John Brennan Channels Scott McClellan Dodging Leak Questions

When Margaret Warner asked John Brennan about the leak witch hunt today, he said, in part,

First of all, there are investigations underway, so we have to be mindful of that and respectful of that investigative process.

Secondly, the President has made it very clear that any leak of classified national security information is something that should be rigorously pursued.

Let’s see. Dodging the question by invoking an ongoing investigation.


Reassurance that–quote–“the President has made it very clear” that he takes this stuff seriously.


Brennan must not have seen this movie when it was first released. Because this strategy ultimately didn’t work out that well.

What Would Scott McClellan Say…

About Murray Waas’ latest, in which he reports that Karl Rove had several people claim he was not involved in potentially criminal behavior, even though he had been?

While a central focus for investigators apparently has been the role played by aides to Rove in the Griffin matter, some witnesses to the investigation told me that they have been asked specifically about Rove’s own personal efforts.

Two former senior Justice Department officials, former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and principal Associate General William Moscella, have separately provided damaging information to the two internal investigative agencies.

Both, according to sources familiar with their still-confidential testimony, said they inadvertently gave misleading testimony to Congress about the firings of the U.S. attorneys because they were misled by Rove himself in addition to other White House figures.

In his March 6, 2007, testimony to Congress, Moscella contended that all but one U.S. attorney was fired because of issues related to their performance. When specifically asked if Rove played any role in the firings, he testified: "I don’t know that he played any role."

But one day before the congressional testimony, on March 5, 2007, McNulty and Moscella attended a strategy session at the White House in which they discussed Moscella’s testimony and how he should answer allegations that most of the U.S. attorneys were fired because of politics.

McNulty and Moscella told investigators that among the attendees were Rove and Sampson, then Gonzales’ chief of staff. Neither Rove nor Sampson, both men told investigators, told them anything about their own role in the firings even as they encouraged Moscella to say politics had nothing to do with it.

He didn’t have anything to do with outing a CIA spy … He didn’t have anything to do with placing his vote caging specialist in a big swing state … He didn’t know Jack Abramoff, either. 

I mean, you’d think some enterprising Republican would start a 12-step program, "Republicans Who Have Vouched for Karl Based on His False Representations" Anonymous.

Scott McClellan Dismantles Cheney’s Plame Firewall

When evidence from the Scooter Libby trial showed that Dick Cheney had probably ordered Scooter Libby to leak Valerie Plame’s identity, Cheney built a firewall that legally excused the leak–but still insulated George Bush from involvement in knowingly outing a CIA spy. Cheney claimed, on at least two occasions, that he himself had the authority to declassify classified information, presumably up to and including Valerie Plame’s identity. Yet new information from Scott McClellan dismantles Cheney’s firewall; McClellan reveals that in the same period when Cheney was claiming he had the authority to declassify such information, the White House Counsel’s Office under Harriet Miers disagreed that the Vice President had such declassification authorities.

The Evidence Cheney Ordered Libby to Leak Plame’s Identity


In spring of 2006, evidence was accumulating that Dick Cheney had ordered Scooter Libby to leak Valerie Plame’s identity to Judy Miller. We learned (and then, during the trial, we saw) that on July 7 0r 8, Cheney had ordered Libby to leak something to Judy Miller. We learned from Miller’s newspaper account (and then, during the trial, from her testimony) that after receiving that order, Libby proceeded to leak Plame’s identity to Miller.

And, as we got more information, we learned that Scooter Libby’s cover story for that order and that leak–that Cheney had only ordered him to leak the National Intelligence Estimate–could not be true. That’s because (among other reasons), Libby claimed he did not leak the classified information Cheney ordered him to leak until he got reassurances from David Addington that the President could insta-declassify classified information, thereby making such a leak legal.

I had previously spoken to our General Counsel, David Addington, and our General — and ask our General Counsel, does the President have the ability if he wants to take any document and say it’s declassified, go talk about it?

And Libby further explained that, at the same conversation where he got those reassurances from David Addington, he asked about Wilson’s probable contract with the CIA.

Q. And can you recall what — in your conversation with Mr. Addington about declassification, do you recall if you discussed any other topics with Mr. Addington at the time?

A. Yes. I also discussed in that conversation or close to that conversation, the question of whether there was a contractual obligation for Mr. Wilson.

