Friday, October 28, 2005

"Ladies and gentlemen ... we got him"


This blog post won't go up until after Fitzgerald's announcement, but it's being partially written early on Friday morning. As I write this, the New York Times is predicting the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff -- for making false statements to the grand jury in the PlameGate inquiry. The Times also predicts an extension of the jury's term so that Fitzgerald can hunt bigger heads.

In a day when even the most minor scandal gets hyped all out of proportion, it's difficult to assess the impact that the handing down of indictments will have. Many of the same people who've counted President Bush down and out before are doing so again, forgetting what a surprising tendency he has to pop right back up, fists flailing.

Will this week -- with the 2000th US military death in Iraq, the withdrawal of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, and now possibly indictments of major administration figures -- mortally wound the Bush administration? I just don't know. The elder George would be curled up in a fetal position under the desk in the Oval Office, wailing "read my lips! Read my lips!" under these circumstances. But Dubyah isn't his father's son -- he is, for lack of a better word, far more ... Clintonesque.

I've already hypothesized that Harriet Miers was a maguffin -- that her nomination was intended to channel the conservative rebellion and get the GOP lined back up behind Bush. I won't be terribly surprised if the administration pulls a prefab "victory" of some sort out of the hat in Iraq next week. And "the Fitzgerald indictments," if they come, may serve to unify the right rather than to cower it. Don't touch that dial.

UPDATE, noonish: Well, it's Libby -- five counts altogether -- perjury, making a false statement and obstructing justice. The indictment came out of the court clerk's office a few minutes ago; Fitzgerald's press conference is still scheduled for 2 p.m. eastern.

UPDATE, 12:10 pm: Fox News (the TV version -- nothing on the web yet) is now reporting that Libby has resigned his position as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

UPDATE, 1 pm-ish: I'm just going to keep the window open and liveblog Fitzgerald's camera-mugging excursion (hitting "publish" every few minutes and then editing ... so don't touch that dial!). Fox is reporting that President Bush will be speaking publicly on the Libby indictments (why am I watching Fox, you might ask? Because, being the most sympathetic of the channels to the Bush administration, they'll filter out the worst of the speculative bullshit, which in this case will mostly be coming from the left). In the meantime, I'm scanning the blogosphere for tidbits:

Kathryn Jean Lopez, over at National Review's blog The Corner, learned from a reader why Fitzgerald put off his press conference until mid-afternoon ... he's from Chicago, and today is the White Sox victory parade. A man's gotta have his priorities, and even if it wasn't the Cubs, a World Series Victory is obviously more important than shooting the bull with reporters about Scooter Libby.

Over at Below the Beltway, Doug Mataconis brings up the Martha Stewart analogy. That's fair, and a comparison I made elsewhere (specifically the Slick-D list on Topica) in predicting the outcome here.

Now it looks like the president is actually going to comment before the Fitzgerald circus. Developing ...

Okay, no, Fitzgerald goes first. He's describing the indictment at the moment. Anyone ever notice that he looks a lot like Howard Dean?

He's almost immediately into the meat of it ... whether Plame's work for the CIA was covered by the Covert Agent Identity Protection Act or not, it was classified, it was leaked, and that does represent a risk to national security, even if only by establishing a bad precedent in letting it slide. Good point. He also points out that her work was not, as some pundits have dismissively claimed, "general knowledge" among her neighbors, friends, etc.

Okay, now he's describing the grand jury process, explaining why the public doesn't get to know what all is going on in there, and obviously coming to the point of how bad it is to lie to the grand jury, which is what Libby is accused of doing. Bam -- he just hit that one. He's going through the timeline of Libby's interactions with investigators and the jury. I'm not going to transcribe -- that timeline will surely be made available on the web. Note, however, that Fitzgerald alleges that Libby did not, as he first attested, learn of Valerie Plame's work for the CIA from Tim Russert, but rather from "other government officials," that he in fact discussed it with reporters before he talked with Russert, and that he didn't even discuss it with Russert.

About 1:30 -- Fitzgerald is taking questions. He seems to have been said that the grand jury is going to be "held open" to consider "other matters." In responding to the question of the "Martha Stewart" analogy -- this was a leak investigation, why no prosecution for leaking? -- he has been using baseball analogies (a pitcher hits a batter -- why did he do it and did he mean to?) to explain why the digging isn't going to stop. He is (as is proper) declining to comment on anyone who hasn't been indicted, and noting that only Libby has been accused by his office and by the grand jury of committing criminal acts.

This investigation is clearly not over. "I will not end this investigation until I can look everyone in the eye and tell them ..." ah, screw trying to transcribe quotes. It just ain't over. Period. You'd think the press would be familiar enough with the law on keeping grand jury secrecy to stop hectoring this guy. "What about Rove?" "Who are you looking at?" Jackals.

Bored yet? I've never liked liveblogging, but this seems to need it. Personally, I'm waiting with bated breath for Justin Raimondo's take on this thing (link is to his "current column" page -- maybe I'll remember to put in a permalink, maybe I won't).

Fitzgerald: Tired, want to go home, wish this was over a long time ago, yada, yada, yada. Doesn't hate reporters but sometimes their testimony is necessary, yada, yada. Dammit, am I talking to the walls here? I can't tell you what else I'm looking into, harumph. Not alleging violation of covert agent act, but again, Plame's affiliation with CIA was classified, get it?

Response to charges that he's partisan: "One day I read that I was a Republican hack, the next day I read that I was a Democratic hack, and the only thing I did in between those two days was sleep."

Okay, now he seems to be is saying that it may will be a new grand jury, not an extension of the old one.

Interlude: Byron York at NRO's The Corner: Who is "Official A?"

This whole thing reminds me of why I sometimes hate the press. Were these reporters locked in a sealed room for the last two years or something? And where did they go to J-School? Ah ... someone just brought up "Official A." May get interesting, and maybe not all of these reporters are stuffed mannequins with tabloid scripts on tape players inside their heads.

Now he's explaining the difference between England's Official Secrets Act and the less restrictive US laws on divulging classified information. The undertone here is that the actual disclosure of Plame's CIA employment, even though it was classified, isn't necessarily prosecutable.

Finally, some reporter who looks like Scott Bacula is asking about old grand jury/new grand jury ... and Fitzgerald manages to be unclear yet again. As best I can tell, a new grand jury will be empaneled, but he won't say why, or what he's after with them.

Interesting ... Fitzgerald was just asked (about 3:05 pm eastern) if he had sought indictments that the grand jury didn't give him. He looked around for rescue and got a shake of the head from a colleague to tell him he's not allowed to say. His demeanor indicates that yes, he did ask for more than he got.

Back to stupid and/or unanswerable questions. I'm bailing, folks. I don't get paid enough to watch the farce that press pools make out of these kinds of things, and I don't see how the principals manage to put up with it without wringing a journalistic neck or three. Back later with my real schtick -- opinion.

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