UPDATES ALL DAY: Miller Takes Stand in Libby Trial

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By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press

A dramatic and long-awaited moment arrived today when former New York Times reporter Judith Miller took the stand shortly after 2 p.m. in the trial of a source she chose to protect — leading her to spend several weeks in jail.

Shortly after 4 p.m. she was back in a familiar position — asked by an attorney to identify a source or sources concerning Joseph Wilson and/or his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson. Miller’s testimony was delayed while the judge considered it, and she consulted with her own attorney, Robert Bennett, who was in the courtroom. This dragged on.

“I will represent to the court that it is my understanding that even if she were able to testify, there are no other sources she can recollect dealing with Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame,” Bennett said, according to a Washington Post report.

About half an hour later the judge announced that legal issues remained on this question, and so he sent the jury and witness home for the night. Then the attorneys continued to argue it out before him for another half hour. In the end, it was unclear if Miller would be asked, first thing tomorrow, to name anyone else she talked with about Wilson — and how she would respond.

But this quickly had taken the trial in a new direction, with journalists and a dispute over their sources right at the center again. It also seemed to raise what attorneys for Miller had thought they hammered out long ago, concerning the scope of the inquiry and what and who she could be asked about — when this very moment arrived.

Next on the stand when Miller finishes: Matt Cooper of Time magazine, according to sources (if we can use that word).

Much earlier, at the outset, the first questions for Miller today had to do with a meeting with Libby several years ago in which he praised her WMD reporting and her book “Germs.” Libby said he would talk to her for any stories but he would have to referred to only as an “administration official” or “senior administration official.”

She then talked about coming back from a hunt for the missing WMDs in Iraq in June, 2003. Miller admitted she was surprised at that time that there was great controversy over the missing WMD and possible lies about them. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked where the anger was directed. She answered: at the administration, at the media and in particular, at herself.

Miller then described her June 23, 2003, interview with Libby where he mentioned former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife working at what he called “the bureau.” At first she took it to mean the FBI but then concluded he meant the non-proliferation bureau at the CIA. Libby was upset that the vice president was getting accused of being behind Wilson’s trip to Africa when it was CIA.

She then described their next meeting at a hotel dining room on July 8. Again, Libby was agitated and again mentioned Mrs. Wilson and her CIA connection. This makes Miller at least the sixth person at the trial so far who has said that Libby talked about Plame before the defendant has said he first heard about her.

Miller said she could not recall if Libby ever said anything about her being in a classified or non-classified position. She also described going along with his unusual request to be described as a “former Hill staffer” — not administration official — if used as a source based on this talk (she went along with it).

Then Miller described a third phone conversation with Libby, which was less significant, and then her somewhat bizarre coming upon him in Aspen, when she did not recognize him at first in his “cowboy” gear. She then recounted how she had fought a subpoena to testify before the grand jury, lost a court case and ultimately spent 85 days behind bars.

After that, she related the famous episode of how she had forgotten about one of her earlier conversations with Libby, the one on June 23, but came upon her notes while going through a bag of notebooks under her desk.

Cross-examination began. An attorney for Libby asked her about that forgotten interview with Libby. He then asked her about a conversation with Philip Taubman, at the New York Times bureau in Washington, in which she said she did not feel she had been the target of a deliberate “leak.”

She also recounted her version of suggesting to the Times’ Jill Abramson that they follow up on the Wilson/Plame connection. She said that Abramson was not interested (Abramson has questioned this in past remarks) and so she never did write about it.

After a recess, the cross-examination continued and Miller was probed very closely on a real soft spot — her failure to remember that June 23 meeting with Libby until she found her notebook. She said he had originally only been asked to testify about any meetings with Libby in July (in period leading up to the Robert Novak column in which he named Plame).

Libby’s lawyer, William Jeffress, kept after her on this, recalling her statements to the grand jury that she had no memory of the meeting — until she found her notes. Miller said she does have memory of it now, even though she once did not, as well as her notes. She claimed her memory is largely “note-driven.”

The AP describes it this way: “Libby attorney Jeffress did come back at her again and again over her memory of the June 23 meeting and her memory in general. Their exchanges occasionally became testy.
In his most telling foray, Jeffress asked how she could testify that Libby was agitated on June 23 when she couldn’t even remember the meeting in her first grand jury testimony. He played a tape of a broadcast interview in which she had said ‘it’s really easy to forget details of a story you’re not writing.’ She testified she never intended to write a Plame story herself.”

