Grilling Russert to a Fine TurnFor those of you who are not Plamiacs - all Plame, all the time! now that the Libby trial is going on - there was a delicious moment in the court today.
Tim Russert walked into court today, a commanding presence, King of the Press. By the time he left, he might as well have skulked out. Or as Arianna Huffington puts it
Tim Russert hobbled into the courtroom this afternoon on crutches. When he left the stand at the end of the day (slated to return for more cross-examination tomorrow) his credibility had been so hobbled it needed a pair of crutches of its own.Heh! Perfectly described. And by a certified despiser of the Bush Administration, which carries its own weight.
What was Arianna describing?
The highlight of the Libby trial so far, which was the dismantling of Tim Russert and his ego. But in this case, given that Timmy is King of the Press, his dismantling pointed to the hypocrisy of all those vaunted legal rights that the Press claims for its own.
Such as the desire not to be called to testify against a source - because to do so would impugn the public's free access to information. It turns out - in the hands of Russert, this precise "right" is no more than a public face he claims in order to permit himself a greater lattitude than ordinary mortals. In private, he's apparently happy to spill the beans to the FBI about conversations with his sources. Being a journalist - and having an ethical responsibility not to reveal what sources say - only comes into question when the matter of one's testimony becomes public.
Maine web report is one of two livebloggers at the scene. And here is his description of the final moments of Russert's testimony today.
Wells grilling Russert on his filing to squash the subpoena. Wells has brutally and effectively shown the hypocrisy of this filing. The filing, and NBC’s statement, says that testimony would create a chilling effect that would keep sources from talking to him, and thereby limit the access the general public has to information. This looks absurd now, since Russert just testified that he freely and unreservedly spoke to an FBI agent by phone about the entire contents of his Libby conversation, despite declaring emphatically that he understood the Libby call to be in confidence.And at this precise moment, just after Wells, Libby's defense attorney makes the allegation that Russert lied to a Federal judge in his filing to keep him from testifying, the judge calls it a day.
Russert is trying to show a difference between the Libby call and what he was talking about in the filing. Not effective in any way.
Russert is saying now that the focus in the FBI call was a focus on his words, not Libby’s words. Wells already got him to say that they spoke about both sides of the conversation.
Russert is entangled like a peanut-butter coated cat in a yarn factory right now.
Russert is at once trying to justify his discussion of Libby’s call with the FBI, while at the same time backing up his request to keep the same call in confidence in regards to the subpoena.
Wells now is making the allegation that Russert lied to a Federal judge in his filing.
Therefore, the moment that will stay in the minds of the jurors overnight - the moment that will crystallize there, or fester perhaps - is Wells knocking Russert's credibility entirely off balance by suggesting that his lawyer's filing to squash the subpoena contains within it a self-serving falsehood, because the very position that he is claiming to "defend publicly" - that is the rights of the press - he has already in private abrogated iinsouciantly. And it is this hypocrisy between Russert's public and private faces that the jury will contemplate overnight. As Clarice Feldman, among several of the attorney's liveblogging the liveblogging at Just One Minute, pointed out to me, this was Wells strategy - to have the trial end tonight on such a memorable point. Both for the jury and the witness.
So Russert, too, will contemplate it, wondering, perhaps, what other measures Wells has in store for him and his credibility and his massive ego tomorrow. Though it may be he will regain his composure. Still, from Maine Web Report's description, he looked naked up there.
Personally, after this beginning, I can't wait. See also Clarice Feldman's invaluable description of Russert's precarious credibility here.
From a filing by the prosecutor last evening trying to block inquiry into the accommodations made to Russert for his (total of 22 minutes) deposition testimony in his lawyer's offices, it appears that while this last point was not specifically noted in any pleadings I can see, the defense was provided with the FBI notes which provided some notice to them of the discrepancies in the NBC public pleading and that it contained a false suggestion that Russert had not already cooperated with the government. It is not clear that this Court, or the Court which determined the related case on the reporters' obligation to testify, was ever informed that the Russert filing was false.
And don't think the jury isn't paying attention. So far, the jury, which contains a lawyer as well as a retired, old time reporter, has asked some of the questions that go right to the heart of the difficulties with all the witnesses that Fitzgerald has presented.
By the way, I just saw a few minutes of this trial presented on CNN. They reiterated all their old talking points. Isn't it scary how much power Dick Cheney has. Iraq is a cancer on this White House even in 2003. Look how scared Joe Wilson made them. It's clear what the commentators had not done, in this case Jeffrey Toobin and David Gergen, was read the last few days of testimony.
They were repeating MSM platitudes, that's all.
There used to be a time when Toobin, for one, actually watched the details of cases he was speaking about. Now he's just commenting on form without detail. And it's absolutely clear he has no clue what is going on. Just as it is stunningly clear that the press had no clue about the story they were reporting on at the beginning of this whole thing.
For one thing, it should be clear to all of the MSM by now, that Valery Plame suggested Joe Wilson go to Niger for the CIA the day before the Vice President asked for clarification about what was happening in Niger. But perhaps an article by Byron York in NR is considered too réchercé for the MSM to read these days.
And do you know why these facts weren't known until today for sure? Because the CIA only released the memo clarifying these dates recently. They didn't bother to give them to the Senate Committee which investigated the Joe Wilson imbroglio. So Joe Wilson never went anywhere at the behest of the Vice President. He was suggested for the job before the Vice President inquired.
As for the details about Russert, I gather they won't trickle forth for the next days or two.
Or if they follow political protocol, they'll announce the bad news on Friday afternoon.