Russert and Libby and the Complaint About a Reporter

Tim Russert said today that Lewis Libby called him to complain about a reporter's comments on a cable show. He did not identify the reporter or the show.

In Lewis Libby's indictment, the Government charges:

On or about July 10, 2003, LIBBY spoke to NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert to complain about press coverage of LIBBY by an MSNBC reporter. LIBBY did not discuss Wilson’s wife with Russert. (page 7, Paragraph 20.)

I think I found the show transcript. It's Hardball for July 8, 2003. The reporter is Chris Matthews. It does sound like something Libby would complain about because Matthews keeps saying that the Vice President's office had the CIA send Joseph Wilson to Niger. I'll bet Libby was steaming. Here's the portion of the transcript (available on lexis.com):

MATTHEWS: ... I think it's a very aggravating situation over there, and very questionable how long we are going to stay, et cetera. But I want to get back to this. Last year the CIA sent -- the Central Intelligence Agency sent ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate whether that country sold uranium to Iraq.

He, the former ambassador, concluded it was highly doubtful that such a transaction had taken place. And he told Andrea Mitchell on your "MEET THE PRESS" that he was, quote, "absolutely convinced that Dick Cheney's office, the vice president's office was aware of his report before the State of the Union Address."

I want to ask you, Congressman Weldon, does it disturb you? The possibility that the vice president of the United States, his office, learned that this uranium information wasn't accurate, that Saddam Hussein did not try to buy uranium from Africa, and yet they let the president go ahead and say that in his State of the Union Address? Does that bother you?

WELDON: It bothers me that our president used information in his speech to the nation and the world that was not based upon solid evidence and was not backed up and corroborated by our intelligence agency. That bothers me.

MATTHEWS: Why would the vice president's office, Scooter Libby or whoever is running that office -- why would they send a CIA effort down in Niger to verify something, find out there wasn't a uranium sale, and then not follow-up by putting that information -- or correcting that information -- in the president's State of the Union? If they went to the trouble to sending Joe Wilson all the way to Africa to find out whether that country had ever sold uranium to Saddam Hussein, why wouldn't they follow-up on that?

WELDON: Well, that's a question that needs to be answered. I don't know the answer to that. I know Scooter Libby, and I would say this is a legitimate question that many of us have been raising about the specifics in the president's speech and whether or not it was -- we were able to verify the information relative to the attempted purchase of uranium.

....MATTHEWS: Congressman Weldon, it is now in mid-July. This occurred in mid-January. Does it bother you it took the White House until the president was out of the country and to have someone release this information on background without direct attribution to some official at the White House. It looks to me like they tried to bury this bad information today.

Then Matthews interviews Al Sharpton.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's talk about a big head. And former ambassador, Joe Wilson, said that this was cleared by the vice president's office. They are the ones who sent him to Africa to find out whether it was true or not, whether it was action -- there was traffic in nuclear materials between the country of Niger and the country of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He came back and said there was nothing going on like that six months before the speech. Doesn't the vice president's office hold the greatest culpability here for not acting on that truth?

Next, Matthews talks to Howard Fineman:

MATTHEWS: Howard, I worked at the White House. Nothing gets through the president's speech making equipment, is operational unless it's been signed off by the National Security Council, by the State Department, by the vice president's office, by the CIA.

How could all those institutions of government have signed off on something they knew to be false, because the vice president's office sent the CIA down to Niger and Joe Wilson came back and said there was nothing to the story?

Then he goes to Tony Blankley:

MATTHEWS: What about if the vice president's office knew, having sent Joe Wilson down to Niger and found out that there wasn't any such deal over uranium and allowed the president to say what they knew not to be true.

Matthews then sums up:

MATTHEWS: Just to recap, here's what we know. Joe Wilson, a former ambassador in the United States government, was sent to Niger to establish there whether there was in fact an arms deal for nuclear materials between Saddam Hussein and the government of Niger.

He came back and reported back to the CIA at the behest of the vice president's office, that there was no such deal. That office of the vice president, whoever is in there, Scooter Libby on down, or the vice president himself, never told the president that there was nothing to that, that that was a dry hole story. And yet, the president went on television, telling the American people it was true. Somebody's to blame here, and it's a very high level and it's not speculating.

