It was bittersweet to be suddenly out of town the day indictments came down in the ongoing CIA Leak Investigation. Good because I didn't have to hear the mountainous thunder of spin from the punditocracy; bad because I wasn't able to weigh in right away. My first thought is that this is only the beginning. Scooter Libby is innocent until proven guilty, and his lawyer claims that he's mounting a "vigorous defense"
of his client. That has to be the worst news the White House has heard in months. Just such a defense would force all sorts of officials to testify, from Ari Fleischer to David Addington to John Bolton to the Vice President himself. That's a lot of lids to keep covered, and a lot of opportunities for the press to continue digging. What did in Watergate were not indictments (though there were many), it was the reporting that finally roused the House of Representatives to investigate independently. In the hands of a grand jury all of this information about who knew what, when and where will remain sealed, as it ought to for a reasonable trial by jury. The House can throw some sunshine on the matter and put all the gory details up for public display. Fitzgerald has cautioned against it but these scandals typically roll downhill, and if the Dems retake the House in '06, you can bet that subpoena power they'll get will come in handy.
Second of all, I'm stunned that people seem to think this is over, and everyone should just move on to the next thing. Hardly. Patrick Fitzgerald, if we are to look at his record, is methodical and deliberate, and tends to indict in drips and drabs. In his case against the Illinois state government, Gov. George Ryan was the 66th person he indicted, after years and years, and it was achieved once he got someone to flip and testify against him. The notion that Karl Rove, or anybody in the White House, is out of the woods is ridiculous. Just because the investigation is nearing closure doesn't mean the indictments are. Hell, Rove's own lawyers and confidants
know that to be true:
Rove remains a focus of the CIA leak probe. He has told friends it is possible he still will be indicted for providing false statements to the grand jury.
"Everyone thinks it is over for Karl and they are wrong," a source close to Rove said. The strategist's legal and political advisers "by no means think the part of the investigation concerning Karl is closed."
Cooper's attorney, Dick Sauber, said Fitzgerald certainly meant it when he told Luskin last week that Rove remains in legal jeopardy and under investigation. "It wouldn't surprise me knowing how careful he is and how much he doesn't want to be seen as trigger-happy, that he is going through each of those things [that Rove presented] and seeing if they can be verified or not," Sauber said.
"But no prosecutor wants to be embarrassed in court by something he didn't know. And no prosecutor, especially Pat Fitzgerald, wants to be seen as unfair -- especially in this kind of matter with so much at stake."
Rove is definitively named in the indictment as leaking information to Robert Novak. However, he is titled "Official A"
in the relevant section. This has been confirmed as Rove, yet he's the only one in the entire indictment who isn't named explicitly. Why do you think that is? One can only speculate. What we do know is that the reference to Official A contradicts everything Rove has been saying about the affair since Day 1:
On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House ("Official A") who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson's wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson's trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson's wife.
Rove has been saying he mentioned Plame as an afterthought, and he forgot to mention that he said it to Cooper because it wasn't material to their conversation. But this says definitively that "Novak would be writing about Wilson's wife." That's intent to injure right there. This bit about Rove is in an indictment about Libby for a reason. Fitzgerald appears to be setting the table to bring in additional information about the leak itself.
The notion that the Libby indictment is "only" perjury and obstruction of justice is ridiculous on its face. This has everything to do with the leak, since the perjury and obstruction are the only reason the leak couldn't be prosecuted. It's like saying "You're saying I lied to you about spilling milk on the carpet, therefore you're not busting me for spilling milk on the carpet." I mean please.
The point is that what we have here appears to be a cover-up of a smear that was intended to cover up a lie. That's a lot of layers to peel off to get back to the original lie. If there's a man able to do it, it's Patrick Fitzgerald. And he has all the time in the world to peel. This isn't over for a second.
UPDATE: Looks like Harry Reid is going for the jugular:
Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, questioning intelligence that President Bush used in the run-up to the war in Iraq and accusing Republicans of ignoring the issue.
"They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why," Democratic leader Harry Reid said.
Taken by surprise, Republicans derided the move as a political stunt.
"The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," said Majority Leader Bill Frist. "They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas," the Republican leader said.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid demanded the Senate go into closed session. The public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, and the doors were closed. No vote is required in such circumstances.
This is inextricably linked to the leak investigation. It's a window into the Big Lie about prewar intelligence. Frist and the GOP Senate Leadership can scream and cry all they want, but Reid is absolutely right. America has turned against the war and believed the White House lied its way into it without any help from the media or the government. We had to figure it out all on their own. Now Reid is demanding some action on behalf of the majority of the American people.
I'm glad he's singling our Pat Roberts, too. Roberts turned the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation on Iraq into a whitewash and a sideshow. It came out on Friday that Libby and Cheney withheld documents
to that committee's investigation. You never heard a peep from Roberts about that.
Like I said, not over for a second.