Patrick Fitzgerald said that he wasn't going to speak outside the "four corners" of the indictment, yet he did repeatedly. Isn't it irresponsible for aÂ prosecutor to say Libby compromised national security when he hasn't charged him with that?Â Fitzgerald's little speech on protecting the identities of CIA agents was ancillary BS to give his underwhelming findings a little gravitas. Either chargeÂ Libby with violating theÂ Intelligence Identities ProtectionÂ act, Mr. Fitzgerald, or shut up.
The Spectacle Blog
I noticed that, too. It's a major reason why Libby's claim of hearing about Plame from Russert might seem more plausible than the indictment allows. If the case goes to trial (a big if), Libby's lawyer may use this to raise questions about Russert's credibility, which could make for some rather awkward episodes of Meet the Press.
I've now read it. Here's the breakdown, with the charges rearranged into logical groupings.
First, the Russert charges: Libby told the grand jury that Tim Russert asked him, "did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA?" and that Russert added that "all the reporters knew it." Russert told the grand jury that he and Libby did not discuss Wilson at all. The grand jury believes Russert, and this is the basis for one count of perjury and one count of making a false statement. By itself, not very strong -- it's Libby's word against Russert's.
Second, the Cooper charges. Libby told the grand jury that he said to Matthew Cooper of Time that reporters were telling the administration that that Wilson's wife was CIA, but that he didn't know if that was true. Cooper told the grand jury that he asked about Wilson's wife being CIA, and Libby said "I heard that too," without elaboration. This is the basis of the other perjury charge and the other false statement charge. The grand jury believes Cooper, and once again it's Libby's word against the reporter.
I'm not sure how this impacts the charges against Scooter Libby, but one of Fitzgerald's claims in the indictment press release doesn't hold up:
Prior to July 14, 2003, Valerie Wilson's employment status was classified. Prior to that date, her affiliation with the CIA was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community. (pg. 2)
This contradicts much of what we have known for years about this case: Valerie Plame/Wilson's identity was a rather open secret in Washington. Fitzgerald's right if by intelligence community, he means the Beltway community. I believe it was David Frum who said a while back that if she's driving over Chain Bridge everyday from her D.C. home she can't be that undercover.
Anyway, Bob Novak detailed his experience with this in an Oct. 1, 2003 column:
Paul Begala is higher thanÂ a kite on CNN. The Libby indictment has triggered his surprisingly sensitive conscience,Â inspiringÂ a newfound distaste for perjuryÂ in the course of answering questions about aÂ noncrime. He declares that Libby's indictment "will consume the rest of the Bush presidency." When Human Events editor Terry Jeffrey pointed out that the underlying matter here isÂ substanceless political nonsense, Begala shushed him, saying thatÂ "perjury" is the issue.
The networks all broke into daytime TV to announce the Libby indictment. Thousands of soap opera fans just shouted "What? Who?"
This is a terrible day for Lewis Libby and his family. Given the financial cost and emotional toll these kinds of things take, we wouldn't wish this on anyone but a Democrat.
But the MSM take right now that this is an indictment that is going to rock the White House and shake this President is spinning what three weeks ago was a rumored18, five to ten count indictments story that turned out to be something far less than that (Libby aside).
For weeks senior Democrats on Capitol Hill and along K Street lawyers sympathetic to Democrats have been feeding reporters - and people like us - "sourcing" on the Fitzgerald investigation. Left-wing bloggers like Raw Story, Daily Kos and Steve Clemons have been eating it up and putting it out there for all to read and hear.
The White House will get past this fairly quickly. The notion that somehow this President is boxed in is ridiculous, and will proven so within a month, when, with a strong Supreme Court nominee and a solid spending cut bill moving through Congress, the media is talking about how Bush once again is the great political escape artist.
One count of obstruction of justice, 2 counts of making false statments, and 2 count of perjury. More info to come...
UPDATE: Charges corrected from earlier.