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Plamegate

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Joe Wilson’s War (or: The Plame Game.)

Sean Penn and Naomi Watts reunite to tell the story of Valerie Plame and the imaginary yellowcake in the new trailer for Doug Liman’s Fair Game. Hmm, ok…but I’m getting a Lions for Lambs/Green Zone flavor from this trailer — edutainmenty and too little, too late. Still, it pretty much has to be better than 21 Grams.

The Mouse that Roared.

“‘Over that summer of 2002,’ he writes, ‘top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war…In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president’s advantage …What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.‘” The other big political story of my move week: In a new political tell-all, former Dubya Press Secretary Scott McClellan turns on his former White House masters, accusing them of ginning up the case for war and lying outright to him about the Plamegate affair. “Over time, as you leave the White House and leave the bubble, you’re able to take off your partisan hat and take a clear-eyed look at things…I don’t know that I can say when I started the book that it would end up where it was, but I felt at the end it had to be as honest and forthright as possible.’

Welcome to the reality-based community, Scott. In the meantime, the White House is claiming McClellan was motivated by “sour grapes” (whatever that means — why would he want to keep a gig he seemed to hate?) while other Dubya stalwarts, blindsided by the tome, have also gone on the attack. (But, don’t fret — of all people, McClellan knew what was coming.)

The Plame Identity: Kidman.

“‘I have a really, really insane take on how to tell it. It’s so outrageous,’ Liman said. ‘Ultimately, I’d be doing something no one has ever done before. Therefore it’s automatically appealing to me. I’m just starting to explore whether [what I have in mind] is even possible to do.’” Doug Liman, director of The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and the upcoming Jumper, promotes his next project, a Valerie Plame biopic starring Nicole Kidman. Maybe he can get Josh Brolin to pull double duty as Dubya.

Libby cries Uncle.

“The process ‘would last even beyond the two years of supervised release, cost millions of dollars more than the fine he has already paid, and entail many more hundreds of hours preparing for an all-consuming appeal and retrial,’ Wells said.Cheney consigliere and convicted felon Scooter Libby files a motion to dismiss his appeal of the Plamegate verdict. Said Libby’s lawyer, Theodore Wells: “[T]he burden on Mr. Libby and his young family of continuing to pursue his complete vindication are too great to ask them to bear.” (Let’s remember: According to Dubya last July, the burden of jail time for perjury was apparently too much to bear as well.)

Scooter Laughs Last.

“I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive…The Constitution gives the president the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby’s case is an appropriate exercise of this power.” So, once again, we see what “restoring honor and dignity to the White House” means to these jokers. As y’all know, the main bit of news this past week, the 231st anniversary of our independence from the perversity of monarchical prerogatives, was that Dubya the decider chose to commute White House consigliere Scooter Libby’s sentence of 30 months in prison for lying to the American people. (Said prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald of the decision: “It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals.” For their part, the GOP are crying Marc Rich.) To be honest, I’m not sure what’s worse: the fact that, in flagrant defiance of both our judicial process and the public’s very real ethical concerns about this administration, Dubya actually let his guy off the hook…or that, given all we’ve seen from this gang over the past seven years, his shameless decision ultimately wasn’t all that surprising.

Prison Stripes for Scooter (and likely Jefferson.)

“I think public officials need to know if they are going to step over the line, there are going to be consequences…[What Libby did] causes people to think our government does not work for them.” A sadly necessary Capitol corruption update: As you no doubt heard, earlier in the week Scooter Libby was sentenced to thirty months in jail for his lies and evasions in the Valerie Plame case. (Libby has asked for a delay of the sentence, which probably won’t happen. And E.J. Dionne evaluates GOP sentiment for a pardon here — for now, the White House remains mum on the subject.) Meanwhile, on our side of the aisle, pretty obviously corrupt Democratic rep William Jefferson, he with the thousands of dollars stashed in the freezer, is indicted on 16 counts of racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice, mostly involving bribes offered and taken from West African business and political officials. Jefferson is fighting the charges, but the House — wisely — has already moved against him, opening an ethics inquiry into him and setting the stage for his expulsion.

