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Libby Prosecution: Marc Grossman’s Testimony (Pt. 1)

The government’s first witness will be former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman who, as Matt Apuzzo sums it up, was allegedly asked on May 29, 2003 for information about the Joe Wilson’s travel to Niger.

There was a heated discussion between Peter Fitzgerald and Ted Wells about the scope of questioning, with Wells arguing that everything should be fair game in cross-examination because there is reason to believe that Grossman and Richard Armitage met the night before Grossman’s FBI testimony to “cook the books.” Judge Walter is inclined to agree that such questioning would be appropriate. Fitzgerald argues that conversation is not relevant to the line of questioning. Walter says it speaks to “where his loyalties lie.”

The witness was called at 3:58, which has the media room groaning.

Government questioning:

Grossman is now in the private sector but spent 29 years “as a Foreign Service Officer.” He finished up as the #3 man in the State Department, right below Colin Powell and Richard Armitage.

He interacted with Libby “several times a week” as part of the Deputies Committee (of the National Security Council). Maybe 10-12 people sat at the table and around 20 others sat in chairs around the room.

Government Exhibit #6 is a page from Grossman’s calendar for Thursday May 29, 2003. At 11:30, he attended a Deputies Committee meeting on Iraq at the White House situation room. His “best recollection” is that he talked to Libby either before or after either the 11:15 or 11:30 meeting and that Libby asked “if he knew anything about” a former ambassador’s trip to Africa and yellowcake. He didn’t but was embarrassed that he didn’t but would report back to him.

Upon returning to his office, he immediately asked Mr. Armitage to make sure he didn’t “get myself into any trouble.” Armitage “said he didn’t know anything about it either.” Grossman than sent emails to the Asst Sec for Research and for African Affairs to find out what State knew. Both said “they knew all about it.”

He took this information back to Armitage and asked if it jogged any memories and was answered in the negative. He then went to Libby and told him “yes, people at the State Dept knew about such a trip” and that Wilson had reported back to the government. He promised “a fuller report when I had it.”

He also contacted Wilson by phone to get more info. They were both longtime professional colleagues and members of the same university alumni association. Wilson “told me all about it.” His “recollection” is that he had talked to Wilson before Libby and relayed the info, including that Wilson though the Office of the VP had ordered the trip.

Grossman ultimately got a report on Wilson’s trip on June 10 or 11 from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). That report mentioned that “Valerie Wilson was employed at CIA.” The context for this was that “Mrs. Wilson” chaired WMD panel and organized her husband’s trip. “I though this was pretty interesting. Kind of odd and remarkable that A) she worked at the Agency and B) she was involved in the organization of the trip.” He thought it was “inappropriate” that one spouse would arrange another’s trip.

He discussed this with Libby at the next Deputies Committee (“my recollection”) meeting, June 11 or 12 (there are meetings just about daily). “There’s one other thing you oughta know…his wife worked at the Agency.” Libby “listened to me and he thanked me.” He doesn’t recall the precise words of the conversation on either side. Grossman felt that “because he was senior to me” Libby deserved to “know the whole context.” Libby told him that the Office of the VP had nothing to do with the trip.

Armitage told him that he had told Novak about the Wilson-Wilson connection the night before his FBI testimony. Grossman was “shocked” but “appreciated the professional courtesy.”

Wells’ cross-examination:

You had one conversation with Libby about “the wife” that “lasted maybe 30 seconds”? “Yes, that’s correct.”

“You need the calendar to identify when you met with Mr. Libby?” Yes.

“Except for looking at the calendar and reasoning backward, you don’t have any recollection when the date was?” Yes.

“You have no present recollection” aside from this “reconstruction”? Yes.

Several questions about whether Grossman read a May 6 article by Nicholas Kristoff. He hadn’t and still hasn’t. No interest in “looking in the rearview mirror.”

“Do you find it strange” that neither he not Armitage read such a critical article about the State Dept? “I had about a billion things to do” and “couldn’t be troubled” to find out what happened in the past because he was so occupied by Iraq and other issues. (That’s Libby’s whole defense, of course.)

Grossman thought that the whole Wilson matter was a non-story at the time and the matter of “the wife” only “an interesting tidbit.”

There was no indication at the time that her status was covert or classified, much less conveyed to Libby as such.

Court recessed at 4:55 to resume at 9:30 tomorrow morning.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    God, I am not sure which is more exciting–the Libby trial or the Australian Open.

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  2. [...] The Libby team, though, is being far too heavy-handed in my estimation. When cross-examining Marc Grossman (see here and here), for example, it seemed to me that he had, quite amiably, given them exactly the answers they wanted in the first five minutes. They continued to belabor the point for another two hours, spread over two days, and challenged his integrity. Ultimately, they scored a few points but they may have done so at the cost of alienating the jury. [...]

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