Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers To Senate Intelligence Panel
All the major papers are speculating about indictments coming down today in the Novak-Plame-Libby-Rove affair, with most focused on Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. The most interesting, and damning, piece comes from National Journal.
Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers To Senate Intelligence Panel
Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.
Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration’s case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney’s office — and Libby in particular — pushed to be included in Powell’s speech, the sources said.
The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president’s office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.
Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community. In April 2004, the Intelligence Committee released a report that concluded that “much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency for inclusion in Secretary Powell’s [United Nation’s] speech was overstated, misleading, or incorrect.”
Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee say that their investigation was hampered by the refusal of the White House to turn over key documents, although Republicans said the documents were not as central to the investigation. In addition to withholding drafts of Powell’s speech — which included passages written by Libby — the administration also refused to turn over to the committee contents of the president’s morning intelligence briefings on Iraq, sources say. These documents, known as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, are a written summary of intelligence information and analysis provided by the CIA to the president.
An administration spokesperson said that the White House was justified in turning down the document demand from the Senate, saying that the papers reflected “deliberative discussions” among “executive branch principals” and were thus covered under longstanding precedent and executive privilege rules. Throughout the president’s five years in office, the Bush administration has been consistently adamant about not turning internal documents over to Congress and other outside bodies.
At the same time, however, administration officials said in interviews that they cannot recall another instance in which Cheney and Libby played such direct personal roles in denying foreign policy papers to a congressional committee, and that in doing so they overruled White House staff and lawyers who advised that the materials should be turned over to the Senate panel.
Most, if not all, of this can be explained by the administration’s nearly obsessive impulse to declare executive privilege on virtually any work product. Still, this does not look good.
Regardless, it’s clear that people on one or both sides of the case are violating the law in these leaks to the press. My guess is that won’t be investigated.
Cheney Aide Appears Likely to Be Indicted; Rove Under Scrutiny (NYT)
Lawyers in the C.I.A. leak case said Thursday that they expected I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, to be indicted on Friday, charged with making false statements to the grand jury. Karl Rove, President Bush’s senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, will not be charged on Friday, but will remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case said. As a result, they said, the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, was likely to extend the term of the federal grand jury beyond its scheduled expiration on Friday.
As rumors coursed through the capital, Mr. Fitzgerald gave no public signal of how he intended to proceed, further intensifying the anxiety that has gripped the White House and left partisans on both sides of the political aisle holding their breath. Mr. Fitzgerald’s preparations for a Friday announcement were shrouded in secrecy, but advanced amid a flurry of behind-the-scenes discussions that left open the possibility of last-minute surprises. As the clock ticked down on the grand jury, people involved in the investigation did not rule out the disclosure of previously unknown aspects of the case.
White House officials said their presumption was that Mr. Libby would resign if indicted, and he and Mr. Rove took steps to expand their legal teams in preparation for a possible court battle.
Among the many unresolved mysteries is whether anyone in addition to Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove might be charged and in particular whether Mr. Fitzgerald would name the source who first provided the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer to Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist. Mr. Novak identified the officer in a column published July 14, 2003.
Decision Expected Today in CIA Leak Inquiry (WaPo, A1)
The White House, District Court officials and two potential targets of the CIA leak investigation were making preparations yesterday for the possible announcement of indictments by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald today, according to several sources familiar with the investigation. Two sources said I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, was shopping for a white-collar criminal lawyer amid expectations of those close to the case that he might be indicted for providing false statements or other charges. At the same time, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove began assembling a public relations team in the event that he is indicted. The New York Times reported last night that Rove would not be charged today but would remain under investigation.
At the White House, aides scrambled to put the finishing touches on a political strategy to respond to the fallout from any criminal charges, including the likelihood of staff changes. A Republican consultant with close White House ties said Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. had canceled at least two trips in the past week and had met with Bush over the weekend to focus on how to react to the grand jury’s decisions. “These will be very, very dark days for the White House,” the consultant quoted Card as saying.
Decision Expected Today in CIA Leak Inquiry (LAT)
The federal grand jury investigating the CIA leak case prepared for a final day of deliberations as a special prosecutor huddled with his legal team Thursday about whether to seek indictments against administration figures for leaking the name of a covert operative.
Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald was expected to announce today the results of his 22-month investigation, and there were growing expectations that one or more administration figures would be charged with wrongdoing. The grand jury was expected to meet this morning, with an announcement by Fitzgerald expected about midday. Other than being spotted getting a shoeshine at a barbershop near his Washington office, Fitzgerald made no other public appearances.
