The Libby Non-Pardon: From the Department of Pre-Spin

I thought I was done with the myth on the Scooter Libby non-pardon. But dday’s emphasis on the second most eye-popping detail from Time’s story–Libby’s unsuccessful attempt to appeal to Bush personally for a pardon (the most eye-popping being Bush’s consultation with his own defense attorney)–made me want to tell this story again to emphasize the known facts rather than Bush’s self-serving spin of those facts.

The short version, though, is that the White House prevented Libby from speaking to Bush directly about this case, all the while telling a narrative that the question of pardon pertained narrowly to whether Libby lied about his conversation with Russert and not the larger questions implicating both Cheney and Bush. After Libby appealed his case through Fielding indirectly to Bush, Bush consulted with his defense attorney. And the two of them–Bush and his defense attorney–apparently made the final decision not to pardon Libby just two days before Bush left office.

The Three Clouds over the Commutation and Pardon Discussion

Not long before the jury returned a guilty verdict, Patrick Fitzgerald summarized the problem with Libby’s successful perjury and obstruction of justice.

There is a cloud over what the Vice President did that week. He wrote those columns. He had those meetings. He sent Libby off to Judith Miller at the St. Regis Hotel. At that meeting, … the defendant talked about the wife. We didn’t put that cloud there. That cloud remains because the defendant has obstructed justice and lied about what happened.

As the trial revealed, Dick Cheney had ordered Scooter Libby to leak something to Judy Miller. Around the same time Cheney gave that order, Cheney made mad scribblings on Joe Wilson’s op-ed, singularly emphasizing the story of Joe Wilson’s wife. After receiving Cheney’s order, Libby leaked Valerie Wilson’s identity to Miller and went on to give Ari Fleischer some of the details–the name "Plame" and her covert status–that remain unexplained in Bob Novak’s article. 

In other words, the primary cloud over the Vice President was the question, "did the Vice President order his top aide to leak Valerie Wilson’s identity?" And since Libby was the only witness to Cheney’s order, so long as he remained willing to continue telling his lies about his role in the leak, Fitzgerald could never remove that cloud. So long as Libby was willing to take the fall for Cheney, we would never know whether Cheney and Libby had maliciously and knowingly outed Valerie.

But that cloud also blocked another cloud, one over the Vice President and the President. Libby had testified to the grand jury that–after hesitating about leaking the information to Judy (which had to be more than the NIE, since he had already leaked the NIE by this point), Cheney reassured him that President Bush had declassified it, meaning it was okay to leak. Libby didn’t entirely trust Cheney on that point–he double checked with David Addington whether Cheney’s reassurances even made sense legally. But based on Cheney’s reassurance and Addington’s confirmation that the President can declassify whatever he wants, Libby leaked the information to Judy Miller. 

Cheney, too, was asked about how this information got declassified. According to Cheney’s lawyer, Cheney maintained that,

Cheney’s lawyer told reporters that the president had "declassified the information and authorized and directed the vice president to get it out" but "didn’t get into how it would be done." Then the vice president had directed his top aide, Scooter Libby, to supply the information anonymously to reporters.

Bush almost certainly got asked a similar question when–with his own defense attorney Jim Sharp present–he met with Pat Fitzgerald seven weeks after Cheney did. We don’t know how Bush responded to Fitzgerald’s questions, and we don’t know whether Cheney’s lawyer’s anonymous leaking of Cheney’s story to Michael Isikoff matches what Cheney told Fitzgerald But this cloud–whether Bush had authorized leaking classified information to rebut Joe Wilson, and if so, what Bush understood that information to include–also remains over the Vice President and the President himself.  The probable forthcoming release of Cheney’s interview may clarify this cloud, or it may simply darken it, but it will probably make the cloud more apparent in any case.

But there’s a third cloud. We have just one known written piece of evidence proving that Cheney ordered Libby to leak stuff to Judy Miller (Libby’s note recording the order). We have no known pieces of evidence documenting the declassification of information to leak to Judy Miller (Cheney’s Fourth Branch stunt took care of that). But we do have a written piece of evidence (Libby’s June 9, 2003 diary) that Bush expressed concern about Joe Wilson’s allegations on the morning that OVP started scouring for the government for opposition research to shut Joe Wilson up. And we do have a written piece of evidence (the meat grinder note) that Cheney understood Bush to have ordered Libby to take an active role in rebutting Joe Wilson’s claims, something Cheney probably reminded Bush of before demanding that Scott McClellan exonerate Libby publicly. 

The third cloud over the commutation and pardon discussion, then, is the question, "What did the President know and when did he know it?" Or, more exactly, "What did the President order, and what degree of detail and awareness did he have when he made that order?"

Libby’s continued willingness to stick by his lies put the cloud over Cheney’s order to leak classified information to Judy Miller. But it also put a cloud over whether Bush declassified that information and whether that information included Valerie Wilson’s identity. And it also put a cloud over precisely what Bush said before OVP started investigating the Wilsons, and what Cheney understood by his reference to the President’s request that Libby stick his neck in a meat grinder.

Libby’s continued silence created uncertainty over all three  of those issues.

Via Extraordinary Means, Bush Commutes Libby’s Sentence Before He Goes to Prison

Following a trial in which promised testimony from both Cheney and Libby failed to materialize, the jury found Libby guilty of four of five counts. And following normal sentencing guidelines with a cross-reference because of the seriousness of the crime of outing a CIA officer, Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison. 

Between Libby’s guilty verdict and the time the Appeals Court refused to stay Libby’s incarceration pending appeal on July 2, 2007, the White House devised a way to keep Libby out of prison and silent. (Note that Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence was not–as Time claims–triggered to the Appeals Court ruling against Libby on his appeal–Libby eventually dropped his appeal–but to Libby’s imminent imprisonment due to their refusal of a stay.) "The White House was prepared," according to Time, because Fred Fielding had started reviewing Libby’s case.

Now that, already, was unusual. As Bush’s Pardon Attorney explained in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, requests for commutations or pardons normally come via an application to the Office of Pardon Attorney. Someone who–like Libby–was still appealing his conviction and had not yet reported to prison is normally ineligible for consideration for a commutation (though one person had his sentence commuted to home confinement by Bill Clinton while his conviction was still under appeal).

An inmate is eligible to apply for commutation so long as he has reported to prison to begin serving his sentence and is not challenging his conviction through an appeal or other court proceeding.

Yet the Court’s order that Libby report to prison appears to be what precipitated his commutation.

And a pardon is not usually requested until a person fulfills his sentence.

Executive clemency petitions usually request either a pardon after completion of sentence or a commutation – reduction of sentence – currently being served.

And none of these things–consideration for commutation or a pardon–are supposed to happen without the feedback of the prosecuting US Attorney.

my office contacts the United States Attorney for the federal district of conviction or the prosecuting section of the Department of Justice for comments and recommendations regarding the commutation request

None of this, however, applied in the Libby case. On the contrary, the Pardon Attorney testified that, "neither I nor my office had anything to do with the commutation for Mr. Libby" and on the day of Libby’s pardon, Fitzgerald defended Libby’s sentence as reasonable.

Instead of following the normal process, Time describes, Fred Fielding reviewed the case. According to Time, this former aide to Nixon–Nixon never expressed guilt or real remorse before receiving his pardon–counseled Bush that he should not pardon Libby because he had not expressed guilt or remorse. But, Fielding reportedly counseled, the President "had wide discretion to determine" the fairness of Libby’s sentence.

And so it was that, via utterly unique means (and a false narrative about what was normal or not for clemency), Bush prevented Libby from going to jail, without giving him–as a full pardon would have–immunity from further prosecution and therefore the inability to invoke the Fifth to avoid testifying before a Congressional committee.

"Cheney and his allies were" according to several former officials serving as Time’s sources, "so happy that [Scooter] wasn’t going to jail." 

Cheney (and Libby) Make Several Further Unusual Appeals for a Pardon

After the commutation, Time reports, Cheney continued to make his appeals to Bush to pardon Libby, all the time via abnormal, direct means.

In Libby’s case, Cheney simply carried the message directly to Bush, as he had with so many other issues in the past, pressing the President in one-on-one meetings or in larger settings. A White House veteran was struck by his "extraordinary level of attention" to the case. Cheney’s persistence became nearly as big an issue as the pardon itself. "Cheney really got in the President’s face," says a longtime Bush-family source. "He just wouldn’t give it up."

Now, as Time reports it, Fielding either read for the first time–or reviewed anew–Libby’s trial transcript in anticipation of a mid-January meeting (roughly January 11) on whether or not to pardon Libby.

And so again the job fell to Fielding. The counsel knew that only one legitimate reason for a pardon remained: if the case against him had been a miscarriage of justice. Because that kind of judgment required a thorough review, Fielding plowed through a thick transcript of the trial himself, examining the evidence supporting each charge. It took Fielding a full week. He prepared his brief for an expected showdown at a pardon meeting in mid-January 2009.

[snip]

For his part, Fielding laid out most of his findings in a document called the pardon book, a compendium of evidence for anyone seeking clemency. The book on Libby lengthened the odds on a pardon. "You might disagree with the fact that the case had been brought and that prosecutorial discretion had been used in this way," says a source familiar with the review. "But the question of whether there had been materially misleading statements made by Scooter — on the facts, on the evidence, it was pretty clear." As far as Fielding was concerned, Libby had lied under oath.

