News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Monday, October 31, 2005

ABC News: Time Reporter Says He Learned Agent's Identity From Rove

Oct. 31 2005 — - One of the reporters at the center of the investigation into the leak of the identity of an undercover CIA officer, says he first learned the agent's name from President Bush's top political advisor, Karl Rove.

Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper also said today in an interview with "Good Morning America," that the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, confirmed to him that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA operative.

A grand jury charged Libby on Friday with five felonies alleging obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents. If convicted, he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines. Libby was not charged with the crime that the grand jury was created to investigate -- specifically, who leaked the name of Plame to reporters in 2003. Rove has not been charged.

Wilson, who went to Nigeria in 2002 to investigate whether or not the country was supplying Iraq with uranium to make weapons of mass destruction, opposed the war. He said he found no evidence of such an exchange in an op-ed in The New York Times. Wilson has argued that the Bush administration revealed his wife's identity in order to silence his opposition to the war.

"There is no question. I first learned about Valerie Plame working at the CIA from Karl Rove," Cooper said.

Libby has since claimed that he heard the Plame rumors from other reporters. Cooper disputed that version of events. "I don't remember it happening that way," he said. "I was taking notes at the time and I feel confident."

If a trial goes ahead, Cooper said he would name Rove as his source of the information.

"Before I spoke to Karl Rove I didn't know Mr. Wilson had a wife and that she had been involved in sending him to Africa."

Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

Cheney Names Two to Fill Libby's Positions - Yahoo! News

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer

Vice President Dick Cheney, moving swiftly to replace an indicted aide, on Monday named attorney David Addington as his chief of staff and John Hannah as his national security adviser.

Both positions had been filled by I. Lewis Libby, who resigned Friday when he was indicted on perjury and other charges in a 22-month investigation of the unmasking of an undercover CIA officer.

Addington has been Cheney's counsel and Hannah has been his deputy national security adviser.

Meanwhile, Cheney's former chief of staff faces the first court appearance in his CIA leak case Thursday as Democrats criticize President Bush for lauding I. Lewis Libby rather than apologizing for his alleged crimes.

The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, said Sunday that another key insider, presidential adviser Karl Rove, should resign because of his role in exposing an undercover CIA officer.

A veteran Republican senator added that Bush needs to bring "new blood" into his White House.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan refused to answer inquiries about whether Rove should remain in his job or other questions about the case. He was repeatedly asked to acknowledge that he was wrong in 2003 when he denied that Rove or Libby were involved in disclosing the identity of the officer, Valerie Plame. He said he would not comment during the ongoing legal proceedings.

"The reason I can't comment further is because if we were to get into that, we could be prejudicing the opportunity for there to be a fair and impartial hearing," McClellan said. "And we don't want to do that from this podium, no matter how much I may want to talk about this issue, and I think you know I would like to talk further about it."

Rove has not been charged, but he continues to be investigated in the CIA leaks case that brought the indictment and resignation on Friday of Libby, an adviser to Bush and the top aide to Cheney. Libby's arraignment will be held Thursday morning before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.

Reid said he is disappointed that Bush and Cheney responded to the indictment by praising Libby — known around Washington as "Scooter" — and suggested they should apologize for the leak that revealed Plame's identity.

"First of all, the vice president issues this very terse statement praising Libby for all the great things he's done," Reid said. "Then we have the president come on camera a few minutes later calling him Scooter and what a great patriot he is. There has not been an apology to the American people for this obvious problem in the White House," Reid, D-Nev., told ABC's "This Week."

Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Cheney should "come clean" about his involvement and why he discussed Plame with Libby before Libby spoke to reporters about her.

"What did the vice president know? What were his intentions?" Dodd asked on "Fox News Sunday."

"Now, there's no suggestion the vice president is guilty of any crime here whatsoever. But if our standard is just criminality, then we're never going to get to the bottom of this," Dodd said.

Democrats appearing on Sunday talk shows portrayed Libby's indictment as one of many serious problems surrounding the White House and one of several allegations raising questions about Republican ethics. Republicans repeatedly said the charges have been made against only one individual and that Libby should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Public opinion appears to be running against Bush. Almost half the public, 46 percent, say the level of ethics and honesty in the federal government has fallen with Bush as president, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll. That's three times the number who say ethics and honesty have risen during that time.

Republican Sen. Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record) of Mississippi said Bush should be on the lookout for "new blood, new energy, qualified staff, new people in administration." He said poor advice may have even contributed to the failed nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

A grand jury charged Libby on Friday with five felonies alleging obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents. If convicted, he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

Libby was not charged with the crime that the grand jury was created to investigate — specifically, who leaked the name of Plame to reporters in 2003. Libby and Rove were named by reporters brought before the grand jury, but it was unclear whether they knew that she was a covert agent.