The White House Ã¢€” and lawyers for White House advisors Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Ã¢€” braced for the possibility of indictments, although there were signs that Fitzgerald was keeping them guessing to the bitter end. People close to the investigation said that, as of Thursday afternoon, Rove had received no notice that he was going to be indicted. Some observers took that as a sign that the longtime Bush strategist might emerge from the investigation without being charged. But others said that Fitzgerald might be waiting until today to alert those being charged to reduce the chances of last-minute leaks about his intentions.
A bit late for that, I’m afraid.
A rather different take here:
Libby Indictment Likely Over Leak; Rove in Jeopardy (WSJ)
With Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald poised to bring charges today against at least one Bush administration official in the CIA-leak investigation, White House officials were told the probe may not be over.
Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser and deputy White House chief of staff, was informed yesterday evening that he may not be charged today but remains in legal jeopardy, according to a person briefed on the matter. Mr. Fitzgerald, who meets with jurors this morning, has zeroed in on potential wrongdoing by I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and is likely to charge Mr. Libby at least with making false statements. The testimony of reporters who have been witnesses in the case has contradicted Mr. Libby’s public statements.
Mr. Fitzgerald appeared still to be pondering whether to charge Mr. Rove and has notified the political strategist that he remains under investigation.
It would be amusing, indeed, if no indictments came down after all the speculation.
Regardless, though, these investigations all take on the character of an NCAA recruiting violations case, dragging onfor far, far too long with the process itself being the punishment. In both, reputations are damaged and much time and effort have to be devoted by those under scrutiny defending themselves publically from leaks and sheer idle speculation. I don’t blame Fitzgerald for this; it seems to be the nature of the beast, though.
Update (0758): Steven Taylor adds:
Of course, if Libby (or anyone else) did lie to the grand jury, thatÃ¢€™s a crime, and is problematic. Still, there is something wrong with creating a situation in which the mechanism by which the conditions for committing the crime were artificially created in the first place. In this, it would appear that if indictments are handed down they will be for crimes that would not have existed if the grand jury had not existed.
Quite true. That doesn’t make such a crime less serious but it is a bizarre circumstance to have the state essentially create a situation wherein a crime may be committed. That’s especially true when the process drags on for over two years and witnesses are called repeatedly.
I could not blame the Special Prosecutor at all for taking the time to be as thorough as he possibly can be. He is mightily aware how even his best efforts could be twisted to villify him as partisan from either side. I hope whatever comes down, his evidence is solid.
Right, just like all the Republicans were saying in 1999.
As for “it’s only perjury,” Brad DeLong had a good point:
What this whole indictment business shows is that Fitzgerald is a partisan hack. The fact that he has been on Soros’ payroll is enough to discount any “findings” that may come out.
He is a serious scumbag who should be ignored.
I think the first story (Cheney and Libby “withhold crucial documents”) points us again to the heart of the story.
Something happened in the run-up to the war, and that something was “protected” by attacking Wilson and withdrawing doucments.
I don’t think we should veer off and focus too much on who is leaking these tidbits this week. They really only tell us things we, as citizens, will have to know. They just tell us a little too soon (hmmmm or late?).
… in the best light they offer us the chance for a little democracy, as we try to understand the motivations for war that underly the spoken (and flawed) ones.
BTW, I said “something” in the above to be scrupulously fair. It could be that the players made an honest preparation for war, that they still believe in their war, and that they also felt their practices were “fair game” in politics.
That is possible.
It is also, strictly speaking, possible that the chain leads all the way back from these “covering actions” to the Downing Street Memos, and “facts being fixed” for war.
That is still possible.
The Clinton and Libby cases are rather different. The root issue (leaking a covert agent’s identity vice sexual harrassment) is more serious in this case. However, the perjury issue–based only on what we know now–was more serious in the Clinton case.
First, this case involves state action. That is, it was the government who created the case by empaneling the grand jury. In the Clinton case, it was a private citizen (Paula Jones) bringing suit.
Second, the underlying issue was true in the Clinton case and apparently not in the Libby case. That is, Clinton almost certainly sexually harrassed Jones and certainly had sexual relations with “that woman, Ms. Lewinski.” So, he lied about something he did to try to get away with something he did. In the Libby case, it seems rather clear that he did not violate the law in the Plame matter. So, at worst, he lied to protect his boss’ political reputation even though neither he nor his boss committed a crime.
It’s also not a case, as in getting Al Capone for tax violations, where a side issue is used to get someone who committed a criminal act that simply can’t be proven. Libby would seem to have been exhonorated on the serious issue that led to the investigation.
Again, I’m not saying what Libby did (assuming he actually did it) doesn’t deserve punishment. We can’t have people, let alone high government officials, lying under oath. It’s just a very circular case.
James, I think you are a smart and fair guy … but you also seem to lead your readers away from the core issue on this in each post.
At least in my perspective.
Is a rehash of Clinton “stains” really more important (to you, to the country) than a bloddy war?
Odo: You should actually read my posts before commenting on them.
