Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Ahhh, yesteryear, when we were young and unindicted.

Scott McClellan, June 24th, 2004, almost a year after the president learned of Karl Rove's part in the Plame leak, according to the Daily News.

The President met with Pat Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney in charge of the leak investigation, as well as members of his team. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. It lasted for a little more than an hour, probably about an hour and 10 minutes ... He also recently retained a lawyer, Jim Sharp, who you all have reported about before. I would just say that -- what I've said previously, and what the President has said: The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter. The President directed the White House to cooperate fully with those in charge of the investigation. He was pleased to do his part to help the investigation move forward. No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the President of the United States, and he has said on more than one occasion that if anyone -- inside or outside the government -- has information that can help the investigators get to the bottom of this, they should provide that information to the officials in charge.

What did the president tell Patrick Fitzgerald? As a number of lawyers and former prosecutors have informed me this morning, not being under oath does not get President Bush out of legal jeopardy if he didn't tell the truth.

Isikoff has a new brief piece out on Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert "Gold Bars" Luskin.

Actually, for what it's worth, GB sounds like he'd be sort of a fun person to hang out with. But don't tell anyone I said that.

As we were first to report back in July (at least in the context of the Rove case) Luskin, a Democrat, got in trouble with the Feds back in 1997. He took up the appeal of a precious metals dealer who'd been convicted of laundering tens of millions of dollars of drug money. The DOJ got a bit miffed when they discovered that Luskin was taking payment in gold bars.

Luskin tells Isikoff he did nothing wrong but now concedes "I was completely obtuse about the optics of the situation."

Perhaps we need to rename him Robert "Gift for Understatement" Luskin.

Right at the top of the gaggle this morning at the White House, reporters zeroed in one the DeFrank story ...

QUESTION: Scott, is it true that the President --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Welcome back.

QUESTION: Thanks. Is it true that the President slapped Karl Rove upside the head a couple of years ago over the CIA leak?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Are you referring to, what, a New York Daily News report? Two things: One, we're not commenting on an ongoing investigation; two, and I would challenge the overall accuracy of that news account.

QUESTION: That's a comment.

QUESTION: Which part of it?

QUESTION: Yes, that is.

QUESTION: Which facts --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, I'm just saying -- no, I'm just trying to help you all.

QUESTION: So what facts are you challenging?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation.

QUESTION: You can't say you're challenging the facts and then not say which ones you're challenging.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Yes, I can. I just did. (Laughter.)

... QUESTION: Scott, let me come back to -- so you say you're challenging the accuracy, but you won't tell us why. Why would it be irresponsible for us to report that?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Report what?

QUESTION: What you said --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: It's up to you what you want to report. I'm just trying to --

QUESTION: Well, if you want us to say it's inaccurate, you need to give us a reason why, or it wouldn't be responsible to report it.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Well, there's an ongoing investigation, and as you know, our policy is not to comment on it. So that's where we are.

QUESTION: You just did.


QUESTION: Based on your personal knowledge, based on your opinion, based on your frustration with the story -- what caused you to say that?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: No, I mean, I read the story and I didn't view it as an accurate story.

QUESTION: Why not?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to go any further than that. There's an ongoing investigation. This is bringing up matters related to an ongoing investigation.

QUESTION: After you read the story, Scott, did you check with either the two people mentioned, the President or Rove, to ask them? Is that what you base --

SCOTT McCLELLAN: I don't have any further comment, Peter.

QUESTION: Well, is that what you base your guidance on, or is it just -- you know, is it just you're feeling that this couldn't have happened?

SCOTT McCLELLAN: I stand by what I just said and I'm going to leave it at that.

The subject comes up again later in the discussion. We'll bring you that later.

On the DeFrank story this morning, McClellan got hammered and tried to deny its accuracy, but really couldn't. We'll provide details shortly.

A few more thoughts on Tom DeFrank's article on President Bush, noted below.

According to DeFrank, President Bush knew about Karl Rove's role in leaking Valerie Plame's identity pretty much from the very start. He doesn't tell us whether the president knew in advance or while the purported crimes were occuring. But let's set that aside for the moment and stipulate, for the sake of discussion, the accuracy of DeFrank's nugget: that from the moment this became a public issue, President Bush has known Karl Rove was one of the culprits.

This raises several questions.

The possible perjury indictment hanging over Rove's head (to the extent we can know about these things from press reports) stems from his 'forgetting' to tell the grand jury that he leaked Plame's identity the first time around. Later, he 'remembered' this detail -- seemingly after Fitzgerald got other sworn testimony about it.

Did Rove tell the president about his role, then 'forget' before the grand jury, then 'remember' later? Not that many folks believe he forgot. But this would seem like the sort of chronological detail that could seal Rove's fate as far as a perjury indictment.

And that leads us to a second question.

Patrick Fitzgerald interviewed President Bush (at least, he was interviewed by his team; I don't remember whether it was Fitzgerald specifically who conducted it, though I would assume it was). The president's lawyers succeeded in getting Fitzgerald to agree that the interview not be under oath. Still, though, an interview took place and at the top of the list of questions must have been just what happened and what the president knew.

Did President Bush say that he knew Rove was involved? Did he deny it?

