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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ari is the main character in this story in the New York Times yesterday

The key sentence and a half "Among those asked if he had seen the memo was Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, who was on Air Force One with Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell during the Africa trip. Mr. Fleischer told the grand jury that he never saw the document, a person familiar with the testimony said," states that Fleischer's testimony contradicts the assertion of a high former Bush administration official (named Colin Powell). Bet a lot of guys are wishing they hadn't been so mean to Colin. The man is a dangerous enemy. This has been noted by Thinkprogress, Atrios and Hunter at the Daily Kos.

I was more puzzled by the following sentence "Mr. Rove has said he learned her name from Mr. Novak." Huh ? I thought that Novak and Rove agreed that, at the time (July 8 2003) Rove said something like "I heard something like that too" confirming Novak's story (which he got from Libby). Now Rove could claim that he lied to Novak, and that, in fact, he had heard nothing about the memo on Air Force one Perused by Ari Fleischer. Still the claim "I'm a liar" does not strike me as an ideal defence against perjury charges. Hmm what is going on ? Did the (many) Times reporters make a boo boo ? No the same thing is a Bloomberg via Think Progress

Hmm let me read that again "Mr. Rove has said he learned her name from Mr. Novak." ohhhhhhhh it's that again. Rove told that to the grand jury and will now claim he meant that he first learned the name "Plame" from Novak. He might go for the full name and say that neither Ari nor that former Bush administration official told him the name "Valerie" either. A Rove with any other name would smell as foul, but parsing is a very good anti perjury defence.

Finally I'd like to suggest that Robert is trying hard for the stupidest Luskin title. The whole point of nominating Roberts was to get Rove out of the papers, but Robert Luskin (obviously) just has to leak, hoping that his pathetic effort at spin will balance the bad publicity. In this case, "People who have been briefed on the case discussed this critical time period and the events surrounding it to demonstrate that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were not involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson," The claim that any and all evidence demonstrate that Rove was "not involved in an orchestrated scheme to ... disclose the undercover status of ... Valerie Wilson" is, by now, virtually Luskin's byline. I don't think it is good strategy to make papers print, again and again, slight variants on 'an orchestrated scheme to disclose the undercover status of Valerie Wilson,' yet this is clearly part of the deal Luskin drives.

Of course the fact that Rove and Libby were working on Nigerien Uranium at the time does not cast doubt on the very solid theory that, after Wilson's op ed they "were ... involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson." Further it shows that the DCI's discussion of intelligence was, as long suspected, scripted by a political operative. Once this would have been shocking. Finally, and importantly, it makes it even more difficult (if possible) to believe that Rove and Libby heard about Valerie Wilson's job from journalists. If they are working on Nigerien Uranium and facts about Nigerien Uranium are on Air Force One, then they must have been told about them.

This is important for two reasons. It makes it clearer than ever that they got the information about Valerie Wilson's true employer through official channels, which is required for conviction under the IIPA. Second it is hard to believe that the person (cough cough Ari Fleischer) who told them about the memo neglected to mention that the information was marked top secret. Knowledge of that is also needed for conviction under the IIPA.

Finally the clear indication of top secret status seems to me to answer a question Billmon keeps asking. Why is Fitzgerald so interested in the memo on Air Force One ?
Isn't it likely that Rove and Libby knew about Valerie Plame before July 7 2003 ? For one thing someone leaked her maiden name which was not on the memo. I think it is now clear that the reason that the memo is key is that it made her covert status clear destroying the ignorance defence.

My guess is that Ari is not going to jail, because I bet a prosecutor is willing to offer him a deal. I sure wouldn't want to be my freedom on Fleischer's integrity.

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