On Fox News, Gibson and WSJ's Pollock served up debunked falsehoods on CIA leak investigation
Research ››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER
On Fox News' The Big Story, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Robert Pollock and host John Gibson falsely claimed that "we know" that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald "concluded very early on in his investigation ... that there wasn't a crime committed when somebody revealed the CIA identity of Valerie Plame." As Media Matters for America has noted, Fitzgerald in fact said the opposite -- that he could reach no conclusion about whether the alleged leak was a violation of law because of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's testimony.
Discussing recent reports that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has informed White House senior adviser Karl Rove that he does not anticipate pursuing charges against Rove, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Robert Pollock baselessly claimed on the June 14 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson that "we know" that Fitzgerald "concluded very early on in his investigation ... that there wasn't a crime committed when somebody revealed the CIA identity of Valerie Plame." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, when Fitzgerald announced the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of perjury and obstructing the grand jury's efforts to investigate the alleged leak of Plame's identity, Fitzgerald stated that he was unable to determine whether the alleged leak itself constituted a violation of the law. During the program, Pollock and host John Gibson served up various other debunked falsehoods regarding the leaking of Plame's identity.
Contrary to Pollock's assertion that "we know" that Fitzgerald "concluded very early on in his investigation ... that there wasn't a crime committed when somebody revealed the CIA identity of Valerie Plame," in an October 28 press release summarizing the indictment, Fitzgerald explained that Libby's testimony had impeded the grand jury's efforts to get to the bottom of the leak:
Without the truth, our criminal justice system cannot serve our nation or its citizens. The requirement to tell the truth applies equally to all citizens, including persons who hold high positions in government. In an investigation concerning the compromise of a CIA officer's identity, it is especially important that grand jurors learn what really happened. The indictment returned today alleges that the efforts of the grand jury to investigate such a leak were obstructed when Mr. Libby lied about how and when he learned and subsequently disclosed classified information about Valerie Wilson [Plame].
In a press conference that same day, a reporter specifically asked Fitzgerald whether the investigation was over and whether the probe would fail to "lead to a charge of leaking." In response to the first question, the special counsel confirmed that the investigation had not concluded. In response to second question, Fitzgerald compared himself to an umpire who, while attempting to determine whether a pitcher intentionally hit a batter, had sand thrown in his eyes:
QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, this began as a leak investigation, but no one is charged with any leaking. Is your investigation finished? Is this another leak investigation that doesn't lead to a charge of leaking?
FITZGERALD: Let me answer the two questions you asked in one. OK, is the investigation finished? It's not over, but I'll tell you this: Very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried and would you ever end a grand jury investigation. I can tell you, the substantial bulk of the work in this investigation is concluded. This grand jury's term has expired by statute; it could not be extended. But it's in ordinary course to keep a grand jury open to consider other matters, and that's what we will be doing.
Let me then ask your next question: Well, why is this a leak investigation that doesn't result in a charge? I've been trying to think about how to explain this, so let me try. I know baseball analogies are the fad these days. Let me try something. If you saw a baseball game and you saw a pitcher wind up and throw a fastball and hit a batter right smack in the head, and it really, really hurt them, you'd want to know why the pitcher did that.
In this case, it's a lot more serious than baseball. And the damage wasn't to one person. It wasn't just Valerie [Plame] Wilson. It was done to all of us.
And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell [New York Times reporter] Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. [Matthew] Cooper [of Time magazine]? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?
Or did they intend to do something else, and where are the shades of gray?
And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened, and somebody blocked their view.
As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it.
So what you were saying is the harm in an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make.
In neither the press release nor the press conference did Fitzgerald assert or suggest that he had concluded that no crimes had been committed in the act of leaking itself.
Pollock also falsely claimed that Fitzgerald "asked for his mandate to be expanded so he could look at things like perjury and obstruction," to back up his claim that Fitzgerald did not believe an underlying crime had been committed. In fact, when Fitzgerald was appointed, the Justice Department gave him broad authority to investigate the leaks, and the department never broadened that mandate. The official who appointed Fitzgerald as special prosecutor, then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey, stated in a December 30, 2003, press conference that "Mr. Fitzgerald alone will decide ... what prosecutive [sic] decisions to make" and that "he can pursue it [the leak investigation] wherever he wants to pursue it." And in a February 6, 2004, letter to Fitzgerald, Comey further clarified that his delegation included the "authority to investigate and prosecute violations of any federal criminal laws related to the underlying alleged unauthorized disclosure, as well as federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, your investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses."
