-- WASHINGTON, July 18
The modern corollary to "don't believe everything you read" is "don't disbelieve everything you read."
We aren't sure about everything that is flying out there, but we are in the midst of a pretty dizzying period.
THINGS WE (THINK) WE KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT BUSH:
-- He will/might name a Supreme Court nominee this week (if the Monday Peter Baker is right LINK and the Sunday Peter Baker is wrong…).
-- He might pick a female for the job (unless he doesn't).
-- He is very loyal to those who are loyal to him.
-- He has at least one event today at which he will have an opportunity to reaffirm that he doesn't comment on on-going investigations (except when he does).
THINGS WE (THINK) WE KNOW ABOUT VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY:
-- He is very loyal to those who are loyal to him.
-- Joe Wilson is not his kind of guy.
-- He is both a detail man and a big picture man.
THINGS WE (THINK) KNOW ABOUT KARL ROVE:
-- "Prosecutors ... have been told that ...Rove, (was) especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility….A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: 'He's a Democrat.' Rove then cited Wilson's campaign donations, which leaned toward Democrats, the person familiar with the case said." (per the Los Angeles Times)
-- That there is some dispute about whether welfare reform was discussed during his famous phone call with Matt Cooper (with obvious implications).
-- That he allegedly ended the call with Cooper with the now (in)famous words "I've already said too much."
-- That a very busy "source familiar with Rove's account" says that no matter HOW Rove learned of Valerie Wilson's CIA employment, the germ of the start of the genesis of it was via a member of the Fourth Estate.
THINGS WE (THINK) WE KNOW ABOUT SCOOTER LIBBY:
-- He has a wonderful sense of humor.
-- The Los Angels Times says the prosecutors have heard testimony that he, too, was especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility…"
-- He should probably try to figure out what enemies he has made at State (current and former) and the Agency (current and former; and we don't mean the EPA either).
THINGS WE (THINK) WE KNOW ABOUT MATT COOPER:
-- He is a brilliant mimic.
-- He has more interesting e-mails and Notes about this matter that somewhere haven't found their way to Isikoff (yet).
THINGS WE (THINK) WE KNOW ABOUT KEN MEHLMAN:
-- He doesn't plan to hold his breath waiting for the apologies to Karl Rove he has demanded.
-- In his soul, he believes he has never attacked Joe Wilson.
-- He is not a big fan of "Vanity Fair."
-- He has not dictionary.commed "vindicate" lately. LINK
THINGS WE (THINK) WE KNOW ABOUT HOWARD FINEMAN:
-- He is seeing his life (or, at least, his career) flash before his bespeckled eyes.
-- He correlates Karl Rove's occasional antics with the traveling White House press corps with feeling "under pressure."
THINGS WE (THINK) WE KNOW ABOUT THE WASHINGTON POST AND OTHER NEWS ORGANIZATIONS WHOSE REPORTERS HAVE TESTIFIED (OR NOT):
-- They are starting to subtly sneak information they obtained in confidence into the paper in some instances.
(Note hint: read closely.)
President Bush visits with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House today, with a joint press availability following at 11:15 am ET. That'll be the first chance to question the President about the weekend's developments, if the press corps so chooses. (The President hosts a state dinner tonight in honor of the Prime Minister at 8:00 pm ET.)
Secretary of State Rice, who is featured in Howard Fineman's Newsweek cover story about the Plame leak, has a busy schedule of meetings with the Indian Prime Minister. At this writing, there are no chances to throw a question to her, though her 1:00 pm ET working lunch with Mr. Singh is open to the press.
Watch carefully for gaps in the President's schedule this week; he is expected to meet with a true short list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Strategists believe that if the President makes up his mind soonish, an announcement of the pick could come by the end of this week.
Why did Attorney General Gonzales cancel his planned visit to the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston this morning?
On Capitol Hill, both chambers continue debate on foreign operations spending. The House plans a debate on the Patriot Act reauthorization. House and Senate conferees meet to hash out an energy bill for the president to sign before the recess. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist may bring any one of a half dozen cell bills to the floor.
At 9:30 am ET, the Foreign Relations committee holds a hearing on the future of Iraq.
