Libby Live: Tim Russert, One
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be live-bloggers. Trying to keep up with the tapes of rapid-fire Fitz and soft-spoken Scooter was no fun. But now we're back in the world of live witnesses, who hopefully will pause for breath more often …
NOTES: (1) This is not an official transcript — just a very loose paraphrase, at best — so don't treat it as one. Even exchanges that look like verbatim dialogue are just the gist of each question and each answer, with any key phrases or pauses included as best I can. (2) My own notes will be in parentheses and/or italics. (3) I'll tell you the time at the end of each update; expect about 15-20 minutes before the next one. The hamsters that run the servers will appreciate it if you don't refresh excessively in the meantime. (4) I didn't write the book on the Valerie Plame outing — but you should buy it, if you haven't already. If you're wondering who this "Swopa" character is, my previous writings on Plamemania can be found here.
We begin with some preliminary Fitz-versus-Wells squabbling over whether Tim Russert can be asked about Andrea Mitchell's statement (which she later disavowed) that Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA employment was "generally known" in certain press circles, since he's commented on TV about it. Fitz says "there's no TV exception to the hearsay rule," but Wells insists that his reasons and manner of asking will be justified, so please don't rule against him before he can present related evidence. Walton seems a bit bemused and is willing to wait and see.
F: The government calls Tim Russert.
(Tim is sworn in, takes his seat, gives his name)
F: To end the mystery, how long have you been on crutches?
T: Ten weeks, broken ankle.
(Fitz asks for Tim's educational and work history)
(Fitz asks for structure of NBC News, NBC/MSNBC/CNBC, Hardball, etc.)
F: When did you become aware of the guest on MTP on July 6, 2003?
T: Not until Sat. night, it was a late booking.
F: When did you return from vacation?
T: On Tuesday, the 8th
F: Talk to Scooter Libby that week?
T: Yes, don't remember the day.
F: Tell me about the call.
T: I was in my office, call came through, he was agitated about something he had seen on Hardball. I had not seen the program.
F: What programs?
T: I was later able to learn, Jul. 8th and 9th.
F: Did he call you often?
F: How could you tell he was upset? What did he say?
T: "What the hell is going on with Hardball?" "I'm tired of hearing my name on the air all the time." "What he's saying isn't true."
F: What did you tell him?
T: I said it wasn't my responsibility, so I gave him names (list them)
F: At any time did you discuss the wife of Joseph Wilson?
T: No, because I didn't know who she was until several days later
F: Did Libby ever tell you?
F: What would you have done?
T: Gotten more information from him and then discussed with my producers, would have been a significant story
F: Did he say off the record?
T: My personal policy is always off the record when talking to government officials unless specified. So I didn't go on air and talk about it, but I told Neal Shapiro and told him I'd
F: Remember when you heard claims about Ms. Wilson?
T: Read Novak column in WaPo on Monday, July 14 in afternoon. I said, "Wow, this is significant." Went to work and asked people we were working with what they knew.
F: Did anyone say they knew?
Just the opposite.
F: Did you receive a subpoena about this later?
T: Yes. We fought it. (spiel about rights of press)
F: What happened when Judge Hogan ruled otherwise?
T: I testified.
T: In NBC lawyers' office.
F: Under oath?
F: No further questions.
(Ted Wells begins cross-examination.)
W: You said Libby call began confidential and became a complaint, right?
W: But complaint began right away… so confidential part lasted a nanosecond, right?
T: A complaint, but I kept it confidential
W: You and Libby are not friends?
T: Acquaintances, not friends?
W: Ever been to his house?
(More questions like this — ever met his kids, gone to relationship, sporting events, etc. Tim says no.)
W: Even your professional relationship is limited, right?
T: Just meeting when VP is on MTP, etc.
W: You are not indebted to Libby in any way, right?
W: You have never indicated that you would assist Libby in telling a false story to the FBI, right?
W: Do you accept characterization that he called you as a viewer?
T: Well, I don't normally take complaint calls. (this is a paraphrased exchange, not quite so glib in reality)
W: He did not call as a source, though.
(Wells feels this is worth writing on a display.)
W: He called you in your managerial capacity of NBC News, right?
T: I didn't know it at first, but yes.
(Wells writes this down, too.)
(Wells asks various questions establishing that Russert is a big cheese at NBC — Fitz objects, and it's sustained,when Wells asks if Russert is paid more than $5 million/year.)
(Wells then goes through several quotes from Russert — books, interviews — on his approach to journalism, always aggressive, always seeking information)
W: When you returned from vacation, Niger/uranium story was big, right?
W: You understand that OVP and VP himself were part of the story, right?
W: You saw Wilson on MTP, even on vacation, right?
W: How did Wilson come to appear?
T: Producer saw op-ed on advance wire, invited him to appear.
W: Is this typical?
T: Wasn't my decision.
W: Is it what you do?
T: Not usually, don't have time.
W: You didn't ask Libby any questions about Wilson when you had him on the phone?
T: That's right.
W: You had the chief of staff of the VP on the phone, and
T: It was very much a listening mode — he was very agitated, not in the mood to talk.
W: But you didn't take the opportunity?
T: He was saying VP wasn't involved, I took what he said in the spirit he was offering it.
W: Weren't people at NBC trying to learn about Wilson trip?
T; Yes, they were.
W: Why didn't you ask chief of staff of VP?
T: Didn't have opportunity.
W: Why not?
T: Was complainding about program I hadn't seen, so I did
W: Wouldn't have been natural for you to ask, though?
T: Wasn't a natural phone call. Never had one like that from such a high official, complaining and agitated.
W: But such an aggressive journalist, such a big story
T: What I said is what happened.
W: Do you have a present recollection of not discussing Wilson's wife, are you just reasoning backwards from the fact that you did not know about her until Novak's column.
T: I have no recollection, but it would have been impossible.
W: Conversation was in July 2003, right?
W: First interview with FBI was four months later, right?
W: You have no notes of the conversation, right?
W: No contemporary documentation of the call, right?
W: You don't even recall if it was one or two calls, right?
T: I just remember one call.
W: Do you recall telling the FBI it might have been one, or two?
T: I just remember one call, no recollection of a second one.
(Wells shows Tim his FBI interview.)
T: I just remember one call, not the second.
W: You don't recall the date of the call.
W: Did you tell the FBI that you could not rule out absolutely that you talked about Wilson's wife?
W: Did you tell FBI in November 2003 that you have many conversations and that it is hard to reconstruct one from several months ago?
T: I may have.
W: Is that your opinion now?
W: Do you remember telling FBI that a general buzz was going around Joe Wilson?
W: Isn't it true that a "buzz" might include rumors that are circulating?
T: We try to stay away from rumors.
W: But still can be a source for further investigation, right?
T: (missed this answer, wasn't significant)
W: Part of the "buzz" around Joe Wilson was about his trip to Niger and his wife's employment, right?
T: There was a pre- and post-Novak buzz… after the Novak column, it took on a new dimension,
W: (confusing question)
T: I don't know what that means, but I know that I didn't know about Wilson's wife. That is a significant fact that I would have reported and investigated.
W: When was the first time that you reported
T: I didn't report on it, but we worked diligently on it and debated after Novak column whether we would discuss it.
W: You didn't pursue it right away?
T: We took national security considerations seriously.
W: It was basically public knowledge, not a secret
T: That was very much debated.
W: (pause) After you deposition with Mr. Fitzgerald, NBC released a statement.
(Wells shows statement to Russert)
It's 3:21. Switching to a new thread.