WASHINGTON, Oct. 25
12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no other news organization in America has matched the New York Times' historic lede: "I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday." LINK
12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no one has said the story is wrong. 12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no one has figured out if the Times' source was Libby's lawyer, someone within Fitzgerald's office, someone within Cheney's operation, or Cheney's lawyer. (Or someone else.)
(Although we would Note that there is no mention of Cheney's lawyer, Terrence O'Donnell of Williams and Connolly in the Times story. ABC News has been told that Mr. O'Donnell is out of the country currently. Could the Times really not have tried to reach Mr. Cheney's lawyer or not Note that they did try? Any Note reader not familiar with Williams and Connolly's fabled history of last-minute strategic leaking to one single news organization on behalf of political clients needs to spend the day on Nexis.)
(On the other hand, the Gang of 500 is very focused on the specificity of what Libby lawyer Tate would not comment on within the Times story. Some see it as quite different from the usual construction that "he could not be reached" or "would not comment." But the Times story says, "...Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, would not comment on Mr. Libby's legal status." (Italics added by a over-excited Googling monkey.) For some, that makes Tate, quite simply, the Gang's number one suspect.)
12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no one has figured out definitively what motive the Times source(s) had in giving them the story.
(Although the Gang of 500 has guesses.)
(Libby's lawyer: get it out pre-indictment to soften the blow and try to protect the boss -- although if that was the goal, it doesn't seem to have worked.)
(Someone within Fitzgerald's office: a dissident trying to force a reluctant Fitzgerald into an indictment or a cheerleader trying to build a pre-indictment frenzy.)
(Someone within Cheney's operation: a dissident trying to force a reluctant Fitzgerald into an indictment or a protector trying to shield the boss --although if that was the goal, it doesn't seem to have worked, for now.)
(Cheney's lawyer: get it out pre-indictment to isolate the cancer and throw Scooter from the scooter.)
12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no one has figured out the cosmic significance of Johnston-Stevenson-Jehl byline.
"Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said."
"The notes (sic), taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war."
A Republican close to the Vice President provides this reaction to ABC News' Jonathan Karl: "Nobody should fall out of their chair if they hear the Vice President discussed classified information with his national security advisor. The issue is if somebody disclosed classified information improperly or was not truthful to a grand jury." The Republican says, emphatically, nothing in the New York Times account suggests the VP did anything wrong.
That is true, but it certainly allows every television reporter standing on the North Lawn today to place Vice President Cheney squarely in the middle of Plamegate for the first time.
And that guarantees that all eyes will be trained on the federal courthouse in Washington, DC today, even though ABC News' Jason Ryan reports that the grand jury investigating the CIA leak case is not meeting. As you read this, stakeouts have already been stuck out, although the whereabouts of Fitzgerald and what might occur today is very much up in the air. Also, the Notion that target letters have already been sent out is something that we can't even be Cindy Adamsesque about.
Out in Wyoming, where he flew last night after some Western fundraising, Vice President Cheney has his regular intelligence briefing, a Hurricane Wilma briefing, and other meetings. Tonight, he attends an event at the University of Wyoming. He will travel back to Washington, DC tomorrow after regular briefings and will attend the tribute to Rep. John Dingell's (D-MI) 50 years in the House Wednesday evening.
ABC News' Karen Travers reports that Cheney will be in Washington, DC on Thursday and receive his regular schedule of briefings and will attend an evening closed press reception for Rep. Barbara Cubin. On Friday, Cheney travels to Georgia for fundraisers for former Reps. Max Burns and Mac Collins and meets with troops at Robins Air Force Base. The fundraisers are open press. Details for the Robins Air Force Base event are TBA.
Doing his best not to let the background noise interfere with his job, today President Bush speaks to the Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' Luncheon, meets with the president of the Kurdistan regional government (whether or not he answers a question from the pool in the Rose Garden is still unclear), and attends an RNC dinner to celebrate the Eagles' 30th birthday celebration. The event will bring in at least $1 million for the RNC. Approximately 250 attendees are expected and each couple contributed $15,000.
The day's single other must-read comes from the Washington Post.
