Saturday, February 03, 2007

Libby trial, weekend edition:

Patrick Fitzgerald, that most secretive and discrete of federal prosecutors, did something very un-Patrick Fitzgerald-esque late last week, that went largely unnoticed except by an AP reporter and the Huffington Post:

Fitzgerald sought permission from the federal judge hearing the Libby case, Reggie Walton, to release audio tapes of LIbby's grand jury testimony to the media: to be broadcast, posted on the Internet, YouTube, or wherever else. That would surely change the dynamic of public attention to the case. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox would probably endlessly play portions of the tapes, and the public would be able to hear Libby's testimony first-hand.

Small portions of Libby being questioned before the grand jury by prosecutors have already been played inside the courtroom for jurors, the press, and public. And having heard them-- in the courtroom setting-- I would say that they are fairly dramatic. (Here is perhaps the most detailed report to date about what went on inside the grand jury room.)

Libby's attorneys have for the obvious reasons opposed this idea, and Judge Walton will probably rule on their motion probably sometime Monday morning.

I don't like to predict, even while blogging, but most legal experts doub that the grand jury tapes will be made public, and Walton's comments from the bench indicated that he has not been exactly enthralled with the idea of the tapes being played 24/7 on the cable networks and Internet. But Walton is an unpredictable jurist, and a careful stickler to case law, so perhaps it is best to just await his decision to find out what it might be.

In the meantime, below is the entire text of the Associated Press story about all of this:

WASHINGTON -- Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is fighting to keep his grand jury testimony about the leak of a CIA operative's name from being released and broadcast in the media.

Libby's grand jury testimony _ the sworn statements he gave to investigators about his conversations with Vice President Dick Cheney and journalists _ is at the heart of his perjury trial. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald plans to play hours of recordings of that testimony in court next week to bolster his case that Libby lied and obstructed the investigation.

Trial evidence is normally public and all exhibits in Libby's case have been made public so far. Even though Fitzgerald successfully fought to get Libby's full grand jury testimony admitted into evidence, Libby's attorneys say the audiotapes should not be released outside the courtroom.

Libby defense attorney William Jeffress, who successfully argued a Supreme Court case that kept the Watergate tapes from being released, said in court Thursday that grand jury tapes are never meant to be made public.

He said he knew of no case when such recordings have been released.

In the tapes, Libby discusses conversations he had regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of a prominent Iraq war critic. Plame's identity was leaked to reporters in 2003.

Nobody was charged with the leak. Fitzgerald said Libby learned Plame's identity from Cheney and discussed it with journalists. Libby says he forgot about his conversation with Cheney and, when he heard about Plame from a reporter weeks later, it struck him as new information.

Fitzgerald says Libby concocted that story to protect himself from prosecution because repeating rumors from reporters is less serious than repeating sensitive information from Cheney.

If the tapes are released, they could be broadcast on television news programs, radio stations and the Internet. U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he worried that would sensationalize an already public trial.

Attorneys for The Associated Press and a dozen other news organizations said they would challenge any effort to seal the tapes. Court papers were to be filed Friday afternoon. Walton said he would consider the matter over the weekend.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Today at the trial:

The most significant new information at the Libby trial today was Matthew Cooper's testimony regarding his July 11, 2003 conversation, with Karl Rove, during which Rove disclosed that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA. Cooper's testimony of that conversation sharply diverged from his account in Time two years ago. In his testimony today, Cooper described Rove as being more pro-active in disclosing details about Plame than previously.

According to his testimony today, when Cooper told Rove during their July 11, 2003 telephone call that he was writing about the Niger controversy, Rove tod him: "A number of things were going to be coming out about Mr. Wilson that would cast him in a different light." That included, Rove supposedly said, who had actually been responsible for sending Wilson on his mission to Niger in the first place.

Cooper then asked "who?", and Rove responded "like, his wife." Rove then said that Wilson's wife worked at the "agency" and more specifically, her work regarded "weapons of mass destruction." Then Rove told Cooper: "I've already said too much. I've got to go."

That was a much fuller-- and different account-- than the one that Cooper wrote in Time magazine shortly after he testified before the grand jury two years ago.

Here is what he wrote back then:

"As for Wilson's wife, I told the grand jury I was certain that Rove never used her name and that, indeed, I did not learn her name until the following week, when I either saw it in Robert Novak's column or Googled her, I can't recall which.

"Rove did, however, clearly indicate that she worked at the "agency"--by that, I told the grand jury, I inferred that he obviously meant the CIA and not, say, the Environmental Protection Agency. Rove added that she worked on "WMD" (the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction) issues and that she was responsible for sending Wilson. This was the first time I had heard anything about Wilson's wife."

Why did Coooper leave out some of the most interesting details from his Time story? Only he knows, and I'll try and post anything he might have to say. One person who was at Time says it was a matter of just "bad reporting" and/or editing.

For the best account of what went on at the trial today, here is a video presentation by Marcy and Jeralyn-- with a far better and more complete account of today's proceedings that any "professional" reporter. No slight meant to anyone else covering the trial. One advantage they have over newspaper reporters or cable television folks is that they don't have to compress their stories into fourteen or nineteen or twenty-six inches. Second, they don't have to limit their video presenations to a minute or a minute and a half. But they also know the case better than most reporters who have covered the story (except for maybe one or two...)
Later today at the Libby trial: Matthew Cooper is the next witness up if the defense and prosecutors are done with Judith Miller. Expect Cooper to face an even tougher time on the stand than Miller.

