Fitzgerald Widening His Probe

[Warning: This is another one of those posts intended only for the seriously addicted PlameGate followers among you. While I mostly refer to TalkLeft posts in which I talk about Fitzgerald's likely concentration on the White House Iraq Group and the Defense Policy Board, I do so because in each post I support my speculation with quotes from a wide variety of news sources that I find myself returning to time and again to support the theory. Those sources are the reason to click on my prior posts, far more than my conclusions. ]

So, the latest: The Wall Street Journal (free link) reports today that Fitzgerald is widening his probe.

There are signs that prosecutors now are looking into contacts between administration officials and journalists that took place much earlier than previously thought. Earlier conversations are potentially significant, because that suggests the special prosecutor leading the investigation is exploring whether there was an effort within the administration at an early stage to develop and disseminate confidential information to the press that could undercut former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Central Intelligence Agency official Valerie Plame.

Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims.

Raw Story reports similar news.

I opined here:

No matter where I start, I always end up at the same place: with Cheney and Libby's visits to CIA headquarters to strongarm the analysts into finding information to support the Administration's position there were WMD's in Iraq. That's what led to the CIA's decision to send Wilson to Iraq. And when he didn't, it led to the Administration's attempt to discredit the CIA - and Wilson, by extension.

How did the plan take shape? Through the White House Iraq Group. And the Defense Policy Board. Remember when Fitzgerald subpoenaed the records of who was on Air Force One when it went to Africa on July 7, 2003? I wrote then:

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.

....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 that Judith Miller can deliver the goods.

I also wondered whether Karl Rove, as an attendee at most of the White House Iraq Group meetings, had thrown Libby under the bus.

Now that we know Matt Cooper's sources were Lewis Libby and Karl Rove, the question that needs answering is: Where did Karl Rove get the information....Was it through attending meetings of the White House Iraq Group with Lewis Libby? I hate to sound like a broken record, but I keep returning to these four articles....

But, being the broken record that I am, I continued here:

My guess: All roads still lead to the White House Iraq Group, Office of Special Plans and Defense Policy Board: Libby, Luti, John Hannah, Stephen Hadley, Robert Joseph, to name a few.

There's plenty of quotes for those with the patience to follow the dots. For more on the Defense Policy Board, check out The Lie Factory at Mother Jones.

In this post, I wrote:

I think the key here is the White House Iraq Group. It was created to increase support for the Administration's reasons for going to war. Participants in the weekly meetings included:

...senior political adviser Karl Rove; communication strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas Calio; policy advisers led by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley; and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Newsday reported on November 11, 2004:

Among those confirming that they appeared before the grand jury led by a special Justice Department prosecutor appointed six weeks ago are chief White House spokesman Scott McClellan, former press aide Adam Levine and Republican consultant Mary Matalin, who served as a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

...In the grand jury sessions, press aides were confronted with internal White House documents, mainly e-mails and telephone logs, between White House aides and reporters and questioned about conversations with reporters, according to sources and reports.

...The logs indicate that several White House officials talked to Novak shortly before the appearance of his July 14 column, the Washington Post reported. According to the New York Times, the set of documents that prosecutors repeatedly referred to in their meetings with White House aides are extensive notes compiled by I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser.

....The FBI has interviewed Rove, Libby, McClellan, Levine, Matalin, White House communications director Dan Bartlett, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Cheney aide Cathie Martin, the Post reported.

....In my view, this is much bigger than a simple perjury rap. It's about conspiracy to obstruct justice. I think the case is strongest against Lewis Libby and other members of Cheney's staff, possibly including Cheney - but it may also be strong against all members of the White House Iraq Group, and Karl Rove attended many of those meetings. So he's not off the hook.

Back to Miller and Libby.

I think the issue is, did Libby tell Miller about a meeting he was at with Dick Cheney - or other members of the White House Iraq Group - at which a plan to discredit Joseph Wilson using his wife's CIA status was hatched? It's seeming more and more likely.

