Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In?

Time to connect some more dots. This is a long one.

Atrios brings Ari Fleischer back into the mix in the Karl Rove scandal. Let's go back to July 7 to July 12, 2003, when President Bush took his trip to Africa. Bloomberg today reported:

People familiar with the inquiry say Fitzgerald also is reviewing testimony by former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, though it is not clear whether the prosecutor is focusing on him or seeking information about higher-ups. Fleischer last night refused to comment.

We know that Fitzgerald subpoenaed the complete transcript of his July 12, 2003 press gaggle conducted at a hospital in Nigeria. We know that he subpoenaed telephone records for Air Force One during a portion of the trip. We also know that he subpoenaed the July 6 to July 30, 2003 records of the White House Iraq Group, a public relations kind of task force formed by Cheney's staff to promote the Administrations' view of the war.

We also know that the White House won't release the names of those who accompanied President Bush on the trip, although we know that Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell and Andrew Card were with him.

Why would Fitzgerald want these documents? I don't think it's to get Ari Fleischer. I think it's to catch Lewis Libby and others on Vice President Cheney's staff, and/or Karl Rove, who attended almost all the White House Iraq Group meetings, in a lie. Ari Fleischer's statements may lead Fitzgerald to the lie - and establish a conspiracy to out a covert agent or obstruct justice - or perjury or false statements to federal investigators by these White House officials.

Here are the critical quotes in Ari Fleisher's two statements, one on July 7, 2005, right before Air Force One took off, and the other at the Hospital. In addition, after Air Force One took off, another statement was issued in Fleisher's name. That one I haven't found.

Press Gaggle July 7 Ari Fleischer - right before the plane takes off for Africa.

Q Can you give us the White House account of Ambassador Wilson's account of what happened when he went to Niger and investigated the suggestions that Niger was passing yellow cake to Iraq? I'm sure you saw the piece yesterday in The New York Times.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there is zero, nada, nothing new here. Ambassador Wilson, other than the fact that now people know his name, has said all this before. But the fact of the matter is in his statements about the Vice President -- the Vice President's office did not request the mission to Niger. The Vice President's office was not informed of his mission and he was not aware of Mr. Wilson's mission until recent press accounts -- press reports accounted for it.

So this was something that the CIA undertook as part of their regular review of events, where they sent him. But they sent him on their own volition, and the Vice President's office did not request it. Now, we've long acknowledged -- and this is old news, we've said this repeatedly -- that the information on yellow cake did, indeed, turn out to be incorrect.

MR. FLEISCHER: And that's way, again, he's making the statement that -- he is saying that surely the Vice President must have known, or the White House must have known. And that's not the case, prior to the State of the Union. (my emphasis)

Q He's saying that surely people at the decision-making level within the NSC would have known the information which he -- passed on to both the State Department and the CIA.

MR. FLEISCHER: And the information about the yellow cake and Niger was not specifically known prior to the State of the Union by the White House.

Q What does that say about communications?

MR. FLEISCHER: We've acknowledged that the information turned out to be bogus involving the report on the yellow cake. That is not new. You can go back. You can look it up. Dr. Rice has said it repeatedly. I've said it repeatedly. It's been said from this podium on the record, in several instances. It's been said to many of you in this room, specifically.

Q But, Ari, even if you said that the Niger thing was wrong, the next line has usually been that the President's statement was deliberately broader than Niger, it referred to all of Africa. The national intelligence estimate discusses other countries in Africa that there were attempts to purchase yellow cake from, or other sources of uranium --

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me do this, David. On your specific question I'm going to come back and post the specific answer on the broader statement on the speech. [Note: This is the statement that was issued later that I can't find]

The next day, July 8, Condi Rice (with Ari present)gave an unusual hour long press briefing on Air Force One, in which she says she didn't know that Wilson went to Niger until she heard him on television:

DR. RICE: The IAEA reported it I believe in March. But I will tell you that, for instance, on Ambassador Wilson's going out to Niger, I learned of that when I was sitting on whatever TV show it was, because that mission was not known to anybody in the White House. And you should ask the Agency at what level it was known in the Agency.(my emphasis)

Q When was that TV show, when you learned about it?

DR. RICE: A month ago, about a month ago.

