Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby to be charged later today

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak case will later today announce a federal grand jury indictment against I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff, and national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to attorneys involved in the case.

The indictment will focus on charges that Libby mislead federal investigators and the grand jury hearing evidence in the case for the past 22 months, according to the same sources.

Contrary to many news reports that with today's indictment, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has wrapped up his investigation, his inquiry will continue as an ongoing matter.

The prosecutor will still want to hear Libby's later testimony regarding the role of others in the Bush administration in the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, if at some point Libby were to plead guilty, or be found guilty by a jury, and then further co-operate with his inquiry.

Federal prosecutors have long believed that Libby not only mislead the grand jury to protect himself, but perhaps others in the White House who might have played a role in the outing of Plame, the legal sources said further.

Lost in the more significant news of the moment, the vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, last night renewed demands on
the White House to turn over materials regarding Libby's role in allegedly distorting intelligence information to make the administration case to go to war with Iraq.

Rockefeller was reacting to a report that was posted online yesterday in the National Journal, and which I wrote, disclosing that Vice President Cheney and Libby personally overruled the advice of some political staff and administration attorneys that they cooperate with the committee probe. (see post below for more details.)

Here below is Rockefeller's statement:

"In February 2003 the White House provided input to the CIA during the preparation of Secretary Powell's United Nations speech. During the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into prewar intelligence on Iraq, I believed it was important for the committee to obtain and review the White House drafts.

"On October 31, 2003, I wrote to CIA Director George Tenet requesting this and other White House documents. I repeated that request in writing on two subsequent occasions.

"Despite these and other efforts, the Committee never received the White House documents.

"The fact is that throughout the Iraq investigation any line of questioning that brought us too close to the White House was thwarted.

"For several years, I've called on the Committee and the Congress to get to the bottom of whether this administration misused intelligence in making the case for going to war.

"That question is no less relevant today than it was then."

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee have supported the requests for the Libby papers, and say that their investigation ha been hampered by the non-cooperation.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I have a brand new National Journal piece out tonight as we await the final denouement of Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury. Here is the lede and a few key paragraphs:

Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.
Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq...
The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war...

In addition to withholding drafts of Powell's speech -- which included passages written by Libby -- the administration also refused to turn over to the committee contents of the president's morning intelligence briefings on Iraq, sources say. These documents, known as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, are a written summary of intelligence information and analysis provided by the CIA to the president.

In my National Journal article, I mention an aide to Cheney whose name hasn't come up before in either the Iraq pre-war intelligence fiasco and the Fitzgerald investigation, yet has been ubiquitous in both. That is David Addington, the general counsel to the Vice President. Addington has been fairly good at exercsing his authority behind the scenes. But here are some excerpts from a Washington Post profile that might be of interest to some of you:

Since he took office, Vice President Cheney has led the Bush administration's effort to increase the power of the presidency. "I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job," he said after a year in office, calling it "wrong" for past presidents to yield to congressional demands. "We are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last 30 to 35 years."
Cheney has tried to increase executive power with a series of bold actions -- some so audacious that even conservatives on the Supreme Court sympathetic to Cheney's view have rejected them as overreaching. The vice president's point man in this is longtime aide David Addington, who serves as Cheney's top lawyer.
Where there has been controversy over the past four years, there has often been Addington. He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects. He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts.
Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy. He was instrumental in the series of fights with the Sept. 11 commission and its requests for information...
Colleagues say Addington stands out for his devotion to secrecy in an administration noted for its confidentiality. He declined to be interviewed or photographed for this article, and he did not respond to a list of specific points made in the article.
Addington, 47, was a lawyer and GOP staffer on congressional committees on intelligence and the Iran-contra matter, before Cheney chose him to serve as general counsel at the Pentagon when Cheney was defense secretary.
Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president.
The unitary executive notion can be found in the torture memo. "In light of the president's complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority in these areas," the memo said. Prohibitions on torture "must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority. . . . Congress may no more regulate the president's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield." The same would go for "federal officials acting pursuant to the president's constitutional authority."...
Occasionally, others in the administration have sought to keep Addington out of the loop to avoid his inevitable objections. When the White House agreed, under pressure from Congress, to appoint a commission to investigate the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Cheney's office did not know about it until a reporter from The Washington Post called to inquire.

