By: E&P Staff
Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail before testifying that White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was one of her confidential sources. Now, Libby’s defense team wanted to know who else she was talking to.
After she finished her testimony around noon today at the CIA leak trial, former Time reporter Matt Cooper, who had nearly joined her in jail to protect a source in 2005, took the stand. He would eventually get around to Karl Rove.
By the end of the afternoon, he was dismissed. Attorneys, in talking with judge, indicated that Tim Russert would be coming up soon, and the prosecution, surprisingly, planned to finish up early next week. Defense attorneys revealed they planned to call Jill Abramson of The New York Times, who was Judy Miller’s boss back in 2003.
Cooper had opened his testimony by describing his crucial July 12, 2003, phone conversation with Libby, in which the latter, asked about Wilson’s wife working at CIA, allegedly said something like, “I heard that, too.” Then the trial broke for lunch.
Attorneys stayed behind to argue a couple of points with the judge. One was whether a tape could be entered with Press Secretary Scott McClellan at a briefing saying (as has been noted earlier in trial) that there was no evidence that Karl Rove was involved in mess, but not clearing Libby. This had led the defense in its opening remarks to suggest that the White House might have been willing to throw Libby under a “bus” to save Rove.
The other had to do with a note that Libby wrote after talking to Mary Matalin on July 10, 2003 (two days after his key meeting with Judith Miller) in which he noted that she had called Joe Wilson “a snake.”
After lunch, Cooper talked more about the July 12, phone call, and the rather brief direct examination ended. The defense then plunged into asking about his other sources, eventually obtaining the information that besides Libby and Rove as sources, Cooper had also heard about the Plame link from John Dickerson of Time. Previously in the trial, Ari Fleischer, then the White House secretary, had testified that he had disclosed this to reporters while abroad at that time, including NBC’s David Gregory and Dickerson.
Then the defense attorney, William Jeffress, probed Cooper’s famous “double double secret” email to two Time supervisors, describing his Rove chat. Had Rove made clear, or did Cooper confuse, how truly off-the-record their chat was?
In any case, Cooper was looking into the Wilson controversy when he spoke on July 11, 2003, to Rove. Cooper testified that Rove said, “A number of things were going to be coming out about Mr. Wilson that would cast him in a different light,” including who was involved in sending Wilson to Africa.
Cooper: “I said who and he said, ‘like, his wife,'” adding that Wilson’s wife worked in WMD at “the agency.” Rove then said, “I’ve already said too much. I’ve got to go,” according to Cooper.
Then there was a detour, as Jeffress questioned Cooper’s description of Libby making “disparaging” remarks about Wilson. Defense view: Libby was only questioning his “methodology.”
Somehow this ended with news that Cooper had typed note on his laptop while sitting on his bed. After a break, it became clearer what the defense was after when it showed Cooper’s notes on the screen: His note-taking left a lot to be desired, with many typos and truncated sentences. This led Jeffress to question their accuracy, in one key example asking if he might have typed “ever” when Libby really said “even.”
Cooper defended the idea that he had taken down what was important and accurately.
The day ended with Cooper seemingly dismissed. The trial will pick up about 10:30 on Thursday, next witness right now unknown. Still to come, though, is Tim Russert, among others.
As noted previously, we follow the action all day, via bloggers who are in the courthouse, principally at FireDogLake.com.
Miller’s testimony had kicked off this morning after everyone filed into the court by 9:30 a.m. The morning opened with a juror being excused, apparently because his or her employer didn’t want to pay for several weeks of no work.
Then a very important debate picked up from late yesterday: the question of whether defense attorneys could query Miller about sources other than Libby she had talked to about former Ambassador Joe Wilson and/or his wife Valerie Plame Wilson. This, of course, would open an incredible can of worms, especially since Miller had agreed to testify and leave jail partly because the prosecutor had promised to limit the questioning.
Miller had said these conversations happened but she could not recall names. Still, the defense wants to press her and get her to identify one or more. The judge seems willing to let them go part way, anyway.
When testimony began a few minutes later, the defense attorney, William Jeffress, immediately asked about other names of reputedly “senior administration officials.” Miller again said she could not recall those who had specifically talked about Wilson and not “broader” issues. Defense pressed on, to no avail (so far), and then switched to her decision to go to jail — partly to avoid these kinds of questions about other sources. Also: Was she aware that Matt Cooper and others had testified and about what?
Jeffress then went into Libby calling her in jail to give her the famous “personal waiver” that would get her sprung.