Now for the subpoenaed transript from the July 12 press gaggle:

Fleischer: He had previously obtained yellow cake from Africa. In fact, in one of the least known parts of this story, which is now, for the first time, public -- and you find this in Director Tenet's statement last night -- the official that -- lower-level official sent from the CIA to Niger to look into whether or not Saddam Hussein had sought yellow cake from Niger, Wilson, he -- and Director Tenet's statement last night states the same former official, Wilson, also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official, Wilson, meet an Iraqi delegation to discuss expanding commercial relations between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.

This is in Wilson's report back to the CIA. Wilson's own report, the very man who was on television saying Niger denies it, who never said anything about forged documents, reports himself that officials in Niger said that Iraq was seeking to contact officials in Niger about sales.

What's the relevance of all this? Former CIA Director George Tenet said in his statment of July 11, 2003, in which he took blame for the false 16 word claim about Iraq buying uranium from Niger, that Wilson's findings had been widely distributed - though he could not be certain that Bush or Cheney or other high officials had been directly informed.

Joseph Wilson said he believed that his concerns with the Iraq-uranium claim were circulated not only at the CIA, but also at the State Department and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. He told Meet the Press that Cheney's office requested and received a report on Wilson's mission from the CIA.

More inconsistencies: Andrea Mitchell reported on CNBC on July 11, 2003: (lexis.com)

MITCHELL: But, in fact, other U.S. officials tell NBC News Tenet did warn the White House that the information was not reliable in October, more than three months before the State of the Union speech. NBC News has learned that Tenet personally told Condoleezza Rice's top deputy, Stephen Hadley, to remove a reference to the Niger uranium from the speech the president gave in Cincinnati on October 7.

Vince Cannistraro, the Former Chief of Operations and Analysis, CIA Counterterrorism Center, testified before the Democratic Policy Committee that Libby and Cheney made unusual trips in or after December, 2001 to CIA headquarters to meet with desk-level analysts about WMDS and Iraq. How could they not have known that Joseph Wilson was going to Niger or known about Valerie Plame, when she sent a memo saying he'd be a good person for the CIA to send?

Toward December of 2001, intelligence report was received in Washington that alleged that Saddam Hussein had been attempting to acquire yellow cake uranium ore in Niger and two other African countries. The vice president of the United States and other senior officials in the administration seized on this information as a proof that Saddam was that clear and present danger and needed to be addressed immediately in order to eliminate that danger.In Feb., 2002, Joseph Wilson was sent by the Agency to check it out. He tthough the orders had came from high up.

The vice president and his chief of staff went out to CIA headquarters on a number of occasions -- at least on two occasions -- specifically to address the questions of weapons of mass destruction and the attempt to acquire a nuclear capability. These meetings, I'm told secondhand, were contentious, but the vice president insisted that there must be some support for this reporting of the yellow cake acquisition attempt. CIA analysts, I'm told, didn't have any independent data to verify that, but as a result of the insistent pressure being applied to the analysts and particularly to the nonproliferation center, the CIA did send, as they've said publicly, Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger.

Wilson writes in his book:

I am not prepared to argue that Republicans per se endorse the practice of government officials lying and distorting the facts, but it may be that Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff do. The man attacking my integrity and reputation -- and, I believe, quite possibly the person who exposed my wife's identity -- was the same Scooter Libby .... He is one of a handful of senior officials in the administration with both the means and the motive to conduct the covert inquiry that allowed some in the White House to learn my wife's name and status, and then disclose that information to the press.

...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. 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.

My instincts continue to tell me that it's Cheney and/or his staff, and possibly Rove, that Fitzgerald is after, and he thinks Ari Fleischer's statements can support his theory and thatJudith Miller can deliver the goods. From my post:

I think that whatever the source told her makes a case for the Government on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit perjury and obstruction of justice and conspiracy to leak a CIA undercover operative's identity. And Miller is the only one who can make the case because Cooper and Novak weren't told the same thing, even if their sources were the same. In other words, Miller was told more.....Miller's source told her something he didn't tell the others, and that information makes the crime(s).

Again, I'm just trying to follow where Fitzgerald is headed, I'm not saying anyone committed a crime. One clue: The International Herald Tribune reported on April 3, 2004:

Fitzgerald is said by lawyers involved in the case and government officials to be examining possible discrepancies between documents he has gathered in the case and statements made by current or former White House officials during a three-month preliminary investigation conducted last fall by the FBI and the Justice Department. Some officials spoke to FBI agents with their lawyers present; others met informally with agents in their offices and even at bars near the White House.

...The suspicion that someone may have lied to investigators is based on contradictions between statements made by various witnesses in FBI interviews, the lawyers and officials said. The conflicts are said to be buttressed by documents, including memos, e-mail messages and phone records turned over by the White House.

