Woodward's Source Becomes Issue at Libby Hearing

At today's hearing on Lewis "Scooter" Libby's motion to compel discovery, Libby won one round and lost another. While he prevailed on his request to have his handwritten notes turned over to him, he lost his attempt to learn the identity of a government official who told two reporters that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA.

To defend himself against criminal charges, however, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby does have the right to copies of all the classified notes he took as Cheney's chief of staff from spring 2003 to spring 2004, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said. Libby sought the notes to refresh his memory about matters he was handling while discussing Plame with reporters and when questioned by investigators about those conversations.

....Walton's decision to continue to protect the anonymity of one administration official, whom Libby's attorneys described as a confidential source about Plame for two reporters, one of them apparently Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, is a blow to Libby's case. Defense attorneys had said they needed to know the official's identity and the details of his conversations with the two journalists to show that Libby was not lying when he testified that many reporters knew about Plame's identity. But Walton said the source's identity is not relevant, and there is no reason to sully the source's reputation because the person faces no charges.

So, Woodward's source talked to two reporters. Was the second reporter Walter Pincus or Bob Novak?

Defense attorneys in yesterday's hearing described the official as someone who did not work at the White House and was the source for two reporters. They said that one of those reporters had revealed in November that he learned about Plame from the official in mid-June 2003.

Woodward came forward in November to reveal that he had learned about Plame's CIA status from an administration official in mid-June 2003. Novak said in a speech in December that President Bush knew the identity of his source, and suggested that the official also was Woodward's source. Sources close to the leak investigation have said that Woodward and Novak received similar information from the same official.

Any ideas on who the official is? Speculation has centered on Richard Armitage and Stephen Hadley.

On another Libby request -- to turn over a year's worth of presidential daily briefings -- the court didn't rule today but made these comments:

Walton said he is concerned that Libby's request could "sabotage" the case because President Bush probably will invoke executive privilege and refuse to turn over the classified reports.

"The vice president - his boss - said these are the family jewels," the judge said, referring to Cheney's past description of the daily briefings. "If the executive branch says, 'This is too important to the welfare of the nation and we're not going to comply,' the criminal prosecution goes away."

Libby's lawyers see it differently.

Ted Wells, another Libby lawyer, said the judge shouldn't worry about provoking the president, the CIA or the media and needs to take time to make sure Libby gets the evidence he needs to defend himself. "If it's done in a quick and dirty way, he's going to be convicted," Wells said.

I agree with Wells on that one. Either the material is discoverable or it isn't. If it is, the judge should order Fitzgerald to turn it over and not concern himself with whether the President or Vice President will claim privilege. If the Government chooses to dismiss the case rather than turn the documents over, that's its perogative. I don't see why the Judge cares one way or the other. On the other hand, if the material isn't discoverable, then the Judge should say so and that's the end of the discussion at the trial court level.

It sounds like this judge is wedded to the January, 2007 trial date and doesn't want to make any orders that could result in further delays. He does so at the risk that if convicted, his rushing the case to trial will give Libby more grounds for appeal.

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  • Sorry, but all the info that says that Woodward is one of the two reporters in question is coming from Libby's lawyers --- and Libby's lawyers are also saying that "everybody knows" referred to knowledge about Plame, and not just knowledge about Wilson being the guy who went to Niger. Secondly, the phrase "everybody knows" came from a taped interview with investigators --- in other words, it does not sound like something that was said "under oath." The phrase itself also strongly suggests that the source was describing his conversation with a reporter (i.e. "I said 'everybody knows'") rather than relaying the information that "everybody knew" to the investigators. Woodward's account suggests that his source did not communicate the idea that "everyone knows Plame is CIA and married to Wilson"..... There is, in other words, some decided inconsistencies with the idea that Woodward is, in fact, one of the "two reporters". My guess... Andrea Mitchell is one of the two reporters in question, and Dick Cheney is the name that Libby's lawyers want disclosed. "Everybody knows that Wilson is the guy who went to Niger" is precisely the kind of cocktail chatter Dick Cheney would convey to Mrs Alan Greenspan at a high-end DC social soiree.... Comstock isn't working for Libby, but for the White House, and is trying to do two things -- first off, get Cheney's name out there as a "source" on Plame so Rove can jettison Cheney, and secondly, find a justification to put Bob Woodward under oath --- knowing that he will fight any supoena with the Post's backing... thereby possibly destroying the case itself.

    so Rove can jettison Cheney Disaster. The best chance for the Democrats to take over the WH is to keep Cheney in office.

    If (and this seems to be coming only from Libby's side) this quote is true, "the official as someone who did not work at the White House" that lets out Pincus. Pincus's source was a WH official.
    Pincus, who spoke with Fitzgerald early in the case after his source said he could, has never revealed who told him that Wilson's wife helped arrange the trip to Niger. Pincus has said the source was not Libby, and has described the person as a "White House official" who called him. The source came forward to the prosecutor and released Pincus to discuss their conversation with Fitzgerald but not with the public. WaPo 10/20/06

    Re: Woodward's Source Becomes Issue at Libby Hear (none / 0) (#3)
    by Tom Maguire on Sat Feb 25, 2006 at 01:52:48 PM EST
    Go with Polly, who is like a swooping eagle here - Pincus told NPR (And the WaPo published) that his source was from the White House. I think we are down to Novak by elimination: Cooper matches to Rove and Libby; Miller would be a possibility in the sense that she wrote that she recalled having more sources than just Libby, *EXCEPT* - it certainly looks as if everyone in the court knows what two reporters we are talking about, and Miller did not name other names to Fitzgerald. As to Armitage and Hadley - Hadley was in the White House and this source was not. I take p luk's point that the WaPo seems to be passing along defense contentions about the source, but this was a court proceeding - wouldn't the prosecution have corrected them if they were making misprepresentations to the judge about things like whether the source was in the White House? Or is the WaPo mingling actual courtroom arguments with hallway backgrounders? This is ambiguous: Defense attorneys in yesterday's hearing described the official as someone who did not work at the White House and was the source for two reporters. Does that mean "Defense attorneys during the hearing described the official...", or "Defense attorneys who were present in the hearing later exaplained to reporters that..."? Groan. Lots of Novak-Armitage-Woodward stuff here - Woodward said some interesting things at Harvard, and Novak has liked Armitage as a source for years (they both opposed the neocons, too).