To deal with what they consider the "darkest days" of the Bush presidency, White House advisers are studying the ways in which Reagan and Clinton withstood second-term scandals and they are pursuing a "twofold strategy": confront "head-on" problems such as the Iraq death toll, while "shifting attention" to other areas such as conservative economic policies, the Washington Post's Baker and VandeHei report. LINK
This line from the Baker-VandeHei story has us wondering if RNC honcho Ken Mehlman is laying the rhetorical groundwork for the Bush legacy to be undimmed even if the Miers nomination doesn't make it through the Senate:
"'If you look at Reagan who had two [failed Supreme Court] nominees, who lost control of the Senate and had Iran-contra, did he still have a successful final three years? Absolutely,' Mehlman said in an interview. So, too, will Bush, he predicted."
The House will convene at 12:30 pm ET. Mr. Blunt of Missouri has a pen and pad session today with reporters at 11:30 am ET.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) delivers a major speech on energy policy at 9:00 am ET to the Cleantech Venture Forum at the Wyndham Hotel in Washington, DC.
Speaker Hastert and House Republican leaders will address the increasing energy prices in America at a 1:30 pm ET Captiol Hill press conference.
The seven Republican Senators who make up the Senate "fiscal watch team" -- Sens. Brownback, Coburn, DeMint, Ensign, Graham, McCain, and Sununu -- unveil "specific offsets" to hurricane spending relief at 12:30 pm ET on Capitol Hill.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will meet with Hurricane Katrina survivors at 11:00 am ET on Capitol Hill to discuss how "Republican budget cuts will hurt Gulf Coast citizens, and what the Congress should be doing to help these families with health care, education, and housing."
The Senate convenes at 9:30 am ET. Following morning business, the Senate will resume consideration of HR 3010, Labor-HHS appropriations. A roll call vote has been scheduled to occur on an amendment to the bill at 10:30 am ET.
The Senate holds its weekly policy luncheons from 12:30 pm to 2:15 pm ET today.
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), Al From, Gene Sperling, and others hold an 11:00 am ET DLC roundtable entitled, "The Democratic Alternative: Restoring Fiscal Responsibility" at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, DC.
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) holds an 11:00 am ET press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the re-introduction of "comprehensive immigration reform legislation."
Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John Sununu (R-NH) hold a 2:15 pm ET presser on the Hill to emphasize their support for the Senate version of the Patriot Act reauthorization – the Senate version places checks on the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act. (Note to Sen. Feingold: Quite the sneaky way to get Granite State coverage, sir.)
At 8:00 pm ET, Sen. Clinton will join Sen. Jon Corzine at an Essex County dinner in West Orange, NJ. Earlier in the day, Corzine holds a 1:30 pm ET labor event in Bloomfield, NJ.
Republican Majority for Choice endorses New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester (R) at 1:00 pm ET at the Newark Airport Marriott.
Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) attends a 9:15 am ET Council for Rural Virginia Membership meeting in Roanoke, VA. He then holds a campaign rally in Harrisonburg, VA at 12:00 pm ET before meeting with voters in Staunton, VA at 2:00 pm ET and with voters in Waynesboro, VA at 3:30 pm ET.
Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore delivers 11:00 am ET remarks to the Virginia Municipal League. He began his day by speaking to the Midlothian Rotary Club in Richmond at 7:00 am ET.
Former President Bill Clinton delivers the keynote speech at a "Generation Engage" event at a Ralph Lauren store in New York City.
Be sure to check out the rest of today's events in our expanded schedule section below.
The Fitzgerald investigation:
In the only story to semi-advance the Times exclusive, Bloomberg's Richard Keil and Holly Rosenkrantz look at the "opening fissure" between Cheney and Libby, and have "one lawyer intimately involved in the case" saying that "one reason Fitzgerald was willing to send Miller to jail to compel testimony was because he was pursuing evidence the Vice President may have been aware of the specifics of the anti-Wilson strategy." LINK
The Los Angeles Times rewrites the New York Times Cheney story with full, agonizing credit, but doesn't advance it. Unless this sentence about Fitzgerald was buried breaking news, as opposed to just sloppily written: "He is expected to announce indictments this week." LINK
Oh, the agony in the Washington Post newsroom last night must have been excruciating.