Let me push back in a friendly way. That line you just quoted only flashes the “sexual harrassement” bait in a small way, but much more importantly, it defines “the root issue” as “leaking a covert agent.”
This is “talking point” stuff … and does NOT address the “root issue(s).”
I’m slow off the mark this morning (low on coffee). I should have asked how a story headline “Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers To Senate Intelligence Panel” evolves to have a “root issue” involving the Wilson leaks.
They are different story lines, yes?
Odo: That’s because Ã¢Â€Âœleaking a covert agentÃ¢Â€Â was indeed the root issue of the investigation. That is a crime. Emphasizing data that favors one’s position while discounting that that doesn’t to make the case for war is not a crime.
“Sexual harrassment” is not “bait” in the Clinton case: It’s what the case was originally about. Remember, it was a civil suit.
Ken Starr’s initial mandate had to do with criminal issues, most of which bore fruit but none of which implicated the Clintons directly. His mandate was expanded to cover the Lewinski lie in the Jones case.
I wasn’t blogging at the time (few were) but my position was that the Jones case should never have been allowed to go to trial. Having a sitting president subject to civil suits is a horribly bad idea. SCOTUS disagreed though (I believe 9-0, in fact).
‘Having a sitting president subject to civil suits is a horribly bad idea. ‘
Above the law?
On the one hand, you tell me the leak is the root issue, and on the other you declare a “history” and a “justification.”
The “history” part is that all that was done was emphasizing some (real) data over others. I’m not sure that his proven.
The “justification” part is that such emphasis “is not a crime.”
Ye Gods, it is easy to claim the moral high ground on this one. I, as a citizen in a democracy, do not want my elected leaders to make a course for war with anything less that the full truth. I do not want them to be selective in truths they tell me. I do not want them to mislead.
… and I do not want their immorality, their lack of fidelity to the democracy, (if this proves to be the case) defended with the narrow criteria of what a special investigator can catch as “crime.”
P.S. – do you champion the right of all future Presidents to be selective in the truths they tell you before all future wars?
No, just a matter of being able to run the country. People can sue on any grounds or none.
I think it’s fair to be immune from suit, with perhaps some provisions for tolling the statute of limitations & providing for pre-complaint discovery to keep evidence from going stale, etc.
Just the President, though; I wouldn’t extend this to cabinet officers, senators, etc.
I may be confused (really, not snark), but didn’t Starr work together with Jones’s lawyers to create a perjury trap? I mean, there’s a reason the Starr Report was about Lewinsky and not just Whitewater, right?
I am very skeptical that Jones was sexually harassed, but we can agree to disagree.
Maybe we’ll know more about this soon, but just because they can’t convict Libby on the “underlying offense” doesn’t mean he didn’t violate the law. See my DeLong quote on competent perjurers. But again, a lot of this is whistling in the dark until we learn more from Fitzgerald.
But that’s what special prosecutors do. We have elections to judge matters of morality and public policy. Not to mention impeachment.
Anderson: Agree we’ll know more soon. I reserve the right to revise my opinion given more data.
I don’t know the relationship between Starr and Jones’ attorneys prior to the perjury. It’s possible, I suppose, given the timeline:
Even if we assume Starr gave Jones’ attorneys this info (which would seem to be problematic on a client confidentiality basis) it is certainly a relevant fact in the Jones case, just as Gennifer Flowers was.
Why Clinton lied about that still baffles me given that 1) it’s not as if he didn’t already have a reputation as a skirt chaser and 2) he’s a smart enough lawyer to know that lawyers don’t ask questions they don’t already know the answers to. It would have been one thing if they had asked a generic question about sex in the White House or some such, but once they used Lewinski’s name, he had to know they knew.
JJ, I hope that you hope that impeachment never becomes a trial of “morality and public policy.”
I can see some common ground in the statement:
I just place a different emphasis on the stories surrounding the run-up to the war. Rather than simply wait for special prosecutors to isolate crimes, I believe we should step up take an active interest in the state of our democracy.
Being a lifelong conservative and Republican, I’ve often been simpathetic to “framer’s intensions.” One such “constructionist” position to remember that it is Congress’ role to declare war, and that the President may only make a case to them.
Making a dishonest case (promising war as a “last resort” when perhaps it was decided?) obviously subverts the intention of our Constitution.
simpathetic – sometimes I murder a word so bad, it should be in a Tarantino movie.
I have never seen how consensual sex years later is relevant to sexual harassment charges …
The “perjury trap” bit is controversial (duh), but settling for the 1st page of Google results, I found this old WaPo bit:
Hm, that’s why they call it a “perjury trap.” In retrospect, it seems that’s exactly what happened, but I suppose I may be biased.