Just last week, I wrote:

It's possible there will be no indictments in this case. But, my instincts tell me there will be, and they will relate to perjury and making a false statement to a federal official, or a conspiracy of some sort, rather than to the actual leak of Valerie Plame's identity. Maybe Cheney will be one of those caught in a false statements or conspiracy charge. Since he's considered the most powerful man in Washington, it's unlikely. His staff, and the White House Iraq Group, however, may not fare so well.

Judith Miller isn't the only one going back to the grand jury this week. So is Karl Rove. Does he have plans to give up the White House Iraq Group or is it too late? Or did he already do it?

This is the time, as I wrote here, you can expect the lawyers for those about to be indicted to be doing the most spinning.

....as it gets closer to October, you can expect the lawyers for those most likely to be indicted to begin playing their defense in the media. It seems like it's getting to be "each man for himself" time over at the White House, and Rove is starting the dump on Libby. No way is Rove going to allow himself to go down alone.

More on that here. So far, the only lawyers talking to the media are Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin and Libby's lawyer Joseph Tate. What does that tell you?

Don't forget check in with the other PlameGate addicted bloggers today who will surely weigh in on this, my favorites being: Arianna, Jane Hamsher, Tom Maguire, Empty Wheel, David Corn, and Digby, to name a few.

< Miller to Testify Again Before Grand Jury | AP Runs Rove's Political Obituary >
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    Re: Fitzgerald Widening His Probe (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:54 PM EST
    For more on the Iraq Survey Group and PlameGate, see: "All the President's Men - and Women." For a complete Rove/PlameGate document collection, check out: "The Rove/PlameGate Scandal Resource Center."

    Re: Fitzgerald Widening His Probe (none / 0) (#2)
    by Tom Maguire on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:55 PM EST
    As a Great American might have said, don't get too far out on that WSJ story - I smell a rat. The Wash Post ran substantively the same story *exactly* two years ago - I really think someone at the WSJ or elsewhere has lost control of their timestamps. Put another way - we have known for months that Fitzgerald was interested in the INR memo from June 10. Is the WSJ breaking that news now? Of course not - they had one of the key stories on that.

    Re: Fitzgerald Widening His Probe (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:55 PM EST
    My own minor addendum to all this is the institutional dynamic involved. Many in Cheney's circle, including Cheney himself as well as key players in WHIG, OSP cut their intel teeth serving old B-Team operation to second-guess CIA conclusions about the Soviets. The idea being that the CIA was not sufficiently hyping the threat. Turns out the B-Team was dead wrong but that doesn't appear to have ever given any of them pause. After the USSR collapsed and Clinton got elected they switched their obsession to the ME and Iraq in particular, and applied the same set of mistaken, amateurish, ideology-driven tools to the problem. I think you've got a Pros vs Amateurs thing going on. I think Valerie Wilson was a Pro, and the Pro faction at CIA had an interest in exposing the lunacy of their new Neocon, ex-B-Team overlords who were trying to do the whole B-Team thing all over only now with real heavy political weight behind 'em. There's even a theory that the Niger forgeries were part of a scheme to expose the ineptitude of the Neocons (their obvious crudeness meant as a trap only an amateur would fall for). I suspect this is the lens through which the WHIGnuts viewed the Wilson mission. "Rogue operation!" they told themselves (and us), meaning "An operation by the non-Team Players." You've got two factions dedicated to discrediting the other. And it looks very much now like the Pros are going to come out on top, while the Amateurs get seriously burned. This aspect must truly scour the souls of Libby, Cheney and crew. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.

    Re: Fitzgerald Widening His Probe (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:55 PM EST
    Tom-You must have linked the wrong WAPO article as it bears no resemblence to ttodats WSJ story. The main point of today's WSJ story is that the probe is widening. If you did provide the correct WAPO link and have read the WSJ article the rat you are smelling may be yourself.

    Re: Fitzgerald Widening His Probe (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    Digby posts a great response to his WHIG post
    conservative journalist Robert George wrote in to give me a heads up about a post he wrote earlier (and cross posted on the Huffington Post) about "those two tense weeks in July" on both sides of the atlantic. This was the same period, you'll remember, in which the "sexed up" British dossier came to a head and resulted in the suicide of one of the major players in that saga.