I think Matt Yglesias


I think Matt Yglesias mentioned this in one of his recent posts. But it seems sort of silly for people to be claiming that the Woodward revelation demonstrates that Fitzgerald’s investigation was somehow incomplete or flawed because he didn’t find out about Woodward’s role.

My recollection is that Fitzgerald said quite clearly in his press conference that he’d been prevented from getting the whole story and that a key reason for this was Libby’s perjury and obstruction.

Remember the analogy about kicking sand in the umpire’s face?

And there’s another point just brought to my attention by TPM Reader NH. A lot is being made of the supposed fact that Woodward’s revelation disproves one of Fitzgerald’s claims, namely, that Libby was the first person to tell a reporter about Plame.

Libby’s new lawyer Theodore V. Wells Jr. said this new information proved that Fitzgerald’s accusations was “totally inaccurate.”

The article in Thursday’s Post makes the same point, if with far less inflammatory words: “Woodward testified Monday that contrary to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s public statements, a senior government official — not Libby — was the first Bush administration official to tell a reporter about Plame and her role at the CIA.”

But look what Fitzgerald actually said (emphasis added) …

But Mr. Novak was not the first reporter to be told that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Wilson, Ambassador Wilson’s wife Valerie, worked at the CIA. Several other reporters were told.

In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.

Fitzgerald chose his words carefully. He didn’t state as a fact that Libby was the first government official to leak Plame’s identity. Nor did he hang any of his indictment on Libby’s having been the first.

What he said is that Libby’s was the earliest instance he’d found of an official leaking Plame’s identity.

In truth, this whole point seems like a tempest in a teapot. For better or worse, I doubt that precisely what Fitzgerald said about who was first will play any role at Libby’s trial. But it seems worth running this bit of imprecision to ground before it becomes a ‘fact’ by endless repetition.