Libby Prosecution: Cathie Martin Testimony

At 11:22, after a lengthy dispute over documents, the prosecution called Cathie Martin, a 1993 Harvard Law graduate who became a senior public affairs official in the Office of the Vice President from 2001 to 2004. She’s now Deputy Communications Director in the White House.

Live blog below the fold.

Government questioning:

Nearly daily contact with Libby during time in OVP.

Practice at OVP was to run all press inquiries through commo shop.

Discussion of distinctions between on-the-record (attribution by name), background (sourced by job description), and deep background (no direct reference can be made, merely provided for reporter’s information) discussions with press.

Libby generally spoke on background and then required specific requests for quotes to be released.

Libby had a practice of not reading his email, so any emails were sent to Jenny Mayfield, his assistant.

Entry into evidence of Nick Kristoff column “but not for the truth of the matter.” (Exhibit 401)

“Can you describe your reaction when you first read the column?” “Is it fair to say that it was viewed by the White House as a negative article?” Yes, but it’s not like “everyone was running around talking about it.”

“How much attention was paid at the time?” “Not that much.”

Was the issue of the Niger trip in the news at all before the May 6 Kristoff piece?” “Not to my knowledge.”

How did you learn Joe Wilson’s name? “From Bill Harlow at the CIA.” “He’s there equivalent of the public affairs or communications director.”

Can you give a precise date? No. Can you approximate? Sometime between the Kristoff piece and Wilson’s MTP appearance on July 6. “I knew his name already” when he appeared on MTP.

“Were you directed to speak to Mr. Harlow by anyone else?” Once by “press aide at National Security Council” and “another occasion” where Libby told her to pursuant to a telephone call with someone from CIA.

First instance was directed by Michael Anton, high press official in NSC. Normally talked to his boss, Anna Perez. Recollection is that “Anna wasn’t around” because she was with president and his team was in Africa.

What was gist of conversation with Mr. Harlow? Press accounts that VP had sent this guy to Africa, OVP knows nothing about, so who sent him? Harlow relayed that Wilson was sent. Also mentioned that Mrs. Wilson had some role in sending.

Later that day, she went to meet Libby and relayed Joe Wilson’s name and mentioned “apparently his wife works at the CIA.” She “doesn’t remember any specific response.”

Second call to Harlow to find out “who was continuing to call on this story.” OVP worried that press continued to tie Wilson’s trip to OVP even though not true. Harlow “a little less friendly and a little more reluctant.” Relayed that Andrea Mitchell and working on stories about this.

What was ordinary practice in OVP to keep track of news stories? Staff did search and cut-and-pasted stories into Word document with highlights and table of contents.

Did people generally cut things out of print papers? Not often.

At some point “on or before July 9,” Cheney ordered to start keeping track of television commentary on the matter. (Collecting transcripts) Libby was present.

Especially paying attention to “Hardball with Chris Matthews” because “he had been talking about it a lot.” MSNBC was typically slow to provide transcripts.

They also had the ability to capture “shadow clips” for viewing on their computers of various news programs.

She was paying especial attention at that time to the “16 words” controversy.

July 7 talking points from Martin to Arie Fleisher:

-VP’s office did not request mission
-VP office not informed of mission
-VP office not briefed upon return
-VP office not even aware of mission until recent press reports

Second, more expansive talking points list handwritten and undated. Basically say same thing. No reference to “the wife.”

A third, typed version complied from the handwritten version. Apparently from July 8, 2003. Still no mention of “the wife.” Has scribble from Scooter Libby saying “Wilson” and some scribble. Martin relayed that it said “Wilson 3 Points.”

Scooter was going to call reporters, at behest of Cheney, to get OVP’s story out. She thinks that might have happened July 8 but it seemed like a question rather than a statement.

Were there conversations about declassifying the NIE? She had urged that it be done but was not present at any meetings where doing it was ordered.

Break for lunch at 12:20 with court to resume at 1:40.