According to Time, Cheney presented his case for Libby’s pardon on roughly January 11, at a meeting probably attended (given the sourcing of this story) by Ed Gillespie, Josh Bolten, and Fred Fielding, as well as Bush. Time suggests Cheney appealed narrowly to the case of whether or not Libby lied about his meeting with Russert and not the larger question of whether he knew, before he spoke to Russert, that Cheney had told him of Plame’s identity.

The Vice President argued the case in that Oval Office session, which was attended by the President and his top aides.

[snip]

Cheney, however, considered it an open question. "Who do you believe, Scooter or Russert?" he asked Bush.

Now, Cheney may have made his appeal in these terms. But the trial record that Fred Fielding reviewed so closely makes it clear that Libby told Cheney his Russert story before he first used it with the FBI, and Cheney did not correct the story, not even when Libby alerted Cheney to the note showing Cheney–and not Russert–had told him of Plame’s identity. So if that is, indeed, what Cheney said (there are tons of reasons to doubt it), Fielding had to have known that if Libby had been lying, then Cheney was in on the story. And, if Fielding is as sharp a lawyer as his fans make him out to be in the Time story, Fielding undoubtedly knew of the way Libby’s fragile story implicated Bush, not least through the meat grinder note and Bush’s subsequent exoneration of Libby.

A few days later (roughly January 13), Bush told Cheney no.

A few days later, about a week before they would become private citizens, Bush pulled Cheney aside after a morning meeting and told him there would be no pardon. Cheney looked stricken. Most officials respond to a presidential rebuff with a polite thanks for considering the request in the first place. But Cheney, an observer says, "expressed his disappointment and disagreement with the decision … He didn’t take it well."

On roughly January 15, Libby called Bolten and asked to make an appeal to Bush personally. Bolten must have refused Libby that meeting. Instead, he set up a meeting between Libby and Fielding and almost certainly Emmet Flood (who took the lead on all CIA Leak case issues in the WH Counsel’s office) for January 17.

Two days after that, Libby, who hadn’t previously lobbied on his own behalf, telephoned Bolten’s office. He wanted an audience with Bush to argue his case in person. To Libby, a presidential pardon was a practical as well as symbolic prize: among other things, it would allow him to practice law again. Bolten once more kicked the matter to the lawyers, agreeing to arrange a meeting with Fielding. On Saturday, Jan. 17, with less than 72 hours left in the Bush presidency, Libby and Fielding and a deputy met for lunch at a seafood restaurant three blocks from the White House. Again Libby insisted on his innocence. No one’s memory is perfect, he argued; to convict me for not remembering something precisely was unfair. Fielding kept listening for signs of remorse. But none came. Fielding reported the conversation to Bush. 

Presumably, Fielding reported that conversation to Bush on January 17. The very next day, Bush invited his personal attorney over to consult on the decision.

Meanwhile, Bush was running his own traps. He called Jim Sharp, his personal attorney in the Plame case, who had been present when he was interviewed by Fitzgerald in 2004.

[snip]

On the Sunday before he left office, Bush invited Sharp to the executive mansion for a farewell cigar.

Now, Time presents a version that–given questions that almost certainly got asked at Bush’s own interview with Fitzgerald–is probably an utter and complete myth. At the very least, their conversation had to have taken into account the question of whether Cheney lied when he said Libby could leak stuff to Judy Miller on Bush’s authority.

If you ignore the implausible content of the reported meetings, though, you get the following narrative.

In July 2007, as soon as it became clear that Libby would have to go to prison, Fred Fielding broke all normal protocol and recommended that Bush implement the solution–commutation–that would keep Libby out of jail with his Fifth Amendment protection intact.

Cheney continued to lobby–again, outside of normal protocol for pardons–for a pardon. Whereas on other pardons, Bush directed people to work through Fielding alone, on roughly January 11, Bush gave Cheney a direct audience to make his case. Bush has some people present (probably Gillespie and Bolten) who may not have known all the details that implicated Bush. But Fielding, by that point, should have known how Libby’s testimony implicated both Cheney and Bush.

Apparently on Fielding’s counsel, Bush told Cheney Bush would not pardon Libby two days later. 

In response, Libby asked for his own audience with the President. Bolten refused, denying Libby the opportunity to make his case directly (presumably in private?) with Bush. But Bolten did set up a meeting with Libby and the two lawyers who had to have known how this implicated the President. Presumably in response to Fielding’s report of that meeting, Bush met with his defense attorney, and asked him whether he thought he should pardon Libby. And between the two of them–Bush and his defense attorney–they decided to deny Libby’s last ditch request for a pardon.

Time’s nicely spun story sort of distracts from the both the underlying knowledge several key players had as well as the seeming progression from the denial of Cheney’s request, followed by Libby’s request, followed by a hurried consultation with Bush’s defense attorney. But those are, almost certainly, the most important facts in this tale.

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  1. scribe says:

    Well, Cheney and Libby (and all the other people in Cheney’s office) were known for being tough, manly men who were ruthless and remorseless in the pursuit of their objectives.

    See where being remorseless got ‘em?

    LMFAO.

  2. CTMET says:

    Bmaz, wasn’t mom supposed to be away this weekend. Didn’t we have the party planned and they keys to the liquor cabinet and everything??? What a freekin’ kiiljoy.

    • phred says:

      From what I gather on the previous thread, bmaz crawled into the liquor cabinet all by himself and spent the night there. The cops were called, Mom came home early… Well, you get the picture, best not discuss it ; )

      • emptywheel says:

        I’m filling in for bmaz filling in until the cleaner come and clean up the mess y’all left.

        Alternately, I avoided a tedious trip to the Liberty Bell today in the humidity and instead wrote a long long post. Had to gather my energy to play with the kids later.

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        I think she got concerned when I disappeared out on a pub crawl last night…..

        Oh, brother. I just learned about the pub crawls. Did you have a theme? My daughter tells me the kids decide on a theme for the night…pirates, Chargers, whatever. (And I use the term night loosely.)

  3. klynn says:

    When will Time learn? They should not mess with the Master Plameologist.

    It is interesting that Libby asked for an audience with the President. I do not think he asked on his own accord. I think Cheney pushed him.

  4. perris says:

    Now, Time presents a version that–given questions that almost certainly got asked at Bush’s own interview with Fitzgerald–is probably an utter and complete myth. At the very least, their conversation had to have taken into account the question of whether Cheney lied when he said Libby could leak stuff to Judy Miller.

    ianal

    but it seems to me, if cheney lied about his ability or authority to expose (I hate the term “out”) a covert asset then that is an open and shut case against cheney, with the president testifying against him

    bush had to tell fitz he did indeed authorise the action

    the only thing now to consider is whether cheney could succesfully argue that bush gave him the authority even though bush didn’t even know he gave cheney the authority

    combine that with the fact that cheney went on teevee and admitted exposing nationsal secrets when he said in public that he was given (by executive order) the ability to personally declassify anything he wanted on the fly

    forget the fact that an executive order is not law, it can’t change the law and it can’t make the law, yet cheney uses this as some kind of valid decree

    • emptywheel says:

      Problem is you have Judy’s very weak description of what she was leaked, against Libby’s denial of leaking Plame. So you don’t yet have proof that Cheney ordered Libby to leak Plame.

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    According to Time, Cheney presented his case for Libby’s pardon on roughly January 11, at a meeting probably attended (given the sourcing of this story) by Ed Gillespie, John Bolten, and Fred Fielding, as well as Bush.

    Don’t you mean “Josh” Bolten the WH Chief of Staff?

    You don’t mean the neocon who couldn’t get approved for US Ambassador to the UN, correct? You mean Josh, the guy who worked at the WH? correct?

    Because John Bolton/en had requested and read NSA intercepts on American Dept of State personnel, just for starters.

  6. perris says:

    what the frig is an executive order anyway?

    if I am given some kind of security clearance I can’t then delagate that clearance to anyone else, it was given to me

    even if cheney’s claim were true, I cannot see how any president can delegate his presidential security clearance to anyone else

    tbat’s the first thing

    as far as I can see, all an executive order does is tell someone the president wants to do something, it carries no legal weight what so ever, he can’t rewrite laws passed by congress with the stroke of his executive pen

  7. phred says:

    So here’s what I don’t get… Why would Cheney press for a pardon, when that would remove Libby’s 5th Amendment rights? That would pose as big a problem for Cheney as for Bush. The only way this makes sense to me is if this is carefully crafted kabuki on the part of Cheney to appease Libby. IOW, Cheney can tell Libby that he tried his best… oh well…

    • emptywheel says:

      Cheney might have thought there is more risk of Libby flipping if he doesn’t get a pardon than if he does. Or he might just believe that they did the leak, but didn’t break the law, so it is unjust for Bush to not pardon him.

      I’m as interested by the fact that Bush had at least two witnesses at Cheney’s pitch as at Libby’s–it’d prevent Cheney from saying things like, “You ordered Libby to take the central role.”

      I suspect that all three–Bolten, Gillespie, and Fielding have been well aware of the means by which Cheney used to exercise his evil powers over Bush, and the one way to make sure he can’t do that is to put bodies in the room.

      So if Cheney and Libby were prevented from making direct threats to Bush, that may have made it easier, but it might explain the necessity for Bush to talk to Sharp to make sure he was still safe.

      • phred says:

        Ok, so since you’re still resting up while the small fry get tuckered out on their historical field trip, lets play a what if game…

        Lets say Bush did order Libby to leak Plame’s identity and lets say Cheney thinks this is perfectly legal under his Unitard Theory of usurped power. What is to prevent Cheney from ratting out Bush now? Especially if he’s mad at Bush for not coming through on the pardon? If Libby and Cheney decided to both rat out Bush, then how could Sharp tell him he is still safe?

