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Libby: Bob Novak Takes the Stand

Karl Rove was Novak's confirming source. He was not a friend, but "a very good source." They talked two to three times a week.
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1:30 pm The afternoon begins with columnist Bob Novak on the stand.

Ted Wells is conducting the direct examination. He blows up portions of his July 14, 2003 article, Mission to Niger. He blows up this paragraph:

Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me.

Novak names the two sernior Administration officials as Richard Armitage and Karl Rove. He describes his interview of Richard Armitage, which was on background.

He asked Armitage about Wilson's trip to Niger. He asked Armitage why Wilson was sent. Armitage replied, "Well, it was usggested by his wife Valerie, who was employed by the counter-proliferation division of the CIA." Armitage referred to her as Valerie, no last name.

He learned her last name by looking up Joseph Wilson in Who's Who, and it was listed as Valerie Plame. Mr. Armitage did not give him her last name.

The use of the word "operative" was his own choice. It didn't indicate he had any knowledge was she was an intelligence operative, he had no information she was covert.

Karl Rove was his confirming source. He was not a friend, but "a very good source." They talked two to three times a week. Novak called Rove's office immediately upon returning from the State Department interview with Armitage. Rove called back, possibly the same day.

Rove is a man who is always in a hurry. He gave terse answers. He asked him about Wilson's wife. Novak said he'd been told she was an employee of the counter-proliferation division of the CIA.

"Oh, you know about that too." Novak took that as confirmation -- a clear affirmation, based on their many conversations in the past in which. Rove would tell him if something he said wasn't true.

He also spoke with Libby the week of July 7. He had never had contact that he can remember with Libby until Cheney was elected in 2000. Took him out to lunch, went to his book party, called him about three times that year.

Wells shows him a phone record of him calling Libby on July 8. It only lasted one minute, indicating that he left a message and Libby wasn't available.

On July 9, Libby returned the call. His recollection of the conversation with Libby: Novak was trying to find more about Wilson's mission to Niger and Vice President's connection to it. He asked Libby to help him with the timeline on the 16 words of the State of the Union address. Novak interpreted Libby as saying he'd try to find out more and get back to him.

The topic of Wilson's wife's employment: He got no help and no confirmation from Libby on that issue. He's fuzzy about whether he brought that up. He speaks to numerous people and many are not helpful. He doesn't remember if he asked him, and received a "no" or if he never asked him. But he's sure Libby didn't tell him.

Wells puts a timeline on the screen reflecting that on July 8, Novak talked to Armitage and on the 9th he talked to Rove and Novak. He's not sure about the Rove conversation, whether it was the 8th or th e9th.

Wells puts Novak's article back on the screen. Blows up Paragraph 6. Reads this line out loud:

The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me.

Objection and sidebar.

2:00 If you want a more detailed blow by blow of the testimony, check Marcy at Firedoglake.

2:10 Still in sidebar.

Novak wrote his July 14 column the morning of Friday, July 11. It goes on the AP Wire under embargo until Monday, but people in the news rooms can view it.

First interviewed by the FBI and Inspector Eckenrode a few months after the investigation began, He did not mention his sources then. Some months into the new year, talked to Fitz. His attorneys had told him he would have waivers only from Rove and Armitage. Fitz had already learned his sources

Wells shows him 2/25/04 grand jury testimony. Told them Armitage was primary source and Rove was secondary source. Later received a waiver from Mr. Libby and went back to the grand jury. Wells is trying to get him to say he told the grand jury that Libby didn't tell him anything about Wilson's wife but Fitz objects and there's another sidebar.

Fitz crosses: When story goes on wire, it's not available to general public. First meeting with Mr. Wilson in person was the day Wilson did Meet the Press on July 6, 2003. They weren't on the same program. He saw him in the green room. They did not become fast friends. No conversation in the green room. He was giving his opinion at some length in a very loud voice, Novak thought it was an obnoxious performance, but he kept it to himself. However, he probably told it to Rove on the phone.

He has no specific recollection of discussing Wilson's wife with Libby that week. He might have raised it, but he has no recollection. But he and Mr. Libby did speak that week.

Redirect: Reporters could read the article while it was on the AP wire while it was embargoed. That would include Washington Post and Boston Herald.

Time for juror questions.


Did you discuss Wilson's wife with anyone else between learning on the 8th and writing column.

Yes, Bill Harlow, spokesman for the CIA. I believe that was the only one. He testified he might have asked Libby about it but he didn't get a positive response.

Wells then questions Novak: Rick Hohlt is a friend of his and a lobbyist about town. He gave Hohlt a draft of the article, by 4 pm.

