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HJC: Scott McClellan Testimony, Part I

Oh, the excitement, the goosepimples…the snitching. You know, I could have been just a wee bit more excited about all these revelations if McClellan had bothered to (a) make them all public at a time when they would have done the country some good (as in while the lying may have been occurring within the White House instead of well after the fact); and (b) if I were confident that he’d called out the alleged false statements and collusion from Libby, Rove and others while the grand jury was still meeting and had been honest with Patrick Fitzgerald — fully and completely honest — from the get go. But maybe that’s just me.

Take note, Democrats in the House: this man used to be the Bush/Cheney Administration’s mouthpiece, which now wants you to trust it enough to sign off on a FISA deal to cover it’s asses by giving telecoms immunity from ever having to be honest with you or the public about what they were asked to do. Feeling trust now? (Do read this piece from Ari Melber in The Nation. Feel like making a few calls for the rule of law?)

Time and The Hill have intro pieces up on potential lines of inquiry for today’s Scottie testimony. But if you want the real scoop, read Marcy. The hearing is set to begin at 9:30 am ET. We’ll be liveblogging to the best of our ability once it starts. C-Span3 will be broadcasting live as well. Get yer coffee at the ready…


9:30 am ET — McClellan entering the committee room, shaking hands with members of the committee. Will be underway in a little bit. Conyers and Lamar Smith having some sort of spirited discussion off mike before things get going. Crazy media camera frenzy to start — you can hear the shutters going off on the C-Span feed as background noise.

9:35 am ET — Conyers bringing the committee to order. Mike and Jane Tigar, counsel for the witness, are present. Many commentators have noted that this testimony is the most important of the Administration. Talking about Nation article talking about how the Administration played fast and loose with information taking the nation to war, and how McClellan’s book brings this to light. Gets into destroying the reputation of Amb. Joe Wilson and his wife, former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

When the Administration uses its immense power to silence dissenters, Congress must check and balance an errant executive branch. McClellan’s book says that there was a selective release of classified information to reporters to rebut the Wilson story. Highlights that McClellan brings up information about facts and actions which go beyond what Libby was convicted of — that McClellan said he wouldn’t vouch for illegal behavior, talking about the Card conversation with McCLellan — give Libby the same assurances that you gave Karl after conversations between President and Veep.

Showing the notes from Cheney that were used at Libby trial regarding press treatment of Scooter being same as Rove. The "meat grinder" note from Cheney. Walking through the rationale of why getting to the bottom of what happened within the WH at the highest levels with this. Conyers says he wants interview reports and unredacted interview reports of top level WH officials from DOJ — the Justice Dept. has been less cooperative, has refused to give them access to even redacted materials that the oversight committee of Congress had already seen.

Look forward to hearing from McClellan on role of President and Veep. The issue of a pardon for Libby is still outstanding, even with the commutation already issued. Will explore this as well.

Talking about bi-partisan spirit of the committee. And now recognizing Lamar Smith.

LAMAR SMITH: Welcome to the next book of the month club meeting. Makes an Ann Coulter joke. Hard to take anything McClellan says seriously — points to the three intel reviews which said that the WH didn’t force intel into its own corners. Spin at the WH? Please…what WH hasn’t had spin. Motives are important — what we don’t know are McClellan’s motives. [CHS notes: And the GOP theme is set…welcome to the rip down of your reputation, Scott.] How much influence did a biased editor have on the product. [CHS notes: oh jeebus, Smith is bringing up George Soros. Wingnut heads explode nationwide.]

Who is the real Scott McClellan? blah blah blah blah selling out friends for pieces of silver blah blah blah blah giving McClellan the out to say he was manipulated by an extremely partisan editor with an agenda blah blah blah blah

McClellan’s counsel objects to Lamar Smith. It’s disallowed.

Conyers introduces evidence into the record that he used during his opening. Giving intro information on McClellan. Putting him under oath.