        • bobschacht says:

          This is all regarding Cloud #2.
          I think the problem is that the authorization to leak was verbal and was never written. We’ve got a pixie dust problem, as well as the Rashomon Effect, which takes over when there’s no official transcript of the decision to leak. So everyone can wind up pointing fingers, but not enough fingers point in the same direction to get a conviction.

          Bob in HI

      • Leen says:

        Ew have you had any down time at all?

        so do you believe that Bush had given authority to Cheney to declassify?

        Am I getting this? so if Bush pardoned Libby he would not be able to take the fifth and would have to testify if our Dept of Justice actually held them accountable?

        And if anyone else is held accountable for outing Plame they could get to Bush on “obstruction through commutation”

        Our so called Justice system is sure fucked up. Although some of you lawyer folk keep me believing

    • FrankProbst says:

      So here’s what I don’t get… Why would Cheney press for a pardon, when that would remove Libby’s 5th Amendment rights? That would pose as big a problem for Cheney as for Bush. The only way this makes sense to me is if this is carefully crafted kabuki on the part of Cheney to appease Libby. IOW, Cheney can tell Libby that he tried his best… oh well…

      I know I seem to be in the minority on this, but I don’t think a pardon has any downside for Libby. Yes, he would lose his 5th Amendment right to remain silent, but I can’t see how this is a big deal–he’s already a convicted perjurer. If he’s ever called to testify again, he can just “not recall” anything that he’s asked. It’s not like the man has any qualms about lying through his teeth, even while under oath.

  8. slide says:

    Do you think one of us, if convicted of something, could call the president’s SOS and get a lunch audience with his WH Counsel? What bullshit.

      • rosalind says:

        Jan. 18 – Bush meets with personal lawyer, decides against giving Libby a pardon.

        Jan. 19 – Dana Perino announces that Darth has suffered a back injury and “needed a wheelchair for the next couple of days.”

        heh

          • emptywheel says:

            Actually, He would have told Cheney on the 19th, I think.

            With one day to go before both men left office, Bush informed Cheney that Libby would not get a pardon.

            • MadDog says:

              Which incensed Shooter and he commenced to wrassling with Junya whereby the Secret Service was forced to tase Shooter until he released his headlock and ear-biting on Junya.

              Unfortunately, the tasing of Shooter left him temporarily paralyzed, incontinent, and gibberishly speaking in tongues.

              The White House physician was going to strap him down on a gurney for a trip to the nearest madhouse when Lynne intervened suggesting a quick jolt of stupor-juice and handcuffing him to a wheelchair for the duration of his term.

              For good measure, Junya planted a swift one into Shooter’s family jewels just in case he had second thoughts.

              • Hmmm says:

                Unfortunately, the tasing of Shooter left him temporarily paralyzed, incontinent, and gibberishly speaking in tongues.

                Given his usual state, how could they tell?

              • fatster says:

                Oh, that’s good. Maybe you could interest SNL or Daily Show in that scenario. Many thnx for the chuckles.

            • rosalind says:

              most of the timestamps on the “cheney in a wheelchair” stories are between 7pm and 8pm EST on the 19th. still holding out for:

              * monday morning: bush delivers news to cheney
              * cheney “rearranges” some furniture
              * cheney goes to doctor
              * monday night: dana makes announcement

          • esseff44 says:

            It was probably the tension from the denial of the pardon combined with moving the contents of the ManSized Safe which he could not leave to anyone else.

          • NCDem says:

            I would say it is more like Cheney took a swing at Bush and missed and wrenched his back or he kicked at Barney who was lifting his leg on a packed box.

            Regardless, we all know that back problems often flare when the muscles are tense and tight. I imagine that Cheney was getting pretty tense at this time knowing that Obama was coming into office and he couldn’t keep America safe as Bush and he had. (LOL)

  9. Slothrop says:

    Time magazine, key representative of the traditional media, demonstrating their ignorance of the means of their own extinction. The bloggers are taking them apart, piece by piece. You would think, at some point, Time’s editors would get this and reduce the lies and obsfucations. The clock is ticking on your relevance, Time.

  10. fatster says:

    I’d love to know what Mrs. Scoot thinks of this. If my memory is reliable (it’s not, but I’ll plow on anyway), she made some comment which seemed almost a veiled threat to spill if they let Libby twist in the wind.

    • fatster says:

      I found it. This from an old WaPo article, but it seems to me EW covered it very well. I think you were live-blogging at the time.

      Libby remained composed as the verdict was read (guilty on 4 of 5 counts) . . .

      “Libby’s wife, Harriet Grant, was not as composed. In the first row of spectators, she hunched over and shook. A young member of Libby’s defense team put his arm around her shoulders. After judge and jury left, Grant went over to hug her husband with a furious look on her face. Three reporters heard her say what sounded like, “We’re gonna [expletive] ‘em.”‘

  11. freepatriot says:

    I still haven’t heard george bush admit that he authorized the outing of a NOC agent

    that’s a stain that history ain’t gonna overlook

    when do we file the law suit to get the transcript of george’s interview ???

  12. fatster says:

    O/T, but good for a Saturday afternoon/evening chuckle.

    Torrent of racist posts traced to DHS
    – Stephen C. Webster

    From The New York Times:
    “After federal border agents detained several Mexican immigrants in western New York in June, an article about the incident in a local newspaper drew an onslaught of vitriolic postings on its Web site. Some were racist. Others attacked farmers in the region, an apple-growing area east of Rochester, accusing them of harboring illegal workers. Still others made personal attacks about the reporter who wrote the article.”
    . . .

    “A response, which carried a Homeland Security Internet protocol address, read: “That sounds like my boyfriend. Leave him alones and get your own. My boyfriend works sometimes but he is really good at getting FREE benefits from the Federal and State government.”

    “. . . [T]he Times adds that other posts from the Department of Homeland Security were found on reports up to a year prior.

    “DHS opened an internal investigation into the matter earlier this month.”

    Link.

  13. FrankProbst says:

    A few points:

    And following normal sentencing guidelines with an upward departure because of the seriousness of the crime of outing a CIA officer, Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

    This isn’t quite accurate. Libby was given the SHORTEST prison sentence suggested by the sentencing guidelines. The “upward departure” I think you’re referring to is because prison sentences for perjury and obstruction of justice are based on the severity of the crime being investigated. So Libby’s sentence may have been longer than most perjury/obstruction sentences, but there was no “upward departure” from the guidelines.

    Now, as Time reports it, Fielding either read for the first time–or reviewed anew–Libby’s trial transcript in anticipation of a mid-January meeting (roughly January 11) on whether or not to pardon Libby.

    It was probably “reviewed anew”. It was abundantly clear at the time of the commutation that Fielding thought Libby was guilty as hell.

    Cheney, however, considered it an open question. “Who do you believe, Scooter or Russert?” he asked Bush.

    This, in my mind, is the biggest bombshell of the article. Look at what’s happening here: Cheney is feeding bullshit right-wing talking points to George Bush himself. The details of the Plame case have been pretty clear for a long time: The Vice President ordered the betrayal of a covert CIA operative as payback against her husband. One of the few unanswered questions was: Was Bush involved? And now it looks to me like the answer is “No”. Had Bush been involved, Cheney’s argument for a pardon would be that Libby was just doing his job, or he was just following orders, or this was all just “criminalizing politics”. He wouldn’t be arguing that Libby was actually innocent, because a true co-conspirator would already know that he wasn’t.

      • Civlibertarian says:

        (Minor typo due to the edit: “…following normal sentencing guidelines with an cross-reference…”)

        Emptywheel, thanks for this article, it’s a great overview for those of us trying to follow along at home.

    • emptywheel says:

      Cheney, however, considered it an open question. “Who do you believe, Scooter or Russert?” he asked Bush.

      This, in my mind, is the biggest bombshell of the article. Look at what’s happening here: Cheney is feeding bullshit right-wing talking points to George Bush himself.

      First, you’re assuming that Bush’s partisans are telling an accurate story of what happened. I see no reason to believe that.

      But also, my point about Gillespie and Bolten and Fielding making sure that Bush didn’t meet with Cheney is the important issue here. Even assuming they’re telling the truth, all that means is that Cheney was not willing to say something more truthful in front of witnesses, all of whom were uninvolved in the key events of the leak and aftermath.

      We know that Cheney was prepared to invoke Bush himself when he negotiated the public exoneration. So why would he give such a stupid story? Because there were people who knew nothing about the real details here.

      • Mary says:

        And to me that sounds just like the kind of thing that Cheney would be careful to say in front of third parties if he and Bush were actually involved in authorizing Libby to out Plame. It reeks of pretense.

        • emptywheel says:

          Yeah, I agree–that’s one of the reasons Fielding’s presumed awareness it was a bunch of baloney would be so interesting. Fielding would know it was baloney, but the others might not.

          Then again, while this was all happening, they were pretty deliberately avoiding fixing the email problem.

          They had to have known that the whole email disappearance was still totally unresolved and suspicious.

          • bgrothus says:

            “. . .they were pretty deliberately avoiding fixing the email problem.”

            The taping problem in the Nixon years was so much easier to sort out. Missing: 11 minutes

            Teh cyberage, so many e-mails missing, so little time.

          • bobschacht says:

            Then again, while this was all happening, they were pretty deliberately avoiding fixing the email problem.