There has been something of a backlash against Addington's philosophy within the administration, where some believe his aggressive legal arguments have caused the courts to become more suspicious of executive authority...
"Addington adds to the problems the president has with the courts," said Bruce Fein, who was an official in the Reagan Justice Department and worked with Addington during the Iran-contra probe. Fein said Addington is the "intellectual brainchild" of overreaching legal assertions that "have resulted in actually weakening the presidency because of intransigence."

Fein said Cheney and Addington, while arguing that they are reclaiming executive authority, are actually seeking to push it to new levels. Many of the restraints on executive authority -- the War Powers act, anti-impoundment legislation, the legislative veto and the independent counsel statute -- have already disappeared or become insignificant.

"They're in a time warp," Fein said. "If you look at the facts, presidential powers have never been higher."
Harriet Miers has moments ago withdrawn her nomination. Now that's a way to divert attention from the Fitzgerald investigation.

Within minutes of her withdraw, the White House also announced that President Bush had "reluctantly accepted" her withdraw. That was quick.

And this just in from CNN, regarding the CIA leak case: CNN reports that although Karl Rove has told people at the White House that he is not "distracted" by but the CIA leak probe, others in the administration say that he has, in fact, been "distracted." At this blog, we will carefully follow this story, and attempt to indebtedness confirm it.

For those citizen-journalists and blogger-citizens who read this blog, and want to engage in their own enterprise and reporting of the issue as to whether Rove has been distracted or not, they might want to turn on C-Span, and watch tapes of recent presidential speeches and other White House events, where they can spy Rove standing behind of, or to the side of, President Bush. Does Rove actually look distracted? At this blog, we speculate, but you decide. Watch C-Span and decide for yourself.

(Audacious) Spins of the day:

Trent Lott was just on CNN saying that the Miers nomination will be "forgotten by tomorrow."

Miers did what she did as a martyr for the high idea of executive propelled, sacrificing herself for a higher principle. (This is all over the cable shows.)

Candy Crowley on CNN says that the Miers withdraw has created a wonderful "opportunity" for the White House, in that the administration can now sharply "pivot" off any negative news coming from the Fitzgerald grand jury, in making a dramatic, new announcement regarding a new nominee for the high court.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

As we await word from the federal grand jury hearing the CIA leak case (and despite all your phone calls and emails, I really don't know... or pretend to know much more than anyone else), I am reminded of these words written in his diary by Leonard Garment, an former law partner, and later a White House counsel for Richard Nixon, on Christmas Day, 1972, when James McCord was indicted for his role in the Watergate break-in.

Garment was in turn quoting Jose Ortega y Gasset: "We do not know what is happening, and that is what happening."

That seems relevant for this moment.

But even if we learn tomorrow whether the federal grand jury brings charges or not, and if so, who is charged, Gasset's line will be even more relevant then as it is today.

Even though everyone in Washington breathlessly awaits the grand jury, their decisions as to whether to charge won't be an end... as so much a beginning of something much more important and vast.

We will soon hear back from the grand jury, but that will only raise additional questions, taking the President and the nation into murky, uncharted waters.

And once again, we will be left saying: "We do not know what is happening, and that is what is happening."
Josh Gerstein scored this exclusive earlier today, unfortunately not getting credit for his scoop. Well this blog gives him the credit due.

What does it mean that Fitzgerald met with the chief judge? Hard to say. However, he would have to do so to extend the life of the current grand jury, which expires on Friday, or to ask to empanel an entirely new one.

One thing to keep in mind: Just because Fitzgerald would want to extend the life of his grand jury does not mean that he is not about to soon bring charges. Even if the sitting grand jury were to bring charges, Fitzgerald would still want a grand jury to continue to hear evidence.

Why? He might want to bring charges against a potential defendant now, as he considers additional charges. Or there is always a possibility that a potential defendant... once convicted, might "flip" and later implicate someone else. I'm not saying that is the case here, but that is routine in federal criminal white collar investigations.