The Wall Street Journal's John McKinnon curtain raises the Democratic and Republican PR blitzes that are sure to come if and when Fitzgerald hands down indictments. ". . . A draft set of talking points for Senate Democrats shows that some members of the party plan to use the charges as the basis for a broader assault on how the Bush Administration mishandled the run-up to the Iraq war. Republicans, meanwhile, have started complaining about prosecutorial overreach."
Per Roll Call, House Democratic leaders have spent recent days devising a plan to highlight GOP ethical missteps and national security compromises should indictments happen this week.
The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler takes critiques recently offered by Brent Scowcroft, Larry Wilkerson, and Robin Raphel to put the CIA leak controversy into the context of a larger dispute over the wisdom of President Bush's Iraq policy. LINK
New York Times Select-men Kristof and Tierney both question the validity of indictments in the Fitzgerald investigation.
The New York Daily News reports that "President Bush's damage-control handlers are plotting a sophisticated war room offensive to fight back against possible indictments in the CIA leak probe" as they work on "finalizing its campaign to discredit and undermine special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's conclusion." LINK
In a profile of the husband at the center of the leak controversy, the Washington Post's Milbank and Pincus write that "nobody disputes" that Amb. Joseph Wilson has been successful in turning an "arcane matter involving the Intelligence Identities Protection Act into a proxy fight over the Administration's credibility and its case for war in Iraq." LINK
James Carville and Laura Ingraham did the left/right thing on NBC's "Today" show this morning and agreed on two things. First, the CIA leak investigation is not currently on the radar of the American people, but should someone get indicted the story will land squarely on their kitchen tables. Second, neither Carville nor Ingraham believes Harriet Miers will become the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. In fact, they both are placing their rhetorical wagers that she will withdraw her nomination.
The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein has Paul Rosenzweig, a former federal prosecutor, saying of Fitzgerald, "If it's going to be a perjury case, he's got a hard case because his key witness is Judy Miller. She has some issues as a witness." LINK
The New York Post's editorial board says "Judith Miller deserves better than what she's gotten to date from The New York Times." LINK
Harriet Miers for Associate Justice:
The Los Angeles Times writes up the battle over Miers' White House documents, but Notes that the President "cited only confidentiality, not the formal doctrine of executive privilege, in backing his position that White House materials are off-limits." LINK
"One reason might be that the White House is hoping to avoid a confrontation over executive privilege, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court when sought by outside groups but may not be absolute when applied to Congress."
David Jackson of the Dallas Morning News reminds his readers of the Krauthammer conspiracy toward the end of his NOD piece. LINK
The New York Times also focused on President Bush's repeated refusal to turn over documents related to Miers' work in the White House, saying the "red line" of executive privilege is not one he is willing to cross. LINK
Be sure to Note the story's final graphs reporting that conservative groups will begin running ads against Miers' confirmation.
And this gem of a blind quote previewing the hearings: "'It's something of a gamble, because she's an unknown quantity on these issues on television,' a Republican close to the West Wing, said. 'But I think they're going to take it. They're not going to pre-emptively fold.'"
In a piece looking at Web sites and ad campaigns seeking Miers's withdrawal, the Washington Post's Fletcher and Babington report that the Family Research Council is "close to coming out formally against her." Mark Smith, the vice president of the New York chapter of the Federalist Society, says Miers does not even deserve hearings. LINK
"Two longtime leaders of the conservative movement yesterday called for the withdrawl of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court," Ralph Hallow of the Washington Times reports. LINK
In a piece looking at the intensifying efforts of conservatives to force the withdrawal of Miers, the Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings has Richard Viguerie, a Republican direct-mail expert and a leader of the anti-Miers campaign, saying, "If President Bush continues with this nomination, he is in serious danger of permanently losing the majority of support from the conservative movement. Once he loses his conservative base, it will doom his second term."
Bloomberg's James Rowley has both Democrats and Republicans saying that Bush's refusal to hand over documents may doom Miers's chances. LINK
Sounding an awful lot like Charles Krauthammer, Manuel Miranda, executive director of the Third Branch Conference, says the refusal to hand over documents is "actually a magic bullet" because it allows the President to say "I have to defend the integrity of the White House."
Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe with news of day. LINK
Per Roll Call's Paul Kane: "Conservative activists including James Dobson and Gary Bauer are facing questions from a bipartisan team of Senate Judiciary Committee investigators in advance of the high-stakes confirmation hearing."
Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe writes in his op-ed that the "snag" in Harriet Miers nomination is the "absence of advocates, not the presence of opponents." LINK
Banker Ben Bernanke:
The Los Angeles Times plays up the politics of the Bernanke nomination, saying that "the president's mounting problems were a factor in both the choice of Bernanke and the timing of the announcement," which wasn't expected until November. LINK
Bernanke received mostly positive reviews yesterday from key players in the Senate, reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK
The Washington Post's Neil Henderson on the nomination. LINK
In the Washington Post's analysis of the nomination, Jonathan Weisman writes that Bush "turned to a candidate for the job with unassailable credentials and enough distance from the White House to blunt charges of cronyism or ideological motivations." LINK
George F. Will writes that his pal Alan Greenspan so transformed the landscape that the public no longer remembers the dangers Greenspan banished and cannot properly value the banisher. LINK
E.J. Dionne wants Bernanke to learn not only from Greenspan's successes but also from his failures. LINK
Greg Ip reports for the Wall Street Journal's front page that Bernanke is expected to focus on inflation, not on "asset bubbles."
In his front-page story for the Wall Street Journal, Jon Hilsenrath reports that Bernanke may favor an explicit embrace of an "inflation target."
In contrast to the Miers pick, the Wall Street Journal's Christopher Cooper sees the Bernanke pick as one that "didn't take any chances."
The Journal Notes that stocks made their "biggest gain in months" on word of the Bernanke selection.
Fred Barnes tick tock of the pick is a semi-must-read selection, and the closing graph is a must-read in and of itself.
The New York Times on news of day: LINK
The New York Times profile: LINK
The Houston Chronicle reports that a retired judge will take up DeLay's case on November 1st and decide whether state District Judge Bob Perkins political donations make him bias in this case. LINK
Roll call reports that DeLay purchased a paper shredder two weekends ago at the Needville Harvest Festival in Fort Bend County in his home state.
Frist and HCA:
The New York Times' Stolberg examines the link between Sen. Bill Frist's past and present political fortunes and his ties to HCA. LINK
"When a little-known transplant surgeon named Bill Frist decided to enter politics in 1994, he relied on his family's fortune and name to catapult him to the Senate. From the moment he arrived in Washington, Mr. Frist, now the Republican leader, has made health care his signature issue. But as the senator lays the groundwork for a possible presidential bid in 2008, he is finding that that his family ties may be as much a hindrance as a help."
(The story seems to lean more heavily in the unlucky/politically tone deaf direction than the illegal insider trading direction.)
The politics of national security:
According to the New York Times, the White House has pushed for the CIA to be exempted from a proposed ban on abusive treatment of detainees. Sen. John McCain, the lead supporter of the ban, has rejected the proposal. LINK
The Washington Post has it too: LINK
The politics of Iraq:
Following up on his scathing speech last week, Lawrence Wilkerson uses the Los Angeles Times' op-ed page to blast the "secretive, little-known cabal" that has controlled national security decisions at the White House, while defending his former boss at the State Department. LINK
"It takes firm leadership to preside over the bureaucracy. But it also takes a willingness to listen to dissenting opinions. It requires leaders who can analyze, synthesize, ponder and decide. The administration's performance during its first four years would have been even worse without Powell's damage control. At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet."
The politics of hurricanes:
In a piece looking at how much Katrina aid remains unspent, the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes reports that the White House and Congress are considering a third emergency appropriations bill of about $20 billion, which would mainly go to cover costs incurred by agencies other than FEMA. "That prospect is sure to further rile congressional Republicans, torn between the House's anti-spending conservatives and lawmakers eager to show generosity to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as those recently hit by floods in New England and Hurricane Wilma in Florida."
The New York Times looks at Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's attempts to have the federal government better respond to Wilma than it did to Katrina. LINK
The Los Angeles Times looks at the debate over enterprise zone tax breaks, saying little data exists to support their effectiveness. LINK
Here is an excerpt of an email Sen. Bill Frist sent to his VOLPAC network last night announcing his intention to bring immigration legislation to the floor in February:
"America has always opened her arms to those who long for a better life. But the simple fact is … a country that can't control its own borders can't control its own destiny."
