David Corn of The Nation magazine joins us with the latest on the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Former Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper testified Wednesday that it was President Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, who first revealed the CIA status of Valerie Plame. Cooper follows former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who acknowledged she had conversations with other government officials and could not be "absolutely certain" that she first heard about Plame from Libby. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We end today’s program with the latest on the trial of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Former Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper testified Wednesday that it was President Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, who first revealed the CIA status of Valerie Plame. Cooper is the second reporter to testify at Libby’s perjury and obstruction trial. On Tuesday, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was called to the witness stand. In her second day of testimony, Miller acknowledged that she had conversations with other government officials and could not be, quote, "absolutely certain" that she first heard about Plame from Libby. One of Libby’s lawyers told the judge that the defense plans to call the managing editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, to discredit Miller.
AMY GOODMAN: The government’s other witnesses who have testified in the trial so far include Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, and Catherine Martin, Dick Cheney’s former spokesperson, also the wife of the FCC chair, Kevin Martin. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said Wednesday the government expected to finish presenting its case early next week.
David Corn has been closely following this case, Washington editor of The Nation magazine, co-author of the book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, and runs the Nation blog, "Capital Games." Welcome to Democracy Now!, David. Tell us the latest and what you think is most significant about this first week of trial.
DAVID CORN: Well, first, I just want to send my condolences to friends of family of Molly Ivins, who was a close friend of mine, and it’s a rather sad day for those of us who knew her, either personally or through her work. But she’d be the first to say, you know, "Go to the trial and, you know, keep an eye on them." So, that’s what I’m going to do.
And, you know, the significance of the trial is that Patrick Fitzgerald has brought a very narrow charge against one member of the Bush administration: Scooter Libby. He was Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff. He has charged him with lying to the FBI and the grand jury that was investigating the CIA leak. And what Libby essentially told the FBI and the grand jurors was that prior to the leak happening, you know, he had some conversations with journalists, that the name Valerie Wilson or the fact that Joe Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA came up, but that he was only just sort of passing scuttlebutt that he had picked up from other reporters. That is, he had no official information. He said her didn’t even know if Joe Wilson had a wife. He couldn’t be sure. So it was just really just part of that daisy chain of gossip that takes place in Washington between officials and reporters. That would actually protect him from prosecution, because you could only be prosecuted for leaking, if you’re a government official, official information, not for telling one reporter what another reporter told you.
But so far, we have had, by my count, seven witnesses, government witnesses and journalists, take the stand in the last two weeks who have all contradicted flatly significant parts of Scooter Libby’s testimony. These are all people who either had conversations in which they told Scooter Libby that Valerie Wilson was a CIA operative and may or may not have been involved in Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger, or journalists or officials who said that Scooter Libby told them.
So every witness who gets up there then gets challenged by the very competent defense lawyers about their memories and powers of recollection, and the defense lawyers produce contradictions in statements that these witnesses have made between grand jury testimony and maybe testimony at the trial — the grand jury testimony, when they said they weren’t quite sure about this memory or that memory, and — which is a standard defense technique. It’s not unusual here.
But what Fitzgerald is doing is showing that again and again and again all these witnesses have memories pointing in the same direction. So "Can they all be wrong?" is going to be the essence of this case to the jury, and the jurors are going to have to decide whether they can look past the nicks and cuts that the defense team gets in Fitzgerald’s witnesses or whether they agree with Fitzgerald that the thrust of these stories are rather clear.
JUAN GONZALEZ: David, I was particularly interested in the testimony this week of Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter, obviously, who lost her job as a result of this case. But she apparently contradicted Libby, as well, but she could only remember the conversations she had with Libby, but not with the other government officials that supposedly also talked to her. And she was very combative, I understand, under cross-examination.
DAVID CORN: It was very interesting to see Judy Miller up there. And I have to say — I’ll plug the book, and I have to say it was written with — I co-wrote the book with Michael Isikoff, Hubris. We go into a lot of details of the leak scandal, that a lot of the testimony that’s come up, a lot of it is just not new. It’s Fitzgerald finally putting it in public and putting it up to scrutiny of the defense team. And Judy Miller, we knew that she had a bad memory about some of these meetings with Scooter Libby. We knew that she didn’t remember the first meeting and that she went back and looked at her notes and found them.
The interesting thing is, when that story first came out back in 2005, a lot of Judy Miller’s critics — liberals and liberal bloggers — were saying, "Oh, my god! How could this be that she didn’t remember the Scooter Libby meeting. She must be covering up for him. What’s her agenda?" And they were very harsh on her. And, of course, prior to that, Fitzgerald had put her in jail for 85 [days] for defying his subpoena to cooperate with his investigation. Everything’s been flipped now. She comes on the stand, and it’s Fitzgerald who’s trying to help her, to boost her credibility. It’s her testimony against Scooter Libby that critics of the administration want to see as solid. And it’s now Scooter Libby, via his lawyers who are trying to do anything to make a mockery of this former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times and making it seem like she couldn’t even remember her shoe size without having a note about it.
AMY GOODMAN: David, we just have 10 seconds, but is there finger pointing now toward Vice President Dick Cheney?
DAVID CORN: Well, there’s not finger pointing, but he has been drawn into this case quite significantly, and maybe even more so if he ends up being called to the witness stand by Scooter Libby’s team.
AMY GOODMAN: And what have they said about him?
DAVID CORN: Well, so far, you know, it’s been quite clear that he was hands-on in the damage control operation aimed at Joe Wilson. In fact, the evidence was introduced, Scooter Libby’s own notes, showing that Vice President Cheney was the one who told Scooter Libby that Valerie Wilson worked at the counter-proliferation division of the CIA. I’d like to hear more about that now.
AMY GOODMAN: David Corn, we’re going to have to leave it there, and I want to thank you very much for being with us today.