THE BLOG
02/12/2007 10:18 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Libby Defense Begins With Walter Pincus

Hi everyone. I'm at the Prettyman Courthouse in D.C. covering the Scooter Libby trial for Huffington Post today through Wednesday. I'll be updating this post throughout the day with items of interest to those following the trial, so check back often. For a blow by blow of the testimony and arguments, check out Marcy Wheeler at Firedoglake who has been doing a fantastic job of live-blogging.

The day begins with Libby attorney Ted Wells arguing to be able to question Andrea Mitchell about her statement on the Capital Report that everyone knew about Joe Wilson and his wife. (Background and source links here.) Ms. Mitchell said on the October 3, 2003 Capital Report:

MURRAY: And the second question is: Do we have any idea how widely known it was in Washington that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA?

MITCHELL: It was widely known among those of us who cover the intelligence community and who were actively engaged in trying to track down who among the foreign service community was the envoy to Niger. So a number of us began to pick up on that. But frankly I wasn't aware of her actual role at the CIA and the fact that she had a covert role involving weapons of mass destruction, not until Bob Novak wrote it.

Wells argues that Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory are a team. If one heard something, it's reasonable to assume he or she told the others. The Judge disagrees. No matter how many different reasons Wells comes up with to admit the statement, the Judge finds a reason to shoot it down. It's too speculative and it would require the jury to make too many inferences. But, there weill be a hearing tomorrow outside the presence of the jury at which Wells will ask Ms. Mitchell some questions hoping to change the Judge's mind.

The first Defense witness is Walter Pincus. Scooter Libby gave him a waiver to speak with the Government. But, it wasn't Libby who told him about Joseph Wilson's wife working for the C.I.A. It was Ari Fleishcher. Fleischer told him this on July 12, two days before Novak's article was published.

Fitzgerald is now cross-examing Pincus. It's clear in Pincus's mind that Fleishcer was the first to tell him about Wilson's wife working for the CIA. Fleischer didn't say where he learned it.

Fitz asks him about two articles he wrote in May, 2003 about national security and the office of the Vice President. Then he brings up the June 12 article. He points out these two paragraphs:

The CIA's decision to send an emissary to Niger was triggered by questions raised by an aide to Vice President Cheney during an agency briefing on intelligence circulating about the purported Iraqi efforts to acquire the uranium, according to the senior officials. Cheney's staff was not told at the time that its concerns had been the impetus for a CIA mission and did not learn it occurred or its specific results.

Cheney and his staff continued to get intelligence on the matter, but the vice president, unlike other senior administration officials, never mentioned it in a public speech. He and his staff did not learn of its role in spurring the mission until it was disclosed by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on May 6, according to an administration official.

Fitz asks if it was Libby that was the source for those paragraphs. Pincus says he was one of them. And, that's it. Pincus is off the stand.

10:52 am

WAPO reporter Bob Woodward is up next. Fitzgerald rises to object to Wells playing the tape between Woodward and Armitage. He says it's 1 minute and 7 seconds they've removed the profanity from it.

Bill Jeffress, for the defense, argues his position: Mr. Woodward talks to Armitage on June 13. Armitage would have known about Valerie Wilson from the INR Memo and Marc Grossman.

Armitage tells Woodward about Wilson's wife. Woodward, who is writing a book at the time and interviewing numerous officials, then goes to interview Mr. Libby. He takes a note with a reference to Joe Wilson's wife. Mr. Woodward may or may not have asked Mr libby on June 27 about Wilsons wife. But if he did, Jeffress says, Woodward will testify ,Libby didn't say anything about it.

Jeffress says it's critical to determine what information Woodward had at the time he went to see Libby. It's not hearsay, the profanity has been redacted, and it's the best evidence of the conversation.

Fitzgerald's turn; He disputes the relevance of Woodward's note. He says 10 days after June 13, W send a document "QCheney" to the Vice President, It's 17 pages and not one question pertains to Wilson's wife.

The note that Jeffress is talking about is one called "Qcard" and were questions intended for Andy Card.

Fitz thinks this is an attempt at jury nullification. He says Wells is trying to argue that the person who didn't leak the information about Valerie Wilson got charged, while the person who did leak it didn't get charged. The defense disputes this.

Judge calls a recess, no decision.

11:08

Bob Woodward:

Bill Jeffress does the direct examination. (J and W):

Woodward: He's the Assistant managing editor of WaPo and a book author. Almost 36 years with WAPO. He's written 14 books, most about Presidents, CIA or Supreme Court.