            They had to have known that the whole email disappearance was still totally unresolved and suspicious.

            I thought the whole e-mail “problem” was not a bug, but a feature, wasn’t it? I mean, you’ve already uncovered enough suspicious evidence about the dates of the “problems” that I thought it was clear someone was obstructing justice.

            I’d like to see a full review of the email “problem”. Last I knew, was that a number of laws and regulations were broken, but the laws had no teeth, so no one could be prosecuted?

            Bob in HI

      • MadDog says:

        I like the part about Bush ensuring he had his own non-involved witnesses when Cheney made his pardon case, but…*g*

        This presumes that Cheney no longer his had one-on-one lunches (or even other one-on-one sessions) with Bush, doesn’t it?

  14. esseff44 says:

    If the SOL has run on a crime, can someone still plead the Fifth? Could Libby still be called to testify under oath by a Congressional Committee after the SOL and force him to answer?

  15. FrankProbst says:

    Presumably, Fielding reported that conversation to Bush on January 17. The very next day, Bush invited his personal attorney over to consult on the decision.

    One more thing on this–I suspect that Bush consulted his personal attorney at the time of the commutation, too. I’ve always believed that the commutation was pretty clear-cut obstruction of justice, and if we’d had a functional legislature, he’d have been impeached for it. Remember that Bush himself was being investigated in this case. But more importantly, Libby was not only an aide to Dick Cheney. He had several titles, and one of them was aide to the President himself. So the President commuted the sentence of his own aide for a obstructing an investigation in which he himself was a potential defendant. The obstruction charges against Bill Clinton were a hell of a lot weaker than that.

    I’ll bet you his personal lawyer told him the same thing about a pardon that he told him about the commutation: This is almost certainly illegal, but they’ll never make the charges stick.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Not much surprise that a president who treated the White House like his own private playground should talk to his own criminal defense lawyer, instead of the DoJ’s pardon office, the AG and/or WH counsel. Just a Freudian slip, revealing that criminal implications for him were paramount in our Harvard MBA president’s mind.

  17. Hmmm says:

    What if all along Dick has been telling Scooter one thing, but telling W something different? In other words, is Dick hiding something he’s told Scooter from W, and hiding something he’s told W from Scooter? Note that Scooter has not been able to speak to W in private where Scooter could test what Dick’s told Scooter against what Dick’s told W. In this scenario, W and Scooter speaking in private would uncover Dick’s lie. Now, what could Dick’s two stories be that would reasonably explain the rest of the puzzle, including why would Dick be OK with seeing Scooter become subpoenable again? It would have to be (would it not?) that Dick’s long-running story for Scooter is the one that does not implicate (ideally, exonerates) Dick. And in that case, Dick’s story for W could be (doesn’t have to be, from the logic alone) one that incriminates Dick, and/or W.

    Shorter:
    – Dick to W: Man I fucked up making that insta-declassification, nobody buys the whole pixie dust thing, I told Scooter so and he’s OK taking the fall.
    – Dick to Scooter: You absolutely had full and specific Presidential clearance before the fact to leak that definitely declassified info.

    Put W and Scooter in a room and they both go: “Dick said WHAT??!!?”

    Does this make any sense? Man I wonder what story W and Dick told Fitz…

    • esseff44 says:

      I was thinking along the same lines. I think it’s also possible of a misunderstanding along the same lines. Libby may have thought Plame’s identity had been declassified along with the NIE but it was not a part of the package and he passed it on prematurely or in bits and pieces to different people.

      • Hmmm says:

        But Scooter cleared with Addington (…Cheney’s man…), so that’s less of a misunderstanding and more of a set-up. Which would help explain the whole “We’re gonna fuck ‘em” thing.

        • Mary says:

          But Scooter cleared with Addington

          Isn’t that a name prominent by its absence? Cheney wasn’t having Addington push Fielding or even Addington lobby Bush – he (Cheney) was having to do it all on his own.

          • Hmmm says:

            I tried to get folks interested in what Addington was doing after the election — in the dangerous cornered animal sense — but nobody seemed to have any idea what he was up to. Didn’t seem to be any press on him in that period at all, and that seemed odd to me too.

        • esseff44 says:

          I know Libby had that conversation with Addington, but I don’t remember how specific it was. I need to go back and review that part.

  18. esseff44 says:

    I read over the Executive Orders concerning classification and declassification but I am not clear on some points. The Vice-President was added to the President as being able to classify when acting in an executive capacity (is that a purposeful limitation?) but does he have the same authority to declassify as the President. It seems like there are more steps to declassification than classification and agency heads get a say in the process. How many agency heads would have known about the change in the Excutive Orders adding the VP? If Cheney insta-declassified Plame’s identity, would Tenet have to have approved before he could pass that information onto Libby to pass on to the press?

    • emptywheel says:

      The EO according to its plain lanaguage does NOT give Cheney the authority to insta-declassify. He claimed it treated him, across the board, just as it treated the President. That remained contested even within the WHCO at least until 2005 (MIers didn’t agree with his reading of it). Finally, in 2007, once Fielding came in, they wrote a document saying that Cheney WAS supposed to be considered like the President.

  19. Hmmm says:

    I guess if Scooter believes what Dick told him, and Scooter becomes available as a witness again by virtue of getting pardoned, then Scooter becomes a key witness backing up Dick’s story. No pardon, no supporting witness for Dick. Owie for Dick then.

  20. Mary says:

    Coupla points. The Time narrative reads like scripted dialog not only for Bush, but for Cheney. It’s like Cheney’s “who you gonna believe” was pretty deliberately made in front of others and done to bolster that he and Bush hadn’t been collaborating on Libby’s leak (hey, for all us two guys know, Russert could have lied) It’s like they were trying to reassure Bush of what the story line would be after the pardon, even if Libby could no longer claim the Fifth.

    Also, the Time story references that Libby was so needy about wanting the pardon because the pardon meant he would be able to keep his law license. I’d sure like to see what the two reporters base that on, even though they trot it out as an absolute. I haven’t researched it and may be wrong, but I don’t think the pardon would effect the law license, particularly after it had already been revoked. A President cannot pardon a state law violation and, while a pardon might restore civil liberties otherwise affected by the conviction (like right to vote), a law license is a non-governmental privilege, not a civil right. Maybe they had the fix in with the bar, or maybe his bar issued a statement on this issue (it would be interesting to follow up with them – “it’s been reported that a pardon would have restored the law license, is that your position…”) but I don’t buy the absolutism behind that statement.

    So if he had no assurance of getting his law license, was in a pretty secure wingnut welfare gig at a think tank, why the hard hitting push for the pardon? If he didn’t coordinate with Cheney, why wouldn’t he be apologizing since they made it clear that’s all it was going to take for him to get the pardon? Even if he did coordinate with Cheney, and thought he’d get his license if he was pardoned, why wouldn’t he just say he was sorry?

    The only reason I can think of that would disincline him to say he was sorry to Bush is that sh*t eating grin from Bush when Libby and he both knew Bush was invovled. Really – if the motivation was getting the license back and a pardon would do it, why not just cough up some feigned remorse? The Wilson suit? I dunno.

    Final observation – IMO you’ve left out a cloud. The Rove-Novak cloud. Even the Libby jurors thought that was a huge cloud – given what they were being told on the communications by Rove and Novak being the publisher, that was a big big cloud. All the Libby attention and its Darth Cheney aspect serves as a good foil to deflect the light from Rove, but there it is (and it never got mentioned by Time) So there was all this hushed ackroom speculation by WH staffers: psssssssst, do ya think Cheney told Scooter to leak but no one was mentioning Rove leaking to the guy who printed and wondering about what the real story, after 5 or so Grand jury visits, was? No one was saying, pssssssssst, do ya think Bush told Rove to leak

    How many people really believe that it took him ad infinitum GJ appearances to remember what he did, and that the email was just skipped over, etc.? No one sane. So if Rove wasn’t on the up and up, was he alone on the limb, or did he climb out their to keep his boss company?

    • emptywheel says:

      As to the law license–yeah,I had the same problem. The only other answer I’d give is Libby’s wife–as a number of people have pointed out, she’s not too fond of being married to a felon.

      As to your Rove-Novak cloud? Yeah, it’s there. But frankly, the Libby-Novak cloud is much cloudier. We know they hid the conversation, using the same approach. We know the two thigs that remain unexplained in Novak’s column (Plame’s name, and that she was an operative) are things Libby clearly knew and had tried to get Ari to spread the same day Novak called Ari, and we also know he’s the most likely source for the bit in Novak’s column from the trip report (which Libby also leaked to Judy).

      • Mary says:

        The Libby-Novak may be cloudier, but the Rove cloud is the one that doesn’t likely have any intermediary like Cheney between the leaker and Bush.
        @57 I have puffed a cigar – not with a client though, just a hahvahd lawyer. Thought the top of my head would lift off. No wonder those guys don’t need other recreational drugs.

        @68 But then there’s the question of whether the President could delegate his own pixie dust powers. That’s where the USAtty firings have an interesting little overlap. There, the OLC issued a little memo to AGAG about how certain powers (of the AG, but also with a nod to the Presidency) may not be delegable, but even if they were, formalities that they list would need to be followed. Those would include putting the delegation in writing and also specifically signing off on the exercise of the delegated powers. I think that memo would have a lot of application to the attempt of a President to claim he gave his pixie dust to anyone else. And then there’s the fact that, delegation or not, he couldn’t violate separate statutory requirements like the NSA prohibitions on planting propaganda and the IIPA protections of covert agents (without regard to whether or not the President was invoking classification privilege with respect to the agent’s identity).

