Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just Deserts

Last week I wrote a post entitled Tim Russert - Boldly Lying on the Stand wherein I discussed the fact, as per the title of the post, that Russert had just lied on the stand in front of everyone. He chose to lie on a trivial point. The context was the concessions the prosecutor had entered into in order to obtain his testimony - which was that they came to Russert's office and he had a lawyer present during the short, 22 minute ordeal. Russert stated he did not know that people testifying before a Grand Jury are not permitted to enter into the courtroom to give their testimony with a lawyer.
[Defense Attorney] Wells: (reads more of letter, saying testimony would be with lawyers in room) You know that in a grand jury, lawyers are not in the room?

TR: Didn't know that

Wells: You are an attorney?

TR: Non-practicing…. the most important thing is –

The MSM, being his cronies, declined to discuss it. So you may not have heard about this elsewhere unless you are following the case intensively.

Jewish Atheist, commenting on my post, was amused that I thought this was important at all given the gravity of "Libby's lies."
LOL. The chief of staff to the vice president of the united states is in trouble with the law for lying about activities related to a coverup of manipulating evidence to go to war and what you think is important is that Russert may have lied about not knowing an aspect of grand jury law. Very unbiased blogging, good work.
Now it turns out by far that I wasn't the only one who considered this a big deal.

The defense is now planning to use this statement of Russert's to impeach his testimony. Just deserts, isn't it.

From the liveblogging of the lawyers making arguments before the judge outside of the presence of the jury:
[Defense attorney] Wells. Second piece of evidence relates also to benefits received by Russert and would be form of impeachment testimony. Being able to testify in setting where lawyer was present. On cross, in attempt to explore Russert's understanding if he went before GJ, to my complete shock, Russert said he had no knowledge.

Judge Walton There's no evidence [Russert's] ever done criminal law.

[Defense attorney] Wells. I'm going to show you three video tapes where it's clear he's aware of it. "So you understand that normal procedure, they're not permitted to have lawyers in room." I've given govt transcripts of three different appearances where he acknowledges that witnesses before GJ don't have their lawyer. Discussing GJ testimony of Clinton. [why am I not surprised we were going to Clinton?] He askes why he doesn't go before GJ.Resisting a subpoena are words he can understand better. Clinton is saying "can we not testify on video" rather than having to march before GJ without his lawyers. In other portions of the interview, why she won't answer that question. She says it's one of may questions because it's before a GJ w/o a lawyer. These go right to the heart of a benefit.
In other words, it's in the public record that Russert knew well that normal people, at a grand jury, were not able to bring their lawyer with them, to direct their testimony or object, etc. As a member of the media who has dealt with this particular in his work, as well as a lawyer, the presumption is that he knew this very well. And therefore there is no reason for him to lie about it. Except, that to show he was accepting a special privilege worked out by his NBC NY lawyers to shelter him, the admission that he knew that he was receiving a special privilege from the Special Prosecutor does not highlight the plain-spoken, homespun, homily-delivering, just one of the folks image he has worked so hard - in order to maintain his image as "the man the public can trust."

There is another interesting thing about Tim Russert's™ lie on the stand.

On Just One Minute, Tom Maguire wrote out a hypothetical case as to how Russert might have come to lie originally to prosecutors as to whether he mentioned Plame to Libby.

In this model, Russert starts out lying on the stand in what looks like a negligible matter; the intent is protect the Tim Russert™ brand and his NBC team - to assure their pipeline to sources among other reasons.

Tom puts is thus in his post:
Well - as to Russert's motive ... the summary is this - Russert started with a little white lie to the FBI in November 2003, with the objective of concealing the fact that he (or Andrea Mitchell) had a source for the Plame leak. Russert did not "lie" to the investigators; he misled them with carefully phrased testimony so as to avoid subpoenas, jail time, and the disclosure of NBC News sources.

And it seemed like a little white lie at the time - Russert knew that Libby had not leaked to him, so he reasoned that his chat with Libby was not the sort of primary leak (government official *to* reporter) that investigators were seeking.
There is more to Tom's argument, and it is worth reading in full, because it makes practical and psychological sense as to how the situation might have occurred, if it occurred. I'm not claiming that this is necessarily so, nor is Tom. Simply that it is one construal of the evidence and the defense might choose to frame their ending to include such an inference. And the fact that Tim Russert just insouciantly lied on the stand makes this easier to buy.

Which is where this gets interesting. Because when Russert lies on the stand, he is also telling a harmless lie to protect the TR™ brand: And the TR™ brand is a modest, homespun man moderating over the truth every Sunday, a man whom you can trust, full of homilies and moral sayings. His lie was merely a harmless lie to protect the brand.

But this time, someone is pulling him up short on it. Publicly. And using it to impeach his evidence.

As Jane put it as Just One Minute:
The point is to show, at the least, Russert has a very bad memory, and at the most, that he is a liar.

UPDATE: And now for the evidence that is going to be used to impeach Timmeh's testimony, from a transcript of an interview of Tim Russert by Larry King, speaking about President Clinton's testimony to the Grand Jury:
RUSSERT: It's been suggested by no less than the former governor of New York the other night, that now that the president has decided that he's going to testify before the grand jury, why do it in the Oval Office and why insist that his lawyer be there.?

Go into the grand jury without a lawyer, like every other American citizen, go ahead, ask me any question you want and I'll give you an honest answer. And that would turn the whole situation around in the eyes of some.
Yep, Tim Russert sure seemed to know back then that regular Americans go to the Grand Jury alone, not with their lawyer present.

More: Tom Maguire suggests a motive for Russert to lie on the stand. In the same interview with CNN's Larry King, there is the following exchange:
KING: And do you stand by your guy if he is subsequently charged with something and they subpoena you?

RUSSERT: I would have to go to prison to protect his name.
That is his public statement. Judith Miller went to prison. Maybe Russert did not want to have to go to prison so "he mislead the investigators a bit," instead - not realizing that much of the prosecution of Libby would rest on his "misleads."

How much of this motive, I wonder, will be implied by the defense?

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