Obviously, we have many more questions than answers here. But if President Bush knew about Rove's role from the beginning, then all of these interviews and grand jury appearances and the almost inevitable contradictions between them become real trouble for the White House.

And one more question. For almost two years, Scott McClellan insisted that neither Karl Rove nor Scooter Libby had anything to do with the leaks. He knew because he asked them, he said. He was very categorical.

Now it seems that at least with reference to Rove, the president knew McClellan's statements weren't true. And yet he allowed McClellan to make them. Come to think of it, I guess this one really isn't even a question. It speaks for itself, doesn't it?

It's slightly sugar-coated. But the New York Daily News has the scoop of the day on Plame/Fitzgerald: the president knew what Karl Rove had done from the very beginning. So all that mumbojumbo about wanting to get to the bottom of it and fire the bad actors was, to revert to the King's English, crap.

He knew all along, as was certainly clear all along.

Now, the lede gives some sense of distancing ...

An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.

"He made his displeasure known to Karl," a presidential counselor told The News. "He made his life miserable about this."

Bush has nevertheless remained doggedly loyal to Rove, who friends and even political adversaries acknowledge is the architect of the President's rise from baseball owner to leader of the free world.

But when you read further down into the piece you see that what got the president angry wasn't the leak; it was that they got caught.

Bush has always known that Rove often talks with reporters anonymously and he generally approved of such contacts, one source said.

But the President felt Rove and other members of the White House damage-control team did a clumsy job in their campaign to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, the ex-diplomat who criticized Bush's claim that Saddam Hussen tried to buy weapons-grade uranium in Niger.

A second well-placed source said some recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush about his involvement in the Wilson counterattack were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President.

"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way," the source said.

Now, one other detail about this piece. It runs a few hundred words. But the most important two are probably these: Thomas DeFrank.

DeFrank's the byline and he's the Daily News DC Bureau Chief. DeFrank has a unique relationship to the Bush world, particularly to the older generation. He cowrote James Baker's diplomatic autobiography The Politics of Diplomacy, for instance. And back in the summer of 2001, The Weekly Standard suggested he'd actually been in the running to be chief Pentagon spokesman, before the job went to Tori Clarke.

I'm not including this background information to suggest that DeFrank is in the tank for the Bush crowd. Indeed, I have the sense that the relationship has become more strained or perhaps attenuated over the last few years. I add these details because the nature of DeFrank's access is unique in Washington. And this article carries more weight than it would with another byline.

TPM Reader TO notes an interesting little blip of information from Howie Kurtz's June 2003 Post article on the Judy Miller controversy.

Miller's role with MET Alpha [the WMD search team] was controversial within the Defense Department and among some staff members at the Times, where one reporter was assigned to check up on whether other embedded journalists followed similar procedures.

It sounds like he's saying the Times assigned a reporter to find out just what sort of rules Miller was operating under and whether they were like those enjoyed by other embedded journalists.

Can someone tell me if this strand of the story has been reported out elsewhere?

Yes, as you can see, we've redesigned Talking Points Memo.

The site is just shy of five years old. And depending on how you want to count them, this is either the third or fourth major redesign of the site. (If you've got an appetite for TPM trivia, here's what the site looked like when it started five years ago.)

Why did we do this redesign?

A whole slew of reasons. But most of them boil down to one reason: we needed more real estate on the page. Some of the things we're going to do we'll only be rolling out over time. But others we've already done. For instance, we've wanted to incorporate more of what's going on over at TPMCafe at the site. And, as you can see, we've now done that over there on the far-right sidebar, with links to the most recent posts. We also need room for ads, for features like a simpler to use and easier to find search function, and various other stuff. As we've grown, and tried to incorporate this new stuff, things just got more and more scrunched in the relatively narrow width of the site. At a certain point, it made no sense since there was so much space we weren't using.

We've tried to keep to some of the basic color scheme and, I hope, the relative simplicity of the design.

We're also busy at work on a redesign of TPMCafe, which we'll be debuting in the not-too-distant future. And we have other new projects we're working on as well -- one of which is to hire a full-time blogger-reporter who will expand on our coverage of the events of the day.

From this evening's Nelson Report ...

ROVE/LIBBY...the Joe Wilson/Valeria Plame scandal...many thanks for a ton of interesting and valuable feedback from Loyal Readers to last night’s Report, and our use of the New York Times’ Frank Rich to lay out the most hard-line “case” against the Administration that could likely be imagined. Before we start, today’s hot gossip is that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald may have sent a “target letter”...an official warning of a likely indictment...to Vice President Cheney’s deputy chief of staff, John Hannah. According to sources which have been right from time to time, Hannah has told associates he has been forced to cut a deal, and that they think this includes testifying against his immediate boss, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Hannah’s name resonates to the insiders, since he is a samurai for UN Amb. John Bolton, detailed to the White House while Bolton was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs...in other words, an office with folks quite likely to have known the CIA connection which may form the basis of any criminal indictments in this case.

This is the hot gossip. But it's more than gossip. Not necessarily the point about a target letter, but on the point of Hannah's cooperation. A number of well-placed sources are now saying this. But there are logistical and inter-personal mysteries raised by Hannah's claimed cooperation that still make the whole picture appear murky to me.