Man Without Qualities

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sources III

Matt Cooper scribes an article in TIME, "What I Told The Grand Jury." The article contains nothing new implicating Rove or anyone else. But it raises serious question about Mr. Cooper's own honesty, ethics and personal agenda. The article purports to describe Mr. Cooper's grand jury testimony, and includes this description of his testimony regarding I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby:
[T]he next day the Vice President's chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, told me Cheney had not been responsible for Wilson's mission. .... This was actually my second testimony for the special prosecutor. In August 2004, I gave limited testimony about my conversations with Scooter Libby. Libby had also given me a specific waiver, and I gave a deposition in the office of my attorney. I have never discussed that conversation until now. In that testimony, I recounted an on-the-record conversation with Libby that moved to background. On the record, he denied that Cheney knew about or played any role in the Wilson trip to Niger. On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or words to that effect. Like Rove, Libby never used Valerie Plame's name or indicated that her status was covert, and he never told me that he had heard about Plame from other reporters, as some press accounts have indicated.

Consider Mr. Cooper's assertion that he had never previously "discussed" his August 2004 "conversation." (Why does he refer to his testimony as a "conversation?") Somebody conveyed much of the substance of that "conversation" to Susan Schmidt, who on November 26, 2004 wrote in the Washington Post:

Time reporter Matthew Cooper has told prosecutors that he talked to Libby on July 12 and mentioned that he had heard that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, a source knowledgeable about his testimony said. Cooper testified that Libby said he had heard the same thing from the media.

It would be a serious crime for anyone in the special prosecutor's office to have disclosed Mr. Cooper's testimony. But Mr. Cooper and his attorney (presumably, Richard Stauber) were free to do so. Is Mr. Cooper claiming in his new TIME article that he did not "discuss" his earlier testimony while knowing that his attorney or some other agent of his did discuss that testimony, or that he or one of his agents conveyed information to Ms. Schmidt through means other than a narrowly defined "discussion" (e-mail of a summary transcript, for example)? He is choosing his words with exquisite care. I think it is highly likely that Mr. Cooper knows exactly why Ms. Schmidt wrote what she did - but he's not telling us.

Then there is his revelation that "Libby had also given me a specific waiver." How could such a "specific waiver" have been obtained from Mr. Libby if what Mr. Cooper's attorney, Richard Stauber, said in his dramatic detailing of how a "specific waiver" was obtained from Mr. Rove is true:

[O]n Wednesday morning ... I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal. And in there, right at the end of the article about this matter is the following statement: "Mr. Rove hasn't asked any reporter to treat him as a confidential source in the matter," Mr. Luskin said, who I understand is Mr. Rove's lawyer. "So if Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, it's not Karl he's protecting." I immediately called Matt from the plane and said, "You ought to take a look at this comment. I think it is interesting and I think we should give a shot of calling Mr. Luskin and seeing if we could get a specific waiver," which Matt authorized me to do. I arrived in Washington early Wednesday morning. I put in a call to Mr. Luskin and asked him for a specific waiver.

How was it proper for Mr. Cooper to obtain a "specific waiver" from Mr. Libby but not Mr. Rove? Mr. Stauber says he had not previously asked Mr. Rove for a "specific waiver" because contact with Mr. Rove might constitute obstruction of justice, as reported by Howard Kurtz:

Matthew Cooper ... never asked White House political adviser Karl Rove to release him from a pledge of confidentiality because Cooper's attorney believed that any conversation between the two men could be construed as obstruction of justice. "I forbid Matt to call him," Richard Sauber said yesterday. "I cringed at the idea. These two witnesses would have to explain their discussion before the grand jury." .... Cooper insisted he would "never be able to work" in journalism if he accepted the general waiver that Rove and other White House officials had given journalists. "I just thought those blanket waivers handed out essentially by one's boss are hard to consider uncoerced," Cooper said in an interview yesterday.
But Mr. Cooper and his lawyer now want us to believe that all it took was a squib in the Journal to get Mr. Stauber over his "cringe." And we are also expected to believe that Mr. Cooper was concerned that Mr. Rove's blanket waiver was "coerced" but that a specific waiver somehow would not be "coerced"- even though the coercive pressure on Mr. Rove had only been growing and the "specific waiver" merely stated that the earlier blanket waiver applied to Mr. Cooper. And on top of that we are supposed to believe, without explanation, that Messrs. Stauber and Cooper did not consider contact with Mr. Libby for the same purpose to pose the same concerns. And let's not forget that Mr. Stauber wants us to believe that he was prepared to have his client spend time in jail for contempt, but "cringed" at the idea of his client having to explain contact with Mr. Rove. This is all grossly implausible on its face. Whatever, Messrs. Cooper and Stauber are and have been up to, they almost certainly haven't disclose it yet.

In a prior post I wrote that Mr. Cooper had lied about the number of his sources for his original TIME story on the basis of the post-testimony comments of Mr. Cooper and his attorney, which I construed as indicating that Mr. Rove was his sole source. That was my error. This morning Mr. Cooper said on "Meet the Press" that Messrs. Libby and Rove were among the "government officials" referred to in Mr. Cooper's original TIME story and also said there may have been other sources for that information - and he declined to elaborate. He said that he has given all information to the grand jury. Isn't Mr. Cooper cute?

This is what was in Mr. Cooper's original TIME article:
[S]ome government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices.

Mr. Cooper's new TIME article does not say that Mr. Libby "noted" any such thing. Instead, Mr. Cooper described his interview with Mr. Libby this way:

I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or words to that effect.

The sentence "I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger" obviously does not even contain a reference to the CIA or to weapons of mass destruction. And Libby replying, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or words to that effect, does not constitute a "note" on Mr. Libby's part. If Mr. Cooper is counting Mr. Libby as one of the "government officials [who] have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" on the basis of what he describes in his new TIME article, then Mr. Cooper grossly misrepresented or misconstrued what Mr. Libby actually said - and grossly overstated the support he had obtained for his original article.

But then he still has those mysterious "other officials" to fall back on, doesn't he?

Valerie Plame is a government official, isn't she? Judith? Valerie? Are you listening?

Comments: Post a Comment