Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 28, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

PATRICK FITZGERALD PRESS CONFERENCE....Fitzgerald is speaking now. Rough and ready liveblogging follows.

NOTE: Complete transcript here.

Fitzgerald: "I'd like to put the investigation into a little context." Wilson's CIA status was classified and was "not well known" outside the Agency.

The first reporter who was told about Plame was Judith Miller, in a conversation with Libby in June.

"Libby gave the FBI a compelling story." Libby's story: Tim Russert told him that Wilson's wife worked at the FBI. He passed this along to Matt Cooper and Judith Miller. He had passed on the information not even knowing if it was true. It was just something all the reporters were saying. Just passing along gossip.

"It would be compelling if only it were true. It was not true." Libby didn't learn about Plame from Russert. He learned it at least three times from government officials.

In early June, Libby learned about Plame from a CIA officer, a State Department official, and then from Dick Cheney. Later learned it from another official. So he learned it from at least four different officials.

Also discussed with other officials. He had at least seven discussions before he talked to Russert. What's more, Wilson's wife never came up in his conversation with Russert.

"Mr. Libby's story that he was at the end of a chain of phone calls was not true. It was false. He was at the beginning of a chain of phone calls" that disclosed Plame's identity. He lied repeatedly about this under oath.

Question: Will there be any more charges? Fitzgerald: "Substantial bulk of the work is completed." This is followed by an extended baseball analogy that amounts to: Why did Libby do what he did? We needed to find out.

Question: Any evidence that Dick Cheney encouraged Libby? Fitzgerald: There are no allegations against anyone else, so we have no comment about that. That's standard practice.

Question: So who leaked Plame's name to Robert Novak? Fitzgerald: Sorry, we're not going to tell you. That's just the way it goes. If we don't bring charges, we don't say anything.

Question: What about Karl Rove? Fitzgerald: "We either charge someone or we don't talk about them." Sorry.

Question: Was it worth it to put Judith Miller in jail for 85 days? Fitzgerald: We didn't want a fight with the New York Times. But we showed our evidence to a judge, and the judge agreed that the subpoena was legitimate. An appellate court agreed too. You can't charge someone with perjury regarding a conversation without finding out from the witnesses involved whether the alleged conversation actually took place. If you don't talk to the eyewitnesses, that's "reckless." Miller and Cooper could have exonerated Libby, after all.

Question: Did Libby know that Plame was covert? Fitzgerald: He's not saying whether Plame was covert. Only saying that her association with the CIA was classified. He's not saying anything about whether Libby leaked the name of a covert agent.

Question: Will there be a final report? Fitzgerald: No. You're either charged or you're not. If you aren't we don't talk about it further. Special counsels write final reports, but he's not a special counsel.

Question: There's no charge directly related to the leak. Does that mean the charges you brought are fairly trivial? Fitzgerald: It was a national security case. If Libby "fabricated a story about how he learned the information, how he passed it along," it's very serious.

Question: Why wasn't it enough to know that Libby passed along classified information to someone not authorized to receive it? Isn't that a crime? Fitzgerald: You have to show that he knew it was classified. That goes to state of mind. Hard to prove.

Question: Why not charge Libby with passing along classified information? Fitzgerald: Espionage Act charges are hard to prove. You need to be careful with it.

Question: Will you empanel another grand jury? Will there be more charges? Fitzgerald: "We're not quite done, but I don't want to add to a feverish pitch."

Question: What's the penalty for the charges you brought? Fitzgerald: Obstruction = maximum 10 years. Perjury and false statement = maximum 5 years. However, there are also sentencing guidelines. It would be a judge's decision.

Question: What does "not quite done" mean? Fitzgerald: You're reading tea leaves. Don't. We're just letting the public know that we're continuing to do our job.

Question: Was there any political interference with your investigation? Fitzgerald: No. Absolutely none.

Kevin Drum 2:24 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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