Given these details, Libby’s notes, and Addington’s testimony (Addington said the conversation took place after Joe Wilson’s op-ed appeared), we can date this conversation to July 7 or 8. (Indeed, Libby even says the conversation declassifying the information itself may have happened on July 7 or "some time at the end of the previous" week.) Read more

Scott McClellan Testimony: Rove Is a Liar and Cheney an Oil-Hungry War-Monger


I confess to being underwhelmed with the work HJC did with Scott McClellan’s appearance before the committee today. I’ll do a post later (once I’ve recovered from a terrible day for Democracy) on what I think was missed. But I’ll start with the positive–what I consider the highlights of the hearing.

Conyers started the hearing right, IMO, by introducing the meat-grinder note, showing that as Cheney was pressuring Bush to have Libby exonerated, Cheney was thinking of Bush’s order that Libby "put his neck in the meat-grinder." Conyers also made the case–which I made here–that Mukasey should turn over the reports from the Bush and Cheney interviews (doing anything else is really cooperating the ongoing attempts to cover-up the Libby case). Of course, HJC could have made a more compelling case that it needs the reports had they don’t a better job of explaining why the reports would be the only way to answer urgent questions about the leaks. But, aside from Chairman Conyers, no one on the committee made a concerted effort to present the abundant evidence that Cheney and Bush were involved in the leak of Plame’s identity. For example, when Jerrold Nadler asked McClellan whether Bush and Cheney had any knowledge of Libby’s involvement in the leak, he didn’t introduce that evidence that Cheney, at least, did, and Bush may have as well.

NADLER: Do you know when the president gave instruction to cover Libby’s rear end, did he know about Libby’s involvement? Scott didn’t know that.

Perhaps the best use of the hearing time came from (unsurprisingly–he usually excels in hearings) Artur Davis. Davis, who is from Don Siegelman’s state, got McClellan to admit that Rove not only would–but has–lied to protect himself from legal jeopardy and political embarrassment.

Artur Davis Let me circle around a person, Rove. You stated Rove encouraged you to repeat a lie. Indicated you’ve known him for some time. Committee extended invitation to Rove. I’m willing to talk, only if no oath, no cameras, no notes. Based on what you know does it surprise you that Rove wants limitations on circumstances.

SM An effort to stonewall the whole process.

Davis Would you trust Rove to tell the truth if not under oath.

SM Can’t say I would

Davis Not under oath.

SM I would hope he would. I’d have concerns about that.

Davis Did testify before GJ under oath. You don’t believe he told the complete truth to the GJ.

SM I don’t know.

Davis Karl only concerned about protecting himself from possible legal action. Do you believe he is capable of lying to protect himself from legal jeopardy.

SM He certainly lied to me.

Davis Do you believe he is capable of lying to protect himself from political embarrassment.

SM he did in my situation, so the answer is yes. [my emphasis]

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HJC: Scott McClellan Testimony


Shoot, they snuck in and restarted the hearing while I was vomiting after the FISA vote. Watch along on CSPAN3 or the HJC feed.

Ric Keller is complaining that Scottie raised Bush’s forgetfulness about his use of cocaine in the book.

Robert Wexler up. Your book raises questions about Admin, avoids accountability. How Scooter revealed identity of Plame. Inconceivable that Libby acted alone. President and VP have denied ordering this leak. You state that you cannot believe Bush ordered the leak. You do not defend Cheney in your book. Why not.

SM He keeps things close. I do not know his involvement. Cloud over VP. There’s a lot of suspicion there. Questions not answered.

RW VP could have authorized the leak.

SM Can’t rule it out.

RW We know Cheney tried to cover up leak. Cheney called you. VP starts to write, President asked Libby to stick neck in meat-grinder. Cheney is the only one left. The only suspect to have ordered the leak. More than enough to open up impeachment hearings. Pardon power to deflect investigation. Would be an abusive crime of highest order. Thank you for exposing some of the lies.

Goodlattte: Were you fired?

SM Three proposals for book.

Goodlatte: number of TV appearances? Should you have raised the allegations in the book earlier?

Linda Sanchez: Firing US Attorneys, pressure US Attorney PatFitz. To your knowledge, when Rove suggest to fire USAs, he had already appeared before GJ in Plame. Aware of conversations about firing Fitz?


Sanchez Bush’s promise to fire people. What prompted Bush to raise the bar?

SM Rove’s involvement.

Sanchez Who should he have fired?

SM Rove

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How to Get the Transcripts

Skdadl asked, with due skepticism, whether Mukasey would ever hand over the Bush and Cheney transcripts. I was thinking about just that on my walk with McCaffrey the MilleniaLab. Here’s how I think–if HJC were to play it correctly–it might play out.