Then the focus shifted to whether Miller had heard about Wilson and/or Plame from talking to other sources. She said she thought she had heard about Wilson earlier but not his wife. Then she was asked to name any sources on this matter. Before she could, or would not, answer, the debate broke out over the question and a long delay ensued as she consulted with her attorney, and the judge talked to the other lawyers. As described above, this ultimately led to calling it a day.

Note: Bloggers at FireDogLake.com in the courthouse have been providing an almost minute-by-minute report — not a transcript but very close paraphrasing, which has proven very accurate in the first days of the trial, so that is what we are relying on here. Other bloggers are doing the same and we check them to confirm accuracy. Some of them agree that Miller is displaying signs of great stress.

EARLIER TODAY

The trial had kicked off today around 9:30 a.m. with testimony continuing by David Addington, top aide to Vice President Cheney. He followed the revealing testimony of former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer yesterday. Addington continued to testify throughout the morning, punctuated by delays caused by “sidebars” in the courtroom. He wasn’t quite finished when the judge called a lunch break.

Amid the furor over the 2003 leak of a CIA operative’s identity, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, then Cheney’s chief of staff, bluntly told the White House lawyer, “I didn’t do it.” Addington, who served as Cheney’s legal counsel during the CIA leak scandal, described Tuesday morning a September 2003 meeting with Libby around the time that a criminal investigation began.

“I just want to tell you, I didn’t do it,” Addington recalled Libby saying. “I didn’t ask what the ‘it’ was.”

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says Libby discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame with reporters, then lied about those conversations. He is accused of perjury and obstruction but neither he nor anyone else is charged with the leak itself.

Recalling their 2003 conversation in Libby’s office, Addington testified Tuesday that Libby was curious about how someone could determine whether a CIA employee was working undercover. Addington, a former CIA counsel, said there’s no way to know.

Addington said he gave Libby a highlighted copy of the federal law barring disclosure of the identity of covert agents.

Fitzgerald hopes Addington’s testimony will bolster his argument that Libby was worried about whether his conversations with reporters were improper and therefore lied to conceal them.

Libby resigned as Cheney’s chief of staff after being indicted in October 2005. Addington succeeded him.

Return here often for updates all day as the testimony in the trial of Libby continues, with MIller and other reporters expected to appear shortly.

An Associated Press backgrounder today follows, for now.

***

Journalists will take center stage at the CIA leak trial as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald begins calling reporters as witnesses.

Fitzgerald said Judith Miller was to take the stand Tuesday, the first time the former New York Times reporter has testified publicly against the man she went to jail to protect as a source.

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the one-time chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is accused of perjury and obstruction for lying about conversations he had with journalists about outed CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with Fitzgerald’s investigating and reveal her conversations with Libby. She retired from the Times in November 2005, declaring that she had to leave because she had “become the news.”

Prosecutors say Libby discussed Plame — the wife of prominent war critic Joseph Wilson — with Miller three times. Two of those conversations occurred before Libby says he first remembered learning Plame’s identity from another reporter, NBC newsman Tim Russert.

Libby now says his memory failed him when he spoke to Russert. Russert said Monday that he did not tell Libby about Plame. “I was not and never have been the recipient of the leak,” Russert told an audience in Oklahoma City.

Such discrepancies are at the heart of Libby’s trial. Previous witnesses, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, have testified they had conversations with Libby about Plame before his conversation with Russert.

After Miller ultimately decided to testify, saying Libby had given her permission to do so, the Times published an article describing Miller as a rogue reporter who battled with editors and colleagues.

Like so many other government witnesses in the case, Miller’s credibility will be an issue under cross-examination. She made some inconsistent statements in her grand jury testimony, defense attorneys say.

Journalism groups have criticized Fitzgerald for calling reporters as witnesses and demanding they discuss conversations with sources. Miller’s notes likely will be used as evidence, and Fitzgerald is expected to call two other reporters — Russert and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine — during the trial.

Miller shared in a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on terrorism, but her relationship with the Times was strained when it was discovered that her reporting on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — the Bush administration’s primary reason to go to war — was built on faulty intelligence.

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