Then he probed her June 23, 2003, meeting with Libby, the first time he mentioned Wilson and his wife’s work at the CIA, according to her notes. Here she seemed to falter as Jeffress got her to admit that she was not absolutely certain she had never heard about Plame before — she believed she hadn’t but could not be sure.
Often Jeffress brings up the fact that she originally had forgotten about this meeting entirely until she discovered an old notebook. He also hits her on her confusion over Libby’s use of Plame working at the “bureau.” She first thought he meant FBI, then took it to mean the non-proliferation bureau at the CIA.
Also, a key point: She had put this “bureau” revelation in brackets in her notes — did this mean that Libby had not even said it, and it was a question she had asked herself based on knowing about Plame before that?
Miller also said that when she famously wrote “Valerie Flame” in her notebook this had not come from Libby. She again described talking to others about her but could not recall anyone by name. She also said she was uncertain then about whether Plame was covert or not, and Libby had not said one way or the other.
Then Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald got to re-direct. He asked Miller to confirm that while she could not rule out hearing about Plame from other sources there was NO evidence of this in her notebooks, no mention of her at all. He also went over her claim that while she doesn’t have the best memory it improves a great deal when consulting notes.
As always, it is odd to see that her “friend” in the courtroom is the man who had pressed for this testimony, leading her to spend 85 days in jail, protecting Libby as a source — whose attorney now attacks her unmercifully.
As her testimony wound down, Fitzgerald sought to have the famous “aspens are turning” letter from Libby entered, but only the part where Libby seems to be (in some eyes) coaching her. The judge decides to hold off on that for now, but it might be relevant if Libby testifies. Fitzgerald suggests that Libby’s coaching didn’t work.
Then the judge poses simple questions to Miller relayed by jurors, including why she kept notebooks under her desk at work and how many were there (15 to 20). She denies there was any quid pro quo in her interviews with Libby.
This morning’s AP story on the testimony follows.
Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller acknowledged Wednesday that she had conversations with other government officials and could not be “absolutely, absolutely certain” that she first heard about an outed CIA official from I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
Libby’s attorneys seized on the hesitation and tried to portray Miller as someone who selectively remembers some conversations and not others.
Miller is a crucial witness against Libby in his perjury and obstruction trial. She says she had two conversations about CIA operative Valerie Plame in mid-2003 with Libby, who was Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Those conversations are at the heart of the trial because they allegedly occurred well before Libby says he learned Plame’s identity from another reporter.
Libby’s defense strategy revolves around showing jurors that he didn’t lie about his conversations with Miller and others, but simply forgot them. If defense attorneys can cast doubt on Miller’s memory and her story, it would bolster Libby’s case.
During a sometimes heated cross-examination Wednesday, defense attorneys pressed Miller to acknowledge that she might have heard about Plame elsewhere. In mid-2003, Miller was investigating allegations by Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, that the Bush administration ignored certain prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Attorney William Jeffress asked Miller to recall the other government officials she spoke to and explain how Wilson’s name and phone number got into her notebook prior to the conversation with Libby.
“I don’t remember their names. I don’t know what you want me to say beyond that,” Miller said, adding moments later, “I know I had several conversations but there is no reference to them in my notebook and I have no independent recollection.”
Jeffress persisted, showing Miller excerpts from her grand jury testimony in which she said her conversation with Libby was “among the first times” she heard about Plame but couldn’t be certain it was the first.
“You’re not absolutely certain you first heard that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA from Mr. Libby?” Jeffress asked.
“I can’t be absolutely, absolutely certain, but I have no recollection of an earlier conversation with anyone else,” Miller replied.
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s case began as an investigation into who leaked Plame’s name to reporters at a time when her husband was criticizing the administration. Three years later, nobody has been charged with the leak. Libby is accused of obstructing the case and lying to investigators.
Libby’s attorneys said Wednesday that they want to know more about another Fitzgerald case involving Miller. Fitzgerald has sought to get Miller’s phone records in an investigation into who leaked the details about an investigation into an Islamic charity.
Theodore Wells, another of Libby’s attorneys, said he wants to know more about conversations between Miller and Fitzgerald in that case. If Miller feared prosecution in that case, Wells said, it could motivate her to cooperate in Libby’s case and thus cast doubt on her testimony.
Journalism organizations have decried this trial, which could see 10 reporters become witnesses. Fitzgerald intends to call Matthew Cooper of Time and NBC’s Tim Russert. Jeffress has said that up to seven reporters are on his witness list.