MCCLELLAN: Here today at your invitation to discuss the Plame investigation. I was silenced by the WH ostensibly because of the criminal investigation. I made a commitment to talk to the public about what I knew during that time, and that is part of why I wrote the book. The WH has tried to obfuscate on this — sadly they remain silent, and the result has been to increase the poisoned atmosphere in Washington. The scandal culture is being perpetuated by keeping all of this from public scrutiny.

Calls on President to lead on this issue. He should put nation’s interest above partisan goals. This is about power and electoral victory — government becomes an object of campaigning, not vice versa. Too often, the media unwittingly ignores the impact of decisions on people, and concentrates instead on the inside scoop of beltway ins and outs.

My critics suck. [CHS paraphrasing here.]

My book reflects the ideal of loyalty that I think is appropriate: loyalty to the government for the people and to the truth of how things happened. Not loyalty to a party or power. It was wrong to reveal Plame’s identity because it compromised the identity of a covert individual and an investigation important to national security. That was wrong.

CONYERS QUESTIONS: Asks about the providing assurances for Libby as he did for Rove. Andy Card asked him — Scott said Libby had to give him the same assurances that Rove had given him personally. Got ont he phone with Libby, Scooter told him point blank that he had not been involved in leaking Plame’s identity to reporters — told him that point blank. Conyers asks about President and Veep’s knowledge. Scott doesn’t think that the President had direct knowledge of this at that time — had numerous conversations with President about this at that time. As for Cheney? Doesn’t know, but there is a lot of suspician there — Fitz put it exactly that way.

Does not think a pardon would be appropriate for Libby, under the standards by which Bush has always granted them in the past. No public remorse, no making amends to society.

SMITH QUESTIONS: Who suggested title of book? McClellan said he talked with publisher and others about it — and they agreed on title. Received $75,000.00 advance on the book, and receives small amount on book sales as well once he earns out advance. Going over political leanings of one of the editors.

Smith says speculating on what Rove and Libby talked about — McClellan says he told the truth about what he knew and what he saw, but doesn’t know what all of their conversations were about. Smith asking about whether Armitage was the original leaker of Plame’s name? McClellan says not really — Armitage’s leak to Novak was the first time any reporter printed her name, but Rove, Libby and Ari Fleischer leaked her name to at least 6 reporters around town prior to Novak’s publication. Lamar Smith tried to keep him from talking about this and McClellan talks over him.

Interruption from Lungren to change the subject to FISA for a minute.  Conyers gets back to the hearing. 

NADLER: Do you know when the president gave instruction to cover Libby’s rear end, did he know about Libby’s involvement? Scott didn’t know that. Found out that Rove and Libby had leaked around the time it was about to be reported in the media. Any steps taken to conduct an internal exam on the leak? WH provided information to DOJ, but his understanding was that the WH was not doing any of that.  Commutation of Libby’s sentence?  Scott says since President said anyone who was involved would be fired and justice served — says commutation not in that spirit.  Was commutation of Libby a part of keeping the facts quiet about this?  Scott says he does not know that, but there were a lot of suspicions raised.  Apologize for character assassination earlier.

You talk about the lead-up to Iraq being a sophisticated political propaganda campaign.  Says it was a marketing campaign — used this to take the nation to war, sold the nation on the premise that Iraq was a grave and gathering danger.  It was overstated, overpackaged — in the way the intel was used.  They were ignoring caveats and information about the facts, and downplaying reports on this being a bad decision.  They ignored contradictory information.  When you ignore the risks and costs of going to war, which we did, that’s wrong. 

COBLE QUESTIONS:  Troubled about the staging on the Iraq build-up.  Has some doubts about whether Libby should have been prosecuted.  What were your thoughts when you learned about Armitage revealed her identity?  Scott says he can’t speak to that other than what has been revealed during the trial — he feels that all of the information should have gone out immediately on who di what when her identity was revealed.  The WH has refused to be honest about all of this, and that’s why we are here today.

Three votes on the journal ordering the question on the rule.  Have a child abuse vote, a vote on another House Res., and on the FISA bill.  Stand in recess until those matters are covered, and will resume after this has been completed.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com