At the same time, Fitzgerald is said to be investigating whether the disclosure of Plame's identity came after someone discovered her name among classified documents circulating at the upper echelons of the White House.

And one more from the Associated Press on July 11, 2003:

One of the mysteries congressional investigators seem intent to explore is how much Cheney knew. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday that Cheney was not informed nor aware of the CIA report casting doubt on the British allegations. But Wilson, the former envoy who helped the CIA write the report, said in an NBC-TV interview last Sunday that Cheney's office requested and received from the CIA a report on Wilson's mission.

[All unlinked sources are available on Lexis.com]

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    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#1)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:11 PM EST
    Jeff Gannon is another dot. Remembering some of the stuff I discovered in the research I did for my paper, I have a distinct feeling he will be connected in the as well before too long.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:11 PM EST
    Can someone explain for me why Rice said: "Ambassador Wilson's going out to Niger, I learned of that when I was sitting on whatever TV show it was, because that mission was not known to anybody in the White House. And you should ask the Agency at what level it was known in the Agency.(my emphasis) Q When was that TV show, when you learned about it? DR. RICE: A month ago, about a month ago. If Wilson's article had been published two days before how did Rice learn about it on a TV show "about a month ago?" I remember Wilson's info was being cited before he went public but I don't remember it being big enough to merit a mention on a TV show. Anyboby Lexis/Nexis this to see when it came up and how Rice responded? Thanks.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Dick Durata on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:12 PM EST
    Cheney was running: 1. The Feith-based DoD intelligence group. 2. Bolton, at DoS. 3. In person trips to the CIA for intimidation. 4. Miller??!??. It all comes back to Cheney. Wilson must have been put on the Niger case due to a lapse and possibly some old school maneuvering, and they thought he had enough credentials to pose a threat when he wrote the OP-ED. Somehow (Miller?), Rove was activated to slime Wilson through his usual Media Whores (Novak). When push comes to shove, it's always clear that the POTUS is an empty shell, and that Cheney makes all the real calls. It's a secret administration mostly off the radar screens of the media, and based on loyalties that are not part of the official chain of command. Where it is going to take us is not for late night musing if one wants to sleep.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:12 PM EST
    I think this is much bigger than discrediting Wilson and leaking the name of an undercover agent - not that that isn't a huge deal! But Rove usually has others do his dirty work for him and he took a big chance by leaking to Matt Cooper who is somewhat of a newbie by Washington standards. I keep thinking that Rove's attack on Wilson was a ruse to divert attention away from what they are really hiding. We know Valerie Plame was a WMD expert and there weren't many at the CIA with her level of expertise. Maybe she was the target all along and by exposing her identity, it also destroyed her entire network. She would be in the best position to uncover the "fixing of facts and intelligence" and the players involved. Tenet was furious when Plame was outed and he's the one who demanded an investigation. Also, I think he quit on the same day that Bush retained a personal lawyer. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but after all he'd put up with - what caused him to suddenly resign in the middle of the night? I feel like I'm looking at all the pieces but trying to solve the wrong puzzle.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:12 PM EST
    What did he know and when did he know it? hmmmmmmm But first it is important to remember despite the on going lies of the rightwing loonies -Valerie Plame did not send her husband to Niger. Not only was Rove spinning but lying to do it ...Rumplestiltskin would be so proud

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:12 PM EST
    Interesting..I always thought that Ari guy was crooked

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Kitt on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:12 PM EST
    Here's a poll over at MSNBC (Rita's new network) regarding Joe Wilson call for the president to keep his word.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:12 PM EST
    I think its Judy Miller not Ari who can provide the link between Cheney's staff, the WH Iraq Group and the criminal leaking or lying. I think Judy's own complicity in the crimes is the real reason why she's not testified to the Grand Jury and her 1st amendment claim is a convenient attempt at a cover for herself and the NYT. I think that after 4 months when she comes out, Fitzgerald is going to hit her with another GJ subpoena and she's either going to have to assert her 5th amendment privilege not to testify because what she may say may incriminate her,(and then she and the NYT are publicly toast for complicity in criminal activity against the national interest-even if they don't get indicted), or she'll have to testify or go back to jail for criminal contempt. All bad choices in front of her. And then Fitzgerald will have the link to the leak and/or the lies. I think he'll wait for it, too. i think the NYT made a huge mistake by not throwing Judy under the bus back when they could've, should've done so. Now their fate is tied to hers and its nothing but bad from here on as I see it.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#9)
    by theologicus on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:12 PM EST
    Miller's source told her something he didn't tell the others, and that information makes the crime(s). Inquiring minds want to know: Is Miller potentially part of a criminal cover-up, or some other criminal activity? otishungry thinks she's complicit in the crimes. Where does she fit in the great metaphysical dot-connection scheme?