Novak’s No-No.

em>”Novak may choose to regret or not regret that he blew the cover of an undercover CIA employee; he would hardly be the first journalist to do so. But for Novak to continue pretending he did no such thing is just weird.” Slate‘s Tim Noah explains why Bob Novak is guilty of outing Valerie Plame, even if the DoL tends to suggest otherwise.

It’s Official: Libby Lied.

How you like them aspens? Scooter Libby is found guilty on 4 of 5 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame case. Sentencing is currently set for June 5th, with a max (although unlikely) penalty of roughly 25 years. Update: “‘We’re not saying that we didn’t think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of,’ said the juror, Denis Collins. ‘But it seemed like he was . . . the fall guy.” One of the jurors argues that Libby seemed like a patsy for higher-ups in the Dubya administration. and prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald seems to agree…is it time for another “accountability moment”?

Walton’s Eleven.

Grounds for a mistrial? Let’s hope not. One of the jurors in the Scooter Libby case gets kicked off the jury. “U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the juror removed, saying ‘what she had exposure to obviously disqualifies her.’ The judge declined to say what information the juror had seen. Walton said the remaining jurors had not been tainted. He said he would allow deliberations to continue with 11 jurors rather than calling on one of two alternate jurors.

Libby’s Last Stand.

“‘This is something important, something he was focused on, something he was angry about,’ Fitzgerald said. ‘He had a motive to lie, and…he stole the truth from the justice system.’” The Scooter Libby case goes to the jury, and his flailing defense team doesn’t sound too confident: “‘If you’re not sure, that’s not guilty,’ said attorney Theodore Wells Jr. ‘It’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty that Mr. Libby is engaged in intentional lying.‘“

A Libby Alibi?

As Scooter Libby’s defense begins in Washington, a slew of reporters — including Bob Woodward, Bob Novak, and Evan Thomas — testify that Libby was not their source in the Plamegate fiasco, with Novak pinning the onus on Karl Rove (and the previously-outed Richard Armitage.) Hmm. Good to know, but whether Libby was the only White House official throwing around Wilson’s name or merely one of a team of Dubya flaks doing the same seems incidental to the question of whether he perjured himself.

Beat the Press?

“The defense has two ways to negate Russert’s powerful testimony: 1) They can say his memory’s bad. They’ve tried, with mixed results. 2) They can say he’s lying. But then they need to show a motive to lie. If fear of embarrassment is the best they’ve come up with, I think they’re in trouble.” The prosecution rests in the Scooter Libby trial, after a two-day appearance by — and defense grilling of — NBC’s Tim Russert.

Scooter’s Days in Court.

Who is this tiny, tiny fellow? Not more than 5-foot-7, to my eye. Sleek and slight like a kitten. Wears a digital watch with a Velcro band. Also wears a little beaded bracelet around his wrist. And writes semiperverted novels set in 1903 Japan. I admit it: You fascinate me, sir.” While GitM has been on hiatus this week, the aspens have been turning in Washington over at the Scooter Libby trial, and old friend Seth Stevenson, among others, has a ringside seat for Slate.

Novak speaks Plamely.

“First, Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he ‘thought’ might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson.” In his column this week, DoL Robert Novak finally comes clean about the Plamegate leak, and his version suggests leaker Richard Armitage knew exactly what he was doing when he told Novak about Valerie Plame.

Armitage Wide Open.

“‘I feel terrible,’ Armitage said. ‘Every day, I think, I let down the president. I let down the secretary of state. I let down my department, my family, and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.‘” Speaking of coming clean, Dick Armitage admits he was the Plame leaker (after having been outed by Mike Isikoff and David Corn last week.)

Internal Armitage.