Wells: did you call him a gossipist? I wouldn't call him that, he talks to a lot of people.

Fitz: He had no understanding with Hohlt that he wasn't to share it. He assumed he wouldn't. Hohlt indicated he had told the White House, probably on Friday, there was an interesting piece was coming out.

Novak is off the stand. I ran into Pac from Firedoglake at the break and he said the jury is sleepy.

2:50 Reporter Glenn Kessler takes the stand. He is a diplomatic correspondent for Washington Post.

A different member of Libby's team in questioning him, not Wells.

Interviewed Scooter Libby on July 12 and spoke with him on July 18.

He had developed a relationship with the Vice President's office and a colleague who was working on a piece asked him to contact them with five specific questions. He spoke to Cathie Martin who answered some of them, and she said Libby would call back to answer remainder. Libby called him back on Saturday while he was at the zoo with his children.

He had his colleague's questions with him. The call came when he was at the elephant house. It was memorable because he had to sit down on a bench and direct his 10 year old to watch the 2 year old and other child. It was packed in the elephant house and he didn't want someone to abscond with the two year old. Libby said he was talking off the record.

He had prior conversations with Martin and Mary Matalin in which they said when Libby said off the record, he meant on background. They talked for 20 to 25 minutes. The conversation involved Iraq, post-war planning and the role of the Vice-President's office. No one discussed Joseph Wilson's wife.


Brings up Pincus and Allen's Oct. 12 WaPo article. Kessler was not a source for the article.

Cross by Fitz: Deposition was June 22, 2004. He understood that attorneys had worked out an arrangement for his testimony to take place in a lawyers office. He was asked questions limited by the scope of Libby's waiver. There were questions about the war in Iraq. In June, 2004, he was not to asked about his conversation with Libby, only about whether Joseph Wilson or his wife came up. His memory and a summary of his notes are clear that they didn't discuss Wilson's wife. Reviews reasons he believes he didn't ask Libby about Wilson's wife. He learned it from Novak's article on the 14th. He thought it was news to him.

Evan Thomas, Newsweek Editor at Large is up now, being questioned by Jeffress.

July, 2003, was covering the invasion of Iraq. That summer, that included pre-war intelligence.

He was familiar with controversy over 16 words in SOTU.

He knows Libby. They've talked about a dozen times over the years. He also talked to Cathie Martin.

Usually works on Saturdays. Does not recall speaking to Libby that Saturday. Shows exhibit of phone record of calls from Andrews Air Force Base. There's a call for 35 seconds to that office. Had he received a call from Libby, he would have returned it. He has no recollection of the call.

Libby never said anything to him about Joseph Wilson's wife.

Fitz: No questions.

3:20 Next witness: Carl Ford. A young associate of Ted Wells is doing the questioning.

Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research from 2110 to October, 2003.

He reported directly to Colin Powell. Occasionally had dealings with Armitage and Marc Grossman.

In June, 2003, Marc Grossman asked him for information about Iraq's attempt to acquire yellowcake from Niger. In person request. It was an unusual request. He had only had a handful of requests over the past two years, none were related to WMD's. There was a senior staff meeting that day chaired by Grossman. That was extraordinary because Powell would conduct meeting personally. If not available, Armitage would do it. But Armitage wasn't there that day.

Shows him an exhibit. It's page 31, on the bottom. It says Iraq meeting at 8:00 on June 9. That was the meeting Grossman presided over.

Grossman didn't tell him why he wanted the information. Never told him Libby had requested it. He would have recalled that.

He came back to his office and called people he knew were following the issue. He gave the assignment to Neal Silver. A memo was created to capture the information Grossman had requested. Shows him the memo, DX 71 - the memo prepared by INR on June 10, 2003 in response to Grossman's request. It took less than a day to prepare after Grossman had made the request.

Walter Kanstiner. Ass't secretary of state for Africa. Has known him for many years. No meetings or coordination with him in creating the memo. Grossman never said anything about the memo to him, never indicated the memo was incomplete.

Cross-examination: Zeidenburg asks one insignificant question, Witness excused.

Next witness: Libby runs out of witnesses for the day. Judge will hear legal arguments on memory issues. Libby lawyer John Kline says for the OVP testimony, they want to call current Cheney NSA Advisor John Hannah.

Another category is the morning intelligence briefers. He wants to elicit from the briefer the items on which he was briefed for the days in question, such as the day he spoke with Judith Miller.

The two sides are going back and forth on technical stuff. Court's about over for the day.

I'll be back tonight with a wrap-up post of my impressions for the day.

[Jeralyn Merritt blogs daily for TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime]