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Washington Journalism on Trial

"Indeed, for long stretches, the special counsel easily supplanted the timid D.C. press corps and become the fact-finder of record for the Plame story. It was Fitzgerald and his team of G-men -- not journalists -- who were running down leads, asking tough questions and, in the end, helping inform the American people about possible criminal activity inside the White House.

"It's true that Fitzgerald's team had subpoena power that no journalist could match. But reporters in this case had a trump card of their own: inside information. Sadly, most journalists remained mum about the coveted and often damning facts, dutifully keeping their heads down and doing their best to make sure the details never got out about the White House's obsession with discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV by outing his undercover CIA wife, Valerie Plame. . . .

"In a sense, it was Watergate in reverse. . . .

"And that's why the Plame investigation then, and the Libby perjury trial now, so perfectly capture what went wrong with the timorous press corps during the Bush years as it routinely walked away from its responsibility of holding people in power accountable and ferreting out the facts."

More to Come

Matt Apuzzo writes for the Associated Press: "To show jurors that I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby is believable, attorneys for the former White House aide are trying to undercut the credibility of reporters from some of the nation's largest media outlets.

"Libby's attorneys were to resume questioning the memory and scruples of NBC News reporter Tim Russert on Thursday and have said their first batch of witnesses will all be journalists called to rebut other journalists."

The Coverage

Carol D. Leonnig and Amy Goldstein write in The Washington Post: "Tim Russert, the Washington bureau chief for NBC News, yesterday swiftly and firmly rejected I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's assertion that the journalist revealed the identity of an undercover CIA officer to him during a telephone call in the summer of 2003.

"Testifying as the final, and perhaps most critical, prosecution witness in the perjury trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Russert recounted their conversation that July and how a 'very agitated' Libby called to complain about MSNBC's 'Hardball.' Russert said that the subject of the CIA officer, Valerie Plame, never came up and that he could not have told Libby anything about her.

"'That would be impossible,' Russert said, 'because I didn't know who that person was until several days later.'

"Libby, who faces five felony counts of lying to investigators about his role in the leak of Plame's identity, has repeatedly testified that he shared information about Plame with other reporters only after hearing it from Russert during the telephone call. Libby has acknowledged that Cheney first told him about Plame's CIA job, in mid-June, but said that he had forgotten the information by the time he heard it from Russert."

Earlier yesterday, the jury heard the last several hours of Libby's audiotaped grand jury testimony.

Leonnig and Goldstein write that "Fitzgerald repeatedly pressed Libby to explain any role the vice president may have played in the leak. . . .


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