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In Ex-Aide's Testimony, A Spin Through VP's PR
Martin shed light on the mystery of why White House press secretary Scott McClellan promised, falsely, that Libby was not involved in outing CIA operative Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife. After McClellan had vouched for Bush strategist Karl Rove's innocence, Libby asked Martin, "Why don't they say something about me?"
"You need to talk to Scott," Martin advised.
On jurors' monitors were images of Martin's talking points, some labeled "on the record" and others "deep background." She walked the jurors through how the White House coddles friendly writers and freezes out others. To deal with the Wilson controversy, she hastily arranged a Cheney lunch with conservative commentators. And when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof first wrote about the Niger affair, she explained, "we didn't see any urgency to get to Kristof" because "he frankly attacked the administration fairly regularly."
Questioned by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Martin described how Hadley tried to shield White House spokesmen from the Niger controversy. "Everybody was sort of in the dark," she explained. "There had been a decision not to have the communicators involved."
But Martin, encouraged by Libby, secretly advised Libby and Cheney on how to respond. She put "Meet the Press" at the top of her list of "Options" but noted that it might appear "too defensive." Next, she proposed "leak to Sanger-Pincus-newsmags. Sit down and give to him." This meant that the "no-leak" White House would give the story to the New York Times' David Sanger, The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, or Time or Newsweek. Option 3: "Press conference -- Condi/Rumsfeld." Option 4: "Op-ed."
Martin was embarrassed about the "leak" option; the case, after all, is about a leak. "It's a term of art," she said. "If you give it to one reporter, they're likelier to write the story."
For all the elaborate press management, things didn't always go according to plan. Martin described how Time wound up with an exclusive one weekend because she didn't have a phone number for anybody at Newsweek.
"You didn't have a lot of hands-on experience dealing with the press?" defense attorney Theodore Wells asked.
"Correct," Martin replied. After further questions, she added: "Few of us in the White House had had hands-on experience with any crisis like this."
Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.