        Really – if Libby was so desperate to get the pardon, it makes no sense that he didn’t just take his hat in hand and say, “sorry” unless Bush and/or Cheney were also involved or maybe he would have been worried that the Wilson suit would go badly if he made a public acknowledgment of sorrow – although I think he could have gotten around that “I’m so sorry about what happened, obviously my leak to Judy didn’t out Valerie like Novak’s article – that I had nothing to do with as long as you don’t listen to that EW chick – did, and obviously anything I inadvertently said to Judy I didn’t realize would result in the outing of a covert agent and I am horribly sad if it did result in Judy knowing that info, but of course since she never published it there were no damages to the Wilsons, but I am still very sorry I let down the country by not being more careful to not make inadvertent reference to information in front of a highly trusted journalist, yada yada.”

        @70 – That’s a story! Thanks for the link. I guess Luttig will get to spend a few moments of consideration on international law, or at least the laws of other nations, after all. Just from the different perspective than the bench.

  21. MadDog says:

    And while EW is still hanging around before joining her own family reunion, I’ve got to ask her opinion on one thing that has always bothered me about that Meat Grinder note:

    What do you think Cheney meant by “the incompetence of others”?

    Was Cheney simply referring to that Ari Fleischer (or was it Scottie McClellan) somehow muffing “The Plan” to initially absolve both Rove and Libby, and instead screwed up and only initially mentioned Turdblossom?

    Or was “the incompetence of others” something more sinister?

    Something like the betrayal of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status and the intended spin that she was the nepotistical reason for Joe Wilson’s Niger boondoggle that was supposed to be done more covertly and effectively by folks like Turdblossom, Fleischer and others?

    • emptywheel says:

      I’ve always taken that to be directed at CIA for “allowing” Bush to make the Niger claim in the SOTU.

      But I had a wacky thought the other day, when thinking about the reference to a Cheney-Condi conversation the week of the leak, that he was thinking Condi was the incompetent one, for not sufficiently screwing Tenet.

  22. Mary says:

    The very next day, Bush invited his personal attorney over to consult on the decision.

    You’re such a cynic. Doesn’t everyone have a lawyer who comes and helps them pack boxes when they’re moving? What lawyer can resist a shot at bubblewrap?

    • emptywheel says:

      Dunno, you’re the law gal.

      Next thing you’re gonna tell me you’re even willing to help clients pack simply in exchange for a stogie.

      Right?

  23. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    The only reason I can think of that would disincline him to say he was sorry to Bush is that sh*t eating grin from Bush when Libby and he both knew Bush was invovled. Really – if the motivation was getting the license back and a pardon would do it, why not just cough up some feigned remorse? The Wilson suit? I dunno.

    Concur completely.

    And for all the focus on these important, significant details, what gets lost is the information about Chalabi over in Iraq planting WMD evidence in the period that Cheney was hunting for Plame’s identity. And it was the significance of Plame’s job at CIA; her job title suggests that she wasn’t focused on Peru or Nambia: Iran WMD was a main focus of her work.

    Of course they went after her.
    But while they were going after her, they were listening to NSA intercepts of their own Dept of State top level diplomats, planting bullshit in Iraq, and they had Larry Franklin passing info to AIPAC lobbyists. John Bolton was at Dept of State undermining Colin Powell, and that’s probably the tip of the iceberg.

    IMHO, horses could drag Scootie Pootie up and down Pennsylvania Avenue and I doubt he’d speak. That’s probably a key reason why Cheney hired him. Whatever it is, there are so many dots that suggest that Cheney oversaw the development of a parallel government that was able to bypass the Dept of State, large parts of DoD, and who only knows what else that these people are in something so deep they probably are playing a very dangerous game. I don’t see any of them ’spilling the beans’, ever.

    I don’t know what ‘the beans’ are.
    I know that I’m fed up with bullshit, and this just seems like more bullshit.

    • aine says:

      I have always wondered if the “joe wilson payback” theory was a red herring and valerie plame the real target due to the significance of her work on WMD and iran. it seemed too much of a coincidence.

  24. Hmmm says:

    Question remains: For what possible reason(s) would Dick take it so very hard that Scooter wasn’t gonna get the pardon?

    • MadDog says:

      The primary reason in my mind is still the “fear” one.

      Fear that Scooter would stew about loss of earning potential, loss of face as a convicted felon, loss of law license to practice with the K street pigs in the federal trough, etc.

      Fear that because of all these things, Scooter would turn on his boss for revenge.

      I even believe that Cheney promised Scooter that a pardon was a “slam dunk” to use the Administration’s own vernacular. And Cheney didn’t deliver.

      I’m with EW in believing that Cheney fears Scooter’s own betrayal more than Scooter telling tales after his 5th Amendment right is removed. Folks who are rewarded don’t come back and bite you.

      • Hmmm says:

        Folks who are rewarded don’t come back and bite you.

        Well yes, but how well that holds up over time depends on how big the reward is, doesn’t it? Doesn’t sound like from Scooter’s POV the difference between commutation and pardon is all -that- large, so over time I’d think even that might have worn off.

        Also, presuming Scooter were ever inclined to turn on Dick for Dick’s crimes separate from Scooter’s crimes, losing the 5th wouldn’t make much difference to Scooter. So Scooter losing the 5th still doesn’t look like all that much extra protection for Dick, compared to the spectre of losing Scooter’s allegiance. What would change Scooter’s allegiance to Dick might be something along the lines of Scooter learning that Dick had treated him like an ill used tool.

        So I’m still sniffing around for some other upside of the pardon for Dick. In any event, Dick hiding the truth from Scooter in order to sustain Scooter’s allegiance seems like a potentially fruitful direction.

      • esseff44 says:

        It could have been fear but it also may have been guilt. He may have fudged the assurance of having the authority to declassify and leak which put Libby’s head in the meat grinder and only he could clear Libby but it would mean putting himself in the line of fire especially if Bush told Fitz he did not authorize declassifying Plame’s identity. Or a combination of both fear and guilt.

        • Hmmm says:

          Exactly. Dick caught between two lies, and the pardon would have prevented the two blades from ever converging… on his own neck.

        • fatster says:

          I vote for fear. I just don’t think Dick “Dick” has the capacity to feel guilt. The prospect of Scooter spilling some beans, though, would surely be a major motivator to try and get a pardon out of Bush.

        • MadDog says:

          A couple of things:

          If “Bush told Fitz he did not authorize declassifying Plame’s identity”, then I would think Fitz would have gone after Cheney for a criminal IIPA violation using Bush’s interview as direct evidence.

          I don’t think Bush told Fitz that.

          What bothers me (and should bother all) is that it is likely that Bush did authorize the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a CIA employee.

          And while it appears that a President has just that power to do so, that doesn’t make it right.

          Betraying the classified covert identity of a CIA employee meets my definition of treason.

          • esseff44 says:

            It wouldn’t violate the IIPA if Cheney could convince Fitz he had reason to believe he had the authority to declassify. “Knowingly” is the big hurdle that has to be overcome. That’s why only one person has ever been convicted under the IIPA. It is practically impossible to meet all the elements.

            • MadDog says:

              Would Fitz take Cheney’s word for granted?

              Probably not, and he would probably insist on determining exactly how and when Cheney got such authority from Bush.

              And then would Fitz accept that Cheney got verbal authority from Bush or insist that written proof be provided?

              This we don’t know, but we’d sure like to. *g*

              • esseff44 says:

                That goes back to the EO and Cheney’s claims that he could declassify. This is where one of the clouds turn really opaque. Fitz has to be able to prove Cheney knew he did not have authority to divulge Plame’s identify. His ‘cloud’ speech was about what he was pretty sure of but could not prove because of the sand kicked in his eyes by Libby (and Cheney). It’s also telling he did not include Bush in the ‘cloud’ statement. Why else would he limit it to the VP and not W?

              • bobschacht says:

                And then would Fitz accept that Cheney got verbal authority from Bush or insist that written proof be provided?

                I’m betting that it was verbal authority, and there were some ambiguities involved.

                Bob in HI

              • dude says:

                Regarding Cheney’s usurpation of Executive Authority:

                Could it not have occurred on 9-11 when Cheney asserted (as I recall Bush confirmed) he had the power to shoot down civilian airliners thought threatening the Capitol or White House? In other words, the original authority never went away after 9-11, verbal or otherwise.

          • cinnamonape says:

            It would also mean that all the bulldada that Bush spewed to the public about how the “leaks” were wrong and that he would get to the bottom of it, blah, blah, blah…were simply lies. He was the one who authorized it…from the get go…and knew who was ordered to leak. It would also suggest that all his claims to turn over everything was just so much Kabuki. He could have dealt with the issue with ONE interview with the FBI in July 2002.

          • emptywheel says:

            Tatel’s opinion in the Judy and Cooper subpoenas say that Judy’s testimony might put IIPA back on the table. Which means that whatever happened with Bush’s interview, he did not say he authorized the leak of Plame’s ID.

            • MadDog says:

              Ok, I retract my statement of “…it is likely that Bush did authorize the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a CIA employee.” *g*

              And in its place I return to the classification/declassification authority issue of my # 89 comment.

              It sure seems like to me that Fitz, if he was told Cheney had such authority, would have checked the veracity of that claim, don’t you agree?

