Wednesday, July 27, 2005
The maneuver apparently dates back to the Clinton administration.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Q: Scott, first of all, to all those involved with today's launch of the Shuttle Discovery, to the astronauts aboard, and to all of us, isn't this a great country, or not? (Laughter.)Gotta love those feisty folks in the White House press corps.
Monday, July 25, 2005
In the interview, Gonzalez admitted that he gave White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card a twelve-hour headstart before officially informing members of the White House staff that they were obligated to preserve materials relating to the Valerie Plame case.
Burrelle's Information Services pares down the exchange a bit transcribing it this way:
SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you the obvious question, Mr. Attorney General. Did you tell anybody at the White House, "Get ready for this, here it comes"?But their text fails to convey the, um, totality of Gonzalez's response.
Mr. GONZALES: I told one person in the White House that--of the notification and...
Mr. GONZALES: ...then immediately--I told the chief of staff. And then immediately the next morning, I told the president. And shortly thereafter, there was a notification sent out to all the members of the White House staff.
For the record, the exchange (you can watch the video here) actually went something like this:
SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you the obvious question, Mr. Attorney General. Did you tell anybody at the White House, uh, "Get ready for this, here it comes"?Just wanted to clear that up.
Mr. GONZALES: I I I told one person, uh, in in the White House that that--of of the notification and and...
Mr. GONZALES: uh, then imm...immediately, uh--I, I told the chief of staff. And then immediately the next morning, uh, told the president. And shortly thereafter, there was a notification sent out to, uh, all the members of the White House staff.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
The subject of Valerie Plame doesn't come up. I promise.
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation has shifted his focus from whether White House officials violated a law against exposing undercover agents to determining whether evidence exists to bring perjury or obstruction of justice charges, according to people briefed in recent days on the inquiry's status.
The sources also said prosecutors are comparing the various statements to the FBI and the grand jury by Rove, who is a White House deputy chief of staff and President Bush's chief political strategist. Rove in his first interview with the FBI did not mention a conversation he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, according to lawyers involved in the case.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
From Bloomberg News (which has had some of the best, least credulous coverage of the Plame story):
Two top White House aides have given accounts to the special prosecutor about how reporters told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to persons familiar with the case.Via DailyKos.
Lewis “Scooter'’ Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn’t tell Libby of Plame’s identity.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who was first to report Plame’s name and connection to Wilson. Novak, according to a source familiar with the matter, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document...Via Andrew Sullivan.
The paragraph in the memo discussing Ms. Wilson's involvement in her husband's trip is marked at the beginning with a letter designation in brackets to indicate the information shouldn't be shared, according to the person familiar with the memo. Such a designation would indicate to a reader that the information was sensitive.
Monday, July 18, 2005
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Mehlman, welcome.Oh, Gwen! Say it ain't so!
KEN MEHLMAN: Thanks. I should say welcome to you.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you. We are in the middle of one of those summer scandals that happen in Washington...
On the same day the memo was prepared, White House phone logs show Novak placed a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, according to lawyers familiar with the case and a witness who has testified before the grand jury. Those people say it is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment.Via Billmon.
The Novak call may loom large in the investigation because Fleischer was among a group of administration officials who left Washington later that day on a presidential trip to Africa. On the flight to Africa, Fleischer was seen perusing the State Department memo on Wilson and his wife, according to a former administration official who was also on the trip.
Remember, Bush implied this morning that committing a crime would now be considered a necessary condition for him to issue a dismissal--he won't fire anyone who hasn't yet been convicted, he seemed to be saying:
I don't know all the facts; I want to know all the facts. If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.But at the briefing, McClellan argued that Bush hadn't broken any new ground with this assertion--that the President meant to convey only that a guilty verdict is a sufficient condition for a staffer's termination.
In other words, according to McClellan, Bush was making a simple, uncontroversial observation: Criminals aren't allowed to work at the White House. And that's all he meant to say.
Of course, that interpretation only comes anywhere near making sense if you ignore the context completely. But making sense has never been McClellan's strong suit:
Q Scott, the President seemed to raise the bar and add a qualifier today when discussing whether or not anybody would be dismissed for--in the leak of a CIA officer's name, in which he said that he would--if someone is found to have committed a crime, they would no longer work in this administration. That's never been part of the standard before, why is that added now?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I disagree, Terry. I think that the President was stating what is obvious when it comes to people who work in the administration: that if someone commits a crime, they're not going to be working any longer in this administration...
Q But you have said, though, that anyone involved in this would no longer be in this administration, you didn't say anybody who committed a crime. You had said, in September 2003, anyone involved in this would no longer be in the administration.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we've been through these issues over the course of the last week. And I know--
Q But we haven't talked about a crime.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- well what was said previously. You heard from the President today. And I think that you should not read anything into it more than what the President said at this point. And I think that's something you may be trying to do here.
Q Does the President equate the word "leaking" to a crime, as best you know, in his mind? Just the use of the word "leaking," does he see that as a criminal standard? And is the only threshold for firing someone involved being charged with a crime?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we all serve at the pleasure of the President in this White House. The President--you heard what he had to say on the matter. He was asked a specific question, and you heard his response.
Q Is leaking, in your judgment of his interpretation, a crime?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll leave it at what the President said.
Q What is his problem? Two years, and he can't call Rove in and find out what the hell is going on? I mean, why is it so difficult to find out the facts? It costs thousands, millions of dollars, two years, it tied up how many lawyers? All he's got to do is call him in.
