Joe Wilson’s Tele-Press Conference
Disclaimer: this is NOT a transcript, but my quick, live notes.
Melanie Sloan of CREW (MS): Thank you for coming. We're very pleased by verdict. Justice served. Valerie and Joe thank the prosecution team. No one above the law.
Civil case will proceed. It's about whether constitutional rights violated by administration. About abuse of power at highest echelons of government. Different from criminal case. Critical to continue to pursue this.
Joe Wilson (JW): We take great comfort that this is a nation of laws. No citizen is above the law. Respect the efforts of Walton and prosecution and jury.
Q (John Amato): Congratulations. Will verdict help your civil case, and will Cheney be under further scrutiny?
JW: In aftermath of verdict, no reason for WH to hide behind ongoing trial to avoid questions. Would like to see Pres and VP share with the American people what they told the prosecutor during the investigation. The rest of this question I leave to my attorney.
Q: What new information will come out in the civil trial? Do you worry about chilling effect on the press?
MS: Civil case needs discovery to get additional facts, Libby, Armitage, Cheney others. Civil case is about justification for war and efforts to abuse power to retaliate against the Wilsons.
JW: The press was used and abused by the administration to deceive about rationale for war and then to launch campaign of disinformation against me by spewing lies about my family and me, Then Senior administration officials hid behind confidentiality of sources. Then, when that fell apart, the defense team put on the stand reporters for the sole purpose of humiliating them. Press should rethink efforts to protect sources engaged in disinformation campaigns.
Q: Re: Libby, one admin official is now convicted. Is this tip of iceberg?
JW: Case against Libby was US Government v. Libby. We are pursuing a civil case for three reasons: 1) to get the truth out, get discovery 2) the people whom the public trusted should not abuse that trust in exercise of a personal vendetta 3) use our case case to demonstrate that this type of behavior is unacceptable for future generations.
Q: What does your wife think about all this, and what are your plans for future?
JW: We want to move on. Valerie has a book in the works. We see this as an affirmation that we are a nation of laws. No man is above the law, Valerie has a book, hopefully it will get out soon. We are in discussions with the CIA, at a sensitive point right now. She was a classified officer, CIA argues she remains in some sense classified even though her cover was blown.
Q: Fitz said not not anticipate new charges, no one else to be charged. Since Libby was convicted of lying, if he had gone in to tell what is argued by the government to have been the truth when given the chance to do so, then no one would be charged with outing of your wife. Thoughts?
JW: No feelings about it. CIA referred to Justice because they felt law had been broken. I don't know the prosecutor, met him a couple of times. It may be a matter of how hard it is to prosecute under the statute in question. The fact they got conviction on 4 counts indicates seriousness of the matter. The prosecutor did say at the time of the indictment during the press conference that justice would be served by a conviction. So this could be like convicting Al Capone of tax evasion.
Q: Thoughts on issues of pardon for Mr. Liibby? Also, so we can have a dateline, what town are you speaking from?
JW: Washington, DC. I believe in the Constitution, which gives president pardon power.
Q (Fox "News"): How has the trial changed your lives and your relationship with wife over last 18 months?
JW: Our relationship is as strong or better. Wonderful children. Our older twins have been very supportive, and the younger twins at ages five, six, and seven during this time have given us many other things to worry about than this case.
Q: Please relay again transmission of your findings on trip to Niger. Where did it go and who knew about it? Evidence Cheney or Bush ever knew about it?
JW: See my book The Politics of Truth. I met when I got out there to Niger with the ambassador from the U. S. who said it was a false allegation. I checked with my own sources who had been in govt in Niger when purported sale took place, contacts she may not have had. I reported my findings to the ambassador and to her senior staff. Upon my return to the U. S. I spoke with a CIA to senior reports officer, who is paid to do these report for intel community. That's their job. The report from the reports officer is then circulated to the U. S. government. The redacted version of this gives findings throughout the US govt. The OVP is part of the U. S. us government. If they did not see it, why not?
The VP is member of the NSC and is responsible to understand the nuclear threat to the US in the hands of our enemies. Were they derelict? Were they just being disingenuous in saying they never received or looked for this document? In early November or December of 2002 Congress was informed by the intelligence community that it was the judgment of the intelligence community that the Brits had been exaggerating the Niger uranium story. It had then been removed from the president's Cincinnati speech. Files from Hadley say don't use this information. Then the national intelligence officer for Africa did a memo in response to a DOD request , which was then sent to the office of the President and to the OVP saying the claims of sales of African uranium to Iraq were baseless. That occurred just a couple of weeks before the president's SOTU address.
Q: You and Mrs. Wilson have been embroiled in this for 5 years. Do you have any personal feelings of vindication? Where were you when you heard the news of a conviction today?
JW: My wife called me and told me. I was in town, making arrangements to move. I was with friends at the Bombay Club. Valerie told me. This trial is between the U. S. government and senior officials in the U. S. govt. The justice department protects the Constitution. I'm pleased to see these institutions function. No man is above law. Libby had his day in court. A jury of his peers reached its conclusion. As American citizens who love our country, we're pleased to see these principles hold firm.
Personal vindication? We knew all along that what I said was true. This became abundantly clear during the trial, through the INR memo June 10, the redacted version of my trip report and also from Libby's testimony that confirmed that I was fully qualified to make the trip. The testimony makes clear the extent to which senior officials embarked on a disinformation campaign, the justification of which was to cover up lies, and the methodology was an unprecedented smear campaign.
MS: I want to point out that those involved in this are still in fact hiding. Cheney argues absolute immunity from suit. In the past, only the president has been considered to have absolute immunity from suit, not the VP. It's very interesting that on the one hand the U. S. government prosecuted Libby and on the other is trying to substitute in for all the defendants in the civil suit, arguing that they were only doing their job by giving information to reporters and should not be punished for doing their jobs. The Department of Justice has been playing both sides.
Q: Juror Dennis Collins, a former reporter for the Washington Post, said that among the jurors there was tremendous sympathy for Libby, that they wondered where is Rove, the other guys? He referred to Libby as the "fall guy." He bought in, to some extent, to the defense argument that Libby was a fall guy to protect Rove and others. Do you have sympathy for Libby or believe that he was the fall guy?
JW: I would hope that Libby and all others draw the right lesson, not to abuse public trust and engage in personal vendettas. But, they may take the lesson many of these people took from Watergate, which was, they should have destroyed the tapes. I hope they take the right lesson. i have said all along I believed Rove was involved up to his eyeballs. This was proved in the testimony regarding his leak of the information to Matt Cooper in uncontroverted testimony. I do not second guess the prosecution. The civil case will hopefully address these issues. I believe the VP and the president owe the country a much broader explanation. The said people involved in the leak would be fired. Rove is still on the payroll. I call on the president and vice president to release the transcripts of their interviews with the prosecutor to show people there is not a cloud over their offices.
I also learned today the president was sorry for Mr Libby and his family. I wish he would express his sorrow for my wife, whose career was destroyed and also express his regret to all the to service people fighting a war justified by lies.
Q: Who would you like to see play you and Valerie in the movie?
JW: I have no opinion; that's a decision to be made by others. I think this makes for a very interesting story, especially in light of the many generations of people who fought for for our country to protect the legacy handed down to us by our forefathers. We did not expect to be in the middle of this. I got in because I felt I had something to offer re: Iraq due to my experience there and also because it is an act of good citizenship to hold the government accountable. I would ask that Jack Black be in a role other than that of Joe Wilson
MS: Thank you all for your time Email us with further questions.