Time magazine's Matthew Cooper, one of the reporters at the center of the investigation, said Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that he was certain he'd first learned from Rove that Plame, the wife of ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a CIA operative. Wilson, an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, maintains the Bush White House leaked his wife's covert identity as part of a campaign to discredit him.

"Before I spoke to Mr. Rove I didn't know about Wilson having a wife. And he was the one who suggested to me that she worked at the agency," said Cooper. "He didn't use her name but he did mention Wilson's wife.

Cheney appoints Addington to replace Libby - Yahoo! News

Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday appointed his counsel, David Addington, as chief of staff to replace Lewis Libby, who was indicted in the CIA leak investigation, the vice president's office said.

Cheney also appointed John Hannah, who had served on his national security staff since March 2001, as assistant to the vice president for national security affairs. Libby had held both positions.

Addington has served as counsel to the vice president since January 20, 2001.

The appointments came after Libby was indicted on Friday on charges of obstructing justice, perjury and making false statements. He resigned and left the White House.

TV Newsman Is His Own News in the Leak Case - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 - On any given Sunday, the cream of Washington officialdom presents itself for confession before Tim Russert, a big, bluff lawyer-turned-journalist who may be the capital's most intimidating interlocutor outside a courtroom or Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney, not a chatty guy, has been his guest no fewer than 10 times since taking office.

But on this particular Sunday, the news compelled Mr. Russert to turn his trademark attention to an atypical topic: himself.

"Inside the C.I.A. leak indictments, including the role of journalists, including yours truly," Mr. Russert intoned in no-nonsense staccato before a commercial break halfway through "Meet the Press," NBC News's top-rated Sunday morning interview program.

Mr. Russert has moderated it for nearly 14 years, and with it he now wields as much influence as any single working journalist in Washington.

For Mr. Russert, who is also NBC's Washington bureau chief, turns out to be a pivotal ear-witness to the only crime so far charged in the inquiry into the disclosure of a C.I.A. agent's classified identity that has consumed the intersecting circles of news organizations and politics in which he has been a prominent player for years.

It was Mr. Russert's 20 minutes of sworn testimony to the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, in a Washington law office on a summer Saturday in 2004 that helped undermine the account of Mr. Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr.: that Mr. Russert first told him that Valerie Wilson, the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador and a sharp critic of the Bush administration's rationale for war with Iraq, worked at the C.I.A.

The five-count grand jury indictment against Mr. Libby charges that he called Mr. Russert "on or about July 10, 2003" (four days before Ms. Wilson's identity became public in a column by Robert D. Novak) "to complain about press coverage of Libby by an MSNBC reporter" (by all evidence, Chris Matthews of "Hardball") and "did not discuss Wilson's wife with Russert" at all.

In a telephone interview on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Russert acknowledged some discomfort with his unusual role in the case, in which Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times have also contradicted Mr. Libby's account under subpoena. "We hate being in the middle of what we're reporting on," he said. "But it is what it is."

Mr. Fitzgerald is clearly counting on the credibility of the 55-year-old Mr. Russert, a popular figure who cut his teeth in Washington more than 25 years ago as an aide to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, as a crucial witness against Mr. Libby at any trial. But he would be far from the only one.

According to the indictment, Mr. Libby talked about Ms. Wilson's identity with at least six other people in the government, including Mr. Cheney, before talking with Mr. Russert, who says he learned about Ms. Wilson's name by reading Mr. Novak's column (and, good newshound that he is, he said he was irked not to have known it before). All those people have also told their stories and could be called to the stand.

If the charges in the indictment are true, it is by no means clear why Mr. Libby would have told investigators and the grand jury in March of last year that Mr. Russert was his source, except that he might have believed that Mr. Russert and the other journalists involved would not testify.

Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate, has said that "Mr. Libby testified to the best of his honest recollection on all occasions" and cited the passage of time as a possible explanation for contradictory accounts. After getting waivers from Mr. Libby, all of the other journalists eventually testified, though Mr. Russert managed to avoid the protracted legal battles over the terms of such testimony that brought far more attention to Mr. Cooper and to Ms. Miller, who served 85 days in jail.

Mr. Russert declined to discuss the circumstances of his testimony in much detail beyond the official statements he and NBC issued at the time, and he largely confined himself to repeating those statements on the air on Sunday. But there is evidence he may have faced a somewhat easier decision than Mr. Cooper and Ms. Miller, because Mr. Libby was calling him not as a confidential source but as an angry viewer, upset about one or more MSNBC cable programs a day or two before his call.