MR. McCLELLAN: You just heard from the President. He said he doesn't know all the facts. I don't know all the facts.
MR. McCLELLAN: We want to know what the facts are. Because --
Q Why doesn't he ask him?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll tell you why, because there's an investigation that is continuing at this point, and the appropriate people to handle these issues are the ones who are overseeing that investigation. There is a special prosecutor that has been appointed. And it's important that we let all the facts come out. And then at that point, we'll be glad to talk about it, but we shouldn't be getting into --
Q You talked about it to reporters.
MR. McCLELLAN: We shouldn't be getting into prejudging the outcome.
Q Scott, we don't know all the facts, but we know some of the facts. For example, Matt Cooper says he did speak to Karl Rove and Lewis Libby about these issues. So given the fact that you have previously stood at that podium and said these men did not discuss Valerie Plame or a CIA agent's identity in any way, does the White House have a credibility problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. You just answered your own question. You said we don't know all the facts. And I would encourage everyone not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
Q Given the new formulation "if somebody committed a crime," would that be a crime as determined by an indictment, or a crime as determined by a conviction?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, Bob, I'm not going to add to what the President said. You heard his remarks, and I think I've been through these issues over the course of the last week. I don't know that there's really much more to add at this point.
Q But the importance is the question of would -- if it is the latter, the strategy would be to run out the clock?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I indicated to you earlier that everyone here serves at the pleasure of the President. And the White House has been working to cooperate fully with the investigators. That was the direction that the President set. That's what we've been doing. We hope they come to a conclusion soon.
Q Scott, I just want to sort of go back over this. Insofar as you're telling us that we shouldn't read anything new into the President's comments today, should we then take that to mean that if there is criminal activity, that person would be fired, but this does not render inoperative those things that the President has said "yes" or responded in the affirmative to in the past when asked, for instance, if you would fire somebody if they were involved in a leak?
MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn't read anything into it. You said, "new." I wouldn't read anything into it beyond what he said.
Q So the previous statements remain operative?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, once the investigation is concluded, then we can talk about it at that point. But those are decisions for the President to make.
The truth of the matter is, a fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people. A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people.It's not worth taking the time to point out the many, obvious things that are wrong with this statement (in addition to the fact that it's false).
And Chertoff can't be stupid enough to actually believe the line of thinking implicit in what he said. But because he's flacking for an administration that has little interest in spending money to protect commuters, he's forced to summon up ridiculous rhetoric.
Yet more evidence that these people aren't serious.
"If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration," Mr. Bush said in response to a question, after declaring, "I don't know all the facts; I want to know all the facts."Must be part of his campaign to restore dignity to the White House.
For months, Mr. Bush and his spokesmen have said that anyone involved in the disclosure of the C.I.A. officer's identity would be dismissed. The president's apparent raising of the bar for dismissal today, to specific criminal conduct, comes amid mounting evidence that, at the very least, Mr. Rove provided backhanded confirmation of the C.I.A. officer's identity.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
White House political advisor Karl Rove told the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame spy case that he heard about Valerie Plame's identity from a reporter--or perhaps from someone else in the administration who said he got it from a reporter--Rove just couldn't be certain or remember which one, a source who has been briefed on his account tells TIME. (Emphasis added.)So now, three days after the original White House talking points have been shelved, and after a weekend full of GOP efforts to diminish Rove's role while acknowledging his involvement--the information was passed to Rove by a reporter in the first place, we were assured--we get a new story.
Or at least a story broadened, conveniently, to be more difficult to falsify.
If Time's reporting is accurate, it further damages the credibility of Rove and his handlers--if that's even possible.
It also contradicts the New York Times' reporting on the issue. Remember, The Times told us on Friday--in an A1 scoop sourced to a single Rove supporter, no less--that Rove testified that he first learned about Plame from "journalists." Period. Full stop.
Think the editors at The Times wish they could have that one back?
This story is starting to get interesting.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
It arises from this Washington Post article, which ran September 28, 2003:
Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife.Two points.
"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.
It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."
1. This (rebellious) official is clearly describing--from within the Bush administration--a carefully coordinated effort rather than accidental, inadvertent White House involvement.
Rove may not have been one of the two "top White House officials" to which Mike Allen and Dana Priest's source is referring. But the source clearly refutes the idea that this was anything other than a deliberate, White House-orchestrated abuse of power.
2. Just who was this "administration official"? To the best of my knowledge, we haven't heard from him (her?) since. And while back in 2003, Josh Marshall went out on a limb with some informed speculation about why it might be George Tenet, no one seems to have come anywhere near nailing this down.
Does Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald know? Have Allen or Priest been called before the Plame grand jury? I can't find any reporting suggesting they have, although a Chicago Tribune story from March 5, 2004 suggests Fitzgerald issued subpoenas for records of all White House contacts with both reporters.
But it's hard to understand why Fitzgerald would send Judy Miller off to prison and not even try to talk to reporters who got an administration official to blow the whistle on the White House's bad behavior.
Democrats and most of the Beltway press corps are baying for Karl Rove's head over his role in exposing a case of CIA nepotism involving Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame. On the contrary, we'd say the White House political guru deserves a prize.But in the face of this full court press, interest in the story continued to build. So late Thursday, a strange thing happened. The Republican talking points were shelved.
