Water Man Spouts

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Crisis of Confidence

"He gave me a little lecture about breaking a conspiracy like Watergate. ‘You build convincingly from the outer edges in, you get ten times the evidence you need against the Hunts and Liddys. They feel hopelessly finished – they may not talk right away, but the grip is on them. Then you move up and do the same thing at the next level. If you shoot too high and miss, then everybody feels more secure. Lawyers work this way. I’m sure smart reporters must too.’ I remember he gave me a look as if to say I did not belong in that category of smart reporters. " -- The Secret Man; Bob Woodward; 2005; page 91.

When the FBI investigators and Mr. Fitzgerald were attempting to uncover the truth about what the OVP/WHIG operation to damage Joseph and Valerie Wilson, the tactic that Mark Felt had described to Bob Woodward certainly applied. Yesterday, we looked at one of the players from the outer edge, Ari Fleischer, and by the mid-afternoon, Teddy Wells had made clear in open court that Fleischer had indeed felt the "grip" of the investigation. He looked out for #1.
The investigators and prosecutor try to use the "grip" to cause a degree of tension that fractures the suspects’ cover stories. Again, with Fleischer, we find that he immediately took the 5th, and requested immunity before he would testify. Mr. Eckenrode and Mr. Fitzgerald had looked at the WHIG/OVP, and had focused on events surrounding the African trip. Fleischer was something of an "outsider" within the primary suspects. Immunity was granted.

As the trial unfolds, we will see some of the other fractures. For example, today Marc Grossman will be back on the witness stand. We know he is friends with both Wilson and Armitage. But there are also tensions between Grossman and some of the others involved in the case. In their book "Hubris," Michael Isikoff and David Corn noted, "At times, tensions between Feith and Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman – over matters relating to Ahmad Chalabi’s INC – grew heated, so much so that Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley at one session had to order the room, the official said." (page 109)

Perhaps the most interesting fracture that became more evident yesterday was that between Scooter Libby and Karl Rove. Teddy Wells made it clear that VP Cheney was firmly in Libby’s corner on this one. This came as no surprise to anyone who has read Joseph Wilson’s book: "According to my sources, between March 2003 and the appearance of my article in July, the workup on me that turned up the information on Valerie was shared with Karl Rove, who then circulated it in administration and neoconservative circles. ….Apparently, according to two journalist sources of mine, when Rove learned that he might have violated the law, he turned on Cheney and Libby and made it clear that he held them responsible for the problem they had created for the administration." (pages 443-444)

The number of times that Rove testified before the grand jury, the role played by Viveca Novak, and the private meetings at Robert Luskin’s office with Mr. Eckenrode and Mr. Fitzgerald, are all clear indicators that pressure was being applied to Karl.

A Washington Post article on 10-20-05 noted, "White House adviser Karl Rove told a grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove’s account said yesterday. In a talk that took place in the days before Plame’s CIA employment was revealed in 2003, Rove and Libby discussed conversations they had had with reporters in which Plame and her marriage to Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson VI were raised …"

The prosecution is also aware of where the stronger links are. The obvious example is the relationship between Libby and Cheney. In "Hubris," the authors write, "But his ironic detachment vanished when it came to ‘the boss,’ as he called the vice president. ‘He was enamored ofCheney, he was almost an acolyte,’ said one friend. Libby’s life revolved around Cheney, He took his vacations in Wyoming so he could be near the vice president. He even took up hunting. After September 11, he came to view Cheney as a historical figure who saw the dangers facing his country with greater clarity than anyone. In December 2001, during an interview with journalist James Mann, Libby read aloud a passage from Winston Churchill’s memoir of the years leading up to World Wart II: ‘I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial.’ Libby told Mann these words could be applied to Cheney in the post-9/11 period." (page 238)

What is fascinating is that now, in the context of this trial, Team Libby must also attempt to exploit the fractures within the Bush administration. And that will include pointing out to the jury that Libby exercises a sense of loyalty to Cheney that is greater than that which Cheney shows for Libby.


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