Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

So many leaks are coming fast and furious now in the Plame/Fitzgerald case that it's hard to know sometimes where they're coming from or what the leakers were trying to achieve. Perhaps the best example of this was yesterday's Daily News story by Tom DeFrank, which provided the first clear evidence that President Bush has known who the culprits were from the beginning and possibly failed to disclose that to Patrick Fitzgerald in their interview last year.

Why would White House officials sell the president out like that? The question becomes more pointed when you note that DeFrank, as we discussed yesterday, has long been close to people in the Bush world.

So what's the story?

According to knowledgeable sources, those White House officials behind that story were trying to help the president, not hurt him. The story, in their view, was about his unhappiness with what Rove had done but his loyalty to those who work for him.

Now, the first thing you have to say on this is that there are some folks in the White House who are pretty stupid. Even a cursory knowledge of where the live wires lay in this story would tell you that those bits of information would lead to someone getting a very big shock.

Ordinarily, such an elementary mistake just wouldn't happen.

This part is just inference, not reporting. But I suspect that what we're seeing here is an example of various players in the White House trying to manage damage control without central direction, perhaps without the requisite experience in some cases and even more likely without all the key facts at hand.

The limbs keep moving even after the head is severed, but not with the same coordination.

Hillary Clinton's senate opponent next year, Republican DA Jeanine Pirro, told a Chemung County Republicans on Tuesday night: "That's a difference between Democrats and Republicans _ we don't want them next door molesting children and murdering women." Now on the defensive, Pirro's campaign manageer Brian Donahue says: "This quote is out of context."

"I don’t think the voters care about this," Ralph Reed on his role on the Jack Abramoff gambling gravy train. "The reason why we didn't know every detail was because we were a subcontractor. And, by definition, a subcontractor is told only what they need to do to do their job."

"What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.” -- Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff until January 2005, quote from Wednesday, October, 19th.

As Kevin says, it's all about The Nukes. And he's right on target in pointing to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as one of the key players in the vast political cover-up that hovers over the criminal one now creaking at every hinge. Laura Rozen has more on coordination between Roberts and Cheney's office.

Roberts was the key player in arranging the authorship of last year's thoroughly mendacious Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraqi WMD intelligence failures. He also played a key part at several points (possibly passively, but probably actively) in ensuring that no real investigation into the origins of the forgeries ever took place.

Ahhh -- good point.

All day we've been discussing Tom DeFrank's article in today's Daily News which reports that President Bush has known about Karl Rove's role in the Plame leak for two years.

But this site points out that this sure seems to contradict what Murray Waas reported not long ago over at National Journal ...

In his own interview with prosecutors on June 24, 2004, Bush testified that Rove assured him he had not disclosed Plame as a CIA employee and had said nothing to the press to discredit Wilson, according to sources familiar with the president's interview. Bush said that Rove never mentioned the conversation with Cooper.

Now, don't lose sight of the fact that we're stacking a lot of 'ifs' on top of each other here. But we do have two articles from well-credentialed journalists pointing to two alleged facts -- one, that President Bush knew in late 2003 that Rove was involved and that Rove had told him he was involved; two, that a year later President Bush denied Rove had told him he was involved in an interview with the special prosecutor.

If both those 'facts' bear out, someone's in a lot of trouble, no?

Tom DeFrank's piece in a Daily News is a touch vague about just when President Bush found out about Karl Rove's role in the Plame leak. The only explicit reference to timing comes in the lede where DeFrank writes that [emphasis added] "[a]n angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair."

Now, 'two years ago'.

In the Plame case a lot of things happened around two years ago. What happened almost exactly two years was the first intensive coverage of the story in the mainstream press. For the first couple months the scandal was largely the province of various disreputable blogs and other untouchables.

So, DeFrank really doesn't provide us with enough detail to say with any confidence precisely when the president knew. But it seems he's saying the president unloaded on Karl right about the time the story blew up into a serious scandal and spawned a Justice Department investigation.

So what was the president saying around that time?

One of his most detailed statements came on October 7th, in a brief exchange with the press just before a cabinet meeting ...

[T]he investigators will ask our staff about what people did or did not do. This is a town of -- where a lot of people leak. And I've constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information. And I want to know, I want to know the truth. I want to see to it that the truth prevail. And I hope we can get this investigation done in a thorough way, as quickly as possible.

But the Justice Department will conduct this investigation. The professionals in the Justice Department will be involved in ferreting out the truth. These are citizens who will -- were here before this administration arrived and will be here after this administration leaves. And they'll come to the bottom of this, and we'll find out the truth. And that will be -- that's a good thing for this administration.

Then, a few moment later, the president expressed an odd lack of confidence that the case would ever be solved ...

Randy, you tell me, how many sources have you had that's leaked information that you've exposed or have been exposed? Probably none. I mean this town is a -- is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators -- full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is -- partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out.

Given the question of dating noted above, one might speculate that the president learned of Rove's action the next day. But if the DeFrank piece is accurate, it certainly seems likely that the president knew of Rove's complicity while he was saying these words.

Late Update: A lot of news has been bubbling this morning. And in the mix I neglected to note that there is another reference to the time frame of these events in the DeFrank article. TPM Reader MO notes this passage down at the end ...

None of these sources offered additional specifics of what Bush and Rove discussed in conversations beginning shortly after the Justice Department informed the White House in September 2003 that a criminal investigation had been launched into the leak of CIA agent Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak.

We're still hanging on the "shortly after" here. But this would seem to nail this down a bit more conclusively: President Bush knew Karl Rove was one of the culprits when he made those statements above.