A new line emerged: Rove hadn't (heroically) exposed Plame after all. In fact he had nothing to do with her outing. Instead, he'd learned about her from an unnamed media source--one whose identity he's since forgotten. Only after this initial heads-up did he learn Plame's name--in a conversation with columnist Robert Novak.
That this storyline contradicted earlier pronouncements was unimportant. That it failed to exculpate Rove for his role in spreading classified information was beside the point. The key thing was that it cast Rove in the role of inadvertent accomplice rather than evil mastermind--a shift that would be sure to turn down the heat on the story.
(That the New York Times was willing to swallow this spin and serve it up as an A1 scoop--sourced only to a single "person [who] discussed the matter in the belief that Mr. Rove was truthful" was, I suppose, chalked up by the Bushies to old fashioned good luck.)
Not surprisingly, the new narrative is seen as improving Rove's position. First, it squares with what is known publicly without directly contradicting the most important claims of the story's other key players.
At the same time, it sets Rove up as having acted more or less ethically every step of the way: He received the information from reporters rather than doling it out to them; he learned Plame's name from Novak rather than vice versa; he remembers having spoken with reporters who've testified before the grand jury, but not the one supposed to have disclosed Plame's identity to him in the first place.
Convenient as this story is, though, it raises as many questions as it answers:
1. Central to the new GOP explanation is that when Novak mentioned Mrs. Wilson's CIA identity to Rove, Rove responded, "I heard that, too." This seems to be a shorthand for the stipulation that Rove was merely gossiping with Novak, rather than helping the columnist nail down the story.
But in his original column, Novak reported:
Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.And even The Times' Rove-friendly source concedes that Rove was one of these two sources.
Now, granted, Novak is hack. But even for him, would, "I heard that too," have been enough of a basis upon which to have written the above sentence? Did Rove--at a minimum--affirmatively confirm the story or didn't he?
In short, did Novak exaggerate his sourcing back in 2003 or is Rove lying now?
2. Assume, as seems likely, that Novak isn't lying and that Rove did confirm the truth of the revelations about Plame.
Would Rove have been sloppy and thoughtless enough to confirm Novak's story based on a single comment passed along by some not-particularly-memorable reporter? Or is it more likely he would've held out for evidence of the story's truth before commenting? Without that evidence, wouldn't he be afraid the scoop might turn out to be false and blow up in his face?
3.Finally, if Rove was nothing more than an inadvertent accomplice, why the lies? Why did he say:
I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name.if he did know her name--but only from journalists?
Why not err on the side of caution and get out in front of the story back in 2003--or at least once exchanges like this start cropping up:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Don't you think it's more serious than Watergate, when you think about it?Would Rove really hunker down for two years and put Scott McClellan through a week of hell, backing himself and the White House into a corner if, all along, his actions had a relatively innocent explanation?
RNC CHAIRMAN ED GILLESPIE: I think if the allegation is true, to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative -- it's abhorrent, and it should be a crime, and it is a crime.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: It'd be worse than Watergate, wouldn't it?
GILLESPIE: It's -- Yeah, I suppose in terms of the real world implications of it. It's not just politics.
Does that pass the smell test?
Friday, July 15, 2005
Thursday, July 14, 2005
I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our [intelligence] sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors.But just because the IIPA is a serious law, that doesn't mean it's the only one Karl Rove and other disseminators of classified information should be worrying about.
Mark Kleiman explains.
They're cursing the messenger, blaming the victim and generally attempting to bury the truth in anyway possible. In an odd way, the strategy harkens back--at least in my free-associating brain--to a prank call from the first album from the Jerky Boys. (Remember them?)
In the call, the Boys are satirizing a certain kind of American litigiousness: The caller has (supposedly) been in a motorcycle accident. He's injured several people. He doesn't have a license and, worse yet, his only insurance is "through a friend." So, in the bit, he's nervously calling a lawyer for advice.
But, when the lawyer says he can't help the caller, things quickly devolve:
CALLER: Is it possible in any way, then, to sue you people?Slime everybody. That, in a nutshell, is the GOP approach.
LAWYER: Sue who?
CALLER: You. I'm asking you for help.
LAWYER: Sue who, me?
LAWYER: Why do you wanna sue me?
CALLER: Well I'm trying to explain, I had a terrible accident.
LAWYER: What's that gotta do with me?
CALLER: I'm asking you for help. And maybe I could sue for punitive damages that you're giving me.
LAWYER: I'm giving you?
LAWYER: What did I do to you?
CALLER: Punitive damages here.
LAWYER: I'm...you...I'm a lawyer. What did I do to you?
CALLER: The side car smashed into a pole and everything. I'm trying to explain this to you.
LAWYER: Okay. And you wanna sue me?
CALLER: Why not?
CALLER: Sue everybody.
LAWYER: Sir. I can't help you.
CALLER: The people that you work with and handle--I probably will sue them too because I'm not getting--
LAWYER: Who do I handle? Who do I...? I dunno what you're talking about.
CALLER: I had a terrible accident, sir!
This may not be the first White House to go on the attack when it gets itself in trouble. But this group is the best at it. And they've had the most help.
Of course, savvy CONTRAPOSITIVE readers don't need me to debunk the White House's talking points. (That said, The Left Coaster has taken a worthy stab at it.)
Still, watching the vapid TV coverage over the last couple days, I've been struck by one GOP talking point I didn't expect to hear: The idea that the controversy is a product of the "summer scandal season" and thus, I guess, to be ignored.