Sidebar discussions with lawyers commenced at 12:22 with jury out of room. Audio not made available to the press.

Trial recommenced at 1:43.

Judge Walton issued a cautionary instruction that by July 8, 2003 certain portions of the NIE had been declassified and neither side disputed that fact.

Were you aware of a conversation on July 8 between Cheney and Judith Miller? No.

Stephen Hadley raised a report by Mitchell suggesting WH was pushing blame toward CIA in a meeting. Libby was in the room.

From that point on, she was “not involved” in any conversations with senior officials about the matter. Her understanding from colleagues was that most were “in the dark” at that point.

Govt Exhibit 541 is a “very rough draft” of “someone’s notes” about a statement drafted for George Tenet to clear up the origins of the Wilson trip. It has handwritten notes from Martin on how to best utilize the information.

Several references to putting VP on MTP and the pros and cons on so doing that:

Pro: VP best on that show
Con: Could get VP into weeds, look desperate, and raises the bar

Another option was to leak or give to Walter Pincus, David Sanger, or a newsmagazine. Basically, to deal head-on with a reporter working on the story.

Another option a Condi or Rummy press conference.

Final option writing or ghost writing an op-ed.

Recounting of trip to christen USS Ronald Reagan involving Libby, Cheney, and others the day TIME’s Matt Cooper called. On return trip, Scooter came to back of plane to see her and coordinate on press responses. She relayed that Glenn Kessler of Post and Matt Cooper had questions.

She had email from Cooper, admitted into evidence. She had handwritten some notes on the email, as had Libby. Libby took the email up to front of plane to talk to Cheney. Returned and said Cheney had ordered him to give an on the record statement, which Libby had written out on a card.

That card admitted into evidence as 528A. She verified the handwriting as Libby’s.

She typed that up for dissemination. Entered as 528B. She verified this.

Parts are On the Record and parts on Deep Background (as Administration Official).

Once they landed back at Andrews, Libby made a call to Cooper in her presence. Not on speaker phone, so she only heard Libby’s side.

Cooper new to WH beat, so had not previously spoken. No discussion about Amb. Wilson’s wife.

Then decided to call Evan Thomas at Newsweek and did so shortly thereafter during van ride home. Left voice mail.

Also returned call to WaPo’s Kessler during van ride. Doesn’t recall content precisely but thinks it had to do with 16 words controversy.

None of the calls was about “the wife.”

Prior to the newspaper article by Novak, had any reporters contacted you about Mrs. Wilson’s working at CIA? No.

Had Libby ever told her that any reporters had asked him about Mrs. Wilson? No.

When Cooper’s article came out Monday, she found it had been shortened considerably and taken out of context. Had discussion with Libby about how to fix this. She also called Cooper and expressed her displeasure that she had put him on the phone with Libby and he’d screwed up the quote. Cooper offered to put the full quote on the Web.

Subsequently, VP held luncheon with conservative columnists at his house, to which she and Libby were invited. This was on the 18th. Bruce Bartlett and Steve Hadley wanted to get word out about how 16 words made it into the SOTU.

Did she ever discuss the criminal investigation with Libby. Yes.

Defense Cross Examination commenced 2:29.

Were you there for whole conversation with Cooper? No, she had gotten a phone call with Jennifer Miller Wise and missed part of it.

You usually listen in on both sides of such conversations? Yes, when we’re at the White House.

Mr. Libby made it clear he wasn’t happy at having to make phone calls because it was his son’s birthday? Yes.

He only made the calls because you were nagging him? Yes. “We needed to decide affirmatively whether to be in the story or not.”

Except for 10 or 20 seconds when you recollect you told Mr. Libby and VP Cheney about Wilson’s trip and his wife’s role, you had no other discussions with either of them about Mrs. Wilson?
“Not that I recall.”

At no time during the talking points discussion, did you mention Mrs. Wilson? No.

You wanted to get the whole story out? Yes.

