the blog of DC Drinking Liberally
Murray Waas, one of the country’s top investigative reporters, and the leading reporter on the ever-unfolding Plamegate scandal for such publications as the National Journal, will talk at this Thursday’s DCDL meeting (Feb. 8) on the Scooter Libby trial and other abuses of government — and media — power. His blog links to his prescient coverage on this scandal along with the latest, most thoughtful coverage of the trial by other reporters and bloggers. You can also catch up on some of Waas’s accomplishments at this Wikipedia site, including a link to Jay Rosen’s article in PressThink: “Murray Waas is our Woodward Now.”
For those seeking some of the most thorough coverage of the trial, also check out the live blogging at Firedoglake. And check back later each day or early evening for their video summary of the day’s events — with more attention to details than you’ll get on the network TV news.
Update: Slate does a good recap of the grand-jury tapes featuring Fitzgerald grilling Libby aired Tuesday at the trial; compare those with the excerpts of then-secret grand jury testimony Waas featured in a mid-January preview piece about the trial: “CIA Leak Probe: Inside the Grand Jury.” Waas, once again, scooped the rest of the national media. You don’t want to miss him give his views on the trial at this Thursday’s Drinking Liberally meeting.
Update II: After the presentation by Waas and his guest “Swopa,” Thursday night, you may want to check out the archived video recaps of the Libby trial featuring Swopa of Firedoglake and www.needlenose.com presented at politicstv.com . All of The Nation’s David Corn’s daily postings and analysis of the trial can be read at his Capital Games site. He is the co-author of Hubris, the most thoroughly reported book on how government insiders sold the fraudulent case for war.
Thursday, February 8
6:30pm (speaker starts at 7:30)
Timberlake’s, 1726 Connecticut Ave NW
(north of Dupont Circle)
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Are you confused by the twists and turns of the CIA leak case? Fear not, Patrick Gavin has been following the Plame Affair obsessively from the beginning, and he’s generously agreed to explain it all to us next Thursday, December 8.
Gavin is the associate editorial-page editor for the Washington Examiner and a contributing editor for fishbowlDC, “a gossip blog about Washington, DC, media”. He’s also been known to blog at the Huffington Post.
He’ll be discussing all aspects of the Plame Affair but focusing on the problem of journalists reporting on a story they’re intimately involved in:
We’ll have free appetizers, and Timberlake’s is extending the happy hour discount on drinks.
Please join us at the usual time and place (6:30pm in the back room at Timberlake’s, 1726 Connecticut Ave) for a talk that’s sure to enlighten us and spark some interesting discussion.
The Washington Post is already letting me down in my (admittedly faint) hope that it would handle Woodward’s involvement with the Plame Affair properly. Today’s edition has a story headlined “Woodward Could Be a Boon to Libby” that starts like this:
The revelation that The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward may have been the first reporter to learn about CIA operative Valerie Plame could provide a boost to the only person indicted in the leak case: I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
Legal experts said Woodward provided two pieces of new information that cast at least a shadow of doubt on the public case against Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, who has been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.
It continues in that vein for several more paragraphs. So the headline and first half of the story are devoted to spreading the latest chaff launched by the Republican noise machine: the bizarre idea that somehow Woodward’s recent comments get Libby off the hook for his false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice, even though Woodward said nothing relevant to any of the charges.
Those who persevere into the last part of the article will see that it completely contradicts the first part:
According to the statement Woodward released Tuesday, he did not appear to provide any testimony that goes specifically to the question of whether Libby is guilty of two counts of perjury, two counts of providing false statements and one count of obstructing justice. The indictment outlines what many legal experts describe as a very strong case against Libby, because it shows the former Cheney aide learned about Plame from at least four government sources, including the vice president — and not a reporter, as he testified before the grand jury.
Randall D. Eliason, former head of the public corruption unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District, said he doubts the Woodward account would have much effect on Libby’s case, and dismissed such theories as “defense spin.”
“Libby was not charged with being the first to talk to a reporter, and that is not part of the indictment,” he said.
Why is the Post presenting the Republican spin as the headline and lead of the story, with the actual facts and the contradictory analysis presented only many paragraphs in? It’s bad enough when the cult of “balance” results in articles giving equal weight to an outrageous lie on one side and truth on the other, but in this case the lie has become the story and the truth is relegated to a footnote.
Update (8:45am): Americablog looks at the New York Times story, which has a different take on the consequences of Woodward’s revelation. The Times headline is “New Disclosure Could Prolong Inquiry on Leak”, and it contains an interesting nondenial by Cheney’s office about whether the vice president leaked Plame’s identity to Woodward.
The Plame Affair has eroded the credibility of many journalists and commentators, and it remains to be seen whether the New York Times can recover from the severe self-inflicted wounds it suffered because of its special treatment and lax supervision of Judith Miller (who is finally leaving the paper — no doubt for a lucrative new career as a right-wing commentator). Tim Russert has put himself in the position of interviewing people about events in which he is himself involved while acting as if he knows nothing. Bob Novak has become even more obviously a Republican hack than he was already.
Now the cancer is touching Washington Post celebrity reporter Bob Woodward, who testified Monday before Patrick Fitzgerald. Woodward has been a constant commentator on the case, always playing down its significance and defending the administration. Now he’s saying that he was a very early recipient of the leak of Plame’s identity, and that it came from someone other than Scooter Libby, someone he won’t name:
Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.
In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.
Why is this coming out only now? One thing that’s certain is that the Plame investigation isn’t over yet, despite the hopes of Republicans.
Let’s hope for the sake of our hometown paper (flawed though it is) that the Post does a better job of handling the Woodward situation than the New York Times did with Miller.
