CIA Leak Investigation | Media Matters for America

CIA Leak Investigation

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  • Fox News has spent years claiming that Scooter Libby's conviction was unjust. Trump just pardoned him.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump on April 13 pardoned Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, saying, “I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.” In the past year, Fox hosts, contributors, and guests have repeatedly compared special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia with Libby’s case and subsequent conviction. Libby was convicted of four felonies including for obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI during an investigation into who leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to journalists.

    Various figures on Fox primetime have made repeated claims in the last year that Scooter Libby was unfairly prosecuted. On February 1, conservative radio host and author Mark Steyn said on Tucker Carlson Tonight that the Scooter Libby investigation was “disgraceful.” On January 29, Libby’s lawyer Victoria Toensing (who almost joined Trump’s legal team in March along with her husband Joe diGenova) bemoaned Libby’s fate on Fox News At Night, saying he “didn’t lie” to investigators and was indicted “without one other minutia of evidence.” Fox host Sean Hannity said on January 25 that Libby was given “a raw deal” and said the next day that he was “innocent.”

    Nexis transcripts show various mentions of Libby in 2017 when Fox personalities talked about the supposed unfairness of the Mueller investigation. On November 8, Fox host Laura Ingraham said on her show that officials like Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who led the investigation of Libby, are “out of control.” On August 7, Hannity also made a reference to Libby, saying that Libby was caught in a “perjury trap” (a claim he repeated on June 13 and 19) because he “wouldn’t give up the vice president.” During his August 1 show, Hannity cited Libby as a victim of “investigative creep,” which is “a real problem with all special counsels” -- a point he also made on July 21 when he said he’s “been warning about this investigative creep.” Former Fox contributor Monica Crowley, who was slated to join the Trump administration but chose not to amid allegations she heavily plagiarized a 2012 book and parts of her PhD dissertation, said on the June 8 edition of Fox News’ Hannity that prosecutors went after Scooter Libby “as a way to go after Dick Cheney,” Fox contributor Newt Gingrich appeared on Hannity on May 30 and said, “I have said over and over again that the conviction of Scooter Libby in the Bush administration is one of the greatest scandals in modern America.”

    Plame’s covert status as a CIA operative was blown in July 2003 after The Washington Post published a column by Robert Novak that outed her as “an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” The outing happened after Plame’s husband Joe Wilson revealed evidence casting doubt on the George W. Bush administration's claims Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium. Fitzgerald, who was appointed to investigate this leak, explained to the media that Libby “was the first official known to have told a reporter” about Plame’s CIA employment. Libby was convicted “in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice.” President George W. Bush commuted his sentence, but did not pardon him.

    Trump may have also heard personal appeals from Toensing and Fox regular Alan Dershowitz. Toensing, who is also one of Libby’s lawyers, met with the president in March along with her husband when he was considering adding both of them to his personal legal team. Dershowitz, who worked on Libby’s appeal of his conviction, reportedly had dinner with Trump just days ago. According to CNN, “Trump did not follow his predecessors' practice of consulting with lawyers at the Justice Department before announcing his decision.”

  • Limbaugh falsely claimed Bush waited until his second term to replace "some" of Clinton's U.S. attorneys


    On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that in his first term, President George W. Bush "left a lot of Clinton U.S. attorneys in office, did not sweep them. Only in his second term did he start replacing some." In fact, Bush reportedly replaced 88 of the 93 U.S. attorneys with his own appointees during the first two years of his presidency.

  • Despite contrary evidence, CNN's Townsend insisted "facts" show neither Rove nor Libby outed Plame as CIA operative


    On CNN Newsroom, CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend twice made the false claim that neither Karl Rove nor I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby had "outed Valerie Plame" as a CIA agent and that the leaker was Richard Armitage. In fact, both Rove and Libby were sources of the information about Plame's CIA employment for at least two journalists.

  • Claiming he would not "add to the public record," Rove "add[ed]" to the misinformation in "the public record" on Plame case


    During a discussion of Scott McClellan's new book on Hannity & Colmes, Karl Rove said that McClellan's "questions to me were: Did I leak Valerie Plame's name? And the answer is no. In fact, we know today that the name of Valerie Plame was leaked to Robert Novak by Richard Armitage, the number two guy at the State Department, and not by me." In fact, Novak identified both Rove and Armitage as the sources for his column that revealed Plame's employment with the CIA. And former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper named Rove as his source who identified former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife as a CIA agent.

  • WSJ editorial falsely claimed "Senate Intelligence Committee found" that Wilson "had lied" about Niger trip and that his report "produced no information of any intelligence value"

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    A Wall Street Journal editorial falsely asserted that "the Senate Intelligence Committee found" former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV "had lied in claiming his wife [former CIA agent Valerie Plame] had played no role in sending him to Niger." In fact, the full committee did not conclude that Plame had suggested the mission. Further, multiple news reports have quoted unnamed intelligence officials who refuted the notion that Plame authorized, or even suggested, Wilson's trip.

  • On Reliable Sources, Saunders repeated Plame leak distortions

    ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    On CNN, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders claimed that former CIA operative Valerie Plame "was not outed as part of a vendetta," adding: "It was gossip. We know where this came from, from Richard Armitage." However, Armitage was just one of several administration officials who disclosed Plame's identity to the press, and special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who investigated the leak, asserted that "multiple people in the White House" engaged in a "concerted action" to "discredit, punish, or seek revenge against" Wilson.

  • Beck falsely asserted that Libby "went to jail" for obstructing Plame investigation


    On his CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck stated: "I said that Scooter Libby should go to jail and he should pay the price for lying to prosecutors. ... He lied to prosecutors. The guy went to jail." In fact, just after a court rejected Libby's request to remain free while he appealed his conviction, President Bush commuted all of Libby's 30-month prison sentence.

  • Sunday show hosts left key Rove scandal questions unasked


    In appearances by Karl Rove on Sunday morning talk shows on Fox, CBS, and NBC, not one interviewer asked whether an August 19 Washington Post article was accurate in stating that, according to White House officials, one of Rove's "two basic rules" in putting together briefings for political appointees was "to make sure they complied with the Hatch Act," a federal law that limits political activities by federal employees. As the article noted, "the Office of the Special Counsel ... has concluded that the Hatch Act was violated" during a briefing that was conducted by a Rove aide for political appointees in the General Services Administration.

  • Novak again asserted that Armitage's role in leak case exonerates Rove

    ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    In a column discussing Karl Rove's resignation, Robert D. Novak asserted that "[a]lthough [special counsel Patrick] Fitzgerald knew from the start that not Rove but the politically nondescript Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was my primary source in identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA employee, the prosecutor came close to indicting Rove for perjury or obstruction of justice." However, Rove confirmed the information Armitage divulged, as Novak himself has admitted.

  • Media ignore Rove's leak, White House falsehoods, Bush's promise to fire leaker


    Media outlets reporting on Karl Rove's resignation omitted key facts in their discussion of Rove's involvement in the leak of Valerie Plame's identity -- that Rove in fact leaked Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak and another reporter, that then-White House spokesman Scott McClellan initially denied that Rove was involved in the leak, and that Rove would not have been able to leave "on his own terms" had the White House fulfilled a pledge to fire anyone "involved" in the Plame leak.