Did Cheney Tell Libby to Do It?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, June 3, 2008; 1:55 PM

Former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told the FBI that it was "possible" that Vice President Cheney instructed him to disseminate information about CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press, according to a redacted FBI report recently examined by Congressional investigators.

In part as a result of that revelation, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today reiterated its request for more Plame investigation documents -- including reports on the interviews investigators conducted with Cheney and President Bush.

In a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Committee Chairman Henry Waxman also writes that "[n]ew revelations by former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan raise additional questions about the actions of the President and the Vice President. Mr. McClellan has stated that '[t]he President and Vice President directed me to go out there and exonerate Scooter Libby.' He has also asserted that 'the top White House officials who knew the truth -- including [Karl] Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney -- allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.' It would be a major breach of trust if the Vice President personally directed Mr. McClellan to mislead the public."

Back in December, I wrote about how special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald had agreed to give congressional investigators key documents from his investigation into the leak -- until the White House intervened. Waxman then asked the newly-installed attorney general to show some independence from his White House masters and release the documents. Committee investigators were eventually allowed to read redacted versions of the reports on interviews with senior administration officials, including Libby and Rove, but not Cheney or Bush.

Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice last year after repeatedly denying that he had told reporters about Plame's identity. Prosecutors presented evidence that he had done precisely that, as part of a coordinated White House campaign to discredit Plame's husband Joe Wilson, an administration critic. Fitzgerald even indicated that he had been hot on Cheney's trail until that line of investigation was cut off by Libby's repeated lies.

As I wrote in a February 2007 column, an FBI agent testified at the trial that Libby said he and Cheney may have discussed in July 2003 "whether to report to the press that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA."

That Libby also told the FBI it was possible that Cheney actually instructed him to do so would seem to go beyond what we already knew. It was in phone calls placed immediately after the conversation in question that Libby mentioned Valerie Plame for a third time to Judith Miller, then of the New York Times, and spoke with Matt Cooper, then of Time Magazine. According to Cooper, it was during that phone call that Libby confirmed that Plame had been involved in her husband's trip -- an allegation Cooper had first heard from Karl Rove.

Waxman writes to Mukasey today: "The Committee is conducting an important investigation to answer questions that Mr. Fitzgerald's criminal inquiry did not address."

Waxman also complains about the redactions in the reports that investigators have been allowed to see and requests unredacted versions: "In his FBI interview, Mr. McClellan told the FBI about discussions he had with the President and the Vice President. These passages, however, were redacted from the copies made available to the Committee. Similar passages were also redacted from other interviews.

"There are no sound reasons for you to withhold the interviews with the President and the Vice President from the Committee or to redact passages like Mr. McClellan's discussions with the President and the Vice President. Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation is closed and he has indicated that it would be appropriate to share these records with the Committee. There has been no assertion of executive privilege."

The McClellan Factor

Years of experience in giving absolutely no ground under questioning paid off last night as former White House press secretary Scott McClellan sailed through a 30-minute Fox News interview with a sometimes fulminating Bill O'Reilly.

It's really worth watching. Here is the video, parts one, two and three.

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