When Team Scooter Libby Talks in a Crowded Cafe, Everybody Listens

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Helpful tips for Washington secret-keeper types:

DO pick a low-profile sandwich joint -- not the Palm or Capital Grille -- for those important confidential meetings you don't want anyone to overhear.

DON'T assume the regular folks at the sandwich shop won't listen in.

A Capitol Hill denizen popped into a crowded little place near Union Station called Cafe Phillips yesterday and found herself practically sitting in on a meeting between Scooter Libby and his lawyers.

Libby -- the former veep aide indicted in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, the most closely shrouded federal prosecution in recent years -- was at the next table, she said, while his defense attorneys, Ted Wells and William Jeffress, had a loud and "lively discussion" about matters such as who will draft discovery letters and petitions. She heard Wells say he hopes Karl Rove will not be indicted because he fears the press coverage would complicate Libby's defense. Jeffress, meanwhile, speculated that Time's Viveca Novak could be the next reporter to lose her job because of the probe.

The only time the group showed concern about potential eavesdroppers was when Wells uttered "Scooter!" -- then "they all froze," our spy said. (Libby, looking "thinner and paler" these days, drank a diet Dr Pepper and bought cookies on the way out.)

Both attorneys confirmed to our colleague Carol Leonnig yesterday that a discussion took place, though Jeffress insisted they didn't discuss anything confidential. We would have choked on our soup if we had overheard Team Libby mention "Rove" and "indicted" in the same sentence, but both lawyers were amused the conversation drew any interest.

Said Wells: "I'd be willing to say it on the courthouse steps that I hope Rove is not indicted. The Libby case does not need the extra press."

Big John's Big 50: Dingell's Congressional Service Milestone Saluted at a White House Lunch

John Dingell was 29 when he ran in a special election for his late father's congressional seat. The campaign cost $19,000 -- a "hideous" amount of money at the time, but "now as I reflect on it, it seems the right amount to spend on a political campaign."

John Dingell is Sworn In
Rep. John Dingell, being sworn in by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas in 1956.(Courtesy of the Dingell Family via AP)
The Michigan Democrat won that election on Dec. 13, 1955 -- and celebrated 50 years in Congress yesterday. There was a huge party in October, so this was supposed to be just another work day. As if.

President and Laura Bush hosted a luncheon in their private quarters at the White House for the man Bush once called "the biggest pain . . . on Capitol Hill," and Dingell declared it was "one of the most extraordinary events of my life. In a word, it was overwhelming." Among the 30 guests were Dingell's wife, Debbie , his mother-in-law, brother, sister, son, daughter and granddaughter. Back home, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm declared it "John Dingell Day"; in the House, Speaker Dennis Hastert introduced a resolution praising his service. Big John and fellow Democrats capped off the day with dinner at Rep. Rosa DeLauro's home last night.

The 79-year-old lawmaker is now third on the list of longest-serving House members. On Feb. 14, 2006, he'll pass former congressman Carl Vinson , who served from 1914 to 1965 (50 years, 2 months and 14 days), and will top former congressman Jamie Whitten on Feb. 14, 2009 -- Whitten held office from 1941 to 1995, setting the record of 53 years, 2 months and 13 days.

"It's not about breaking records; it's about making a difference," said his wife yesterday. "He wants to be chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee again."

As Dingell is fond of saying: "That's up to the good Lord, the lovely Deborah and the good people of Michigan."

This Just In

Okay, so she's human. Martha Stewart made her first trip to the emergency room last weekend after carving a turkey -- and her left hand. The Domestic Diva revealed on her show yesterday that she invited 28 guests to her New York estate for a working dinner (never too early to start thinking of next year's Thanksgiving issue of Martha Stewart Living) when the knife slipped and cut her left palm. The docs at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco gave her eight stitches and had her back home in an hour -- and yes, the party did go on.

Quote

"Her mouth is amazing. I've never kissed anyone with a bigger mouth than Angelina . It's like two water beds -- it's like this big kind of warm, mushy, beautiful thing."

Model Jenny Shimizu, discussing her ex-girlfriend, the current U.N. goodwill ambassador, with the London Sun. (She adds that Brad Pitt may have a hard time "controlling" Jolie: "She's not going to be a housewife.")


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