Sunday, July 17, 2005

From the Magpie's Nest 

Random scraps we found lying about:

1.) Via Zemblan patriot K.Z.: Two years of White House denials went down the toilet, through the sewer and out to sea, where they reportedly choked an innocent dolphin, when Matt Cooper fingered Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, as a second source for his Time article on Joseph Wilson. Cooper also hinted that there may have been other government sources, but did not elaborate.

2.) The story circulated by Rove mouthpiece Robert Luskin -- that Cooper had called Rove to discuss welfare reform and in the course of the conversation slipped in a question about Wilson -- is, according to Cooper's account, bunk.

3.) Newsweek's cover story on Rove has useful dirt on the origins of the White House pushback against whistleblower Joe Wilson:
How do you publicly counter a guy like [Wilson]? As "senior adviser," Rove would be involved in finding out. Technically, Rove was in charge of politics, not "communications." But, as he saw it, the two were one and the same—and he used his heavyweight status to push the message machine run by his Texas protegé and friend, Dan Bartlett. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was sent out to trash the Wilson op-ed. "Zero, nada, nothing new here," he said. Then, on a long Bush trip to Africa, Fleischer and Bartlett prompted clusters of reporters to look into the bureaucratic origins of the Wilson trip. How did the spin doctors know to cast that lure? One possible explanation: some aides may have read the State Department intel memo, which Powell had brought with him aboard Air Force One.

Meanwhile, in transatlantic secure phone calls, the message machinery focused on a crucial topic: who should carry the freight on the following Sunday's talk shows? The message: protect Cheney by explaining that he had had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and dismiss the yellowcake issue. Powell was ruled out. He wasn't a team player, as he had proved by his dismissive comments about the "sixteen words." Donald Rumsfeld was pressed into duty, as was Condi Rice, the ultimate good soldier. She was on the Africa trip with the president, though, and wouldn't be getting back until Saturday night. To allow her to prepare on the long flight home to D.C., White House officials assembled a briefing book, which they faxed to the Bush entourage in Africa. The book was primarily prepared by her National Security Council staff. It contained classified information—perhaps including all or part of the memo from State. The entire binder was labeled TOP SECRET.
So, to recap: Fleischer, Bartlett, Rumsfeld and Rice took part in a coordinated smear campaign revolving around a possibly-forged memo that suggested Wilson had been sent to Niger by his CIA wife. And Karl Rove, the President's chief ratfucker, now claims that he was so far out of the loop at the time that he didn't even know the basis of the smear until he heard it, second- or third-hand, from a journalist.


Our eminent colleague Digby has some convoluted but intriguing speculations on the author of the Air Force One memo here. By the way -- call it imperial intuition, but we happen to think Ari Fleischer is the Bush apparatchik most likely to be flipped by Patrick Fitzgerald.

4.) You have certainly read Frank Rich by now, but if not, please do. And don't forget what the whole controversy is really, at its core, about: the phony case for war. Juan Cole of Informed Comment has an excellent post on the fraudulent Niger yellowcake documents (which have been translated and posted here). He also links to the story of an earlier uranium scam in which Khdir Hamza, working in concert with Paul Wolfowitz, slipped false information to the London Times; and to a speculative piece by Vince Cannistraro, who suggests that the latest round of Niger forgeries originated at right-wing American think tanks.

5.) Because we like to give both major newsweeklies equal coverage, we give you two items, one each from Time and Newsweek, that we felt might be profitably juxtaposed. From Matt Cooper's article in Time (as quoted at Raw Story):
So did Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert?" he scores. "No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the "agency" on "WMD"? Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me. At this point, I'm as curious as anyone else to see what Patrick Fitzgerald has.
And, from a Newsweek profile of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald:
Last week, NEWSWEEK has learned, after Time's Matthew Cooper provided grand-jury testimony on his July 11, 2003, conversation with Karl Rove, Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, placed a call to Fitzgerald to make sure he didn't need anything more from Rove in light of Cooper's claims. Fitzgerald didn't bite: "We'll get back to you," the prosecutor replied curtly and quickly got off the line.

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