              And secondly, if during Fitz’s interview of Bush, Bush denied authorizing the disclosure of Plame’s ID, are we likely to see in the later Fitz interview of Cheney, that Cheney admits he authorized that disclosure?

              Fitz had to have asked them both.

              • Mary says:

                I don’t think that a presidential declassification would have been dgood enough to walk away from liability under the IIPA. If the Agency was still treating her as covert (which it was up to and including the time of her book IIRC) then I think she’s protected under the statute from any intentional outing. The IIPA isn’t an executive order and it isn’t reliant on an Executive classification, it is a Congressional statute, reliant on the factual status of how the agency is treating an agent’s identity.

                It’s like Congress saying in a statute, “it is illegal to sell the plans to the F-22s to a foreign agent” and Bush saying, well, I declassified those plans so it’s ok. The declassification as a matter of Executive prerogative isn’t necessarily going to put him outside the reach of the statute, IMO.

                • MadDog says:

                  Which makes the curiousity of just why Fitz did not or could not charge a IIPA violation all the more interesting.

                  After all, a potential IIPA violation was the original justification for the CIA’s referral to the DOJ, and hence the appointment of Fitzgerald as Special Counsel.

                  While IIPA does have some wacky defenses against prosecution:

                  DEFENSES AND EXCEPTIONS
                  SEC. 602. [50 U.S.C. 422] (a) It is a defense to a prosecution under section 601 that before the commission of the offense with which the defendant is charged, the United States had publicly acknowledged or revealed the intelligence relationship to the United States of the individual the disclosure of whose intelligence relationship to the United States is the basis for the prosecution.

                  And:

                  (b)(1) Subject to paragraph (2), no person other than a person committing an offense under section 601 shall be subject to prosecution under such section by virtue of section 2 or 4 of title 18, United States Code, or shall be subject to prosecution for conspiracy to commit an offense under such section.

                  I’d still like to know how the miscreants avoided criminal IIPA violations.

                  • esseff44 says:

                    I don’t remember the order in each case, but it seemed that Libby revealed Plame’s name and the fact that she worked at the CIA, but not that she was ‘covert’ as specified in the IIPA. He may have been given only parts of the puzzle and then got the other parts after the cat was out of the bag. It could have been planned that way so that he would have ‘plausible deniability.’ … or some variation along these lines.

                  • Loo Hoo. says:

                    Lordy!

                    I’d still like to know how the miscreants avoided criminal IIPA violations.

                    Me too. Just wanted to thank you, MadDog. Mary too. I appreciate your expertise and your willingness to share it. So many brainiacs around. Thanks all.

                    EW…cheers!

            • MadDog says:

              Jiminy crickets EW, by mentioning Tatel’s opinion, you’ve had me enter the wayback time machine in your posts over at The Next Hurrah here and here, Beldar’s here, and Jeralyn’s here.

              As I said earlier here:

              I gotta say that an EW Plame reunion is about as tasty as the first time around.

            • FrankProbst says:

              Tatel’s opinion in the Judy and Cooper subpoenas say that Judy’s testimony might put IIPA back on the table. Which means that whatever happened with Bush’s interview, he did not say he authorized the leak of Plame’s ID.

              I would also add that we have statements from Fitz on this. At his indictment press conference, he said he wouldn’t touch Plame’s status “with a ten-foot pole” (and later quoted himself on this in one of his filings). But during the sentencing phase of the trial, he said something to the effect that it was clear from the beginning of his investigation that Plame was covered under the IIPA. I don’t think he’d have done that if Bush said he’d insta-declassified Plame’s status. He MIGHT have said it if Cheney–but not Bush–said he’d insta-declassified her status, and Fitz was fairly certain that Cheney did not have the authority to do so. But I think even that’s a reach. Fitz is fairly cautious, and I don’t think he’d have made that statement if there was any chance her status could have been in question.

              I continue to believe that Cheney went into his interview with Fitz and said that he COULD HAVE insta-declassified her status if he’d wanted to, so there was no point in Fitz investigating this any further, particularly with regard to anything Libby did. And I think that he expected Fitz to quibble with him over whether or not Cheney had this authority, but Fitz instead just asked him what exactly he did or did not do, knowing full well that, regardless of what authority the Vice President might have, there is absolutely no evidence available that Dick Cheney ever actually tried to declassify Plame’s status. And while I’m not clear on the exact protocol for doing something like this, I would guess that it would involve at least a courtesy call to Wilson and Plame saying that this isn’t a good week for a vacation to Tehran.

              In any case, the beauty of the charges against Libby is that, even if it turns out that Cheney said that he’d insta-declassified Plame’s status and ordered the leak, Libby is STILL totally guilty of the crimes he was charged with.

              • Hmmm says:

                You mean that if charged with an IIPA violation, Scooter couldn’t raise verbal receipt from Dick of the “fact” of insta-declassification as an affirmative defense? He’d need to have seen the paperwork in order to rely on it?

                • FrankProbst says:

                  You mean that if charged with an IIPA violation, Scooter couldn’t raise verbal receipt from Dick of the “fact” of insta-declassification as an affirmative defense? He’d need to have seen the paperwork in order to rely on it?

                  No, I mean that Libby was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators. And if PapaDick’s interview reveals that PapaDick ordered the whole thing, that’s STILL totally inconsistent with the bullshit lies that got Libby convicted in the first place.

              • esseff44 says:

                In this interview, Cheney’s making it plain that he believes he has declassification powers just as the president does.

                Q On another subject, court filings have indicated that Scooter Libby has suggested that his superiors — unidentified — authorized the release of some classified information. What do you know about that?

                THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s nothing I can talk about, Brit. This is an issue that’s been under investigation for a couple of years. I’ve cooperated fully, including being interviewed, as well, by a special prosecutor. All of it is now going to trial. Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He’s a great guy. I’ve worked with him for a long time, have enormous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case and it’s, therefore, inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case.

                Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?

                THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.

                Q There is.

                THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.

                Q Have you done it?

                THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ve certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order —

                Q You ever done it unilaterally?

                THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President.

                http://georgewbush-whitehouse……215-3.html

                This is the interview just after he shot his friend in the face down in Texas.

                • FrankProbst says:

                  In this interview, Cheney’s making it plain that he believes he has declassification powers just as the president does.

                  I have no doubt that Cheney thought he had declassification powers. My point is that there is no evidence that he actually invoked those powers with regard to Plame’s identity.

          • Leen says:

            Valerie Plame/Wilson sure believes it was treason.

            My favorite interview with Valerie
            Bill Maher “and the punishment for treason is—–”
            Valerie’s look after Maher says this is priceless



            Joe Wilson… “Rove to Chris Matthews Plame is fair game”
            ”it was a hit job”

            • Leen says:

              Valerie “that’s the terrible irony because at the CIA we always anticipate that maybe foreign enemies will betray us that is sort of par for the course. But how ironic that it was senior administration officials who did it in this case. And it’s not an issue it’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an issue of NATIONAL SECURITY”

              “ironic” criminal…treason
              ———————————————————————–

              This woman put her own life on the line her own life for her country. The Bush administration purposely outs her and we are talking about the classification of her position. All involved should be in prison. Pathetic.

              Will the report about how her outing effected U.S. National Security?

  25. cinnamonape says:

    Precisely…the EO only allows the Agency Head (or original classifying authority) that power. Thus Cheney could only declassify material that he had originally classified. His office had not classified either the NIE or
    r any record regardings Plame’s employment at the CIA, nor the particulars (erroneous) of the secret “briefing” at the Agency, etc. There was a specific protocol laid out in the EO for the procedure to declassify, and the VP was not empowered to “insta-declassify” material “closed” by nyone else. In fact, the EO may have actually constrained the President from doing so without informing the Agencies he was doing so (giving them, presumably, the chance to respond) .

  26. fatster says:

    O/T (Old Topic), wow.

    Secrets of CIA ‘ghost flights’ to be revealed
    Guantánamo detainee’s lawyers hail UK air firm’s U-turn that allows rendition case to go to court
    Jamie Doward, home affairs editor
    The Observer, Sunday 26 July 2009

    “Confidential documents showing the flight plans of a CIA “ghost plane” allegedly used to transfer a British resident to secret interrogation sites around the world are to be made public. The move comes after a Sussex-based company accused of involvement in extraordinary rendition dropped its opposition to a case against it being heard in court.

    “Lawyers bringing the case against Jeppesen UK on behalf of the former Guantánamo Bay detainee, Binyam Mohamed, claimed last night the climbdown had wide-ranging legal implications that could help expose which countries and governments knew the CIA was using their air bases to spirit terrorist suspects around the world.”

    Link.

    • skdadl says:

      Great news. The British courts are going to help us all by breaking open several cases.

      Sorry — I just got here. EW’s probably got a whole new post up about this already.

  27. fatster says:

    O/T (Old Topic) Gonzo’s finding it hard work to land and keep a job.

    “The former attorney-general under President George W. Bush will soon be teaching “Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch” at Texas Tech — a job for which, at least 40 of the school’s professors say, Gonzales is profoundly unqualified.

    “As of last count, 45 staffers at Texas Tech have signed a petition urging the school’s chancellor to rescind the offer of a teaching job to Gonzales, reports the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.”

    Link.

    • PJEvans says:

      Oh my. That’s a fairly conservative area, too: they’ve sent only GOoPers to congress for years.

      • cinnamonape says:

        Well if you were a fan of King of The Hill” ya’ll’d realize that them there College eggheads are a bunch of wacko-pinko commy preverts.

