FBI Agent Testifies Libby Learned About Plame from Cheney

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By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press

The “CIA leak” trial resumed today, after two critical days of testimony from reporters Judith Miller and Matt Cooper. As in past days, E&P will provide running updates here.

After a long day or legal wrangling and no witnesses, an FBI agent took the stand shortly before 3 p.m. She is Deborah Bond, a 19-year veteran, called into the probe of who may have leaked name of classified agent.

She described the bureau’s interview with I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on Oct. 14, 2003. Asked where he first learned of Ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, he had told the FBI then — from the vice president, on or about June 12 that year, in a telephone conversation.

Vice President Cheney had also said that she worked in “CP” or counter-proliferation at the agency. How did Cheney know this? From someone at the CIA — possibly director George Tenet, but Libby wasn’t sure.

How to explain Libby originally claiming he had first heard about Wilson’s wife from NBC’s Tim Russert in July? He had simply forgotten he had actually heard it from the vice president a month or more earlier, Libby said. But Libby’s notes, produced by prosecutors during this testimony, did show notations from June 12 regarding Wilson’s wife. And Libby later confirmed this in a second FBI interview.

But he said it seemed like news to him — he’d forgotten all about it — when Russert asked him if he knew that Ambassador Wilson’s wife worked at the agency and, allegedly, other reporters knew this. Then Libby told other reporters who might not know about it, including Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

Libby in that 2003 FBI interview also said he had not mentioned Plame in his July 8 meeting with Judith Miller — or the lunch with Ari Fleischer that Fleischer testified about earlier. This contradicts their testimony. He also failed to mention his June 23 meeting with Miller, and omitted mentioning other officials who talked about Plame.

And he claimed that in his chat with Time’s Matt Cooper he had closed by warning Cooper that what other reporters were saying about Plame working at the CIA might not be true.

He also described other conversations relating to all this with Cheney, notably a July 12 discussion on Air Force 2 in which Libby said they “may have” talked about Plame.

Cross-examination then began, with defense suggesting that Libby, in that first 2003 interview, had not been given fair chance to refresh his memory via notes etc. When he did have that chance, he changed his story, and then stuck to it: He simply forgot about the June 12 chat with Cheney.

The trial broke off before 5. It does not convene again until Monday. The FBI agent will return. Eight hours of Libby’s grand jury testimony will be played for the jury. Then Tim Russert will testify, with the prosecution likely to rest around Wednesday.

As always, we base our updates here mainly on nearly minute-by-minute blogging from the courthouse by the women at FireDogLake.com, which has proven extremely accurate so far, along with other bloggers and wire service reports as they come in.

The Associated Press tonight adds the following on that July 12 possible Libby-Cheney discussion about leaking Plame’s identity:

“Libby told the FBI he went to the front of the plane to get a statement Cheney wanted released to the press. It denied Wilson’s suggestion that Cheney was behind Wilson’s trip to Niger in 2002 to investigate a report that Iraq was trying to buy uranium there for nuclear weapons.

“Wilson had said in print and on television on July 6, 2003, that he debunked the uranium report and Cheney should have known that long before Bush cited the uranium story in his January 2003 State of Union speech as a justification for war with Iraq.

“Bond testified Libby told the FBI ‘there was a discussion whether to report to the press that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA.’ She added that Libby expressed some doubt.
‘Mr. Libby told us he believed they may have talked about it but he wasn’t sure,’ she said.

“She said Libby did say he had discussed Wilson’s wife with Cheney sometime after discussing her with NBC reporter Tim Russert on either July 10 or July 11, 2003.”


EARLIER TODAY

The trial had re-convened this morning about 10:30 a.m. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald appeared at first to be losing his fight to get the judge to allow him to enter tapes of White House spokesman Scott McClellan saying in 2003 that Karl Rove was not involved in the Plame leak but not making the same claim about top Cheney aide, “Scooter” Libby.

In the course of discussing this (with jury out), Libby attorney Ted Wells appears to say that if Vice President Cheney testifies he will confirm defense claim that Libby was concerned about being “scapegoated” in this matter — not that he lied to save his job.

Still at issue: Will Fitzgerald be allowed to play for the jurors Libby’s several hours of testimony before the grand jury — during which he allegedly lied about his role in the leaking.

The wrangling between lawyers last all morning, ending with a debate over whether it can be introduced that Libby had signed a “non-disclosure” agreement meaning he could not release any classified info (such as that involving a covert CIA agent) — and that he was concerned about this after the Plame outing.

Then they broke for lunch.

Legal wrangling continued afterward. Finally the ury came in after 2 p.m. Fitzgerald was allowed to show parts of transcripts concerning McClellan/Rove/Libby. He’d barely begun when another break for discussion arrived.

Finally, the FBI agent took the stand.

The current AP backgrounder follows.
*

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald appears to be saving NBC newsman Tim Russert as his last witness in the perjury trial of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Fitzgerald has said he plans to play excerpts from Libby?s grand jury testimony at trial, and the government?s next witness, FBI agent Deborah Bond, appears to be Fitzgerald?s opportunity. That would give jurors the chance to hear for themselves the testimony that Fitzgerald says is a lie and that Libby says is a product of faulty memory.

The perjury and obstruction trial hinges on whether Libby lied about his conversations with reporters regarding outed CIA operative Valerie Plame .

Fitzgerald spent the first week of the trial presenting witnesses who said they talked to Libby about Plame, the wife of prominent Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson. Some witnesses, such as officials from the CIA and State Department, said they told Libby about Plame.

Others, such as former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and journalists Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper, said Libby talked about Plame to them.

Fitzgerald contends Libby concocted that story to avoid embarrassment, prosecution and possibly losing his job.

Libby, ex-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney , is on trial on charges he lied to the FBI and a grand jury about his conversations with reporters about Plame and obstructed the investigation into how her identity leaked to the public in 2003. No one has been charged with the actual leak.

Fitzgerald says he expects to call Russert to testify on Monday or Tuesday, a plan that would make the well-known journalist the last witness jurors hear before the government rests its case. Russert says he did not discuss Plame with Libby, a recollection that is directly at odds with the former aide?s testimony.



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