< Memory is Not the Issue for Libby | "Official A" is Karl Rove >
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    "MATTHEWS: Why would the vice president's office, Scooter Libby or whoever is running that office --" That had to steam Cheney.

    Re: Russert and Libby and the Complaint About a Re (none / 0) (#3)
    by veloer on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:30 PM EST
    Russert = TV off button.

    Chris Mathews always speaks with "inexactitude" when he discusses these kinds of details. He is intellectually very lazy. He is constantly contradicting even himself on the same show, switching back and forth between different versions of the same claim. Even now he mistakenly makes this same claim (Cheney sent Wilson) AFTER being inundated by watchers via email NOT to make this mis-representaion about WHO sent Wilson to Niger. It is IRONIC in the extreme that this whole thing got started due to Mathews' poor choice of words. The nation owes him a debt of gratitude for pulling the first piece of the string on the ball of yarn that is about to unravel of what is left of the Bush Administration.

    Chris Mathews always speaks with "inexactitude" when he discusses these kinds of details. Yep, sounds like Matthews is the one who didn't read Wilson's Op-Ed clearly, who couldn't process the facts and present them to his audience clearly. It's another typical CM word-dump. Matthews is the reason for all the confusion on the source of Wilson's trip -- yet everyone blames Wilson. It was Matthews who couldn't get it straight. TL, you did a great job on this one. I hope it gets posted at Hufffington for wider dissemenation.

    I too have written Chris Matthews at least five times regarding his inaccurate claim that Wilson said/wrote that Cheney's office sent him to Niger, even pasting the relevant paragraph from his NYT op-ed in the last e-mail. The last time I pointed out that even Wolf Blitzer finally got it right the other day and corrected Bay Buchanan. Having said that, in this morning's NYT, Douglas Jehl wrote this: "Mr. Wilson suggested that he had taken the trip at the behest of Cheney's office and that the office had been briefed on his findings." I have been looking for the transcript of Wilson's appearance on MTP to which Jehl refers, but can't find it. If anyone has the link, please post. Thanks

    Joe Wilson on Meet the Press with Andrea Mitchell, July 6, 2003. Transcript from Just One Minute.
    In actual fact, in my judgment, I have not seen the estimate either, but there were reports based upon my trip that were submitted to the appropriate officials. The question was asked of the CIA by the office of the vice president. The office of the vice president, I am absolutely convinced, received a very specific response to the question it asked and that response was based upon my trip out there.
    One more quote from Wilson:
    Andrea, when I was in the National Security Council, I was senior director for African affairs, and subsequent to that, when I wrote this article, I checked with members of the then-vice president’s staff, senior members, as well as other senior members of the NSC staff, to refresh my own memory. And standard operating procedure has always been if you are senior enough to ask the question, you will get a very specific response. And if you are in the vice president’s office, or you’re a senior director at the National Security Council, you are senior enough to ask the question, you will get a specific response, unless the operating procedures have changed, which would be a shame.

    Re: Russert and Libby and the Complaint About a Re (none / 0) (#8)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:05:33 PM EST
    One very curious thing (of many) is this quote from the Mitchell interview:
    AMB. WILSON: .....When I came back from Niger, and debriefed, I had not, of course, seen the documents, but one of the points that I made was if these documents did not contain certain signatures—specifically, the signature of the Minister of Energy and mine and the prime minister—then they could not be authentic.
    (emphasis mine) According to josh marshall the US received transcriptions of the 'Niger Forgeries' both shortly after 9/11 and in early 2002. Obviously anyone who had knowledge of Niger and its yellowcake industry would immediately know that the info was bogus. What was Cheney hoping for from Wilson? Since he knew Wilson was the last US official to meet with Saddam, as Wilson puts it
    ...in 1990, as chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam...
    did he think Wilson was on board because he hated Saddam enough to support already debunked claims?
    ...... while the Niger forgeries themselves first appeared in Rome in October 2002 ... the foreign intelligence service reports in late 2001 and early 2002 were themselves text transcriptions of those same forged documents.