June, 2003: he was working on his book "Plan of Attack", covering the 16 months Bush and war cabinet debated and the President finally decided to go to war. He interviewed several hundred people, including 75 sources in a position to know.

He talked to Libby a number of times. On June 23, he sent Libby 17 pages of questions in preparation for a June27 interview he planned with Vice President Cheney. Libby called him to say overplayed his hand, had asked too many questions.

Jeffress takes him throughthe differences between statements given to reporters on background, and off the record statements. Libby spoke to him on deep background. It's not unusual.

Woodward learned of Joe Wilson's wife from Armitage on June 13 while doing a background interview for his book. Woodward had read Pincus' June 12th article that had discussed a former ambassador and his trip to Niger. Even though Wilson wasn't identified in article, Woodward knew it was Wilson, so he asked Armitage why he had been sent. He's playing a tape interview excerpt.

Woodward offers up that Armitage not only has released him from any confidentiality pledge, he has requested he testify fully.

The jury hears the tape.

Woodward asks why Wilson was sent to Niger. Armitage's voice is interesting. He clearly relishes telling Woodward that Joe Wilson's wife works for the CIA and had a hand in sending him to Niger.

Armitage said Wilson's wife was a WMD anlayst at the CIA.

Fitz is up: All the redactions of the firey, off color words don't pertain to the substance.

Fitz directs him to his statement, "Why doesn't that come out? Everyone knows? " Woodward says he is referring to Wilson being the former Ambassador in in Pincus's article -- not about his wife. He never knew about the wife until he spoke with Armitage.

He's certain he brought QCheney to his interview with Libby on June 27. There is no reference to Mr. Wilson's wife. He's pretty sure he also brought QCard. That's his practice.

On the issue of the NIE, Libby was defensive of his boss and things he had said publicly. He went on and on about the Vice President.

He has no specific recollection about talking to Libby on June 27, 2003 about Joseph Wilson's wife working for the CIA.

Time for juror questions, then David Sanger of the New York Times is up.

Juror question: As of June 27, did other reporters know anything about Wilson's wife working for the CIA?
Woodward: It's possible. He told Pincus.

11:46

David Sanger takes the stand. Jeffress is the questioner.

He's written extensively on non-proliferation issues. He's familiar with terms background, deep background, off the record. These are common terms in the profession. He accepts information on background and deep background. Frequently it's the only way to obtain information.

In June of 2003, he was working with James Risen, Don Van Natta and someone else on non-proliferation issues. Jeffress shows him the July, 2003 article he was working on. He interviewed Libby for the article, among one to two dozen officials. He interviewed Libby in early July, 2003.

July 2d at 10 am. Under an hour. Interview was at Sanger's request. Set it up with Cathie Martin. Told Ms. Martin in general terms of the subjects he wanted to discuss with Libby, which included the 16 words in SOTU.

He is certain Joseph Wilson's wife did not come up during the interviewHe's written extensively on non-proliferation issues.

12:00

Fitzgerald: Notes Sanger is the third Pulitzer prize winner to testify this morning. He asks him if Judith Miller has shared in a Pulitzer and he says yes.

Sanger wanted to interview Libby because he understood that Libby had helped provide information to Colin Powell about weapons of mass destruction for Powell's February 5, 2003 U.N. presentation. Cathie Martin was present for the entire conversation which took place in the. Old Executive Office Building. Joseph Wilson's wife was not mentioned.

Juror question: When did he learn of Wilson's wife working for the CIA? Answer, with Novak's article.

The Judge excuses the jury for lunch and takes up the issue of what memory defense Libby may raise if he doesn't testify. Libby filed this brief yesterday.

The Judge said he misspoke when he said Libby couldn't raise the memory defense unless Libby testified. He was only talking about evidence that would show what matters were of specific importance to him. He wasn't talking about which matters he was working on, which his aides could testify to. The Government argues it's not relevant what specific matters he was working on.

Libby attorney John Kline says there has been no decision on whether Libby testifies. They won't decide until the end of the case.

They are now arguing over the admission of the Government's agreed upon facts. The Defense wants it admitted even if Libby doesn't take the stand. Kline points out that he told the judge during the CIPA hearings that Libby might not take the stand.

Judge will not allow it. He says the Court of Appeals can reverse him if it wants.

Kline says they relied on it in opening statement.

Judge tells him he should have clarified it.

Lunch time, I'll start a new post after lunch. Bob Novak should be on the stand.