In Philadelphia today, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings address the National Council of La Raza. The program begins at 12:30 pm ET. (RNC chairman Ken Mehlman speaks there Tuesday.)
Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) is expected to be named the new chairman of the National Governors Association at the group's annual summer meeting today in Des Moines. Huckabee will likely highlight his "Healthy America" initiative focused on getting Americans to take better care of their bodies and his fight against the root causes of childhood obesity.
Bill Clinton joins a growing list of VIPs to visit Africa with a three-day visit to the continent that began yesterday. The former president will travel to Mozambique, Lesotho, and South Africa (for a visit with Nelson Mandela) as part of his foundation's HIV/AIDS Initiative. We hope you saw Robin Roberts' exclusive coverage of all this on Good Morning America -- there will be more on ABC News coming up.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on emerging trade and business opportunities in the Land Downunder at 6:45 pm ET. The Australian-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the recent granting of the E-3 visa category to Australia will be discussed.
Tomorrow, Karl Rove is scheduled to make an appearance at a Washington, D.C. fundraiser with Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA).
At 9:30 am ET on Wednesday, Matt Cooper and Time editor Norman Pearlstine appear at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on media shield legislation. And there might be more grand jury action this week as well.
See the end of The Note for the rest of the week's schedule.
The Plame leak investigation: news of day:
Watch closely Bloomberg's Keil and Roberts: they clearly are well sourced on this one. Today they say: LINK
"On the same day the memo was prepared, White House phone logs show Novak placed a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, according to lawyers familiar with the case and a witness who has testified before the grand jury. Those people say it is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment."
"The Novak call may loom large in the investigation because Fleischer was among a group of administration officials who left Washington later that day on a presidential trip to Africa. On the flight to Africa, Fleischer was seen perusing the State Department memo on Wilson and his wife, according to a former administration official who was also on the trip…."
"Fleischer, who saw the July 7 memo, wasn't part of Bush's inner circle during his tenure as press secretary, while Rove was at the heart of it. Given those facts, it seems highly doubtful that Fleischer would have acted on the information in the memo without the knowledge or approval of Rove and other top-level White House officials."
"The July 7 memo was largely a reproduction of an earlier State Department report prepared around June 12. Another key question that Fitzgerald is interested in, according to the grand jury witness and the lawyers familiar with the case, is whether Rove or Libby learned of this earlier report and, if so, shared its content with reporters."
"Top aides to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were intensely focused on discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV in the days after he wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times suggesting the administration manipulated intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq, federal investigators have been told," write Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten. LINK
"Prosecutors investigating whether administration officials illegally leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, a CIA officer who had worked undercover, have been told that Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, were especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility, according to people familiar with the inquiry."
"Although lower-level White House staffers typically handle most contacts with the media, Rove and Libby began personally communicating with reporters about Wilson, prosecutors were told. A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: 'He's a Democrat.' Rove then cited Wilson's campaign donations, which leaned toward Democrats, the person familiar with the case said."
And we found this pretty entertaining: "Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has cited recent news reports that Rove heard about Wilson's wife from reporters and that he was not an original source. Those reports said that Rove in fact sought to dissuade Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper — one of the journalists with whom he discussed Wilson's wife — from writing a piece about Wilson's charge."
"'Based on the information that has come out over the last several days, the one thing that's absolutely clear is that Karl was not the source for the leak and there's no basis for any additional speculation,' Luskin said."
The New York Times' Manly and Johnston front-page Cooper's account. LINK
Novak's column today is… about Social Security. LINK
Various reports cite CNN execs saying his job there is safe.
For a case predicted to chill the use of anonymous sources, we've certainly seen more than our share of "lawyers who spoke on the condition that their names not be revealed because they were discussing secret grand jury testimony."