“He was basically beside himself that he was the guy that f—ed up. My sense from Rich is that it was just chitchat.” A new book by Newsweek‘s Mike Isikoff and The Nation‘s David Corn outs former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a moderate by Dubya administration standards, as the man who leaked Valerie Plame’s name to Bobs Novak and Woodward. (Woodward’s former boss, Ben Bradlee, telegraphed as much in March.) “Armitage, a well-known gossip who loves to dish and receive juicy tidbits about Washington characters, apparently hadn’t thought through the possible implications of telling Novak about Plame’s identity. ‘I’m afraid I may be the guy that caused this whole thing,’ he later told Carl Ford Jr., State’s intelligence chief.

Plame’s Civil War.

“I and my former colleagues trusted the government to protect us in our jobs.” Plamegate enters a new phase as Valerie Plame files a lawsuit against Cheney, Rove, and Libby for “leaking Plame’s identity to ‘discredit, punish and seek revenge against the plaintiffs.’” And for all the rabid right-wingers out there cheering on Paula Jones back in the day, it looks like the chickens have come home to roost: “Cheney and others might be compelled to turn over documents to the Wilsons, as well as give sworn depositions, as President Bill Clinton eventually had to do when Paula Jones sued him for sexual harrassment.

Novak’s Source Material.

“For nearly the entire time of his investigation, Fitzgerald knew — independent of me — the identity of the sources I used in my column of July 14, 2003…I have promised to discuss my role in the investigation when permitted by the prosecution, and I do so now.” In a column published today, DoL Robert Novak finally comes clean — sort of — about his sources in Plamegate. In the piece, Novak names Karl Rove (big surprise) and CIA spokesman Bill Harlow as his two confirmers of Plame’s identity, but still refuses to out the “senior Bush administration official” who served as his initial source (although he does say that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald is well aware of that person’s identity.)

Karl free to Rove.

Fitzmas is cancelled? Lawyer Robert Luskin announces that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has told him he “does not anticipate seeking charges” against Karl Rove for his alleged role in Plamegate, partly because Rove apparently told the truth about his involvement to the FBI: “It’s now known that Rove had discussed Plame’s CIA employment with conservative columnist Robert Novak, who exposed her identity less than a week later…Rove’s truth-telling to the FBI saved him from indictment.

For their part, Karl and the GOP are now strutting about in vindication mode and the Dubya White House is breathing a sigh of relief, but Salon‘s Walter Shapiro says don’t fret, Dems: “Rove was not exactly doing hard time on a federal rock pile when Bush’s popularity plunged to around 35 percent. It was Rove’s handiwork to make Social Security privatization the signature issue of Bush’s second term. The disastrous fate of that political gambit, combined with the Iraq war, turned Bush into a lame-duck president before his time. As a political strategist, Rove runs the gamut of issues from A (national security) to B (tax cuts). Six years into his tenure in the White House, Rove may be running on empty, just like the president whom he serves.

Dick’s Last Resort?

“Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an amb to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?” A new court filing by Patrick Fitzgerald finds Dick Cheney fretting over Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame in his handwritten notes on Wilson’s article, further substantiating that the felonious leak likely emanated from the veep’s office…if not ordered by the vice-president himself. “Fitzgerald’s filing states that Libby learned of Plame’s name from Cheney, in the course of discussions by the vice president’s office about how to respond to a June 2003 inquiry from Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus about Wilson’s trip to Niger. Fitzgerald asserts that those conversations — and earlier ones sparked by a May 2003 column about the trip in the Times — help demonstrate that Libby’s ‘disclosures to the press concerning Mr. Wilson’s wife were not casual disclosures.‘”

Closure for Karl?

All the t’s have been crossed and Novaks have been questioned…Now, according to the Post‘s Jim Vanderhei, Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s extended investigation of Karl Rove is nearing resolution. “Rove expects to learn as soon as this month if he will be indicted — or publicly cleared of wrongdoing — for making false statements in the CIA leak case, according to sources close to the presidential adviser. An indictment would be devastating to a White House already battered by low poll numbers, a staff shake-up and a stalled agenda.