John Fund of The Wall Street Journal (a man so slimy it's a wonder he doesn't ooze right out of his chair) put forward this idea today on MSBNC. And he's not the only one to push it.
The thinking is, if I understand it correctly, that the coverage of the Rove story isn't so much a product of noteworthy information having come to light, or genuine interest from the public. Instead, it's been spawned by some kind of ethereal, media-fixating, El Nino-type force. This is just the kind of thing that goes on in the summertime, they are telling viewers. Pay it no mind.
What's next? Blaming our failures in Iraq on sunspots?
NOTE: You can listen to the entire Jerky Boys clip here.
This was a sad week for the war on terror. The Senate voted, disgracefully, to shift homeland security money from high-risk areas to low-risk ones - a step that is likely to mean less money to defend New York and California against terrorism and more for states like Wyoming. Before the vote, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made a powerful appeal to the senators to distribute the money based on risk. But the Senate, led by Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and other small-state representatives, put political pork ahead of national security.Connecticut Democrats: Ask Joe Lieberman to resign. Fire him in 2006.
Senators had a chance to fix next year's formula, but they voted to make it worse. The original homeland security budget would have allocated 70 percent of the money according to relative risks. Senators from the highest-risk states, led by Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, introduced an amendment to raise that number to 87 percent. Ms. Collins, supported by Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, introduced an amendment to lower to 60 percent the amount given out according to risk.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Awhile back I wrote that truth no longer stands much of a chance in the political arena--not when it's pitted against the best modern propaganda machine that money can buy. But the question now is whether the truth, armed with subpoena power and the federal rules of evidence, can still prevail in a court of law. By the time this particular legal battle is over, we may know the answer.That question is: When will the Bushies swallow hard, roll up their sleeves, and begin to smear Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald? Surely, it's a matter of time.
Not that it'll be easy--far from it.
It'll be difficult, first, because Fitzgerald was, um, well, appointed by the President.
And second, because he has a golden boy reputation. From the Washington Post:
James B. Comey, deputy attorney general and unofficial president-for-life of the Pat Fitzgerald Booster Club, says no high-profile prosecutor ever provided less evidence that he was "doing something wacky."(Just to be clear, Comey is the current deputy attorney general.)
"What's been interesting is seeing the media accounts and the columnists portray him as some sort of runaway prosecutor. That makes me smile," says Comey, who is largely responsible for Fitzgerald getting the Plame assignment. "Because there is no prosecutor who is less of a runaway than this guy."
So, as I said, smearing Fitzgerald will be difficult. But if anyone is up to the challenge, it's the people currently occupying the White House.
At this point, they're pretty much out for blood.
Q Scott, some White House advisors expressed surprise that the President didn't--did not give a warm endorsement to Karl Rove when he was asked about him at the Cabinet meeting. They had expected that he would speak up. Can you explain why the President didn't give a--express confidence?And then this:
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. He wasn't asked about his support or confidence for Karl. As I indicated yesterday, every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the President. This was not a question that came up in the Cabinet Room.
Q Well, the President has never been restrained at staying right in the lines of a question, as you know. (Laughter.) He kind of--he says whatever he wants. And if he had wanted to express confidence in Karl Rove, he could have. Why didn't he?
MR. McCLELLAN: He expressed it yesterday through me, and I just expressed it again.
Q Well, why doesn't he?
MR. McCLELLAN: He was not asked that specific question, Terry. You know that very well. The questions he were asked--he was asked about were relating to an ongoing investigation.
Q But, Scott, he defended Al Gonzales without even being asked --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come to you in a second. I'll come to you in a second. Go ahead.
Q Yes, he defended Al Gonzales without ever being asked. (Laughter.) Ed brings up a good point. Didn't he?
Q Scott, you know what, to make a general observation here, in a previous administration, if a press secretary had given the sort of answers you've just given in referring to the fact that everybody who works here enjoys the confidence of the President, Republicans would have hammered them as having a kind of legalistic and sleazy defense. I mean, the reality is that you're parsing words, and you've been doing it for a few days now. So does the President think Karl Rove did something wrong, or doesn't he?And how's this for a challenge?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, David, I'm not at all. I told you and the President told you earlier today that we don't want to prejudge the outcome of an ongoing investigation. And I think we've been round and round on this for two days now.
Q That's a dodge to my question. It has nothing to do with the investigation. Is it appropriate for a senior official to speak about a covert agent in any way, shape, or form without first finding out whether that person is working as a covert officer.You can almost feel the temperature rising in the room:
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, you're wrong. This is all relating to questions about an ongoing investigation, and I've been through this.
Q If I wanted to ask you about an ongoing investigation, I would ask you about the statute, and I'm not doing that.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've exhausted discussion on this the last couple of days.
Q You haven't even scratched the surface.
Q It hasn't started.
Q I'm going to go to another question, somewhat on the same subject, but a different vein. Let's talk about the Wilson family. Is there any regret from this White House about the effects of this leak on this family?
MR. McCLELLAN: We can continue to go round and round on all these --
Q No, no, no, no. This has nothing to do with the investigation. This is about the leak and the effects on this family. I mean, granted there are partisan politics being played, but let's talk about the leak that came from the White House that affected a family.
MR. McCLELLAN: And let me just say again that anything relating to an ongoing investigation, I'm not going to get into discussing. I've said that the past couple of days.
