith Miller and any other reporter with whom you discussed Mrs. Wilson.

New information has come to light that indicates that you met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and discussed Mrs. Wilson.... Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has reportedly determined that it may well be relevant to the ongoing probe. However, according to the same report, his investigation has been impeded by your lack of cooperation, specifically your failure to produce a personal waiver to Ms. Miller Indeed, in a March 2005 filing with the court hearing the case, Mr. Fitzgerald stated he could not close the matter because of Ms. Miller's inability to testify about conversations with senior government officials. In response to similar concerns expressed by Mr. Fitzgerald about Time reporter Matthew Cooper, Karl Rove, the Deputy White House Chief of Staff, granted a personal waiver to Mr. Cooper. Your failure to grant such a waiver to Ms. Miller has apparently led her to refuse to testify about her conversation(s) with you and, in turn, led to her recent incarceration for civil contempt.
Only your willingness to step forward and permit Ms. Miller to testify about your July 8 meeting and any other communications with her will allow the whole truth to be known. We urge you to immediately and publicly rectify this by issuing a personal waiver to Ms. Miller.

Some comments of my own: As I pointed out in my story, it is still unclear that even if Libby were to grant a more personalized waiver for Miller whether she would testify. Her attorney, Floyd Abrams, told me: "Judith Miller is in jail and at continued jeopardy... I have no comment about what she might do in circumstances that do not now exist."

Tom Maguire has a much more detailed and thoughtful analysis of all of this than I do, for those seeking additional info. Mickey Kaus also has these comments.