On "Hardball" on July 8, 2003, for example, Mr. Matthews blamed Mr. Libby and others in the White House for failing to warn President Bush that a reference in his State of the Union speech that winter about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger was wrong. Mr. Wilson, a former ambassador to Gabon, had just published an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in which he said he had been sent to Niger by the C.I.A. the previous year to investigate an intelligence report about a possible uranium sale, and concluded that it was "highly doubtful."

Mr. Matthews said on the air, "Somebody's to blame here, and it's a very high level."

Mr. Libby testified to the grand jury about his conversation with Mr. Russert on March 5 and March 24 last year, and Mr. Russert was subpoenaed in May. NBC issued a statement at the time saying, "Russert was not the recipient of the leak," and vowed to fight the subpoena in federal court because of what it said was the potential chilling effect on its ability to cover the news. On July 20, 2004, the court rejected the network's arguments (although it did not make the decision public until Aug. 9) and on Aug. 7 Mr. Russert answered "limited questions" posed by Mr. Fitzgerald, an NBC statement said at the time.

Under an agreement with the prosecutor, NBC said, Mr. Russert did not go before the grand jury, and was not asked questions that would have required him to disclose information provided in confidence.

Steve Capus, the acting president of NBC News, said in a telephone interview Sunday that he was quite confident of Mr. Russert's ability to analyze the case on the air, despite his unusual role as a part of it. Mr. Cooper and Ms. Miller have each written first-person accounts of their own involvement.

"I feel that what we've done to date is a model of how we're going to handle this," Mr. Capus said. "We have tried to be as open as possible." He added: "I'm very comfortable with how Tim has handled himself."

As anyone who has ever watched his program during football season knows, Mr. Russert was born in Buffalo, and also worked as an adviser to former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York early in his tenure in Albany. It seems clear that some of his sharp-eyed instincts for covering the political world were honed while he worked in it, though he himself gives equal credit to "four years of Latin and going to law school."

Mr. Russert's wife, Maureen Orth, is a writer for Vanity Fair. Their son, Luke, is a student at Boston College.

Mr. Russert moves easily in the worlds of official and social Washington, in which politicians and reporters sometimes find themselves on the same playing field.

But Mr. Russert never goes out on Saturday nights, preferring to attend the 4 p.m. Catholic Mass at Georgetown University Hospital's chapel before preparing for his program.

Mr. Russert was appearing live on MSNBC with the anchor Brian Williams shortly before 1 p.m. Friday when NBC's legal correspondent, Pete Williams, who was Mr. Cheney's press secretary at the Pentagon more than a decade ago, began reading aloud from the indictment and mentioned Mr. Russert's name.

"Tim, this will be an interesting conversation," Brian Williams said. It was then that Mr. Russert first acknowledged that Mr. Libby had been calling not to explain but complain.

In the telephone interview, Mr. Russert said he had not had any particular prior relationship with Mr. Libby, and that there were "other people in the vice president's office I talk to much more regularly." He said important guests like Mr. Cheney and President Bush, who appeared during the election campaign last year, came on "Meet the Press" because "we have a significant audience."

Some of Mr. Russert's colleagues have reacted sharply to the charges about Mr. Libby's actions. On "Hardball" Friday night, Tom Brokaw, the retired NBC anchor, said of Mr. Libby: "In all the years I've been covering Washington scandals, this is the clumsiest case of lying I've ever been witness to," and said Mr. Libby "concocted this scheme, beginning by trying to set up Tim Russert."

But Mr. Russert said that he had been careful not to go beyond the facts, using the reprinted written quotations and snippets of video that are part of his patented technique. "What I did this morning is went through, very carefully, what's in the allegations, what I said, what the other reporters said," he said. "I'm not going to be judgmental."

Rove's lawyer helped fend off indictment

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The decision not to indict deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove in the CIA leak case came after last-minute negotiations with his lawyer.

Citing sources, Newsweek reported Rove's defense lawyer Robert Luskin presented special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald with evidence last week that gave the prosecutor "pause."

Luskin reportedly showed Fitzgerald an e-mail Rove sent to former press aide Adam Levine on July 11, 2003, saying Levine could come to his office to discuss a personnel matter.

The e-mail was sent just minutes after Rove had finished discussing White House critic Joe Wilson's wife's work for the CIA with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper -- the same conversation that Rove originally failed to disclose to the grand jury.

Levine told the FBI last week that Rove never said anything about Cooper. Newsweek said Levine's account helped support Luskin's argument that Rove dealt with a wide range of matters and might not remember every conversation he has had with journalists.

Newsweek said Rove remains in some jeopardy, but the consensus view of lawyers close to the case is that he has probably dodged the bullet.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.