The Plame leak investigation: best of the weekend:
"By Matt Cooper" … LINK
The Four Key Paragraphs from Howard Fineman's Newsweek cover opus:
"Meanwhile, in transatlantic secure phone calls, the message machinery focused on a crucial topic: who should carry the freight on the following Sunday's talk shows? The message: protect Cheney by explaining that he had had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and dismiss the yellowcake issue. Powell was ruled out. He wasn't a team player, as he had proved by his dismissive comments about the 'sixteen words.' Donald Rumsfeld was pressed into duty, as was Condi Rice, the ultimate good soldier. She was on the Africa trip with the president, though, and wouldn't be getting back until Saturday night. To allow her to prepare on the long flight home to D.C., White House officials assembled a briefing book, which they faxed to the Bush entourage in Africa. The book was primarily prepared by her National Security Council staff. It contained classified information—perhaps including all or part of the memo from State. The entire binder was labeled TOP SECRET." LINK
" . . . . no one in the administration seems to have noticed the irony—or the legal danger—in assembling a TOP SECRET briefing book as guidance for the Sunday talk shows."
"And if Rove knew Plame's identity, as Novak says, how did Rove learn it? A source close to Rove has said Rove never saw the State memo. The same source told NEWSWEEK last week that Rove 'doesn't remember' where he heard the crucial information about Wilson's wife. But, the source said, Rove is 'pretty sure he heard it directly or indirectly from a media source.' The source close to Rove later acknowledged that Rove had been questioned by investigators about conversations he may have had with Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. Rove couldn't recall any specific exchange with Libby about Wilson's wife, the source said."
"(Rove did not initially discuss the conversation with Cooper in his first interview with the FBI, a source close to Rove, who declined to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, told NEWSWEEK. But Rove later testified about it, the source said.)"
Time Magazine raises the question of whether Rove received the information through conversation with someone else who had received the information from a media source. LINK
"According to the source, Rove replied, 'I've heard that too,' and told Fitzgerald that he had heard it from a reporter--or perhaps from someone else in the Administration who said he got it from a reporter--Rove just couldn't be certain or remember which one."
The Los Angeles Times recapitulates an early denial from Ari Flesicher: LINK
"Fleischer declined to comment for this article, referring all questions to prosecutors. But in a Sept. 29, 2003, e-mail to The Times, Fleischer denied he was the source of the leak. 'I have no idea who told Novak, but it was not me,' he wrote."
Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen walked through what is known, what is not known, and what the White House did or did not do to make "it" known.
"There has been an element of pretense to the White House strategy of dealing with the Plame case since the earliest days of the saga. Revelations emerging slowly at first, and in a rapid cascade over the past several days, have made plain that many important pieces of the puzzle were not so mysterious to Rove and others inside the Bush administration. White House officials were aware of Plame and her husband's potentially damaging charge that Bush was 'twisting' intelligence about Iraq's nuclear ambitions well before the episode evolved into Washington's latest scandal. " LINK
"Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said he can say 'categorically' that Rove did not obtain any information about Plame from any confidential source, such as a classified document. A lawyer familiar with Rove's testimony hedged a bit on who precisely told Rove about Plame, saying it may have come secondhand from another aide, as well as from Novak."
The Plame leak investigation: analysis:
Ron Brownstein columnizes in the Los Angeles Times on the Rovian GOP closing ranks around Rove while he is under attack. LINK
Brownstein's summation: "Last week's rallying around Rove sends a clear signal that most in the GOP still prefer a party that excites its base and gives no ground to critics. Revelations about Rove's role in the CIA controversy more damaging than those he's faced so far might diminish the party's willingness to defend him personally. But whatever happens to the architect, Republicans seem wedded to his combative strategy for maintaining power."
"The debate over the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity has caused a curious about-face by Washington politicians, with Democrats who have long favored a laissez-faire attitude toward leaks of classified information now decrying them, and Republicans who once wanted to criminalize every such leak suggesting that the one involving Ms. Plame wasn't so terrible,"writes the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein. LINK
Doyle McManus Noted how a complex leak investigation doesn't lend itself to easy political leverage. LINK
The New York Times' Adam Liptak look at the law on revealing the names of covert agents. Let's review: one needed utter an agent's name for an action to be covered, and it isn't up to partisans to determine who is a covered person. LINK
SCOTUS: the battle ahead: On Sunday, Peter Baker of the Washington Post wrote a very confused and confusing piece that suggested that the White House was purposefully and smartly holding back on a nominee in order to minimize the window for slings and arrows (except the piece also said that the White House was caught flat-footed and that many thought the vacuum was a bad idea). LINK
Today, Baker is back with a piece saying that outside advisers to the White House have been told to get ready for a nominee as early as this week. LINK
Todd S. Purdum of the New York Times gets on the front page with a look at the ties that bind many of the players likely to be involved in the confirmation process. LINK
Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letter" in the New York Times looks at the likelihood the President will nominate a woman to replace Justice O'Connor and the meaning of the First Lady's "hint." LINK
"As a lawyer in North Carolina," writes John Edwards in the Raleigh News-Observer. "I had plenty of experiences with good and bad judges. I've seen up close how crucial it can be to families that judges be fair and impartial." LINK
Edwards details his role in a Duncan-for-Boyle switcheroo that, in his opinion, showed why cooperation between the Administration and its critics can be fruitful.