It’s hard to come up with something new and relevant on the Libby indictiment. Still, I’ll give it a shot. On the News Hour, David Brooks said (from my notes, no transcript yet) “the indictment shows this was the work of a lone individual. There is no cancer on the presidency.”
There’s a couple of things that need pointing out. First off, the lack of an indictment, does not a lack of a conspiracy make.
Second, Libby was just one of the chief staffers who came up with the smear job on Wilson (Josh Marshall has scooped me on this, darn him):
22. On or about July 12, 2003, LIBBY flew with the Vice President and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia, on Air Force Two. On his return trip, LIBBY discused with other officials aboard the plane what Libby should say in response to certain pending media inquiries, including questions from Time reporter Matthew Cooper.
23. On or about July 12, 2003, in the afternoon, LIBBY spoke by telephone to Cooper, who asked whether LIBBY had heard that Wilson’s wife was involved in sending Wilson on the trip to Niger. LIBBY confirmed to COoper, without elaboration or qualification, that he had heard this information too. [ed: we now know that Karl Rove was Cooper’s primary source.]
Under ordinary circumstances you could write off the coordination of a press response as “politics as usual.” In the case of Libby this meant, as was confirmed today, a systematic effort to smear Joe Wilson. With the understanding that it meant exposing the identity of a covert agent. And make no mistake, the indictment makes it clear that a.) Valerie Plame was a covert agent. b.) Libby exposed her identity. c.) this isn’t the end of the story.
The final point I’d like to make is that Brooks’s statement misquotes history a bit. John Dean didn’t say “there’s a cancer on the presidency.” What he said is more reminiscent of the current situation:
I think, I think that, uh, there’s no doubt about the seriousness of the problem we’re, we’ve got. We have a cancer–within, close to the Presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily. It’s compounding, it grows geometrically now because it compounds itself.
I do get a strong whiff of history repeating itself here.
Mark Kleiman wonders why the smear machine that attacked Joseph Wilson, Richard Clarke, and other prominent critics of the Bush administration hasn’t kicked into gear and started telling us about how Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson are actually partisan Democrats, members of MoveOn, or some other sort of Al Qaida sympathizer. After all, both men have recently had harsh words about Our Leader, so they must be discredited.
I think the reason is that the smear machine is fully occupied in preparing for renewed smears against Wilson and for its biggest smear yet, a campaign against prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (assuming he indicts people in the White House). Of course, smearing Fitzgerald is a bit harder when Bush himself is saying such complimentary things about the guy, as Tucker Carlson explains:
I think politically [the Bush administration] did very much the wrong thing by saying nice things about Patrick Fitzgerald some months ago — “he’s a man of integrity,” “he’s a good guy,” “we have complete confidence he’s going do the right thing,” etc., etc. — making it now almost impossible for the White House, even on background, to attack the guy.
Kleiman has a theory about Bush’s statements on Fitzgerald, too.
I’m no gambler, but it can be entertaining to look at prices on betting sites that cover things other than sports. Currently Intrade has the following most recent trade prices for selected US legal events:
|I. Lewis Libby to be indicted ON or BEFORE 31st DEC 05||75.6|
|Karl Rove to be indicted ON or BEFORE 31st DEC 05||50.2|
|Harriet Miers to be Confirmed to the Supreme Court by the US Senate||35.0|
|Tom DeLay to be found guilty of conspiracy to violate political fund raising laws||15.5|
|Tom DeLay to be found guilty of conspiring to launder money & money laundering||22.0|
The prices, which can range from 0 to 100, roughly correspond to the percentage likelihood the market is assigning to the events. The DeLay numbers are disappointing, but then ultimately they’re all meaningless since the people buying and selling presumably don’t have any inside information.
Judging by the current rumblings, with luck we may have some indictments to toast this week. Remember, if you want to be in the loop for Thursday Drinking Liberally, you need to subscribe to the new announcement list.
A couple of times in the past day or two I’ve caught a snippet of a news story talking about someone being charged with a crime and disputing the authority of those charging him, and each time for a split second I think it’s a story about Tom DeLay. Of course, it’s always really about Saddam Hussein. Easy mistake to make.
How can it be acceptable for a politician charged with a crime to be running ads to smear the prosecutor? But then what Ronnie Earle is experiencing is nothing compared to what will be coming down on Patrick Fitzgerald if he has the audacity to indict anyone in the White House for outing Valerie Plame or impeding his investigation.
Look, it can be a great advantage to have people in your party who push the boundaries and dance close to the line of illegal behavior. But if you want to reap the benefits from that, you also suffer the consequences when the dancers aren’t quite as skilled as they think they are and a misstep sends them into illegal territory.
The current Republican leadership apparently wants the United States to be the sort of country where the laws apply to everyone except members of the ruling party. Fortunately, I don’t think they’ve managed to degrade us quite that far yet, but we’ll see.
There’s been a flurry of excitement in the blogosphere about rumors that Dick Cheney might resign. Before you overbuy champagne (and popcorn), a word of caution is in order, and Tim Grieve at Salon has one for you:
As stories pushing the Plame investigation higher up the chain of command swirl about — Cheney’s face is on CNN right now — perhaps it would be wise to remember this. The Bush White House is full of masterful spinners, and they’re good at playing the expectations game. Maybe they’re really concerned that Cheney will be indicted or at least implicated in Plame’s outing. But maybe they know that, if they get enough people thinking that Cheney may face charges, the indictment of a Karl Rove or a Scooter Libby might suddenly come off as no big thing.
I’m not going to speculate on who is going to be indicted by Fitzgerald, or what the charges will be. Instead, I plan to use the time more productively: browsing for popcorn recipes.
Between the forthcoming indictiments and the prospect of seeing Delay’s mug shot after he gets booked this weekend, I want to make sure I have the right snack foods on hand.
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