I don’t want to see it used as a weapon about policy disagreements, to be sure. On the other hand, if a consensus developed that George Bush actually “lied to take us to war” impeachment would be an appropriate venue. In the early days–when the Framers were still alive–impeachment was used for public morality issues, such as public drunkeness by federal judges.
So, I don’t think impeachment should be used to “get” political opponents I don’t think it can be used only in cases where the official commits crimes applicable to ordinary citizens.
There are those, mostly Democrats, who argue that sex between a boss and a subordinate, especially in a case of power disparity such as separated Clinton and Lewinski, is never consensual. And, unfortunately perhaps, virtually everything is fair game in a civil deposition, let alone one where sex is the basis of the controversy.
Interesting on the Starr-Jones link.
And the first link in the above article, which shows the executive branch “withholding” documents, related to the war, from Congress … does not look good.
I don’t like it either, although it may be within their legal right.
I think there should be absolute transparency in such matters. Indeed, the Constitution would seem to require it. Unfortunately, administrations fear that Congress, or more accurately, individual congressmen, can’t be trusted. That would likely have been true in this case, with anti-war congressmen leaking classified docs to the press to make their case stronger.
‘I think itÃ¢Â€Â™s fair to be immune from suit,’
I believe the SCOTUS ruled 9-0 that delaying the suit unfairly hindered plaintiffs from pursuing claims.
‘I am very skeptical that Jones was sexually harassed’ ‘I suppose I may be biased.’
I can remember certain times in my life when I wasn’t comfortable with the direction of foreign policy, but a President essentially said “trust me” with the implication that he knew secret things I could not know.
In many cases I did trust him, but I clearly remember the feeling of risk I experienced then. If we had a pattern of “trust” about “secrets” we faced the possibility that the trust would someday be abused.
So I’m saying I agree with you somewhat, but also worry about how to police the grey area between public information and a true Top Secret.
I’d say a lot of things (mere “secrets”) should be released to Congress, and we should charge them with espionage, treason, whatever, IF they leak.
I don’t hold to either extreme here (that congress should be told all Top Secrets, or that congress should be told no Secrets).
I’m looking for a reasonable middle line … where only the most sensitive secrets are withheld.
… and then you’ve got to trust that if Top Secrets are abused, whistleblowers will emerge … which might bring us back to where we are today.
Ummm… I’m coming a little late to this party, but I think there’s still a key point to be made. This has turned into a comparison of current perjury charges vs. Clinton’s impeachment issues, but _that’s not what James’ original post was about_.
The headline says “Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers To Senate Intelligence Panel”… Now, this only refers to information that should have been sent to the panel investigating after-the-fact, but there’s a very sharp dagger hidden behind that cloak: did this administration withhold critical info from Congress _before the Iraq invasion_?
The possibilities here are stunning – it’s one thing to emphasize certain pieces of intel over others in making one’s own decision, but if this is more than just a fever dream, it means the WH may have flatly lied to Congress about the actual intel itself to _force_ them to support the decision to go to war… and if you’ll recall, that’s solely Congress’ decision; the President can only make the request. This goes to the very heart of the Constitutional separation of powers, and a is potentially treasonous (and I use that word deliberately) abuse of power.
There are rumors that Fitzgerald is not looking into getting an extension for the current GJ inquiry, but rather a _wholly new_ GJ, which would imply investigating a different set of charges. If there is any truth to this, it’s more than just a black eye for the Bush admin; it’s earth-shattering.
BTW, as I come up to speed on this, I gather that the 1947 National Security Act, and the amendments thereto, as well as perhaps the 1985 DOD reorganization act, define the legal requirements of such secret handling.
I don’t think I would ever “cooperate” with a Grand Jury. It’s just a recipe for this sort of silliness.
James, you’re baffled as to why Clinton lied about sex? Didn’t you see the primaries? Ahem. But I also agree with you that civil suits against a sitting president are only trouble. Unfortunately, thanks to SCOTUS, that is no longer an issue we can prevent. And it looks like Wilson is going to take his civil suit against members of this administration with a vengeance. Careful what you wish for, I guess.
Your other point, regarding emphasizing evidence, seems to be completely wrong. We already know the Niger documents were crude forgeries and we may soon know how that mess is all connected. If this whole Italian job was the source of the 16 words in the SOTU (including the Brit’s source, apparently), then we have more than just a selective emphasis of evidence – the forgery was known long before the SOTU.
Further, what the documents referenced in this post seem to point to is that, rather than the CW, the administration – in the form of the OSP – bears quite a bit of the responsibility for the intelligence failure. How much, we don’t know, but it’s beginning to look pretty darn bad.
So, we can’t know for sure, but it certainly smells like fraud if not out right lying.
Oh, and just listening to Patrick Fitzgerald’s news conference, the whole “she wasn’t an undercover agent and no one blew her cover” defense is officially dead.