UPDATE: Libby on Tape Denies ‘Hush-Hush’ Chat with Fleischer

By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press

The CIA leak trial resumed Tuesday by resuming the playing of tapes of “Scooter” Libby’s testimony before the grand jury. The defense also won the right to call New York Times reporter David Sanger to the stand, apparently to testify that Libby did NOT leak the name of Valerie Plame to him in July 2003.

The rest of the day may be taken in playing the tapes. As in previous days, E&P will update with any important developments.

Much of Libby’s testimony centered on if and when he talked to various reporters about Ambassador Joe Wilson’s claims and/or his wife at the CIA. Libby claims, on the tapes, that he was not a source for Robert Novak’s column, but talked to him in this period. At one point, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald showed him a phone bill, with calls to Libby’s line from Novak. Libby also does not remember — on the tape — very well his lunch with Ari Fleischer, and at other points his testimony does not mesh with what the jury has heard in the past two weeks from various witnesses.

As the testimony continues, Libby is asked about his personal meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. He claims he did not mention Plame then, and says that meeting her to counter the Wilson claims — since she is a “responsible” journalist — was suggested by Vice President Cheney (and, possibly, President Bush, though that’s unclear).

Libby also talks a lot on the tape about his phone chat with Tim Russert, during which, he says, Russert was the one who brought up Plame being at the CIA — and Libby merely replied that he did not know anything about that. He admits that he had heard about her before, but had forgotten that, so he was taken aback when he heard this information from Russert. He says, on the tape, that he wouldn’t even confirm that information in talking to Russert, and that the real reason he called Russert was to seek help in getting fellow NBC host, Chris Matthews, to temper his criticism on the Wilson matter.

Then they broke for lunch. In th afternoon there was much more on tape regarding contacts with Judith Miller and other reporters. They recessed with some question of whether Tim Russert will testify tomorrow. Also, a Department of Justice official may explain rules for using subpoenas for journalists.

The above is based on blogging from the courthouse by FireDogLake.com, which has proved very accurate in the past days.

The latest from The Associated Press follows.

Prosecutors in the CIA leak trial Tuesday zeroed in on I. Lewis Libby’s alleged lies to a grand jury, playing audiotapes of Libby repeatedly saying he could not recall conversations about the CIA employment of the wife of Bush administration critic Joe Wilson.

The eight hours of grand jury testimony conflict with testimony earlier in the trial by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and other witnesses who said Libby indeed had discussed the CIA employment of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame.

In the audiotapes, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald walked Libby through the Bush administration’s response to Wilson’s suggestion in 2003 that the government had twisted prewar intelligence about Iraq.

The administration wanted to show that Wilson’s criticism “didn’t hold water,” Libby testified.

Fitzgerald led Libby through the list of administration witnesses who have testified they told Libby about Wilson’s wife or heard about Wilson’s wife from Libby, prior to the public disclosure of Plame’s CIA identity.

Libby’s testimony would be that “you would have forgotten” those conversations about Wilson’s wife? asked Fitzgerald.

“Yes sir,” Libby replied.

Libby’s defense to charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI is constructed on assertions that he was immersed in national security issues for Vice President Dick Cheney, that his memory may be faulty and that the recollections of the witnesses against him also are faulty.

In the grand jury audiotapes, Fitzgerald focused on a going-away lunch Libby had with Fleischer that Libby seemed able to recall in some detail.

Libby and Fleischer were friends, Fleischer told the grand jury, and the two discussed the Miami Dolphins and Fleischer’s future plans.

In the recording, Fitzgerald asked Libby if recalled telling Fleischer about the CIA employment of Wilson’s wife and that it was “hush-hush.”

“I don’t recall that,” replied Libby, speaking softly.

Libby’s own notes show that he was told by Cheney about the CIA employment of Wilson’s wife, more than a month before Plame’s CIA identity was publicly revealed.

Libby says he had forgotten that Cheney had told him. Libby told the grand jury that he was “surprised” to hear about the CIA employment of Wilson’s wife a month later, from NBC News reporter Tim Russert. Russert, who will testify for the prosecution once the Libby grand jury tapes are played in their entirety, says he didn’t discuss Wilson’s wife with Libby.

In the recordings, Fitzgerald asked Libby if, up until the conversation with Russert, did he have no recollection of discussing the CIA employment of Wilson’s wife.

“Yes sir, in that period, I have no recollection,” Libby replied.

Libby recalled in detail the conversations with Russert in which the newsman allegedly told Libby that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA.

“I remember being taken aback by it. And I said no I don’t know that,” Libby said.

The tapes were played to trial jurors after the U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton refused to block a subpoena seeking testimony from New York Times reporter David Sanger, a witness summoned by Libby’s defense team.

Lawyers for Libby want Sanger to testify about a July 2, 2003 conversation in which Libby did not bring up Plame’s name, her relationship to Wilson or the fact that she worked at the CIA.

Libby’s lawyers are trying to rebut prosecution evidence that there was a scheme to reveal Plame’s CIA employment as a way of undermining Wilson’s criticism that the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Invoking First Amendment concerns, lawyers for The New York Times said it is imperative for reporters to protect their confidential sources and that compelling Sanger to testify would damage the news gathering process.

Walton said Libby’s right to a fair trial trumped any First Amendment right there might be to protect confidential sources. Walton pointed out that it was Sanger’s source ? Libby ? who was asking the reporter to testify.

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