Saturday, March 10, 2007

Disappearing a Man's Freedom: Smoke and Mirrors

In a column today, Charles Krauthammer points out the very thing that NBC does not want the public to know:
Everyone agrees that Fitzgerald's perjury case against Libby hung on the testimony of NBC's Tim Russert. Libby said that he heard about Plame from Russert. Russert said he had never discussed it. The jury members who have spoken said they believed Russert.

And why should they not? Russert is a perfectly honest man who would not lie. He was undoubtedly giving his best recollection.

But he is not the pope. Given that so many journalists and administration figures were shown to have extremely fallible memories, is it possible that Russert's memory could have been faulty?

I have no idea. But we do know that Russert once denied calling up a Buffalo News reporter to complain about a story. Russert later apologized for the error when he was shown the evidence of a call he had genuinely and completely forgotten.

There is a second instance of Russert innocently misremembering. [ed. misremembering is a kindness - IMO, it was an out and out lie, and for no good reason.] He stated under oath that he did not know that one may not be accompanied by a lawyer to a grand jury hearing. This fact, in and of itself, is irrelevant to the case, except that, as former prosecutor Victoria Toensing points out, the defense had tapes showing Russert saying on television three times that lawyers are barred from grand jury proceedings.

This demonstration of Russert's fallibility was never shown to the jury. The judge did not allow it. He was upset with the defense because it would not put Libby on the stand — his perfect Fifth Amendment right — after hinting in the opening statement that it might. He therefore denied the defense a straightforward demonstration of the fallibility of the witness whose testimony was most decisive.
Did you catch that. The judge did not let in rebuttal testimony on the credibility of Russert, because he was pissed of that the defense had determined not to put Libby on the stand.

Tim Russert's testimony did in Libby. The next day, after the verdict was delivered, Russert was on the Imus show - on a sister network - in absolutely shameless damage control, abetted by Imus, a crony of his, wearing a suit of mirrors. Everything that he was shaky on on the stand, he now deflected, trying to erase that very different picture we had seen of him without the protection gear. No teeny, tiny point was left unturned. Even to the extent of pretending that he and Chris Matthews were great pals, when one of the more amusing tidbits that came out at trial, was the extent to which he disliked Chris personally.

I find the initial impression indelible at this point, however. Tim Russert will not play any more as he did before this trial began. Even if they increase the wattage of that shiny suit to deflect that he is not personally "the modest man" that he plays on TV.

Moreover, it is perfectly clear that Washington is a town where Democrats get off on serious charges, and Republicans are destroyed on light ones, like a body rejecting a donor organ.

Come next week, and there is a congressional hearing scheduled - on a Friday, which is a travel day in the senate - and moreover is very close to the opening of yet another one of Patrick Fitzgerald's cases - the one in which he hounds Conrad Black. One can only hope that the defense for Black is going to prove more deft than the defense for Scooter; though Black, at least, does not have the demographics problem, in terms of jury selection, that Scooter did. Whereby in a room full of moveon.org people there for jury duty, Denis Collins is a more desirable choice. Think about that Kafkaesque turn for a moment. And how you would feel if that were you.

Though, on the other hand, Black's got another problem. Lots of people hate tycoons and there's a palpable schadeufreude in taking them down.

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