Q This is not -- this is about -- this is a personal -- this is not about the -- I mean about the investigation. This is about the personal business of this family, an American family, a taxpaying family, a family that works for the government of the United States. And the executive branch -- someone in the executive branch let this family down in some kind of way, shape, or form. Is there any regret from the White House that this family was affected by the leak?
MR. McCLELLAN: It doesn't change what I just said.
Go ahead, Goyal.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
But it's clearer to me than ever that this is going to be an incredibly difficult thing for President Bush to do. Two points:
1. Karl Rove has known the Bushes since the early 1970s. He was the architect of George W. Bush's transformation from Bush family black sheep to viable presidential candidate. And then he got Bush elected.
What's more, as former Bush advisor John DiIulio tells us:
Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political adviser post near the Oval OfficeAdd to this the fact that loyalty is a fetish with Bush, and it's clear that the President is facing a real dilemma: Abandon the man who built his career, or face a huge, credibility-sapping political storm.
2. This story will be a real test of the elite, mainstream media. It's the first clear cut, five-alarm scandal since the rise of blogs and Fox News--in other words, since the outlets with the big megaphones lost their monopoly on the national conversation.
And the key information here--divided among a famously tight-lipped White House, a virtually leak-proof special prosecutor, and the Washington press corps itself--is beyond the reach of the kind of "open source" reporting we've seen on Power Line blog (the National Guard memo story) and DailyKos (the Jeff Gannon revelations) in the last couple of years. So this story is unlikely to gather true steam without knowledgeable reporters tapping high-level sources and doing no-nonsense, investigative journalism.
Are well-fed, mainstream journalists up to this challenge? Does the "old media" still know how to document a complicated case of abuse of power and get it to capture the attention of the public?
Time will tell.
Since 2002, when the [Metropolitan Transit Authority] announced it had $600 million on hand to spend on hardening the transit system against terror threats, it has spent only about $30 million.Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg: Fire the MTA board. Fire Chairman Peter Kalikow. Do it now.
Photos by Willow Lawson.
QUESTION: Does the White House have a credibility problem?Ouch. And then there was this:
MCCLELLAN: These are all questions that you’re bringing up in the context of an investigation that is…
QUESTION: I’m not asking about that.
MCCLELLAN: Well, it’s clear that this is coming up in the context of news…
QUESTION: We could talk about WMDs, the whole range of issues.
MCCLELLAN: … in the context of news reports.
And I appreciate those questions. And I think you’re trying to get at the specific news reports and wanting me to comment on those specific news reports.
QUESTION: But they’re news reports that have been confirmed by Karl Rove’s attorneys.
MCCLELLAN: You can keep jumping in, but I’m going to try to keep going to other people in this room as well. And we can have a constructive dialogue here I think, but that’s not the way to do it.
QUESTION: It’s not my job to have a constructive dialogue, Scott. Sorry.
QUESTION: Would you be willing to allow your attorney to speak to reporters about these matters?Now that's cold.
MCCLELLAN: Next question.
Monday, July 11, 2005
The Bushies have been tested before, but in more than four years, we've never seen them on the defensive like they were this morning.
This story isn't going to go away, and for good reason: It's now been shown that Rove outed a CIA agent.
If he knew Plame was covert, he's guilty of a flagrant abuse of power and perhaps, criminal behavior. If he didn't know, he's still guilty--through carelessness and staggeringly bad judgment--of undermining national security for political gain.
To put it simply, he should have known better. Anyone working in government should know better. And it's going to be extremely difficult for the White House to convince people otherwise.
Indeed, Scott McClellan zipped-lip approach at today's briefing seemed an acknowledgment of how hard it will be to spin the latest developments.
But this story shouldn't stop with Rove. Other questions must be answered:
How did Rove learn Plame was a CIA agent?
Who else worked with Rove on the smear campaign against Joe Wilson?
Where was the President in all this? The Vice President?
Remember where this story started: With Joe Wilson writing a New York Times op-Ed. That op-Ed moved the Iraq story forward: Wilson wasn't just some pundit impugning the veracity of the White House. Instead, he was a seasoned diplomat questioning the credibility of the administration's characterizations of pre-war intelligence from a position of first-hand knowledge.
So the questions Wilson was raising were likely to be taken seriously by the press. And they went right to the heart--not just of the advisability--but of the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion: He was blowing the whistle on the administration's blinkered approach to Iraq intelligence, and the White House was understandably eager to unblow that whistle.
A calculation was made: If it took outing a CIA agent to squelch off the discussion before it really got going, so be it. Insulating the Bush administration from charges of having gone to war under false pretenses was what mattered most.
So there's no phone sex here, no late night pizzas. Just national security, abuse of power, and the legitimacy of a war in which 1,755 American soldiers have died.
QUESTION: Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in a leak of the name of a CIA operative?
MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked related to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point.
And as I’ve previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it.
The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren’t going to comment on it while it is ongoing.
QUESTION: I actually wasn’t talking about any investigation.
But in June of 2004, the president said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak to the press about information. I just wanted to know: Is that still his position?
MCCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that’s why I said that our policy continues to be that we’re not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium.
The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium.
MCCLELLAN: And so that’s why we are not going to get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation--or questions related to it.
QUESTION: Scott, if I could point out: Contradictory to that statement, on September 29th of 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one to have said that if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired.
And then, on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation, when the president made his comments that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved, so why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now you’ve suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, We’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation?
