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Special Report

How Will the White House Handle the Libby Indictment?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Oct. 28, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: If you’re going to have a grand jury investigation into the improper disclosure of national security information, you are going to have someone in the position Mr. Libby is lying to the FBI on two occasions, and going before a grand jury on two occasion and telling false testimony and obstructing the investigation, that, to me, defines a serious breach of the public’s trust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says Scooter Libby knowingly misrepresented conversations he had with journalists and lied before the grand jury, but Fitzgerald did not move to indict Karl Rove. What does all this mean for the investigation and for the Bush White House?

Stuart Taylor, an attorney, is a columnist for the National Journal, and joins me now to discuss the case. Stuart, it is hard to understand how Scooter Libby, who is a lawyer and who’s dealt with criminal cases, would tell investigators and the grand jury one thing, when he had to have known that other officials were going to give a different account and in one case, his own notes gave a different account. What do you make of this?

STUART TAYLOR, NATIONAL JOURNAL COLUMNIST: That’s right. Well, you have to try and figure out what motive would he have to tell a lie — that’s what is alleged — or at least to say something that’s going to be contradicted, and how could he hope not to get caught out? Well, the motive could be, let’s say he knew that this information was classified about Valerie Plame, not that she was a covert agent, but that it was classified.

Well, that’s a serious wrong, leaking classified information, even if it’s not a crime. It’s not the sort of thing you want to say, oh yes, I knew it was classified. Or let’s say there are others involved and it was a little more orchestrated than this indictment reveals. You might not want to reveal that.

Now, who would be the witnesses against him? There’s a bunch of reporters and the reporters would all prefer not to testify, maybe on this theory that he would assume they wouldn’t testify. There is also a bunch of other officials, including the vice president and others in his office whose testimony is allegedly going to contradict his earlier testimony. Now why he thought they wouldn’t contradict him is a very interesting question and may be one reason this investigation is still open.

ANGLE: And he talked to people at the CIA, he talked to people at the State Department. I mean, there were at least, I think seven meetings or seven discussions with other officials, so it was unlikely that everyone — that someone wouldn’t contradict a story that he seems to remember.

TAYLOR: He had to go into these meetings with the FBI and then the grand jury after being advised by his own lawyer. So it’s not as though oh, gosh. I mean, this was a very carefully planned story that he told, and if it was false, you’re right. It’s a little bit mystifying. Why tell a false story?

ANGLE: Now the root of this investigation was whether or not anyone knowingly outed a covert agent at the CIA. Now, it might have been classified, but he was not indicted for that, nor was anyone else. What do you make of that?

TAYLOR: No, in fact, the indictment doesn’t even claim that Valerie Plame was a covert agent. The definition of a cover agent is you’ve been overseas undercover within the past five years, and there’s a law specifically passed to make it a crime to reveal that, if you know all that information. They don’t claim that they knew it. They don’t claim that she was.

They do claim that it was classified and that is sort of an in between thing. You can be classified without being covert, and there isn’t any law that clearly makes it a crime to reveal classified information, but it’s a violation of government operations.

Bottom line, it looks like whatever is done at the first place, whether it was at all blame-worthy probably depends on whether he knew the information was classified or not or had reason to know. The indictment sort of suggests he did, but doesn’t allege he did.

ANGLE: Doesn’t quite say it.

TAYLOR: Yes, and also, it doesn’t appear — from what we have seen so far doesn’t appear that orchestrated. You know, a lot of the criticisms were, oh, they all got together and decided to smear this guy. Well, really what you have is Scooter Libby allegedly told Judith Miller. The New York Times, wife, CIA, got him the job, and allegedly said yes, I heard that, too, to Matt Cooper of Time when Matt Cooper says something about his wife got him the job. That’s it. That’s all they’re accusing. However, that may not be all they suspect and there may be a chapter two, someday.

ANGLE: Now, it’s interesting to remember, at the time, the vice president’s office was somewhat irritated that there was this notion afoot that the vice president had some role in getting Wilson sent on this mission. And one reason they were asking all these questions was to find out who sent him. And that’s how her name came up. But as you say, there doesn’t seem to be much sign of a conspiracy that people went out just with the idea of beating up on poor Joe Wilson for some political vendetta.

TAYLOR: No, I don’t think that fits. Now the Wilson story doesn’t hang together very well in various ways. There is a case to be made that what he actually reported to the CIA in 2002 was more supportive of what President Bush said in the State of the Union address than — much more so than Wilson claims.

ANGLE: Because he said they didn’t get uranium, but that they tried.

TAYLOR: So if they got together and said we have got to discredit this guy. He is not telling the truth, and he’s hurting us, nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all wrong with that. If, in order to discredit him, you know, disclose classified information, there is something wrong with that.

So an awful lot turns on how much you knew about whether it was classified. But then if you lie your head off, to the grand jury and the FBI, all the rest of it becomes kind of background music.

ANGLE: All right, about 30 second now. Karl Rove did not get indicted today, though Fitzgerald made clear the investigation is still open. What do you make of that?

TAYLOR: I think that Karl Rove is not out of jeopardy. There are a couple of spots in the indictment where you read it, you kind of parse it and you wonder, are they figuring that maybe Libby knows something about Rove that would get Rove in a lot of trouble?

And if they are figuring that, do they think that if Libby is looking at a longer prison term, that could become short if he told them that? That’s the suspicion.

ANGLE: All right. Stuart Taylor, thank you.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EDT.

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