What Did Libby Tell Russert?

Slate's Mickey Kaus today has an interesting theory on what Lewis Libby told Tim Russert.

kf hears, through trustworthy and knowledgeable sources, that in his conversation with Russert Libby gave vent to the archetypal (and wrongheaded) charge that Matthews was animated by anti-Semitism--presumably because Matthews talked a lot about "neoconservative" Bush aides and war supporters and interviewed guests (such as Pat Caddell) who did too.

Kaus proffers that NBC wants to keep this quiet, thus it has not confirmed that Libby's call to Russert was prompted by this Hardball Show and comments by Chris Matthews.

There's one problem with this theory: According to an August 9, 2004 statement by NBC, as reported July 16, 2005 by Adam Liptak of the New York Times and available at Media Bistro, and as I noted here, Russert was not deposed about what Libby told him, only about what he told Libby. But read on, because Kaus may have worked around the problem.

Under an agreement subsequently reached with the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Russert was not required to appear before the grand jury and was not asked questions that would have required him to disclose information provided to him in confidence. Instead, the Special Prosecutor's questions addressed a telephone conversation initiated by Mr. Libby and focused on what Mr. Russert said during that conversation. Mr. Libby had previously told the FBI about the conversation and had formally requested that the conversation be disclosed. The Special Prosecutor can share Mr. Russert's answers with the grand jury.

The July 16, 2005 New York Times article by Adam Liptak reported:

According to the statement, lawyers for Mr. Russert and Mr. Fitzgerald reached an agreement under which Mr. Fitzgerald questioned Mr. Russert only about Mr. Russert's end of a conversation in early July 2003 with Mr. Libby. That would be an unusual way to go about pursuing a leak inquiry, but it is consistent with an attempt to try to establish that Mr. Russert provided information to Mr. Libby.

Kaus may have an answer to the conundrum in an earlier column, as noted today by Arianna.

Buried Lede--What was in the ellipsis: It turns out that what Russert left out, when he read the transcript of John Seigenthaler's August 7, 2004 newscast on last Sunday's Meet, is the following half-sentence:

"... and was not asked questions that required him to disclose information provided in confidence."

Hmm. Does that mean this half-sentence is no longer operative? That Russert has now, in fact, given (or agreed to give) the special prosecutor "information provided in confidence," violating whatever promise to Libby he had previously asserted? (Specifically, he might have told Fitzgerald what Libby told him as well as what he told Libby.**) ...

< Report: Rove May Be Looking at False Statement Charge | IRS Warns Church With Anti-War Rector >
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