MCCLELLAN: Again, John, I appreciate the question. I know you want to get to the bottom of this. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.
And I think the way to be most helpful is to not get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation. And that’s something that the people overseeing the investigation have expressed a preference that we follow.
And that’s why we’re continuing to follow that approach and that policy.
Now, I remember very well what was previously said. And, at some point, I will be glad to talk about it, but not until after the investigation is complete.
QUESTION: So could I just ask: When did you change your mind to say that it was OK to comment during the course of an investigation before, but now it’s not?
MCCLELLAN: Well, I think maybe you missed what I was saying in reference to Terry’s question at the beginning. There came a point, when the investigation got under way, when those overseeing the investigation asked that it would be — or said that it would be their preference that we not get into discussing it while it is ongoing.
I think that’s the way to be most helpful to help them advance the investigation and get to the bottom of it.
QUESTION: Scott, can I ask you this: Did Karl Rove commit a crime?
MCCLELLAN: Again, David, this is a question relating to a ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to the investigation. And I don’t think you should read anything into it other than: We’re going to continue not to comment on it while it’s ongoing.
QUESTION: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliot Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, I’ve gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this ?
QUESTION: Do you stand by that statement?
MCCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that, as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we’re not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.
QUESTION: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you’re going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you’ve decided not to talk.
You’ve got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?
MCCLELLAN: I’m well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation...
QUESTION: (inaudible) when it’s appropriate and when it’s inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If you’ll let me finish.
QUESTION: No, you’re not finishing. You’re not saying anything.
You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson’s wife. So don’t you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn’t he?
MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.
QUESTION: Do you think people will accept that, what you’re saying today?
MCCLELLAN: Again, I’ve responded to the question.
QUESTION: You’re in a bad spot here, Scott...
...because after the investigation began — after the criminal investigation was under way--you said, October 10th, 2003, I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this, from that podium. That’s after the criminal investigation began.
Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation.
MCCLELLAN: No, that’s not a correct characterization. And I think you are well aware of that.
We know each other very well. And it was after that period that the investigators had requested that we not get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation.
And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this. Because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.
I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I’m just not going to do that.
QUESTION: So you’re now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore and since then you haven’t.
MCCLELLAN: Again, you’re continuing to ask questions relating to an ongoing criminal investigation and I’m just not going to respond to them.
QUESTION: When did they ask you to stop commenting on it, Scott? Can you pin down a date?
MCCLELLAN: Back in that time period.
QUESTION: Well, then the president commented on it nine months later. So was he not following the White House plan?
MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your questions. You can keep asking them, but you have my response.
QUESTION: Well, we are going to keep asking them.
When did the president learn that Karl Rove had had a conversation with a news reporter about the involvement of Joseph Wilson’s wife in the decision to send him to Africa?
MCCLELLAN: I’ve responded to the questions.
QUESTION: When did the president learn that Karl Rove had been...
MCCLELLAN: I’ve responded to your questions.
QUESTION: After the investigation is completed, will you then be consistent with your word and the president’s word that anybody who was involved will be let go?
MCCLELLAN: Again, after the investigation is complete, I will be glad to talk about it at that point.
QUESTION: Can you walk us through why, given the fact that Rove’s lawyer has spoken publicly about this, it is inconsistent with the investigation, that it compromises the investigation to talk about the involvement of Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, here?
MCCLELLAN: Well, those overseeing the investigation expressed a preference to us that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it’s ongoing. And that was what they requested of the White House. And so I think in order to be helpful to that investigation, we are following their direction.
QUESTION: Scott, there’s a difference between commenting on an investigation and taking an action...
QUESTION: Can I finish, please?
MCCLELLAN: I’ll come back to you in a minute.
QUESTION: Does the president continue to have confidence in Mr. Rove?
MCCLELLAN: Again, these are all questions coming up in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation. And you’ve heard my response on this.
QUESTION: So you’re not going to respond as to whether or not the president has confidence in his deputy chief of staff?
MCCLELLAN: You’re asking this question in the context of an ongoing investigation, and I would not read anything into it other then I’m simply going to comment on an ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: Has there been any change, or is there a plan for Mr. Rove’s portfolio to be altered in any way?
MCCLELLAN: Again, you have my response to these questions.
QUESTION: There’s a difference between commenting publicly on an action and taking action in response to it.
Newsweek put out a story, an e-mail saying that Karl Rove passed national security information on to a reporter that outed a CIA officer. Now, are you saying that the president is not taking any action in response to that? Because I presume that the prosecutor did not ask you not to take action and that if he did you still would not necessarily abide by that; that the president is free to respond to news reports, regardless of whether there’s an investigation or not.
So are you saying that he’s not going to do anything about this until the investigation is fully over and done with?
MCCLELLAN: Well, I think the president has previously spoken to this.
This continues to be an ongoing criminal investigation.
MCCLELLAN: No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.
And we’re just not going to have more to say on it until that investigation is complete.
QUESTION: But you acknowledged that he is free, as president of the United States, to take whatever action he wants to in response to a credible report that a member of his staff leaked information. He is free to take action if he wants to.
MCCLELLAN: Again, you’re asking questions relating to an ongoing investigation, and I think I’ve responded to it.
QUESTION: Scott, what was the president’s interaction today with Karl Rove? Did they discuss this current situation?
And understanding that Karl Rove was the architect of the president’s reelection (OFF-MIKE) how important is Karl Rove to this administration?