"So here is what I want you to know: Tomorrow, I will announce that I will bring border security legislation to the Senate floor at the beginning of next year, in February. . . and I expect there to be a full and comprehensive debate."
"We need broader legislation. . . legislation that reduces the number of deaths of people trying to cross the border illegally. . . reduces the trafficking in, and exploitation of, human beings that is so rampant today. . . and adds another layer of protection against the terrorist threat which still exists."
The Oregonian has Sen. McCain opposed to off-reservation Indian gambling casinos. LINK
The AP looks at Gov. Pataki's (R-NY) Golden State swing. LINK
Here is a little background for you on Sen. Clinton's upcoming appearance at a Boston fundraiser for New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch. The two Democrats share the services of powerhouse media consultant Mandy Grunwald. And it is quite appropriate that the event is taking place in Beantown, the very city where Sen. Clinton and then-candidate Lynch last met during the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Sen. Clinton and Gov. Lynch have exchanged phone messages since then, but have not met in person.
Gov. Bill Richardson calls for his state treasurer, who is faced with federal extortion charges, to resign from his post. LINK
The New York Post gets an early read on the latest Quinnipiac University poll to be released today, showing Bloomberg ahead 61 percent to 30 percent. LINK
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) was on the trail with Ferrer yesterday, making questioning/questionable comments about Bloomberg's donations to GOP leaders. LINK
The New York Daily News calls Mayor Bloomberg's push to expand the city's plan to provide health care to the poor "stealing another page from the playbook of his Democratic rival...while also giving voters less of a reason to vote for Ferrer by narrowing the policy differences between them." LINK
New York's mayoral candidates dueled over competing health care proposals yesterday, reports the New York Times. LINK
Once the informal brain trust of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the Manhattan Institute has been frozen out by the Bloomberg administration. LINK
The New York Post reports that, "In a rare public spat, Gov. Pataki yesterday shot down Mayor Bloomberg's pitch to replace Ground Zero's proposed office towers with housing and hotels." LINK
The paper's editorial board also slams the idea, saying "color us confused." LINK
Bloomberg gets some flack over campaign volunteers pretending to be diners at a breakfast event last month. LINK
Stephanie McCrummen reports for the Washington Post's front-page that new exurban enclaves in Virginia lean GOP, but that residents seem isolated from state and local government. LINK
Michael Alison Chandler reports for the Washington Post's Metro section that nomadic workers have converged on Virginia from this year's busy election season. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
Gov. Schwarzenegger faced off yesterday with opponents of the ballot initiatives he is promoting for the Nov. 8 special election. LINK
From the Los Angeles Times: "In what was billed as a 'showdown' between Schwarzenegger and his Democratic opponents, a 90-minute public forum in a local auditorium here offered the Republican governor a chance to make a now-familiar case: that he is fighting against union propaganda, entrenched legislators and backroom deals."
With the November 8 special election just around the corner, The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger seemed at ease in his first in-depth televised appeal to California voters. Said the Governor: "I'm not to the right, I'm not to the left, I'm the people's representative." LINK
The Hill reports that House Democrats are holding a closed door meeting today to come up with a new slogan for the 2006 midterm elections. According to Democratic sources the two slogans on the table are "Together, We Can Do Better" or "Together, America Can Do Better." LINK
The Denver Post writes up Vice President Cheney's fundraising on behalf of Republican Rick O'Donnell in Colorado-7. LINK
Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett made his official entry into the Ohio U.S. Senate race. LINK
Other Tuesday schedule items:
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) discusses whether journalists should have a federal shield law at 11:00 am ET at the Heritage Foundation.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and NAACP Director Hillary Shelton tout the role the Employee Free Choice Act could play in "reinstating the vital democratic right of workers to form unions" at 12:00 pm ET at AFL headquarters in Washington, DC.
Justice Antonin Scalia participates in a panel discussion at The Catholic University of America's law school.
John Edwards speaks on poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) makes a "major announcement" regarding his "future public service" at 12:00 pm ET at Prince George's Community College in Largo, MD.