Water Man Spouts

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lamb Chop vs Pork Chop

"The rumors swirling around Rove, Libby, and Abrams were so pervasive in Washington that the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, was obliged to address them in an October 2003 briefing, saying of Rove: ‘The president knows he wasn’t involved … It’s simply not true.’ McClellan refused to be drawn into a similar direct denial of Libby’s or Abram’s possible involvement, however. Later interpretations of the line being taken by the White House spokesman, according to members of the press who have spoken with me, indicate that the administration’s defense is extremely narrow: the leakers and pushers of the story did not know the undercover status of Valerie Plame, and therefore, though they may have disclosed her name, they did not commit a crime." – The Politics of Truth; Joseph Wilson; pages 444-445.

In last week’s opening statement, defense attorney Teddy Well claimed that I. Liar Libby was being made into a "sacrificial lamb" by a White House intent upon protecting Karl Rove. Those following the case debated if this was merely the tactics of defense attorneys seeking to shift blame from their guilty-as-hell client,; if the administration was attempting to manipulate public perception; or if there was indeed a struggle between the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President.

I believe that there was a serious conflict involving people within Bush’s and Cheney’s offices. It is important to recognize that this does not mean that there was tension between Bush and Cheney. Rather, it suggests that there was hostility between those working inside the two offices. If there was a split between the two offices, then it is likely that it has been exploited by Patrick Fitzgerald. And, if that is true, then it is possible that by looking closer at the tensions between Bush and Cheney’s offices, we might be able to identify one area where VP Cheney will be at risk, should he actually testify.

One of the best sources of information on the Plame scandal is, of course, Joseph Wilson’s book. He notes how the OVP had initiated a "work up" on him, in order to be prepared to undercut any effort he made to expose the lies about the Niger yellow cake. He writes, "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." (page 443)

We know from the Libby indictment that Rove told Libby that he had spoken with Bob Novak, and that Novak was writing an article that would expose Valerie Plame. And after Novak’s article was published, Rove was among the White House officials attempting to promote the new spin: "Rove’s strategy appears to have been simple – change the subject and focus attention on Valerie and me instead of the White House – but it proved to be seriously flawed," Wilson writes. The "serious flaw" was that exposing Plame’s identity was a crime. And, "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. The protracted silence on this topic from the White House masks considerable tension between the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President." (page 444)

If Wilson is correct, then we should be able to find evidence of those "tensions" by looking just beneath the surface. In their book "Hubris," authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn note that in late Spetember, 2003, there was considerable tension as the media reported the Plame leak was under investigation. Press reports indicated that Novak was but one of many journalists called by at least two administration officials looking to expose Valerie Plame as a CIA employee. Rumors in Washington hinted that Karl Rove was involved. Isikoff & Corn note that "the questions started coming about Rove. Was he involved in the leak to Novak?

" ‘I’ve made it very clear, from the beginning, that it is totally ridiculous,’ McClellan said. ‘I’ve known Karl for a long time, and I didn’t even need to go ask Karl, because I know what kind of person that he is, and that he is someone committed to the highest standards of conduct.’ But McClellan added, ‘I have spoken with Karl about this matter … I’ve made it very clear that he was not involved, that there’s no truth to the suggestion that he was.’

"What about the vice president? Could McClellan say categorically that Cheney wasn’t involved?

" ‘I’ve made it clear that there’s been nothing, absolutely nothing brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that includes the vice president’s office,’ he remarked." (pages 322-323)

Isikoff & Corn go on to describe McClellan taking "another pounding" at the next press briefing, and how mid-level White House officials were convinced that Rove and Libby had not been involved in the scandal. This is because there were attempts to cover-up the involvement of the members of the president’s and vice president’s offices. The truth was being kept from co-workers. And efforts were being made to shift suspicion away from the most powerful members of the White House. Let’s look at part of Scooter’s effort.

One of the most important pre-trial documents in the case is the Government’s Response to Defendant’s Third Motion to Compel Discovery, filed on April 5, 2006. On pages 27-28, we find the following:

"During this time, while the President was unaware of the role that the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser had in fact played in disclosing Ms. Plame’s CIA employment, defendant implored White House officials to have a public statement issued exonerating him. When his initial efforts met with no success, defendant sought the assistance of the Vice President in having his name cleared. Though the defendant knew that another White House official had spoken with Novak in advance of Novak’s column and that official had learned in advance that Novak would be publishing information about Wilson’s wife, defendant did not disclose that fact to other White House officials (including the Vice President) but instead prepared a handwritten statement of what he wished White House Press Secretary McClellan would say to exonerate him:

"People have made too much of the difference in
How I described Karl and Libby
I’ve talked to Libby.
I said it was ridiculous about Karl
And it is ridiculous about Libby.
Libby was not the source of the Novak story.
And he did not leak classified information."

Scooter continued to feel that the White House was protecting Rove at his expense when McClellan refused to go out on a limb for him. In "The trial of Dick Cheney" (1-24-07) Justin Raimondo quotes from Teddy Wells’ opening statements, as reported on FireDogLake by "emptywheel":

"Mr. Libby was not concerned about losing his job. He was concerned about being the scapegoat.

"Mr. Libby said to the VP, ‘I think the White House people are trying to set me up, people want me to be the scapegoat. People in the White House want me to protect Karl Rove ….’

"Cheney made notes of what Libby said. Notes show Libby telling the Vice President that he was not involved in leak…."

As a result of Libby’s concerns, David Corn writes in his blog (1-24-07), "Cheney pressured the White House press office to make a statement clearing Libby of any wrongdoing. …. Responding to Libby’s gripe, Cheney wrote a note that said, ‘Not going to protect one staff (and) sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others’."

All of this took place on late September and early October of 2003. At the time, Attorney General John Ashcroft was monitoring the Department of Justice’s investigation. Though some democrats in Congress were requesting a special prosecutor to investigate the scandal, Ashcroft was not willing to recuse himself. It would not be until December that he finally did step aside, and allow James Comey to appoint Patrick Fitzgerald to the case. And it would not be until October of 2005 that Libby was indicted.

The focus on Rove continued: in an April 12, 2006 document, Team Libby noted that "Mr. Rove remains a subject of a continuing grand jury investigation." In this context, it seems unlikely that the tensions over McClellan’s comments were all part of a White House charade to provide potential cover for Scooter in case he went on trial in 2007. Rather, this evidence supports what Joseph Wilson described as "considerable tensions between the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President."

And this will be an interesting area for both the defense and prosecution to question VP Cheney about, should he actually testify. Will Dick cling to the lie that he had no idea that Scooter was involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity to journalists? And what exactly was he speaking of when he mentioned "the incompetence of others"?


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