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The Non-Grand Jury Materials


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Since we're all about oversight today and in honor of Looseheadprop's superb post yesterday, I thought I'd do a little brainstorming. Looseheadprop told us that,

This is where things might get good. You may recall that there is some significant information that came to the investigation outside of the presence of the grand jury and not as a direct result of a grand jury subpoena. So, even if the material was later presented to the grand jury, if you knew of its existence from another source you could ask for it. Shorter version – you can't ask for "everything you presented to the grand jury but got from a none grand jury method", but you can ask for "the notes of that interview I know you had with so and so before the grand jury was empanelled." See the difference? It's a little subtle, but very significant.

That is — anything that Fitz got through means other than a grand jury subpoena is fair game. Looseheadprop herself mentions the two most interesting things that Fitzgerald got outside of the grand jury process: two chickenshit no oath interviews, one with Cheney and one with Bush. Both are utterly pertinent to Waxman's hearings today, which focus on the protection of classified information. We cannot fully understand the insta-declassification of what Libby unconvincingly claimed was the NIE without learning what Cheney and Bush explained about it. And, as far as we know, those interviews fall outside of the grand jury process. (Ha! Those special arrangements coming back to bite you!) I suspect Looseheadprop is not the only shrewd lawyer-type who has thought of this.

But here are some of the other non-grand jury material materials that Waxman et al might want to sink their teeth into:

  • The FBI reports on the 40 interviews that took place in Fall 2003, before Fitzgerald was appointed. We know many of the witnesses who were interviewed: Joe and Valerie Wilson, Libby, Rove, Armitage, Novak, Russert, Grossman, Cathie Martin. Just about the only major witness who wasn't interviewed by the FBI was Ari Fleischer, who was holding out for his immunity deal. Now, Rove's and Novak's testimony would be just about worthless, since we know they were lying and Rove, at least, changed his story subsequently. Plus, I have a strong reason to suspect that Novak didn't 'fess up about his conversation with Libby (about which I'll have more soon, I promise–look for a series of four posts next week) until he appeared before the grand jury in early 2004. But some of these interviews would offer new information (or would clarify existing stories–like Armitage's). I say, let's get it all!
  • The FBI interviewed Richard Hohlt in late 2003. Hohlt, you'll recall, is the head of the "Off the Record Club," which seems to have had a key role in brokering the Novak article that outed Valerie Plame. Club member Ken Duberstein set up the meeting between Armitage and Novak, then later acted as middle-man to help them get their stories straight. And Hohlt set up the call between Rove and Novak, then gave Rove an advance copy of Novak's article. 

That's where Hohlt has proved most valuable. An accomplished information trader, Hohlt serves as a background source for a select group of Washington journalists—Novak above all. "He's known as the person you go to to try to get stuff in Novak's column," says one semiregular OTR participant. (Novak says it is "ridiculous" to suggest he writes what Hohlt wants.)

After Novak first told Hohlt that he was working on a hot story about ex-ambassador Joe Wilson, Hohlt says he e-mailed Rove to expect a phone call from Novak. Then Hohlt began pressing Novak to learn the juicy details. On July 11, 2003, three days before the column was published, Novak gave him a preview copy. (Unknown to Hohlt, Rove had already confirmed to Novak that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.) That same day, Hohlt e-mailed details about the column to Rove, and later faxed him the entire unpublished article. (Rove's lawyer confirms this account.) "I was just trying to be helpful," Hohlt says. His role as a go-between later earned him a visit from the FBI, but it stayed secret until now.

  • Almost all of the journalists gave depositions at their lawyers' offices. While much of the content of these depositions came out at the Libby trial, there are some that would still be interesting. Take Viveca Novak, for example (she appeared before the grand jury, but first gave a deposition in her lawyer's office). I'd love to see what she said about Luskin's Hail Mary Pass. Or Woodward–he mentioned a June 6 meeting with Libby in his trial testimony, and I'd sure love to know whether Joe Wilson came up, since it was a question about the as-yet-confidential Wilson that sparked Armitage to blab his mouth about Valerie. Plus, there have always been mumblings that Woodward had a conversation of interest with Cheney at some point–I'd love to see if that came up in the deposition.
  • The documents turned over in response to early document requests. These would be interesting for several reasons. We'd get to see how much Scooter turned over in response to early request, and how much of what was released at trial (like his notes) he sat on. We'd get to see whether or not Rove turned over his famous email to Hadley, which later formed the lame excuse explanation for why he suddenly remembered talking to Cooper just as Cooper got a second subpoena. We could see how much Armitage turned over early in the investigation, which I suspect would silence the cries on the right that the FBI simply didn't look hard enough to find Armitage's Woodward conversation. And heck–those early document requests might provide a glimpse into the evil workings of the White House Iraq Group.

Well, that's a preliminary list. Me — I've been obsessed with the Off the Record Club, so that's where I'd start.

After getting Bush and Dick's testimony, of course.

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