In his letter to Mukasey, Waxman used McClellan’s public statements to demonstrate the need to release the transcripts and FBI reports.

New revelations by fonner White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan raise additional questions about the actions of the President and the Vice President. Mr. McClellan has stated that "[t]he President and Vice President directed me to go out there and exonerate Scooter Libby." He has also asserted that "the top White House officials who knew the truth including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney – allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie." It would be a major breach of trust if the Vice President personally directed Mr. McClellan to mislead the public.

In his FBI interview, Mr. McClellan told the FBI about discussions he had with the President and the Vice President. These passages, however, were redacted from the copies made available to the Committee. Similar passages were also redacted from other interviews. There are no sound reasons for you to withhold the interviews with the President and the Vice President from the Committee or to redact passages like Mr. McClellan’s discussions with the President and the Vice President. [my emphasis]

Now, as I understand it, Mukasey didn’t actually turn over the transcripts themselves to the Oversight Committee–he just let them look at the reports. Nevertheless, some smart staffer on Waxman’s committee must have notes of the context of the redactions in McClellan’s FBI reports.

So the first thing HJC needs to do is get a copy of the notes that staffer took.

Then, they should address a question to Scottie that goes something like this:

Mr. McClellan, In the course of your interview with the FBI on November XX, John Eckenrode asked you about your discussions with Bush and Cheney regarding the Plame leak. Can you tell us what you said in response?

Now, there’s something odd I’ve been puzzling over. We know from Waxman’s letter that there are clear references to Bush and Cheney in McClellan’s FBI interview report. Read more

Four News Outlets and the Libby Exoneration

Scottie McC describes his reluctant efforts on October 4, 2003 to exonerate Libby this way:

"Were you involved in the leak in any way?" I asked him.

"No, absolutely not," Scooter replied.

"All right," I said. "I plan to tell reporters that you did not leak the classified information, nor would you condone doing so. Is that correct?"

"Yes," he replied. Then we talked about which reporters I planned to call. Scooter hung up and I set about my disagreeable task.

I called reporters for Newsweek, which I’d heard was working on a story focusing on Scooter, the AP, and the New York Times. That same day, I happened to run into Washington Post correspondant Mike Allen outside on the White House grounds, and I told him as well.


Sure enough, pretty soon it was on the Associated Press newswire as part of a larger story on the leak investigation. [my emphasis]

The passage originally sparked my interest since the NYT was a central player in this drama. Newsweek journalist Evan Thomas was subpoenaed to testify at the trial–for a conversation he had with Libby during leak week. And Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff was also among the names of people whom Fitzgerald asked Libby about during his grand jury testimony.

Given Scottie McC’s indication that Libby had some influence over which journalists Scottie McC called to exonerate Libby, is it possible that he included some who were involved in the actual leak?

So I’ve been playing with Lexis-Nexis to see if I can pinpoint which journalist got Scottie McC’s exoneration, and whether they actually used it.


The AP reporter appears to be Scott Lindlaw, who published a story dated October 5 describing the efforts of the White House to comply with DOJ’s document requests.

McClellan firmly ruled out any involvement in the leak by Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Libby did not provide the information, know who did and does not condone it, said McClellan said. He condemned "false, unsubstantiated accusations" that have been published in the news media about Libby’s role.

Note the little addition: Scottie McC apparently also told Lindlaw that Libby did not know who leaked Plame’s identity.


The Newsweek reporter appears to be either Evan Thomas or Michael Isikoff. A PR Newswire released on October 5 announced they would report the exoneration in an article dated October 13 but published on October 6. Read more

Keith O and Scottie McC and Chairman John C

In a continuation of our "All Things Scottie" this week, here’s Scottie McC’s appearance last night with Keith Olbermann. The whole thing is worth watching, but I wanted to capture what he said about the Plame Affair (starting at about 1:45).

SMc The House Judiciary Committee reached out to me. They invited me to come testify, and as I said before, I’m glad to share my views and as I told them I’m glad to share what I know about the Valerie Plame leak episode so I will be going before the Committee a week from Friday on the 20th of this month.

KO Do you have any doubt that key people in the Administration were willing to sacrifice a CIA asset like Valerie Plame just to punish her husband and stifle critics and will you testify to that before the Congressional Committee?

SMc I’ll tell them what I know. I’m not going to get into things that I don’t know about. But I think Patrick Fitzgerald had it about right when she, he said during the trial of Scooter Libby that she became just another talking point in this effort to discredit Joe Wilson. That’s unfortunate. Whether or not there was any criminal activity involved, I don’t know. But it was wrong to do that and I will speak to the questions that they ask me and share exactly what I know.

