Libby Trial: Cathie Martin’s Testimony Damaging
The testimony of Cathie Martin has been by far the most damaging so far to Scooter Libby’s case. She is currently a Deputy Communications Secretary for the Bush White House and worked for Vice President Cheney during the period in question, so it will be difficult to impeach her credibility or motives.
Her testimony makes it clear that by July 7, 2003–a week before the publication of Bob Novak’s article made “Valerie Plame” a household name–the Office of the Vice President was obsessed with press accounts of an ambassador’s trip to Niger and that the vice president and Libby were intimately and repeatedly involved in trying to manage the spin on the story.
The main saving grace is that she can not recall much about the mention of Mrs. Wilson’s role in all this, including when Libby might have known. Still, it is now much harder for the defense to establish that the Wilson matter was just one of many things that concerned Libby and that it was therefore plausible he might have forgotten an incredibly important detail about the case.
Cross-examination will take place after lunch. It’s going to be interesting to see what tack the defense will take with someone obviously loyal to their client.
UPDATE: AP’s Matt Apuzzo has filed his report. His assessment: “Martin is the fourth person to describe conversations with Libby about Plame and demonstrated the best recollection of the group. She is also the closest witness to Cheney’s inner circle.
His casting of the introduction of the issue of “the wife” is right:
“We didn’t send him,” Martin recalled saying. “If we didn’t send him, you must’ve sent him. Who sent him?”
That’s when Martin said the CIA spokesman told her that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA. She said she immediately told Cheney and Libby about it. She couldn’t pinpoint the date off the conversation but said it definitely took place no later than July 6. Libby says he learned Plame’s identity days later.
Cheney took a personal interest in the issue, Martin said, and in the following days dictated media “talking points” making it clear that his office was not responsible for the Wilson trip.
The talking points do not refer to Plame and nobody has been charged with leaking her identity.
My only quibble is the transition between the second and third paragraph in the excerpt. I asked Matt what he meant with “the issue,” and he says he means the issue of who initiated the trip; i.e., that it wasn’t the Vice President’s office. As written, though it might lead people to think it was Plame’s role. No testimony so far has given that impression.
UPDATE: The crux of the cross-examination seems to be to try to establish that Martin was not ready for prime time: She was hired with no press experience by Mary Matalin and quickly promoted when Matalin stepped down. This scandal broke out shortly thereafter and her crisis management was not only ineffective but openly mocked by journalists.
Given that she was promoted to a similar position in on the president’s team after the events in question, that’s a rather credulous charge. Further, I don’t think it’s a smart strategy from a standpoint of building rapport with the jury. She’s a solid witness, seems quite competent, and has obvious reasons to not wish to be the one responsible for sending Scooter Libby to jail.