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#10)
    by theologicus on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:13 PM EST
    The Inquiring Mind connects a dot. It's Miller Time. From Washington Post, Thursday, July 7, 2005; Page A01 Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said: "This is not a case of a whistle-blower" revealing secret information to Miller about "dangers at a nuclear power plant. It's a case in which the information she was given and her potential use of it was a crime. . . . This is very different than a whistle-blower outing government misconduct." [via the Mark A. R. Kleiman weblog]

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:13 PM EST
    The Bush assministration withheld the Niger forgery from the IAEA for SIX MONTHS. During any of that time, the paper could easily have been debunked. The CIA itself declared the paper a likely forgery, long before the SOTU. The evidence is overwhelming that it was used intentionally, as part of the fake evidence that was ginned up to drive the country to war. And it is part of a propaganda set: The Niger yellowcake = raw materials. The aluminum tubes = supposed manufacturing ability. Powell's nonexistent Mobile Labs = ability to avoid inspection. The Drones of Death (a flimsy model airplane with a range of maybe 60 miles) = delivery system. These lies were a set. A similar set of lies is being deployed against Plame, and of course the lies intending to justify the pogroms in Iraq is yet another set. There is a weird linearity to these propaganda sets, a thinktank logic which sticks out by being so simplistic. These uses of warmongering propagnda sets are impeachable offenses in part, and in their multiple parts.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:13 PM EST
    Rice: "Iraq was seeking to contact officials in Niger about sales." Carefully picking her words to give the impression that this Iraqi commercial mission was about yellowcake sales. Wilson has said nothing of the sort -- Rice was LYING. This is just the yellowcake lie, reasserted. She should be on trial for treason along with Rove.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:13 PM EST
    Oops, that was Fleischer saying that, not Rice. She's still a traitor.

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:25 PM EST
    Of course, your confused logic tree hits a snag with tonite's revelation that the CIA memo with words 'husband and wife' (though not by name) was faxed to AF1 on July 7th and that it becomes entirely possible the leak stems from an encounter on AF1 that very day. Despite efforts to the contrary you have managed to figure out what's really going on here: that Fitz's investigation is no longer about whether Novak's source committed a crime but about whether that source, or one of his/her minions, committed perjury. [Fitzgerald's grand jury (along with nearly every DC defense attny) has already determined that Plame is not a member of the 1982 law's protected class: The CIA had ceased efforts to conceal her identity and she hadn't been on a overseas clandestine services posting in over 5 years] Thankfully Bill Clinton made perjury a non-crime....

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:25 PM EST
    I've mentioned the shift in the investigation from outing the agent to perjury and obstruction of justice umpteen times on other posts, beginning here. Feel free to check more of the other of the 100 or so posts I've written in the Valerie Plame category

    Re: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In? (none / 0) (#16)
    by Tom Maguire on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:35 PM EST
    The television show Ms. Rice had forgotten was "Meet The Press", and her belly-flop caught some attention - here is Nick Kristof taking a victory lap on June 13: Condoleezza Rice was asked on "Meet the Press" on Sunday about a column of mine from May 6 regarding President Bush's reliance on forged documents to claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa. That was not just a case of hyping intelligence, but of asserting something that had already been flatly discredited by an envoy investigating at the behest of the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. Ms. Rice acknowledged that the president's information turned out to be "not credible," but insisted that the White House hadn't realized this until after Mr. Bush had cited it in his State of the Union address. And here is the May 6 column in question. Folks familiar with the Senate Subcommittee on Intelligence report from July 2004 will notice that much of Kristof May 6 effort is poorly informed; it is now public knowledge that his source was Wilson. For example: I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged. Wilson told them in March 2002 that the documents were forged?!? Wow, he's pretty good - the US did not even take possession of the documents until the fall of 2002.

    Poor Ari Fleischer (none / 0) (#17)
    by john horse on Tue Jan 23, 2007 at 06:29:49 PM EST
    Did anyone get a chuckle from the fact that former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer had to be immunized before he could start telling the truth.  It seems that after years of spreading Bush's lies and bs, Fleischer just couldn't handle the truth without some protection.