THE BLOG
02/07/2006 01:10 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Russert Still Hasn't Clarified Plamegate Role

Mr. Russert,

First and foremost, thank you for taking time to address my concerns during your visit to Ripon College last Thursday to keynote our conference on Ethics and the Media. You fulfilled, to a reasonable degree, the responsibility I believe you had to answer the questions I posed relating to your actions in the Valerie Plame leak case during your pre-speech press conference. Considering my status as a mere college newspaper columnist -- and the criticism you received for your participation in this conference, you deserve credit for your willingness to initiate a discussion of those issues with me.

Moreover, several of your objections to my column were legitimate. You were correct that the title of my column is misleading and inappropriate for the content of the piece; rest assured I will not be leaving headline content to my editors from now on. I am also willing to accept your counterclaim that your resistance to your grand jury subpoena was not in order to protect Scooter Libby. I already wrote that you deserve the benefit of the doubt, and I have no concrete evidence that refutes your claim (though if you wish to criticize the allegation as an error, you should really confront my explicitly cited source.

I also admit I was guilty of poor word choice in claiming that you had not acknowledged to viewers your involvement in the case. Your evidence on hand (scroll down to the press release) clearly indicated that you have made the public aware of your involvement in the case. A clarification will be made in the next edition of the Ripon College Days, and I convey my regrets here as well.

But although you responded to several major points of my article, Mr. Russert, you have still not addressed many other questions regarding your involvement in this case.

During the press conference, you repeated your argument, made in the court documents to which I referred, that you resisted testifying after Mr. Libby released you to do so because you believed his waiver was coerced. How do you reconcile that position with your apparent lack of concern -- noted by Patrick Fitzgerald himself -- over the voluntary nature of Richard Clarke's waiver? Their waivers were both signed at the directive of the Bush What House, so where is the difference?

You also justified your reluctance to testify by claiming that a grand jury questioning would be a "fishing expedition," in which investigators could ask you about any questions or any sources. That presumably is why your attorneys reached an agreement with investigators to limit the scope of your testimony. I accept your basic point -- there is something to be said for not allowing investigators entirely free rein. But that does not explain why you limited your testimony only to what you said to Libby -- and not what Libby said to you. Agreeing to testify about both sides of your conversation would not have exposed you to fishing. And if you wish to claim that the deal still allowed you to protect Libby's confidence, then you will have to explain where the difference lies between Scooter Libby and Richard Clarke.

My word choices also obscured several key concerns. First, your acknowledgement of involvement in the summer of 2004 cannot serve as a defense for your coverage of the case before that time. In particular, on the October 5, 2003 Meet the Press, you interviewed Joe Wilson and Robert Novak without acknowledging your role in the case, and, as I noted in my piece, asked them to explain what they knew without extending the same courtesy in return. You made reference, in the context of another question asked at the press conference, to being "low on the food chain" and largely unaware of the proceedings of the grand jury investigation. If you were in fact unaware of the extent of your involvement at that time, that is a perfectly acceptable defense. But if that is the case, you have not made that clear; and if it is not, you still have a year's worth of coverage to answer for entirely.

Second, there is a significant difference between acknowledging your role in the case and explaining what you know about it -- and there is no question that you have been reticent on the latter. Even after your testimony, after your acknowledgment, after Libby's indictment, after relevant documents were released, you have still refused to reveal what Libby said to you. I will