    • cinnamonape says:

      Which makes me wonder…what’s Libby doing with his legal career? There IS a difference between commutation and pardon in that particular instance.

      • fatster says:

        His legal career is probably in limbo, but what do I know? I wonder if he even has to worry about that any more, if he now has a “patron”, shall we say?

  28. FrankProbst says:

    [email protected] and [email protected]: Good points. Cheney would also want to make sure he made his pardon requests in front of multiple witnesses, so that it would eventually get back to Libby that he was making the case for him. So this could all just be Kabuki theater. But I still lean toward the presumption that Bush really didn’t know the details of all of this. I think that Cheney said something along the lines of, “I want to fuck this guy over. Any problems with that?” And Bush replied, “Whatever. Now watch this drive.”

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, except there’s the evidence that Bush asked OVP to go after Wilson, and that Cheney reminded him of it when he asked him to exonerate Libby.

    • esseff44 says:

      Assuming W did not give specific authorization, how and when do you think he found out and who would he hold responsible? Wasn’t it about this time that Cheney’s star started to dim?

  29. cinnamonape says:

    I’ve suspected for a long time that Cheney already knew Plame’s identity before ordering Libby to obtain the “investigation” of Wilson via the State Department. That was just a means of getting the “memo” about Plame circulated to people (like Armitage) that might leak it. That way they would have had their hands clean.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200609010001t

    But the fact that there were no reporters that, in fact, did so got them worried. True, they may not have realized that Armitage HAD leaked, but the fact that the Wilson allegations were gaining traction and may have led to a general cscde of doubts about the reliability of pre-War intelligence, must have been worrisome. So they had to use more direct means. Libby threw himself into the meatgrinder at the request of the Pres. Getting at the intent of that last strikeout would have taken at least an hour’s worth of Fitz questioning of Cheney, I’d surmise. Was it an error (i.e. false), or was it deliberately placed in to get the WH Press Secretary to ask the President about it (”Did you authorize Libby…?”)? Was it a veiled threat?

  30. fatster says:

    The Cheney plan to deploy the U.S. military on U.S. soil
    (updated below – Update II – Update III)
    Glenn Greenwald
    SATURDAY JULY 25, 2009 06:26 EDT
    “This new report today from The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and David Johnston reveals an entirely unsurprising though still important event:   in 2002, Dick Cheney and David Addington urged that U.S. military troops be used to arrest and detain American citizens, inside the U.S., who were suspected of involvement with Al Qaeda.  That was done pursuant to a previously released DOJ memo (.pdf) authored by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty, addressed to Alberto Gonzales, dated October 23, 2001, and chillingly entitled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S.”  That Memo had concluded that the President had authority to deploy the U.S. military against American citizens on U.S. soil.  Far worse, it asserted that in exercising that power, the President could not be bound either by Congressional statutes prohibiting such use (such as the Posse Comitatus Act) or even by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which — the Memo concluded — was “inapplicable” to what it called “domestic military operations.”

    “Though it received very little press attention, it is not hyperbole to observe that this October 23 Memo was one of the most significant events in American politics in the last several decades, because it explicitly declared the U.S. Constitution — the Bill of Rights — inoperative inside the U.S., as applied to U.S. citizens.  “

    Link.

  31. Hmmm says:

    WIth the benefit of having taken a walk up the hill and back, it occurs to me that one possible reason for Dick to have freaked out at The Amazing Disappearing Pardon could be that Scooter may not be the only operative out there in Dick’s network who went far beyond the bounds of the law purely on Dick’s personal vouching that it was authorized and/or that they would be (in W’s slippery phrase) ‘taken care of’ in the unlikely event of any trouble. Dick would have known that as soon as he’d publicly failed to live up to his end of the bargain in Scooter’s case — his #2, after all — he’d thrown all those other reliances (and with the shit he was up to, who knows, it could be dozens or hundreds of individuals) into doubt. Each one of those individuals now becomes an extremely nervous potential point of failure, i.e. a turnable witness, and without doubt some of those folks are going to be a lot more labile and flippable than poor steady Irving The Tool. The current push (NYT, Time, Conyers, Harmon) raises the heat on that whole volatile vat, i.e. it’s becoming less and less likely that those operatives won’t have any trouble, and thus increases the probable flip rate.

    So, that kind of a multiplier effect would, to my fevered mind at least, explain the strength of Dick’s bad reaction to W’s decision not to pardon.

    Of course W would know all that, so he would also have had a motive to deny the Scooter pardon, for purposes of knocking pesky ol’ Team Dick out as a factor for Team 41 (also sometimes known in these parts as “The Establishment R’s”) to worry about going forward.

  32. x174 says:

    nice job, mt wheel!

    keeping your eye on the ball while that farcial tabloid Time spins their ball of dung.

    your work highlights why we will most likely never see the “transcripts” of Resident Bush’s interview.

    ultimately, between Bush’s version and Cheney’s version of “the facts” there are just too many telling gaps.

    keep up the great work!

  33. orionATL says:

    a very clearly told tale, ew,. one i found both interesting and unusually “accessible”.

    the one quote that struck me personally was:

    “Libby didn’t entirely trust Cheney on that point–he double checked with David Addington whether Cheney’s reassurances even made sense legally. But based on Cheney’s reassurance and Addington’s confirmation that the President can declassify whatever he wants, Libby leaked the information to Judy Miller.”

    i hadn’t heard before that libby didn’t entirely trust big dick.

    looking at the larger picture, is it possible that the failed attack on pelosi for “authorizing torture” freed a lot of djinns.

    if so, the phalanx may be splintering.

    once splintered, these fellows might begin making cases against each other.

    no?

    ah well, one can dream.

  34. fatster says:

    O/T (Old Topic): Who’da thunk it?

    Spitzer: Federal Reserve is ‘a Ponzi scheme, an inside job’

    BY DANIEL TENCER 

Published: July 25, 2009 
Updated 2 hours ago
    “The Federal Reserve — the quasi-autonomous body that controls the US’s money supply — is a “Ponzi scheme” that created “bubble after bubble” in the US economy and needs to be held accountable for its actions, says Eliot Spitzer, the former governor and attorney-general of New York.”

    More (of course).

  35. MadDog says:

    When it comes down to it, I’m guessing that this is the only reason neither Libby or Rove, (or for that matter Fleischer or Armitage) were charged with a criminal IIPA violation:

    knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent

    (My Bold)

    Their defense argument would be that while they knew Valerie Plame Wilson was employed by the CIA, they didn’t know she was covert.

    Also, when we finally get to see Cheney’s Fitzgerald/FBI interview, I’m betting we’ll see the following Q & A:

    Fitz: Did you direct or otherwise encourage anyone to make Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity public (or release said info to any person not authorized to have it)?

    Cheney: No.

    I’m also guessing the same exact Q & A occurred in Bush’s Fitzgerald/FBI interview.

    And Fitzgerald, being no dummy, and just like the rest of us, knows full well that a half dozen or more Bush/Cheney Administration players telling reporters about Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity couldn’t have been by coincidence, but had to have happened by design.

    But who exactly was at the center of that design, who initiated that design, who started the ball rolling, that Fitzgerald would not be able to legally prove.

    As Rove did not work for Cheney, and as a matter of fact, did not rate higher than horse turds in Cheney’s view, means that the combination of leakers (Libby, Rove, Fleischer, Armitage, et al.) had to have been directed to betray Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity by someone other than (just) Cheney.

    And the only other person to fit that the bill for handing out the betrayal marching orders is none other than George W. Bush.

    • FrankProbst says:

      As Rove did not work for Cheney, and as a matter of fact, did not rate higher than horse turds in Cheney’s view, means that the combination of leakers (Libby, Rove, Fleischer, Armitage, et al.) had to have been directed to betray Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity by someone other than (just) Cheney.

      Well, we know Fleischer got the leak from Libby. I suspect that Rove got it from Libby, too, but I’d be curious about what EW thinks about that. (I’ve always thought that Libby called in Rove after he leaked Plame’s identity to several reporters and STILL couldn’t get the story out. “Karl, you know everything there is to know about dirty tricks. What am I doing wrong here?”) I think Armitage heard about it from somewhere else and was leaking out of sheer stupidity, but I’d still like to know who told Novak to get in touch with Armitage in the first place. So it could still be just Cheney (and not Bush) calling the shots, with Libby as the point man.

      • freepatriot says:

        I think Armitage heard about it from somewhere else and was leaking out of sheer stupidity, but I’d still like to know who told Novak to get in touch with Armitage in the first place.

        Armitage “leaked” the information to BOB WOODWARD, a known SPOOK

        woodward has a security clearance

        it violates the compartmentalization requirements, but it wasn’t really “leaking” per say

        woodward never wrote about knowing the information, or that Armitage told him before novacula heard from kkkarl

        even after the shit hit the fan, and woodward had a whole mouthful of the shit, woodward didn’t say shit

        and that putz was once hailed as one of the world’s bravest journalist ???

  36. bobschacht says:

    Is it after 9 PM FDL Standard Time yet?
    OK

    Michigan News flashes:
    The Ann Arbor News bites the dust
    Alas, AAN, I knew thee well; well, sorta. But gee, who’da thunk it???

    The Detroit Tiggers are in FIRST PLACE!!! They just swept a double header from President Obama’s beloved ChiSox, and have opened a 3-game lead over the second-place Sox! Well, hey, its true that this is only the AL Central, which is on a different planet from the Yanks and those other Sox, where the Tiggers would only be in 4th place, but hey! Who knew that Detroit had a good team this year?