The AP's Nancy Benac profiles the FedSoc. LINK
The Manchester Union Leader's Todd Morrison writes that a (no-joke) proposal to usurp Justice David Souter's New Hampshire property has yet to see follow-through from the California dreaming-of-erecting-a-Lost-Liberty-hotel man. LINK
Fair Judges In Demand: LINK
They certainly are.
The Politics of Iraq:
The New York Times printed a story Sunday on the Sy Hersh New Yorker piece. The article fleshes out more of the substance of the New Yorker report in which Hersh reports that the Administration proceeded with the covert plan to support to certain Iraqi candidates and political parties before the Iraqi elections in January over the Congressional objections. The Times reports that several senior Bush administration officials disputed that, although they recalled renewed discussions within the administration last fall about how the United States might counter what was seen as extensive Iranian support to pro-Iranian Shiite parties LINK
The Washington Post's Dafna Linzer quotes one intelligence official as saying that "I don't believe we actually did provide covert support in the end, but the gray area may have been did we ever consider it? Early on, the administration had approved a policy and then, talking to the working level, they saw there was little chance of success and that it was more likely to backfire." LINK
The politics of terror:
In today's Wall Street Journal, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld writes an editorial about how government in today's information age should be more transparent.
Rumsfeld's main point is that that a "free and well-informed people" will allow balanced view of government, the Armed Forces, and the United States' values and principles, which ultimately will allow freedom to prosper. LINK
He praises himself for being an original supporter of the FOIA, but says it may have backfired by forcing government bureaucrats to spend too much time trying to comply with overbudensome requests.
At the NGA:
It's probably fair to say that if you are a dedicated Note reader, you would have been thoroughly entertained Saturday evening at the joint DGA/RGA event that took place at Raccoon River in Des Moines.
Imagine, if you will, Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) in a Hawaiian-style shirt with images of guitars printed all over it, strumming his guitar and leading his band, "Capitol Offense," through several hours of playing covers of those oldies but goodies.
Now, add to that Govs. Granholm, Sebelius, Blanco, Hoeven, Huntsman, and others getting down on the dance floor to that Huckabee inspired groove.
Sadly, there were no TV cameras in the room.
Just because you should eat your veggies too, here are a couple of policy clips:
The AP on the weekend's gubernatorial discussions about Medicaid and Medicare reform: LINK
Jonathan Roos of the Des Moines Register writes up policy points -- military recruitment and (food supply-depleting) terrorist threats -- illuminated this weekend by Iowa Gov./soon-to-be-DLC chair Tom Vilsack. LINK
David Yepsen reviews the NGA guidelines for revamping high schools and/but urges Iowa districts to take their own initiative -- instead of waiting around for policy implementation -- towards boosting academic performance. LINK
The New York Times' Janofsky on the education standards. LINK
Meanwhile, Vilsack caught the eye of Quad City Times reporters Charlotte Eby and Dan Gearino. Also, it cannot go un-Noted that these governors can (and did) -- in oh-so-snazzy blue aprons -- grill LINK
Thomas Beaumont Noted in the Des Moines Register that Vilsack's fellow Democratic governors were cautious -- though visions of potential presidential candidacy danced in (some of) their heads -- not to step on his toes. Vilsack, though, doesn't seem to mind if other hopefuls cut in when they see an opportunity. LINK
The Des Moines Register's Tim Higgins reports on governors' queasiness over/prescriptions for controlling state health care costs. LINK
David Shribman's Sunday Post-Gazette column on why John McCain and Hillary Clinton are their parties' frontrunners belongs in that special category BEYOND must-read. We won't even try to summarize or quote it. Just….read…..it. LINK
The only reason it isn't 100% spot on: it makes too much of ideology and not enough of personality -- but that's ok.
