Richard Keil of Bloomberg’s Washington Bureau (infamous for his “The president of the United States is AWOL, and we’re with him… the ultimate road trip.” line in the story of the President’s Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad) has breaking news on Valerie Plame investigation.
July 22 (Bloomberg) — Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.
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 Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn’t tell Libby of Plame’s identity, the person said.
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, according a person familiar with the matter. Novak, who was first to report Plame’s name and connection to Wilson, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor, the person said.
These discrepancies may be important because Fitzgerald is investigating whether Libby, Rove or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation. The Plame case has its genesis in whether any administration officials violated a 1982 law making it illegal to knowingly reveal the name of a CIA agent.Keil’s report relies on an anonymous source, so it should be viewed with a health dose of skepticism, but assuming the source is accurate we now have a possible reason why Fitzgerald fought so hard for testimony from Time report Matt Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller. The differing account of Russert, Novak, Libby, and Rove would be hard to make a case for perjury with, as they amount to he said/he said accounts of phone conversations. If Fitzgerald could show a pattern of differing accounts from either Rove or Libby, then perhaps he’d have a case.
The story goes on to recap yesterday’s news of a State Department memo that included Plame’s name in section marked as “secret.”
A memo by the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) included Plame’s name in a paragraph marked “(S)” for ‘Secret,’ a designation that should have indicated to anyone who read it that the information was classified, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
The memo summarizing the Plame-Wilson connection was provided to Powell as he left with President George W. Bush on a five-day trip to Africa. Fitzgerald is exploring whether other White House officials who accompanied Bush may have gained access to the memo and shared its contents with officials back in Washington. Rove and Libby didn’t accompany Bush to Africa.
One key to the inquiry is when White House aides knew of Wilson’s connection to Plame and whether they learned about it through this memo or other classified information.If either Libby or Rove can be tied to the memo it’s game over for them. I’m still wholly underwhelmed by the story, but given the details that have emerged (and are likely to emerge), it’s just about time that both Rove and Libby take one for the team and step down.