It's likely, although not entirely certain, that the prosecutor will call Tim Russert when he is done with Cooper.

Regarding Miller's testimony: NYT. Washington Post. Jeralyn. Pierre Thomas for ABC. Kurtz.

Anb TRex with this hilarious post on media narcissim. With so many of the nation's leading journalists and the leading bloggers sharing close quarters, I was happy to see this particular post. Reporters and bloggers are friendly and on a first-name basis with one another. This post shows that no-one is being co-opted; everyone (happily) still has an edge!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tomorrow morning at the Libby trial: Ari Fleischer will be testifying with a grant of immunity. He is likely to turn out to be the most important witness to date-- not in terms of whether the legal case against Libby is strong or not-- but rather in providing us with new information as to what went on inside the Whte House during the crucial time that Bush administration officials leaked to the press that Valerie Plame was a CIA officer.

Up until now, most of the trial testimony has centered around what went on within the OVP, or the Office of the Vice President, during that crucial period. Fleischer's testimony will illuminate us as to what went on in the rest of the West Wing, sometimes in concert, and sometimes indepedent of, whatever else was being done in the OVP to discredit Joe Wilson and deflect other allegations surfacing at the time that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq.
Another defection from the Washington Post... This time, it is Michael Powell moving on to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, in tomorrow's Washington Post, Howie Kurtz pans the new enterprise of his former colleagues, Jim Van Den Hei, and John Harris. Kurtz says of The Politico: "It strikes me as solid and subbstantiative, but not knocking anyone's socks off." Ouch.

As to my own critics:

All right, all right I heard you: I apologize to any reader-- especially to this particular blogger and his friend-- for the use of the word "irregardless"-- in my Huckabee post earlier this day. Who would have thought anyone was even reading in the first place? The post has since been updated and changed, with the word "irrespective" used in the place of "irregardless." If that isn't correct, aargh.... If the blogger's friend who was so upset about my misuse of the word "irregardless"-- if it is even a word at all-- I urge him to do something constructive. He can be the proof reader/copy editor of this very blog.

Speaking of the accuracy and integrity of this blog, we received an inquiry/complaint some seven months ago regarding an old, old post regarding a leak investigation conducted by a federal prosecutor named Frank Tamen. After a thorough inquiry, we stand by the post, as to both its accuracy and fairness.
On Meet the Press this morning, Tim Russert asked former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee about my story in the Arkansas Times disclosing how Huckabee had pressured his state's parole board to parole a convicted rapist, Wayne Dumond, who not long after leaving prison, raped and murdered two women.

Among other things, Huckabee said my story was a "tabloid report."

He also defended his actions by saying that the members of the parole board that paroled Dumond had been appointed by his two Democratic predecessors, Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker.

What Huckabee didn't say was that irrespective as to who appointed the parole board, it was Huckabee, not Clinton or Tucker, who advocated, lobbied, and pressured the board to parole Dumond. (For the record, Clinton actually recused himself from any involvment in the matter, because of allegations that the rape victim, Ashley Stevens, was a distrant relative of Clinton's. And Tucker had reduced Dummond's sentence from life imprisonment to 39 1/2 years.)

Further, although indeed originally appointed by Clinton and Tucker, two of the parole board members who voted the way that Huckabee wanted them to-- including the chairman of the parole board-- were reappointed by Huckabee.

Huckabee also claimed this morning that when he spoke to the parole board in an executive session regarding Dumond,, he was only seeking that Dumond's case "be given a fair hearing," and that the board, not him, raised the issue with him.

The parole board members, as my story detailed, claim otherwise: they told me that it was Huckabee and not them who raised the issue with the board, and that he was a strong advocate of releasing Dumond from prison. More than one told me that they thought it inappropriate for a governor to advocate on behalf of a prisoner.

This morning, when asked who brought up Dumond when Huckabee met with the parole board, Huckabee claimed: "They brought it up with me." He then added: "The only thing I said was this: [They said to me[ `Did you think he ought to be paroled or something like this. And I simply said his case ought to get a serious look."

Contrary to such claims by the governor, during interviews for my Arkansas Times story, four parole board members disputed Huckabee's account as to what transpired between Huckabee and the board, saying that Huckabee was the one to bring up the subject, and he cleraly advocated for Dumond's parole. Three of those board members spoke for the record and at length for the story.

Board member Charles Chastain told me Huckabee told the board: "There is this one case I want to talk to you about." Huckabee then "commented that Wayne Dumond had received, from his perspective, a raw deal, that he was someone from the wrong side of the tracks ... and that he had received what he thought was too long a sentence for that type of crime."

Chastain said he then replied, "Governor, well that happens. When you rape a cheerleader in a small town like that, that’s what is going to happen."

The board's chairman, Leroy Brownlee, who was reappointed by Huckabee, and who worked closely with Huckabee's office to parole Dumond, has repeatedly declined to talk about the matter at all. But while refusing to say anything bad about Huckabee, Brownlee has also never backed Huckabee's version of events or said anything to contradict his fellow board members.

Many thanks to Tim Russert for asking the right questions. And John A'mato has the video up of Russert grilling Huckabee about Dumond.