Mike Glover of the AP continues to own his Hawkeye State beat. Note the Branstad consultations, Speaker Rants being "impressed" with Mitt Romney, and Gordon Fischer's touting of Mark Warner's future Iowa travel. LINK
Branstad is not the only Iowa GOP stalwart being consulted by potential presidential hopefuls. After meeting with the gathered governors in Des Moines, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told The Note that folks like Govs. Romney and Pataki have yet to reach out to him. "Only one potential candidate has met with me thus far and that is Sen. Sam Brownback," said Grassley. "But don't write that like I'm complaining that the others haven't, because I'm not," he added.
What advice does Grassley give about campaigning in Iowa? "I tell them they have to run like they are a candidate for sheriff."
Holding a news conference at the NGA, Gov. Mitt Romney joked with reporters about why Republican chairman Gov. Kenny Guinn of Nevada wasn't there -- he was ''trying to bat down rumors he's looking at a presidential run and, therefore, doesn't want to be in Iowa."
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said of Romney, "Mitt's one of the true leaders among us." LINK
Ron Fournier of the AP reports on the buzz and the substance. LINK
Mort Kondracke asks in his Roll Call column, "The Senate's stem-cell debate forces a moment of truth upon Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.): Is he, at bottom, a doctor and scientist dedicated to saving lives, or just an ambitious politician out to advance his career?"
"At the moment, the evidence suggests the latter -- that he's working to peel votes away from legislation that would hasten stem-cell research, and in the process give himself and his party political cover."
M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Scripps Howard News Service pens a (retrospective) piece on Rep. Tom Tancredo's Iowa visit. David Yepsen wouldn't be surprised to hear a crescendo from this campaign -- if only to tone Republican campaign pitch to include immigration control.
Patrick D. Healy of the New York Times went ot Knoxville, IA with George Pataki and he writes a pretty positive review of the would-be presidential candidate's grip-n-grin skills. LINK
Fred Dicker of the New York Post looks at Verizon money going heavily to Gov. Pataki's Virginia-based PAC. LINK
South Carolinians are upset with Gov. Mark Sanford because of the states slow economy and growth, and Democrats are pointing the finger to Sanford, but Lee Bandy of The State suspects that this issue will not break Gov. Sanford's re-election campaign. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
In his Los Angeles Times column, George Skelton writes Gov. Schwarzenegger appears to have learned an important lesson demonstrated by his decision to end his contract with American Media. Skelton still urges the Governor to call off the special election slated for November. LINK
Tone deaf (to the end?), Mayor Bloomberg's Democratic rivals criticized him for helping the Yankees land Al Leiter, the New York Post reports. LINK
Perhaps more seriously, the Post's Stefan Friedman quotes an anonymous Bloomber adviser who worries that Fernando Ferrer will avoid a runoff. LINK
Mayor Bloomberg's crossover support from Democrats gets another notch in the belt, the New York Times reports. LINK
Maggie Haberman's New York Daily News campaign column has Karen Hicks staying on board with Team Miller to help get his education related ballot line up and running. LINK
Sen. Clinton's '06 moolah: LINK
Nothing much happened at the Democrats' nomination calendar meeting this weekend -- except Sen. Levin and Harold Ickes proved, yet again, that they are The Men.
That Dean kid…he ain't so bad, some who have seen him say. LINK
Pittsburgh was picked for the RNC's summer meeting, which begins Aug. 4. LINK
The New York Post's enterprising Deborah Orin FOIA'ed the Miliary District of Washington and finds out some unredacted details of the funeral plans of 41, 39, and 38, and finds that 42 hasn't filed a plan yet -- because Jim Kennedy says, "He's an optimist." LINK
The New York Times' Revkin on the Barton/Boehlert climate battle. LINK
The New York Times' Felicity Barringer looks at EPA's communication strategy and use of outside consultants. LINK