No Love for Libby.

“I’m just not going to let this case turn into a judicial resolution of the legitimacy of the war or the accuracy of the president’s State of the Union address.” The verdict isn’t it yet — still, it seems Plamegate Judge Reggie Walton is not amused by the Libby defense’s recent attempts at graymail.

Rove Returns (Again).

Fifth time’s the charm? Karl Rove returns once more to testify before Patrick Fitzgerald’s Plamegate grand jury, mainly to discuss his interactions with TIME reporter Viveca Novak. Will this fifth round of testimony of Dubya’s consigliere result in an indictment (and finally make Karl a household name?) Hopefully, we’ll know sooner rather than later. Update: Make that 2-3 weeks.

Judge: No More Leaks on Leaks.

Irony of ironies, US District Judge Reggie B. Walston, presiding judge in Scooter Libby’s pending trial, threatens both sides with a gag order should information about the Plamegate case continue to make it into the newspapers. But the President told Scooter to call Judy, and maybe even Bob

If It’s Sunday, Arlen’s Angry.

“I think that there has to be a detailed explanation precisely as to what Vice President Cheney did, what the president said to him, and an explanation from the president as to what he said so that it can be evaluated.” In keeping with a recent pattern of talking tough on the Sunday shows (no doubt to impress his independent-minded Pennsylvania constituents) while pretty much folding like an accordion in Senate committee, Arlen Specter says he want answers from Bush and Cheney regarding the recent Libby leak disclosure. Update: Dubya responds.

The Leaky Cauldron.

While Dubya and the GOP continue to smear and threaten the whistleblowers who exposed this administration’s recent egregious violations of civil liberties — the warrantless wiretaps or the secret gulags, for example — papers filed by Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disclose that Scooter Libby was actually told to leak classified information to the press by Dubya and Cheney (although not necessarily the identity of Valerie Plame.) “Libby said he understood that ‘he was to tell [Judith] Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was “vigorously trying to procure” uranium,’ Fitzgerald wrote.” Replied DNC chair Howard Dean today, “The fact that the president was willing to reveal classified information for political gain and put the interests of his political party ahead of America’s security shows that he can no longer be trusted to keep America safe.” At the very least, given his own penchant for selective leaking, it means Dubya is being a tremendous hypocrite every time he starts equating whistleblowers with terrorist sympathizers, and that his repeated promise to find the leakers in his administration is roughly equivalent to OJ’s hunt for the real killers. Update: ABC’s John Cochran and Salon‘s Farhad Manjoo break down the implications. Update 2: Fitzgerald makes a correction.

Bradlee Leaks the Leaker?

That Armitage is the likely source is a fair assumption.” Former Post editor Ben Bradlee, who claims to know the identity of Bob Woodward’s source on the Plame leak, seemed to suggest to Vanity Fair that it was Richard Armitage. When asked about his comments yesterday, Bradlee backtracked: “‘I don’t think I said it,’ Bradlee said. ‘I know who his source is, and I don’t want to get into it. . . . I have not told a soul who it is.’

The Gray Zone.

“Any disclosure of the PDB beyond its intended narrow audience — the President and his most senior advisers — increases the possibility of damage to the national security.” The Libby legal team’s attempt at graymail receives a highly unwelcome reception from the CIA.

Scooter.com.

“Scooter Libby has a Web site. He’s not running for office, but the site makes it looks like he is. The lead picture on the front page shows him with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Other snapshots portray him in soft focus and at oblique angles, the kinds of images candidates use to make themselves look more huggable.Slate‘s John Dickerson evaluates the web presence of the Libby Legal Defense Trust (put together by Scooter’s big-ticket friends), and what it tells us about Libby’s probable defense strategy.

Win one for the Scooter.

The wagons are a-circlin’: “A Who’s Who of Republican heavy hitters and Bush administration supporters are lending their names to help raise $5 million for the defense of Vice President Cheney’s former top aide in his criminal trial.”

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