But you didn’t think the wife was part of that whole story? “I didn’t think it was helpful to us.”

Your understanding was that Vice President Cheney’s intention was to get all the truth out about Wilson’s trip? Yes.

Is it correct that “at no time IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE” did the VP indicate to you that Mrs. Wilson or her status was part of getting that story out? Correct.

“Do you have any knowledge of Libby EVER discussing with ANY reporter information about Mrs. Wilson and her employment status?” No.

Did the conversations with Andrea Mitchell or deal with Mrs. Wilson? No.

With respect to your conversation with Bill Harlow, there are notes (Govt Exhibit 521A) but they are not dated? That’s correct.

You wrote “married to CIA agent” but Harlow didn’t use that language, right? Correct. He just said she was a CIA employee.

Do you call FBI saying phone records said there was a call between your office and Harlow’s on June 6 or 7? (Defense Exhibit 1640) The log shows three calls:

6/10 5:25 pm lasting 30 seconds

6/10 6:21 pm lasting 4 min 24 sec

6/11 5:27 pm 5 min 18 secs

Would you agree that the calls may have happened on one of those days? Correct.

Do you recollect that Pincus article came out June 12th? Yes.

Do you recollect that your call with Harlow was before that article? I don’t recollect.

Shows her copy of her FBI interview from October 2003 to help refresh her memory.

Do you recollect speaking to Mr. Harlow about the article? She can’t date it. But it “makes sense” that that’s the way it would have happened.

Short recess.

Questioning resumed at 3:12.

Presented with Exhibit 1541, email from Martin to Jennifer Mayfield, dated Wed June 11, 2:37 PM.

Subject: “I need to talk to Scooter this afternoon re: the Pincus stuff and Niger”

Does that help refresh your memory on the Harlow conversation? Not really. “I remember in pictures” and this doesn’t help.

Shows Govt Exhibit 701, phone record from 6/11 of call to Marc Grenier from Scooter Libby.

Still doesn’t refresh her memory.

“Based on all the materials you’ve reviewed” . . . “you would agree 6/11 appears to be the date you talked to Mr. Harlow?” “It appears that way, yes.”

“When you first talked to the FBI in Oct 2003, you hadn’t had the benefit of reviewing all these documents, correct?” Correct.

“I first thought everything happened the week of July 7” but months later realized it couldn’t have happened that way because recognized Wilson’s name on MTP.

2nd FBI interview January 2004 continued to say you thought you’d told Mr. Libby on July 7? Yes.

During grand jury testimony, you told you realized you must have known Wilson’s name before?

“Would it be fair to say that when you took over from Mary Matalin, you didn’t have a great deal of experience” in that area? Yes.

Inexperienced in handling major crises? Yes.

Around this time, several key figures in press office left in early June 2003? Yes.

“It was not a regular part of Mr. Libby’s job to be dealing with the press, is that correct?” Yes.

Was Eric Edelman, who left in June, the one handling reaction to the May 6, 2003 Kristoff piece? Yes.

Wells read virtually the entire Kristoff column back to her and asked some questions she had no way of answering, boring all concerned to tears. Certainly me.

Is it fair to say that the next time the Wilson allegations were given some degree of prominence was around June 8, 9, or 10 when Mr. Pincus called?

Pincus article of June 12 entered as exhibit.

It was this article that kind of sharpened the focus in the Vice President’s office? Correct. Although I recall Ms. Rice being asked about it a little earlier. Counsel says it was June 8. She says it was really then that attention was focused.

Second Kristoff article, from June 13, admitted. It’s a response to Condi Rice’s response to his column. It was mocking the administration’s response.

Is it fair to say the media wasn’t listening to what you had to say?

Extensive revisiting of the talking points emails and whatnot.

This thing is spinning out of control during a pre-planned trip to Africa, with all the president’s top communications people out of the country? And you had to take on more responsibility than you would have had they been at home? “I believe so.”

