Libby Lawyer Attempts to Discredit Prosecution Witness

ByPIERRE THOMAS and JASON RYAN

Jan. 24, 2007 — -- On the second day of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's trial, defense lawyer Ted Wells attempted to discredit statements made by prosecution witness Marc Grossman to the FBI.

The defense attempted to show discrepancies in comments made by Grossman in his Oct. 17, 2003, interview with the FBI at the beginning of the criminal investigation into who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent and former diplomat Joseph Wilson's wife.

Wells focused on an FBI report about Grossman's interview, not submitted into evidence, in which Grossman told the FBI that he had only spoken with Libby about Joseph and Valerie Wilson by telephone.

In Grossman's two FBI interviews on Oct. 17, 2003, and Feb. 4, 2004, before his grand jury testimony on March 12, 2004, Grossman never referenced a face-to-face meeting with Libby, according to Wells.

But on Tuesday, Grossman testified that he spoke with Libby after a White House meeting in person by the entrance to the White House Situation Room.

On June 9, 2003, Grossman also spoke on the phone with Wilson. Wilson said he was angered by comments made by Condoleezza Rice on "Meet the Press," Grossman testified. On the program the previous day, Rice referred to Wilson as a low-level person.

"He was furious…He was really mad," Grossman said. During this conversation, Wilson said he might go public with his version of the Iraq-Niger caper, Grossman said on the stand.

Wells' line of questioning also focused on the State Department intelligence report which Grossman requested to find out about the nature of the Iraq-Niger claims and the Wilson trip.

The review of the intelligence reports and FBI interviews were met with roughly 12 objections by Fitzgerald's deputy prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg, who was concerned that the questions deviated to topics other than conversations concerning Libby and Wilson.

Wells also drilled down into conversations between Grossman and then Deputy Sec. of State Richard Armitage about Armitage's conversations with the FBI. Armitage contacted Grossman the day before his October 2003 FBI interview, Grossman said. Armitage told him that he revealed to the FBI that he had told journalist Robert Novak about Plame's work at the CIA, Grossman said.

"He -- Richard Armitage -- told the FBI that he…disclosed Mrs. Wilson's work status at the CIA to Robert Novak?" Wells asked.

"Yes, sir," Grossman responded.

The prosecution's second witness, former CIA Associate Deputy Director Robert Grenier, bolstered the prosecution's theory that Libby was intensely interested in the Niger trip and was asking about Wilson specifically.

Grenier, who was point man to CIA Director George Tenet on Iraq, had seen Libby on a regular basis at meetings in the White House Situation Room. But, he said, the two were only casual acquaintances and did not have a close working relationship.

On June 11, 2003, when he got a call from Libby to ask about the Niger trip, Grenier testified that he was surprised.

"It was pretty clear he wanted answers," Grenier said. "It was unusual for him to call in the first place…He was serious."

Grenier testified that later in the day, when he was in an Iraq meeting with Tenet, Libby called Grenier to find out more about Wilson.

"Someone came to the door and beckoned me out," Grenier said. "I don't think I've ever been pulled out a meeting with the director before."

Grenier told Libby that the CIA had sanctioned the Wilson trip and that Wilson's wife was involved. Grenier said Libby seemed pleased by this.

Grenier said he was forthcoming and responsive to Libby's questions because of Libby's senior position as the vice president's chief of staff and the controversy between the White House and the CIA on pre-war Iraq intelligence claims. He testified that Libby inquired about releasing this information to the press.

After consulting with Harlow, Grenier told Libby, "We can work something out."

According to Grenier's testimony, Libby said the vice president's communications director Cathy Martin would coordinate the effort with Harlow and the CIA public affairs office.

Defense documents submitted into evidence late today in the Libby trial and distributed earlier this evening to reporters contains a series of intelligence reports from the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), the U.S .Embassy in Niger and CIA on the nature of Joseph Wilson's 2002 trip to Niger to investigate if Iraq was attempting to acquire uranium.

The State Department Intelligence report sent to Marc Grossman, the former undersecretary of state for policy and first government witness refers to Wilson as a "Walk On." "From what we can find in our records, Joe Wilson played only a walk-on part in the Niger/ Iraq uranium story. In a February 19, 2002 meeting convened by Valerie Wilson, A CIA WMD manager and the wife of Joe Wilson he previewed his plans and rationale for going to Niger but said he would only go if the Department thought his trip made sense."

The report makes reference to concerns that documents discovered by an Italian journalist claiming that Iraq had been looking to procure Uranium had been forgeries. The FBI would investigate this claim, close the case and then eventually reopen the investigation when the Special Counsel Fitzgerald's investigation heated up.

The report and the attached briefings below show notes taken by an analyst on the 2/19/02 meeting Wilson attended in Niger which was organized by the CIA and perhaps Plame herself. Notes from a State Department West Africa analyst noted of the meeting, "Meeting apparently convened by Valerie Wilson, CIA WMD managerial type and the wife of Amb. Joe Wilson with the idea that the agency [CIA] and the larger USG could dispatch Joe to Niger to use his contacts there to sort out the Niger/Iraq uranium sale question."

Under prosecution question Grossman acknowledged that he found these reports interesting and was asked by Libby on a couple of occasions after May 2003 for any information about Wilson's trip to Niger. Under defense questioning by Ted Wells, Grossman said, "he found it odd that she organized the trip." The defense seems to be establishing that knowledge of Plame was widespread. Grossman's cross examine resumes tomorrow morning.

Ashley Phillips contributed to this report.

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