MCCLELLAN: Again, this is coming at it from…
MCCLELLAN: This is still coming at the same question relating to reports about an ongoing investigation. And I think I’ve responded to…
QUESTION: Who is Karl Rove as it relates to this administration?
MCCLELLAN: Do you have questions on another topic?
QUESTION: No, no, no, no. Who is Karl Rove as it relates to this current administration?
MCCLELLAN: I appreciate the question. I think I’ve responded.
QUESTION: Scott, I think you’re getting this barrage today in part because it is now clear that 21 months ago you were up at this podium saying something that we now know to be demonstrably false.
Now, are you concerned that in setting the record straight today that this could undermine the credibility of the other things you say from the podium?
MCCLELLAN: Again, I’m going to be happy to talk about this at the appropriate time.
You and everybody in this room — or most people in this room, I should say — know me very well, and they know the type of person that I am. And I’m confident in our relationship that we have.
But I will be glad to talk about this at the appropriate time, and that’s once the investigation is complete. I’m not going to get into commenting based on reports or anything of that nature.
QUESTION: Scott, at this point are we to consider what you said previously, when you were talking about this — that you’re still standing by that or are those all inoperative at this point?
MCCLELLAN: Again, you’re still trying to come at this from a different angle, and I’ve responded to it.
QUESTION: Are you standing by what you said previously?
MCCLELLAN: You’ve heard my response.
QUESTION: When the leak investigation is completed, does the president believe it might be important for his credibility, the credibility of the White House, to release all the information voluntarily that was submitted as part of the investigation, so the American public could see what transpired inside the White House at the time?
MCCLELLAN: This is an investigation being overseen by a special prosecutor.
MCCLELLAN: And I think those are questions best directed to the special prosecutor.
Again, this is an ongoing matter. I’m just not going to get into commenting on it further at this time.
At the appropriate time, when it’s complete, then I’ll be glad to talk about it at that point.
QUESTION: Have you or the White House considered whether that would be optimal to release as much information and make it as open...
MCCLELLAN: It’s the same type of question. You’re asking me to comment on an ongoing investigation and I’m not going to do that.
QUESTION: I’d like you to talk about the communications strategies just a little bit there.
MCCLELLAN: Understood. The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation, and that’s what he expects people in the White House to do.
QUESTION: And he would like to do that when it is concluded, cooperate fully with...
MCCLELLAN: Again, I’ve already responded.
QUESTION: Scott, who in the investigation made this request of the White House not to comment further about the investigation? Was it Mr. Fitzgerald? Did he make a request of you specifically?
MCCLELLAN: You can direct those questions to the special prosecutors. I think probably more than one individual who’s involved in overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it’s ongoing.
I think we all want to see the prosecutors get to the bottom of this matter. The president wants to see the prosecutors get to the bottom of this matter. And the way to help them do that is to not get into commenting on it while it is ongoing.
QUESTION: Was the request made of you or of whom in the White House?
MCCLELLAN: I already responded to these questions.
QUESTION: In your dealings with the special counsel, have you consulted a personal attorney?
MCCLELLAN: Again, I’m just not going to say anything further. I expressed all I’m going to say on this matter from this podium.
QUESTION: Scott, has there ever been an attempt or effort on the part of anyone here at the White House to discredit the reputations or reporting of former Ambassador Joe Wilson, his wife, or ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kofman?Take two:
McCLELLAN: John, I think I answered that yesterday. That is not the way that this White House operates. That's not the way the President operates. And certainly, I first became aware of those news reports when we were contacted by reporters and the questions were raised. It's the first I had heard of those. No one would be authorized to do that within this White House. That is simply not the way we operate, and that's simply not the way the President operates.
QUESTION: In all of those cases?
McCLELLAN: Well, go down--which two?
QUESTION: Joe Wilson and his wife?
QUESTION: And Jeffrey Kofman from ABC.
McCLELLAN: First of all, if there's any truth to it, it's totally inappropriate. Second of all, I just made very clear, that's simply not the way we operate.--July 23, 2003
McCLELLAN: Let me make it very clear. As I said previously, he [Karl Rove] was not involved, and that allegation is not true in terms of leaking classified information, nor would he condone it.
QUESTION: He does not condone people pointing reporters toward classified information that's been released; he would not condone that either? Is that what you're saying?
McCLELLAN: The President doesn't condone the activity that you're suggesting, absolutely he does not.--October 1, 2003
He's also wound up tongue-tied more than once. Indeed, there have so far been many, many extraordinary moments.
Today's briefing is like nothing I've ever seen.
UPDATE: Again, the transcript will be out in a little while. But it won't get across a few things: McClellan seemed at moments, at least from the C-SPAN feed, to be on the verge of tearing up. His tone was unusually somber. And he spoke much slower than usual.
UPDATE UPDATE: Crooks and Liars offers this footage from today's briefing.
Robert Luskin, Rove's lawyer, will make a great deal of the fact that no evidence has surfaced--at least not publicly--to suggest that Rove knew Plame's covert status. And as far as the law is concerned, that point may carry some weight.
But the concession that Rove was unaware of Plame's covert status is in itself a political bombshell--or it ought to be. It means Rove is guilty of colossally bad judgment--the kind of ethical and intellectual lapse that jeopardizes the lives of CIA operatives and threatens national security. People shown to be guilty of that kind of bad judgment don't often continue to work for the government.