Later in the same edition of The Big Story, Gibson falsely claimed that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV had said that "it was the vice president's office which sent him" to Niger to investigate claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchased yellowcake uranium from that country. He asserted that Wilson's "secret-agent wife," Plame, "had to be revealed" because "we're entitled to know how Wilson got that mission to Niger." He added that Vice President Dick Cheney was "entitled to say, 'I didn't send that guy to Niger. It was his wife.' "
As Media Matters has noted, Wilson did not claim that Cheney sent him to Niger. In his July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed, Wilson stated that "agency officials" had requested that he travel to Niger. Further, during an August 3, 2003, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, he stated it was "absolutely true" that Cheney was unaware he went on the trip. Also, unnamed intelligence officials have been quoted in the media claiming that the CIA -- not Plame -- selected Wilson for the mission. Additionally, CIA officials have disputed the accuracy of a State Department intelligence memo that reportedly indicates that Plame "suggested" Wilson's name for the trip.
From the June 14 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with Gibson:
GIBSON: Critics once predicted that Karl Rove would be frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. But now we know that he will not face charges in connection with the investigation into who revealed the name of that CIA agent Valerie Plame. Right now, only Lewis Libby faces perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Is there any more to this case? Here now, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, Robert Pollock. So, is that the end of the frog-marching Karl Rove story or can Joe Wilson and [former Democratic National Committee chairman] Terry McAuliffe and the rest of them get a little more mileage out of this?
POLLOCK: Well, clearly, Karl Rove was the guy they wanted. I mean, he is Bush's political guru, this was the way to do damage to him. It's the end of the story for Karl Rove. But it's not the end of the story for poor Libby, who is facing jail time on very flimsy charges.
GIBSON: Well what does it mean, though? I mean, Lewis Libby is facing this trial and it will proceed, but what does it mean that Rove is off the hook? Does it mean that there was nothing to this at all?
POLLOCK: Well, that's pretty much precisely what it means. I mean, what we know is that Fitzgerald concluded very early on in his investigation, more than two years ago, that there wasn't a crime committed when somebody revealed the CIA identity of Valerie Plame. He concluded that early on, and he asked for his mandate to be expanded so he could look at things like perjury and obstruction. And he's been having Karl Rove twist in the wind for two and a half years on those kind of, you know, very minor things.
GIBSON: Karl Rove, as you have just heard, won't be frog-marched across the White House lawn. Much to the disappointment of Ambassador Joe Wilson. One supposes his wife, former secret agent Valerie Plame, might have something to say about this in her forthcoming book, for which she was to receive a $2.5 million advance. Oops, that deal with Crown Publishers evidently has fell apart. Well, somebody will buy the book, one supposes, especially if she is to renew her husband's demand for Rove to be frog-marched or his head on a stick, or whatever chest-thumping overstatement he's made in the last couple of years of this drama.
But it begs the original question. When Joe Wilson went public that he'd been sent to clear up the matter of Niger possibly selling yellowcake to Saddam, and it was the vice president's office which sent him, was the vice president entitled to say, "I didn't send that guy to Niger. It was his wife. And she's in the group of CIA people who are opposed to the president's policy in Iraq"? I think the vice president was entitled to do precisely that. I think we, the public, were entitled to know how Wilson got that mission to Niger, and whatever his secret-agent wife had to do with sending him ought to have been out in the open. If that required revealing that Wilson had a secret-agent wife, well, then so be it, she had to be revealed. But that notion incensed the ambassador. He raged that his wife, mother of his children, had been targeted, political retribution, and Rove is at the bottom of it. So Rove had to be marched off to jail.
Joe Wilson was against regime change on Saddam, had been since '91. Once his wife maneuvered to have him sent him off to investigate a key reason for the war, the public certainly had a right to know who sent him and why.
She had become a political operator by helping to arrange her anti-war husband for that mission. Would I be wrong to suspect the people who hate Bush and Rove won't let this die? The idea of jailing anybody so close to Bush is just too precious to let it just go away. That is "My Word."