On June 9, Chris Matthews has some unkind comments on “Hardball”? No specific recollections, but he was saying a lot of harsh things over a long period.

On July 10 you learn that decision made by senior communications team for DCI Tenet to publish statement on how 16 words came to be in the SOTU. “I learned from Scooter.”

When the communicators were cut out of the loop, did you think Mr. Hadley was blaming you personally for the Andrea Mitchell mess? Yes. Did Cheney tell you not to worry about it? Yes.

Did you work late into the night on the 10th working on the Tenet statement? Yes.

Was this a contentious issue? “It seemed delicate, is how I’d put it.” “We didn’t want to embarrass Mr. Tenet, just get the facts out.”

Introduction of Tenet statement of 11 July 2003 into evidence.

“It was your personal position that the Tenet statement didn’t go far enough?” “I didn’t think it was detailed enough.”

“And Mr. Libby had the same view as you?” Yes.

Introduced 24 January 2003 document saying White House made aware Iraq had large yellowcake supply and acquisition program. This was four days before SOTU.

Neither you nor Mr. Libby were successful in getting this mentioned in Tenet statement? No.

Introduction of Martin’s hand-written notes on draft of Tenet statement made on July 10. She noted that the CIA’s only notation in the NIE that there were any doubts on the yellowcake report was buried in a footnote 50 pages later.

You wanted the January 24 document mentioned in the Tenet statement, right? Yes.

Is it right that Amb. Wilson’s trip took place in Oct 2002, BEFORE the NIE? Yes.

Questioning ended around 4:40. No trial on Fridays, so Martin will resume Monday. I won’t however, as the MBA baton passes to others.


FDL’s emptywheel breaks her liveblog of this into three pieces: One, Two, Three. They’re quite detailed.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Patrick says:

    James, this is a wonderful service you are providing. One comment: it would be helpful if you stated at the beginning of the questioning (or intermittently throughout) who is asking the questions, whether it is Prosecutor or Defense.

    Thank you.

  2. James Joyner says:


    Will do. I’m doing it on all the testimony posts, actually. When it switches from the govt to the defense cross-x, I’ll put an italicized note in.

  3. Cecil Turner says:

    Yes, thanks James. Great stuff.

    In the above, is there any chance the July 11th e-mail is supposed to be “June”? Seems to fit better.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Thanks, Cecil.

    And, yes, I’m sure that’s right. My reading of the first one was that it was in July. After realizing that didn’t make sense, I checked with a couple others and found it was June. I apparently didn’t correct that one.

    UPDATE: Yep, it was June. July 11th was a Saturday; June 11th a Wednesday. Correction made above.

  5. Wickedpinto says:

    Wells read virtually the entire Kristoff column back to her and asked some questions she had no way of answering, boring all concerned to tears. Certainly me.

    That alone makes you the BEST reporter of this testimony.

    On a personaly anecdotal note, concerning the handling of classified or more material.

    I had an active clearence, with an inactive top clearence while I was in the Marine Corps (I was a 2881) Daily I could (actually was) be exposed to “secret” materiel, also I was a platoon clerk and many other billets, requiring the discretion of someone working with “classified” information.

    At times I could release “classified” material, based on the information, and with the fact that my MOS required me to maintain not just manuals (manuals aren’t nearly as important as) but also KEYS! to cryptographic systems, including the specific programing of . . . I think they were called “firewhire keys.”

    I was basicaly just the guy who didn’t say bark, until we wanted them to bark, but anyways. . . . .

    SEVERAL times in my secondary “classified” positions, I witheld information, cuz that was MY FRIGGEN JOB, but I had to Manipulate that information in a way that didn’t make my commander look like they were ignoring the requests of their superiors.

    My job Basicaly, was to STALL! and deny information, until my commander could contact the “supposed” source of initial contact directly.

    Security information is a PAIN IN THE ASS!!!!!

    Even if you are a PFC in the Marine Corps, let alone the chief of staff of the VP.

    This case is a travesty.