Ari Fleischer is a Dangerous Witness for Libby

Ari Fleischer is a very dangerous witness for Scooter Libby. Check out Fitz's affidavit from August, 2004 submitted in the Judith Miller subpoena suit, which was unsealed by the Court in February, 2006. You can read the unredacted portions in the Court's opinion here or in my prior summary with lengthy quotes.

It's not just that Libby allegedly told Fleischer at lunch on July 7 before Fleischer left for Africa with President Bush that Joseph Wilson's wife worked in the Counterproliferation area of the CIA and that she was involved in the decision to send Wilson to Niger. It's that Fleisher told Fitz and the grand jury that Libby told him the information was "hush-hush" and "on the qt."

For example, then-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer recalls that over lunch on July 7, the day before Libby's meeting with Miller, Libby told him, "[T]he Vice-President did not send Ambassador Wilson to Niger . . . the CIA sent Ambassador Wilson to Niger. . . . [H]e was sent by his wife. . . . [S]he works in . . . the Counterproliferation area of the CIA." (II-545-47.) Describing the lunch as "kind of weird" (II-590-91), and noting that Libby typically "operated in a very closed-lip fashion" (II-592), Fleischer recalled that Libby "added something along the lines of, you know, this is hush-hush, nobody knows about this. This is on the q.t." (II-546-47.) Though Libby remembers the lunch meeting, and even says he thanked Fleischer for making a statement about the Niger issue, he denies discussing Wilson's wife. (I-108-09, 156, 226-27.)

Libby is denying he discussed Valerie Wilson with Fleischer at lunch on July 7. He either has to destroy Fleischer's credibility at trial--or else convince the jury that Fleischer was mistaken. He stated as much in his Third Motion to Compel, filed March 17:

On cross-examination at trial, the defense will be entitled to question Mr. Fleischer on issues such as: (1) when and how he learned about Ms. Wilson's identity; (2) the nature of his conversations with reporters; and (3) any efforts he undertook to criticize Mr. Wilson. If the press reports are correct, and Mr. Fleischer disclosed information concerning Ms. Wilson to reporters, he himself may have been a subject of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation. Mr. Fleischer may thus have a motive to shade his testimony. Such possible bias will be vigorously explored on cross-examination.

Libby faces a tough road with Fleischer on two fronts: First, If Libby told Fleischer on July 7 that Wilson's wife's employment with the CIA and her role in sending Wilson to Niger was "hush-hush" and "on the q.t.", what are the chances his memory failed him by October and November, 2003 (pdf) , just three months later? It was in October and November that he told the FBI he first learned about Plame from Russert in a conversation that occurred days after his lunch with Fleischer?

Second, Libby discussed Valerie Wilson and her employment with other government officials in June and July, 2003, including his CIA staffer, Cheney and Grossman. Fitz says on page 11 of the affidavit that Libby has acknowledged being told by Cheney that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA in early June, 2003 and that Marc Grossman told him in early June, 2003 that "our people say she was involved in the organization fo his trip."

How could he have forgotten all of those conversations by October?

This January 23, 2006 letter (pdf) from Fitzgerald to Libby's lawyers also makes it clear that Fitz believes Libby was discussing Joseph Wilson, his wife and the trip to Niger in the Spring of 2003 with reporters and government officials.

I believe Fleischer has cut a deal, possibly for immunity, to testify against Libby. Libby in his late night filing (pdf) Wednesday clearly signaled his intent to go after Fleischer. First, there is a sealed declaration by Libby's lawyer dated April 12, 2006 that pertains to Fleischer (page 14, footnote 4). Second, Team Libby states on pages 14-15:

Mr. Fleischer may have learned about Ms. Wilson's identity from someone at the State Department or the CIA. The defense therefore needs access to any documents discussing Mr. Wilson, his wife, or his trip to Niger that may be found in the White House or at other agencies. Such documents are needed to investigate properly when and how Mr. Fleischer learned that Ms. Wilson worked for the CIA and when and with whom (other than Mr. Libby) he discussed that fact.

In our moving brief, the defense pointed to an even more specific reason to scrutinize the government's proffered version of Mr. Fleischer's testimony. Press accounts suggest that Mr. Fleischer may have learned about Ms. Wilson during his trip to Africa after seeing it in a classified report sent to Mr. Powell on Air Force One and then disclosed this information to reporters. Yet, the government claims that nothing further is required for Mr. Fleischer's cross-examination than "a copy of the report in question." (Id. at 12.) In so arguing, the government is once again attempting to dictate which defenses may be raised and which allegations in the indictment may be challenged. Nothing in Rule 16 or the case law of this Circuit suggests that the defense should be limited to cross-examining Mr. Fleischer with only the one report that the government deigns to disclose.

Other documents, totally unrelated to the report, may show that Mr. Fleischer learned about Ms. Wilson from someone other than Mr. Libby. Also, the substance of the report is not as important as what Mr. Fleischer did with or said about the report. That information is likely reflected in correspondence, notes, or e-mails in Mr. Fleischer's files, not in the report itself. After reviewing such documents, the defense will be better equipped to examine Mr. Fleischer about whether he saw the report on Air Force One, whether he recognized that it contained classified information, and whether he communicated its contents to anyone else.

Background on Ari Fleischer's role in the Plame leak is here. Bottom line: I think Ari Fleischer is among the worst witnesses for Libby.

Another interesting note: It was Andrea Mitchell who said on Hardball Colin Powell testified Ari Fleischer read the June 9 classified memo on Air Force One:

MITCHELL: We also know that, that paragraph, that document was circulated on Air Force One as the president was flying to Africa, that Ari Fletcher saw it, Colin Powell testified to that. And that could be one of the key facts in this.

If the jury believes Fleischer that Libby told him about Valerie Wilson at lunch on July 7, I don't think Colin Powell's testimony will be enough to undo the damage.

< Duke Lacrosse Case : Officer Says Accuser Needed No Medical Attention | Two Years For Selling a Gram of Marijuana >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Ari Fleischer is a Dangerous Witness for Libby (none / 0) (#1)
    by ding7777 on Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 03:46:56 AM EST
    How hard would it be to destroy Fleischer's credibility ? Just show how Ari expanded the the "Clintons trashed the White House" lie or how he blamed "Clinton's diplomacy for the violence in Israel".

    Intrigue aplenty in this case, Pity no trial, pre 06 race. Scooter seems to be number one, Plenty more 'fore this is done. Executive ethics, oh so base.

    A better last line. Executive ethics, sheer disgrace.

    Interesting placement of this article quoting Ari on Scott:
    White House press secretary Scott McClellan announced yesterday that it was time to move on. His former boss knows just how he feels.
    More grist for the Plamegate mill.