But don't take my word for anything! This morning, when I spoke to Josh, I told him that I thought it would be a massive waste of time to stake out the grand jury room near the federal courthouse. There would be so many reporters there, there was no way he would score an exclusive of some kind... Obviously, if I know so little about journalism, how could I know much about the law?

Below are excerpts from Josh's story:

Prosecutor Meets With Chief Judge
Could Signal That Fitzgerald Is Seeking Extension

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 26, 2005

WASHINGTON—The federal prosecutor investigating the alleged involvement of White House officials in the leak of a CIA operative’s identity spent most of the lunch hour today meeting with the chief judge of the federal district court in the nation’s capital, Judge Thomas Hogan.

As reporters massed outside an elevator lobby leading to the grand jury rooms, the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, apparently slipped out a back exit to conduct the noontime meeting with Judge Hogan.

Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment as he and a colleague emerged from the judge’s chambers just before 1 p.m.

The prosecutor’s visit to the chief judge could signal that Mr. Fitzgerald wants to continue his investigation, either by extending the term of the current grand jury or begin presenting evidence to a new jury. The grand jury that has heard witnesses in the leak case was set to shut down on Friday.

Under federal law, most grand juries are limited to two years. The present one appears to be reaching its legal time limit, but because of the secrecy surrounding the process it is difficult to know for certain.

Prosecutors involved in the politically-sensitive probe met with grand jurors for about three hours this morning, before wrapping up business at the courthouse for the day.

There were also other reasons to expect that the investigation, once believed to be concluding this week, may continue.

It was not clear why Mr. Fitzgerald chose to use a back stairway or elevator to reach his session with the chief judge, but if he took the usual route he would likely have been followed by a parade of journalists who gathered at the courthouse to await predicted indictments in the case.

Reporters expressed bewilderment as Mr. Fitzgerald returned to the grand jury area without ever having appeared to have left.

In addition to the grand juries, Judge Hogan also oversees most of the practical aspects of running the courthouse. It is possible that Mr. Fitzgerald’s visit was to discuss how court personnel would cope with the indictment and arraignment of high-profile White House officials.

A former prosecutor who worked with Mr. Fitzgerald in New York said it was impossible to say for certain what the meeting was about.

“If he wanted to extend the grand jury, he’d have to ask the chief judge,” the ex-prosecutor, Joshua Berman, said. “It’s obviously a process that Pat is familiar with.”

The headline on Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing blog this afternoon is "Rove's Last Campaign."

Dan asks: "Will Karl Rove, architect of President Bush's political career, snatch one last victory from the jaws of defeat? (Or at least avoid getting indicted?)"

He raises a very interesting issue: If Rove is indicted by the federal grand jury, he will hardly be your ordinary defendant. It is not just that he is the chief political advisor to the President of the United States. Rather, I am referring to the fact that he would be a defendant who is skilled and versed as few others in public relations, polling, and damage control. He is, also, a political genius-- albeit an evil genius to those of you of the opposite political persuasion.

Unlike most of us, he also can hire the best and most expensive of legal talent: in this case, Robert Luskin, and Patton, Bogg, et al. (If I or many of my friends were in legal jeopardy, we might be lucky to retain Hyatt Legal Services.) But aside from such legal resources at his disposal, Rove is a political strategist. And he will mount a defense that is likely to be every much a political campaign as legal campaign. To not do so would be in variance with his innate nature.

Obviously, Rove must have long ago given this some thought. There are attorneys who believe that you litigate and defend clients in the courtroom. David Kendall, the Clintons' attorney for Whitewater case and impeachment saga, was of that variety. Bob Bennett, who defended Clinton in the Paula Jones, was the exact opposite: an attorney who enjoys the limelight, the company of reporters, and considers the court of public opinion to be essential to making the case in a court of law.

(To learn more about this, I recommend you read my forthcomming book about the Clinton impeachment saga... I know that that was shameless self promotion, but what else is the purpose of blogging except for self promotion? BTW, I am going to have a regular feature on this blog mocking the top ten Washington/New York/politics/media world bloggs devoted to self promotion.... all right... apologies once again for my discursive nature. Now where was I?....)

