Libby Lawyers Pepper Cooper About Rove
Wednesday, January 31, 2007; 9:41 PM
WASHINGTON -- Reporter Matt Cooper testified Wednesday he thought I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby had confirmed that a prominent war critic's wife worked at the CIA but acknowledged he never asked the White House aide where he'd heard that.
Cooper, Time magazine's White House reporter at the time, became the second reporter to testify at the CIA leak trial that Libby was a source for their learning that Valerie Plame, wife of ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a CIA operative. Libby claims he only told reporters he had heard that information from other reporters.
Libby, ex-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is on trial on charges he lied to the FBI and a grand jury about his conversations with reporters about Plame and obstructed the investigation into how her identity leaked to the public in 2003. He is not charged with the actual leak.
Cooper's appearance allowed defense attorney William Jeffress to ask repeatedly about President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, because Cooper identified Rove as the first official to tell him about Plame's job at CIA. Cooper said Rove told him that Wilson's wife, rather than Cheney, was responsible for sending Wilson to Niger in 2002.
On July 6, 2003, Wilson claimed in print and on television that what he learned on the trip debunked a report that Iraq was trying to buy uranium there for nuclear weapons. He said Cheney should have learned of his findings long before Bush's used the uranium story in his January 2003 State of Union speech as a justification for war with Iraq.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Theodore Wells claimed the White House was trying in 2003 to blame Libby for the leak in order to protect Rove, although Wells did not explain precisely how that related to the perjury charges against Libby.
Cooper recalled a July 12, 2003, telephone conversation in which he asked Libby whether Wilson's wife worked at CIA and was behind the Niger trip.
Cooper testified Wednesday that Libby responded, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or "Yeah, I've heard something like that, too."
Anticipating the defense attack, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked whether Libby said where he heard that.
"Not in any way," Cooper replied.
Did he say he heard it from other reporters?
"No," Cooper said.