Will anyone in the White House press corps deign to raise these issues with Scott McClellan today at the 1pm briefing? There aren't any cigars or stained dresses involved, granted, but this is starting to smell like a scandal.
Some key questions:
1. How did Rove learn Plame worked for the CIA?
2. How long has the President known that Rove tipped off a reporter about Plame?
3. Have Rove and the President discussed this episode?
4. How does the President feel about smear campaigns that jeopardize national security?
Among humans, death from all causes is lowest among adults who get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly, and significantly higher among those who sleep less than seven or more than nine hours.
"His written waiver included the world," Luskin said. "It was intended to be a global waiver. . .He wants to make sure that the special prosecutor has everyone's evidence. That reflects someone who has nothing to hide." (Emphasis added.)Now maybe the reporter asked Luskin, "Does Karl Rove have anything to hide?" and this is how Luskin responded.
But if that's not the case, the passage is curious: Luskin is citing Rove's decision to issue a waiver as evidence, essentially, that Rove isn't acting like a guilty person.
But that kind of statement doesn't in any way help establish that Rove has clean hands--something you'd think an innocent, unfairly-maligned high-level advisor to the President would want his lawyer to get across in the broadest language possible. It seems designed, instead, to chip away at the idea that Rove is guilty of wrongdoing.
To put it another way, it seems like the kind of argument constructed for the courtroom rather than one crafted for the court of public opinion.
Luskin's comments also give off a whiff of "protesting too much." After all, people who don't have anything to hide don't typically send their lawyers out to tell the press that they have nothing to hide.
So, is Luskin asserting Rove's innocence here? Or is he embarking, instead, on an effort to create reasonable doubt about Rove's guilt?
Sunday, July 10, 2005
As a serious person, Flynn is naturally ignored by the Bush administration. But at least he's been able to muscle his way into the public discussion. Among his stunning observations this morning:
To put the number in context, we've spent about $500 million total on transit security in the United States since 9/11, almost four years. We're spending that every three days in the war in Iraq.Try kicking that fact around your brain for a few minutes. (Be sure to place your hands over your ears to keep your brain from exploding.)
Later in the interview:
We need to get some balance. The cost of basically upgrading the Coast Guard's ability--and we're talking ships that are 30-plus years old that are breaking down routinely on patrol--is about the cost of a new DDX Destroyer, would pay for the next three years. The Navy's new DDX Destroyer would pay for the Coast Guard capability for the next three years. In terms of not getting a balance between national security and homeland security, we're not even close yet because we're really just fighting the last war.Don't believe the hype: When it comes to the boring, difficult work of bolstering our nation's homeland security apparatus, 9/11 changed almost nothing for the Bush administration. They've chosen to spend their political capital elsewhere.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
But before the details get filled in--and that should start to happen in the next week or two--it's worth ruminating, in the abstract, over a couple of scenarios that fall short of the indictment of a White House official.
First, suppose it emerges that a White House official leaked Plame's identity to the press, but Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is unable to make the case that the official knew Plame was a covert operative.
A number of questions demand answers: How was Plame's identity learned by the official in the first place? Who did he call? On what grounds was the information made available? Was the President's name invoked?
Whatever the answers, though, it seems clear that individuals participating in--or orchestrating--that kind of leak should be forced to resign on the spot by the President.
A person who leaks a CIA agent's identity--without definitive knowledge that she isn't covert--is guilty of collosal negligence or worse. There's no place in government for someone with that kind of ethical tin ear.
But what if it turns out that White House officials, while not responsible for the initial leak, did confirm Plame's identity to reporters?
If that's where things end up, the Bushies will likely try to construct an ethical distinction between leaking and confirming. But it's hard to see why one should be seen as less egregious than the other: Both actions facilitate the outing of a covert agent's identity for partisan gain. Both actions ignore the line between political hardball and abuse of power.
Anyone who can't grasp this intuitively has no business with access to sensitive information.
The latest on the story can be found here.
Monday, July 04, 2005
From the Mass MoCA website:
On the most American of holiday weekends, MASS MoCA presents a truly monumental and uniquely American sculptural installation by Dave Cole. Starting June 30, 2005, Cole will be in residence at MASS MoCA with his project The Knitting Machine which comprises two excavators specially fitted with massive 20' knitting needles. The product of The Knitting Machine is an oversized American flag--a flag which can be seen as both a celebratory gesture of pride and a commentary on America's role in world affairs.
When the flag is removed from The Knitting Machine it will be folded into the traditional flag triangle and will be on display in a presentation case in MASS MoCA's lobby, accompanied by the 20' knitting needles, and a video of the knitting process.
The Knitting Machine is one part of a three-part exhibition of Cole's work at the museum. In addition to the installation, MASS MoCA will show Cole's Memorial Flag (Toy Soldiers) (2005), a 5 ' x 9-1/2' foot flag crafted of 18,000 plastic toy soldiers wrestling beneath an impermeable glaze of red, white and blue; and The Evolution of the Knitting Needle Through Modern Warfare (2001), a convincing display of hypothetical army-issue knitting needles--what Cole imagines Army needles would have been had the Army mandated them as combat equipment for seven wars, from the Civil War through the first Persian Gulf War.
Cole's exhibition is part of American Traditions, a Berkshire County-wide celebration of more than two centuries of the unique and diverse artistic bounty that only America could produce. The John Deere excavators for the installation were donated by Schmidt Equipment in North Oxford, Massachusetts.