    Not only that, but they’re going GREEN! No, this isn’t some crass appeal to the Irish in Michigan, such as Mr. EW, but

    The weekend is designed to educate Tigers fans and the public about how to reduce their carbon footprints, highlight what the Tigers are doing to become more environmentally friendly, and showcase the Michigan green businesses and services of the present and future.

    WTF???? I feel like Rumpelstiltskin. What happened to them Tiggers??? This doesn’t sound like the team I once knew. Well, except maybe back in the days of Al Kaline and Denny McLain (1968). And the 1987 team was good. So maybe once about every 20 years the Tigers get it together, but in between there were some, um, not so good years. Um, like, when I was there.

    Anyway, let’s hope the Tiggers can hold things together and give Michigan something to cheer about this year!

    Bob in HI
    UM 1973
    Go Blue!

    • bobschacht says:

      That essay has already been discussed in these pages several times. It is not that bad, IMHO, although of course somewhat self-serving.

      What strikes me at the moment, is that these encounters were one-way conversations. The Congress-critters are portrayed only as passive observers, like sheep, when they should have been asking questions and demanding explanations. Even under the restrictive conditions described, why were the members of Congress so meek and passive???

      Were they afraid that if they challenged the presentation, they wouldn’t get invited to the next “show”? Are there known examples of people challenging the presentation, and then not getting invited back? Were known belligerents like David Addington present to intimidate any challengers?

      Bob in HI

      • PJEvans says:

        Were they afraid that if they challenged the presentation, they wouldn’t get invited to the next “show”? Are there known examples of people challenging the presentation, and then not getting invited back? Were known belligerents like David Addington present to intimidate any challengers?

        I’m going for door number 3, since I don’t see any way they could be more uninvited (as congresscritters) than they already were. I’ve always wondered what the last maladministration was using to get them to fall into line so quickly, quietly, and thoroughly.

    • Leen says:

      Jane Harman has the nerve to talk about her “oath” the Bush administration’s “shredding of the constitution”. This woman was overheard talking to an alleged Israeli spy about “waddling on over” to interfere with a federal investigation and trial of Rosen and Weissman who were involved with espionage. What fucking arrogance. And then Harman flipped the script when she was called out on her dealings with and alleged Israeli spy.

      Demanding that they release all the documents having to do with the wiretapping.

      This woman could give a rats ass about the constitution

  37. Petrocelli says:

    The Likker Cabinet has a Key ? And here Freep & I have been using a HatPin to jimmy it open all this while …

  38. JohnnyTable70 says:

    Does Dick doth protest too much about the non-pardon for Scooter? Let’s face it, Darth is pathological and has no problem lying, so is his public conniption about Libby not getting pardoned just an act. Someone in the comment threat noted that Dick himself would be exposed (pun INTENDED) if Scooter received a pardon.

    The fact that Cheney is a liar and misdirection is a standard Rovian tactic, now make me believe that this is an act. Judging by all of EW’s diaries on the subject, it is not hard to see why. They hoodwinked the press already and now the preemptive leak to Time shows that they are at it again.

    In retrospect, each of these moves has been telegraphed but no one (except for EW) seems to be making the connection. The GOP only has one play in its playbook and you would think the Trad Media and the Democrats would be prepared to stop them from running the fullback draw fifty times in a row, but you would be wrong.

  39. johnwayne99 says:

    27 July 2009
    My Fellow Americans,
    Today is a watershed event as the U.S. government has begun replacing U.S. Army troops with private contractors or mercenaries. This is means the U.S. Army is stretched to the breaking point in one job – 11 Bravo or Infantry. Today I went down to the Louisiana Superdome because the Lutheran Evangelicals decided to bring together 37,000 teenagers in New Orleans for a Christian revival type of assembly.
    Figuring the U.S. Army needs Infantry troops and the evangelicals like to vote for people who start wars, I decided to go to a local printer and print up the following message on little 2 by 3 pieces of paper:

    Christians – You are needed in Afghanistan!
    Please call 1-800-USA-ARMY
    Volunteer for “11 Bravo” Infantry
    Come Fight Your Christian War
    Relieve the Troops at the Front!

    You activists can print up hundreds of these with little or no cost and we can step up into DIRECT PASSIVE ENGAGEMENT with the neo-conservative voting block by asking they serve as Infantry Soldiers in Afghanistan. It is best if you go with a veteran. I was wearing an Obama t-shirt and as a veteran went alone. I was surprised by the 2 things:

    1)One group of people would not take anything from my hand thinking I
    was filthy or diseased and this is part of the secular evangelical racism and classism that exists when someone different does not think and act like they do. They see dissenters as scum.

    2)The other group reacted with disdain but once he or she read the small piece of paper requesting Infantry service, there was stunned silence and no reply as they were being asked to volunteer for Infantry duties in Afghanistan.

    DO NOT ARGUE with these people if they wish to argue. Just say “Thank You
    for getting into the U.S. Army INFANTRY,” as they take a slip of paper. We must get veteran’s groups to bring these pieces of paper with this writing to Evangelical Revivals and begin to penetrate the republican voting block of evangelicals. This must be performed now as the republican strength is waning and the party is falling into dissolution. Pro-democrat Veterans must lead the way. Here are the reference pages of Evangelical Revivals. http://www.elca.org -Lutheran Evangelicals. http://ag.org/top/ for the Assembly of God revivals. Distribute “Infantry Service” request as they exit the revivals. – Michael Angelo 99

  40. PJEvans says:

    Leen’s comment about the Maher interview of the Wilsons caused a couple of synapses to link up.

    What if Obama’s administration isn’t about protecting the spooks from prosecution, so much as protecting Shrub and Darth from the spooks?
    Because I’d think that the CIA operatives, in particular, would want a little revenge for Ms Plame’s outing, and it’s pretty clear that that was run out of the executive offices..

    • Petrocelli says:

      I keep wondering why Valerie & Friends haven’t exacted their pound of flesh as yet …

      Marcy, was the new Lock on the Likker cabinet made by Xe™ ? All it takes to open is a “Fonzie blow and pound of one’s Fist” … *g*

  41. pdaly says:

    The main problems with the Time article are well delineated by emptywheel and friends above, so I will concentrate my comments to the little things from that Time article that I found irritating or thought provoking.

    As President, Bush was often annoyed when guests at holiday parties buttonholed him in photo lines and pleaded for pardons for friends or clients. “Talk to Fred,” he’d say coolly, steering them to Fielding.

    Often? My first question: How many criminals does the Republican party have? I mean, were there successful prosecutions in the last 8 years that I have not heard about? Or was Bush fielding requests on behalf of imprisoned Democratic ex-governors, and this is what annoyed Bush?

    =====

    As a Cheney confidant puts it, the Vice President believed he and the President could claim the war on terrorism as his greatest legacy only if they defended at all costs the men and women who fought in the trenches.

    Um, yuh. Please, please give us back our Scooter.

    ==========

    Libby’s “boss” is never explicitly stated in this article.

    Is Libby’s boss Cheney, Bush or both?

    See below:

    They went after Scooter, Cheney would say, because they couldn’t get his boss. But Bush pushed past the political dimension. “Did the jury get it right or wrong?” he asked.

    [snip]

    But Libby had reason to lie: his job was at stake, and his boss’s was on the line too. Bush had declared that anyone involved in leaking Plame’s identity would be fired. Cheney had personally assured Bush early on that his aide wasn’t involved, even persuading the President to exonerate Libby publicly through a spokesman.

    Of course both Bush and Cheney as Libby’s boss could explain this Libby action:

    In his grand-jury testimony reviewed by TIME, Libby denied three times that Cheney had directed him to leak Plame’s CIA identity in mid-2003.

    Is that because Libby lied, or
    because Libby knew either:

    1) that Bush ordered Libby to leak Plame’s name or
    2) that Libby believed Bush ordered via Cheney that Libby leak Plame’s name?

    ========

    And [Fred Fielding] was everything Bush’s two previous counsels, Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers, hadn’t been: strong-willed, independent and fearless. Says an old friend: “Freddy isn’t afraid of anyone. He will slit your throat with a razor blade while he is yawning.”

    Fearless? Not so fast. Old friend makes Fielding sound like a psychopath. Thanks old friend.

    ========

    Sharp had worked quietly for the President for a while before anyone even knew about it. In the meantime, the two men had become friends, spending hours chatting over cigars and near beer.

    This sentence seems overworked to arrive at a passive construction. Time, I assume, did not want these men to appear too active. Imagine if Time had written: “They spent hours chatting while they smoked Montecristo cigars (from Cuba) and gulped O’Douls.” (I credit Time for an attempt at accuracy in this instance: ‘non alcoholic beer’ would have been misleading in reference to something like O’Douls, which has trace ethanol in it)

    BTW, both Bush and Attorney Sharp drank “near beer”?
    Is Mr. Sharp also a recovering alcoholic? Does Bush insist everyone drink what he is having? Or maybe Mr. Sharp believes it is bad form to drink alcohol in front of the recovering alcoholic president?

    Note also that one might parse this passive sentence differently: “Over cigars” and “near beer” could indicate a location: “above a tobacco store, near a pub”

  42. PJEvans says:

    Libby denied three times that Cheney had directed him to leak Plame’s CIA identity in mid-2003

    Is that anything like the cock crowing three times? Or is it more like ‘I tell you three times’ makes it truth?