Keith and Scottie McC go onto discuss the scope of the testimony and Scottie McC points to the language in Conyers’ letter asking for testimony about,

… reported attempts to cover up the involvement of White House officials in the leak of the covert identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson and related matters…

Note the difference here. When Keith asks Scottie McC about whether he will testify to outing Plame, Scottie McC backs off that some–suggesting that he may not know whether people "we willing to sacrifice a CIA" operative. But he does seem to agree strongly with Fitzgerald that Plame was a talking point.

This is significant, in my opinion. Fitzgerald primarily offered evidence at trial that Cheney translated his question "Or did his wife send him on a junket?" into the talking point, "It’s not clear who authorized the travel."

Let’s go back. "Or did his wife send him on a junket?" Read more

Scottie’s Briefing

I’m going to continue my discussion of Scottie McC’s chronology. But first I want to look closely at how Scottie McC describes his September 29 press briefing, and what the briefing actually includes.

Here’s what Scottie McC claims to have cleared with Bush in the early morning September 29 conversation (in addition to the "Karl didn’t do it" claptrap described in this post).

I then turned the conversation to the approach I was planning to take with the White House press corps later in the morning at the gaggle and in the afternoon briefing.


"I plan on saying you believe the leaking of classified information is a serious matter, and that it should be looked into and pursued to the fullest possible extent," I said to the president. "And that the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to look into it. And I don’t plan on going too far beyond that."

"Yeah, I think that’s right," the president replied. "I do believe it’s a serious matter. And I hope they find who did it."

"And Andy, I am still good to say that nothing has been brought to our attention to suggest White House involvement, beyond what we have read in the papers, right?" I asked.

"I do not know of anything," Andy responded. "And last I heard from Al, he did not either," he added, referring to Al Gonzales, the White House counsel and longtime Bush loyalist from Texas.

And here’s what he cleared with him between his gaggle and his briefing.

Card and Gonzales had already assured me they knew of no White House involvement in the disclosure of Plame’s identity.


I’d visited with [the President] before the briefing to make sure he was fine with my saying in response to questions that he would fire anyone involved in the leaking of classified information, specifically the identity of Valerie Plame.

And here’s one last detail of what he says he said–though he doesn’t claim he got Bush to approve it first.

I reiterated that the president expected everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standard of conduct, and that no one would have been authorized to leak the identity of Wilson’s wife.

And here’s the briefing in question for your viewing pleasure.

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Condi’s Sunday Shows

I’m going to continue my series on Scottie McC’s chronology, but I wanted to talk about two more details surrounding the September 27 weekend first. This post is about what Condi knew and when she knew it.

I pointed out last week that it appears that Condi testified to having some kind of conversation with Bush about Rove’s involvement in the Plame leak.

Waxman tells us what is redacted in Scottie’s interview report.

In his FBI interview, Mr. McClellan told the FBI about discussions he had with the President and the Vice President. These passages, however, were redacted from the copies made available to the Committee.

And he implies that that’s what was redacted from the other interviews, as well.

Similar passages were also redacted from other interviews.

There are no sound reasons for you to withhold the interviews with the President and the Vice President from the Committee or to redact passages like Mr. McClellan’s discussions with the President and the Vice President.

From which we might conclude that those redacted passages in the Rove, Libby, Cathie Martin, and Condi interview reports are, at the very least, about conversations with Bush or Cheney, and possibly, discussions specifically about the exoneration of Rove and Libby.

We know Rove could have testified about this–Scottie McC’s book tells us that Rove told Bush directly that he was "innocent." Similarly, we know that Libby had such conversations with Cheney–in fact, passages describing those conversations appear, totally unredacted, in the grand jury testimony.

I’m not surprised that Cathie Martin had a conversation with (probably) Cheney about the leak. After all, the one email that had been destroyed and was subsequently turned over to prosecutors shows Martin and Jenny Mayfield closely watching for Scottie’s exoneration of Libby. So we know that Mayfield and Martin were following that exoneration.

But Condi? We know almost nothing about Condi’s testimony.

Now I’m just guessing from the context that that testimony might pertain to a conversation between Rice and Bush about which of Bush’s top aides had claimed to be innocent of the leak. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Bush went out of his way to tell Condi that Rove didn’t leak Plame’s name?

Which is why I find it all the more interesting that Scottie McC was asked–in his February 6, 2004 grand jury appearance–whether he had told Condi to exonerate Rove on the Sunday shows on September 28, 2003.

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