To consider how Rove and Libby might defend against potential criminal charges, one can contrast their retainers' contrasting legal styles. Joseph A. Tate is a guy who likes to work behind the scenes, only talks to reporters of the credulous and compliant type (think of the equivalent of Susan Schmidts for defense attorneys), and likes to mostly engage within the four corners of a courtroom.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, is also considered by most of his peers as an able and capable white collar defense attorney. As a former federal prosecutor, he is known for counseling clients under investigation,and negotiating with the government, before their client is ever charged. (I know less about his court room skills, either good or bad, so for now I say nothing on that subject.) The secretive, furtive Libby probably hired the right guy when he hired the publicly reticent Tate. But Luskin, unlike Tate, is one not afraid of the public arena. And "client" Karl Rove is not one likely to leave all his fighting to the court room.

I am going to have a lot more to say about this in later postings.
I sooo apologize to all of my six readers of this blog.

But I have been off doing stories about the Fitzgerald investigation for the National Journal. This blog would obviously be the bestest of best blogs about anything regarding Plame, if I were continously reporting and blogging....

But, alas, in my most unfortunate absence (or pehaps fortunate absence, in that I get paid much more for writing for the National Journal), I recommend that the go-to-people/bloggers regarding all things Fitzgerald/Plame/Rove right now are Dan and Laura.

Here is a link to one of my online pieces for the National Journal, for those of my blog readers who were unaware of my stories for them. If you scroll down to the bottom, you can link to, and read, some of my other stories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

As a public service to, those like me, who cannot afford TimesSelect, as I can't, I am reprinting Maureen Dowd's column regarding Jilly Miller, in its entirety at this blog. I feel like a teenage girl downloading Napster for the first time! Anyone who reads this, please don't tell anyone at the New York Times that I have, well, done this.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company The New York Times
October 22, 2005 Saturday Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Column 6; Editorial Desk; Pg. 17 LENGTH: 754 words HEADLINE: Woman Of Mass Destruction BYLINE: By MAUREEN DOWD BODY:

I've always liked Judy Miller. I have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the Fourth Estate's Becky Sharp.

The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy -- her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her peculiar mixture of hard work and hauteur -- have never bothered me. I enjoy operatic types.

Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The Times's seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an administration official's background briefing. Judy had moved on from her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter based in New York, but she showed up at this national security affairs briefing. At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the briefing, she came over and whispered to me, ''I think I should be sitting in the Times seat.'' It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch.

She never knew when to quit. That was her talent and her flaw. Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers.

She more than earned her sobriquet ''Miss Run Amok.'' Judy's stories about W.M.D. fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that Senator Bob Graham, now retired, dubbed ''incestuous amplification.''

Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr. Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists. Even last April, when I wrote a column critical of Mr. Chalabi, she fired off e-mail to me defending him.

When Bill Keller became executive editor in the summer of 2003, he barred Judy from covering Iraq and W.M.D. issues. But he acknowledged in The Times's Sunday story about Judy's role in the Plame leak case that she had kept ''drifting'' back. Why did nobody stop this drift? Judy admitted in the story that she ''got it totally wrong'' about W.M.D. ''If your sources are wrong,'' she said, ''you are wrong.'' But investigative reporting is not stenography.

The Times's story and Judy's own first-person account had the unfortunate effect of raising more questions. As Bill said yesterday in an e-mail note to the staff, Judy seemed to have ''misled'' the Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, about the extent of her involvement in the Valerie Plame leak case.

She casually revealed that she had agreed to identify her source, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, as a ''former Hill staffer'' because he had once worked on Capitol Hill. The implication was that this bit of deception was a common practice for reporters. It isn't.

She said that she had wanted to write about the Wilson-Plame matter, but that her editor would not allow it. But Managing Editor Jill Abramson, then the Washington bureau chief, denied this, saying that Judy had never broached the subject with her.

It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like ''Valerie Flame.'' Nor does it seem credible that she doesn't know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she wrote, she ''did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby.''

An Associated Press story yesterday reported that Judy had coughed up the details of an earlier meeting with Mr. Libby only after prosecutors confronted her with a visitor log showing that she had met with him on June 23, 2003.

This cagey confusion is what makes people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project. Judy refused to answer a lot of questions put to her by Times reporters, or show the notes that she shared with the grand jury.

I admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover ''the same thing I've always covered -- threats to our country.'' If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.