Libby Trial: No Love For Imus
Ted Wells was all over the place today trying to mount a defense for his client. With Russert on the stand, he spent copious amounts of time trying to establish that Russert could have told the public that he had told FBI agent Jack Eckenrode all about his conversation with Scooter Libby but he didn't, and then chose to claim First Amendment privilege in order to keep from testifying before the grand jury. Which may in fact make Russert a crap journalist who cares more about access and membership in the "club" than someone possessed of any sense of journalistic responsibility, but it did not seem to have any bearing on Russert's story, and whether he either lied or "mis-remembered" in his testimony. Wells tried to establish that Andrea Mitchell (who once weirdly claimed at one point that "everyone in the Washington Press establishment knew that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, before retracting it on Imus — Crooks & Liars has the bizarre tape that was played in court) was in such close contact with Russert that Russert would have undoubtedly known if she did, and therefore might have had motive to lie. Fitzgerald argued that this was just not relevant, and ripped the line of the day:
“If we allow this line of questioning we might as well throw out Wigmore on Evidence and replace it with Imus on Evidence….There is no Imus exception to the heresay rule.”
Wells then moved on to try and prove that Russert and other members of the NBC news team, specifically Tom Brokaw, were gleeful on the morning that the indictment was due to be read, and thus had a motive to set Libby up. Fitz objected on the grounds that on the morning of the indictment, nobody knew who was going to be indicted — speculation ranged from Cheney to Bush to Hadley to Rove, so how would a bunch of newsmen being excited by the specter of big news be indicative of malice against Libby?
Walton allowed Wells to question Russert on this front, specifically with regard to an appearance Russert made on Imus in which he referred to that morning as "Christmas Eve":
Wells: And possibility of Mr. Fitzgerald being Santa Claus?
Russert (bewildered) No.
So much for Fitzmas.
Wells also commented that Russert looked awfully "happy" in the photo they were using. Russert noted that it was, in fact, a stock photo. Is this the best research Barbara Comstock and that huge pile of Libby defense loot can pay for?
Fitzgerald's redirect was short, elegant and brutal:
Fitz: Did you take joy in Mr. Libby's indictment?
T: No and I don't take pleasure in being here.
F: Which is bigger news, possible indictment or actual indictment?
T: Actual indictment.
F: What do you remember personally from October 28, 2005?
T: Press conference was a network interrupt, which was significant — and then hearing my name, which was jolting. And then Brian Williams talking me about the case and asking me to explain my role, which I did. First time in my life I'd heard my name spoken by a prosecutor.
F: Any chance Xmas and surprises was personal joy at seeing Libby indicted?
T: Absolutely not.
F: Remember reading anything that day?
T: Possibly news articles.
F: Did you read indictment?
T: Yes, I think it was released after the news conference.
F: What did you read?
T: Parts invoving things I was claimed to have said.
F: What did you think of those things.
T: That they weren't true.
F: No further questions.
And with that the prosecution closed. It's hard to know where the defense plans to go — at times they seem to be claiming that Russert had a bad memory, at others that he was lying to cover his ass, and then at still others that he was lying because of malice toward Libby. But it never seemed to come together in some kind of consistent, cohesive view of what happened, and unless they can shake the jury's faith in Russert it's going to be tough to get them to believe Libby's story. The jurors seemed restless and uninterested throughout Wells' cross-examination of Russert, and aside from coming off as a bit of a scum for his First Amendment hypocrisy and his opacity with regard to how easily he gave up Libby's "confidentiality" to FBI agent Jack Eckenrode, he came off as credible. Team Libby didn't manage to find any chinks in his armor that really seemed to cast much doubt on his really quite simple story about his conversation with Libby.
Wells wants to call Andrea Mitchell when the defense begins next week, hoping to somehow establish that Russert might have known that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA before the time he spoke to Libby on the phone. He'll also try to put Jill Abramson on the stand to impeach Judy Miller's credibility.