Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Reading Tea Leaves, Connecting Dots, Swagging

It's foolhardy to thing you can accurately predict the future, or read minds, or look into the past and see behind closed doors. But given the political smoke signals coming out of Washington and elsewhere right now, it's hard not to speculate on what they may mean.

Somewhere on the edge of the radarscope is President Bush's "consultations" with Democratic and Republican Senators on the subject of Supreme Court nominees, something not at all consistent with Mr. Bush's normal "my way or the highway" mode of operating.

Speaking of inconsistent--stories are coming out now of plans to withdraw British and US troops from Iraq sometime next year.

The Downing Street Memos still seem to be gaining traction.

John Bolton, off the radar for over a month, announced today that he'll accept a "recess appointment" as Ambassador to the UN. Mighty big of him, if you ask me, but I'm not entirely sure he isn't going to get pulled into a bigger story than the one he's in now.

Hill Republicans are rallying around Karl Rove. I've suspected for some time that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has bigger fish to fry than Karl. Exactly how high up he goes may depend on what Time reporter Matt Cooper tells the grand jury today.

What does all this portend? Here's my guess--and it's just a guess--but I think Fitzgerald's looking to blow the lid off the Bush administration's entire run up to the war in Iraq: who was in charge of shaping intelligence where, who purposely suppressed information not friendly to the White House objectives, and most importantly, who was the puppet master manipulating the whole thing.

I expect, at a minimum, that Cheney, Bolton, and Rumsfeld will be drawn into Fitzgerald's investigation. I think they expect it too, and they're trying to do some preemptive damage control. That would explain the softening on the Supreme Court nominee process, and the "leak" of the memo on troop withdrawal plans.

We'll see what happens. I'll be especially curious to see what Patrick Fitzgerald does after he talks to Matt Cooper in front of the grand jury. If he starts filing charges against people, stand by.

And please keep in mind that this is all just conjecture on my part. (Although if I turn out to be mostly right, I might brag about it just a little.)

Jeff

18 comments:

  1. Hmmmm. We things slightly differently in a few respects.

    I don't think the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice has much to do with the flap over Karl Rove, and I'm not convinced Bush's stance on consultations has as much to do with that as it does with the difficulties he's seen on Federal Court nominees and the pressure that is mounting from both sides - if he wants to get someone in by the new term, he's going to need to work something out. The admin was gearing up for a Rehnquist replacement, I think, in which they could have argued more forcefully for a strong conservative. They've had to change their mindset with respect to O'Connor. Also, I believe Bush made the announcement that consultations would be taking place before the Newsweek story about Rove ever ran.

    With respect to the Downing Street memo, I think it is stagnating. I think it is easy to surf through blogspace and say "Holy cow, this is really catching on," and not get a good picture of things. I haven't seen much in the way of how the mainstream media is treating it, or indeed in how the public is reacting to it, to indicate that anyone much cares about the memo at this point. Maybe that will change.

    With respect to Fitzgerald - I think trying to blow the lid off of the Bush admin run up to the war goes way beyond Fitzgerald's mandate as special prosecutor - which is to investigate the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. From what I've read of Fitzgerald, I would be suprised if he would exceed his mandate in that fashion. If he uncovers things in the course of his investigation, I expect they'll be handled properly and new investigations launched if necessary, but I don't much think he's actively trying to blow up the lead-in to the Iraqi war.

    Those are my assessments. Of course, that's all conjecture on my part as well :)

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  2. I guess the big question is to what extent is a special prosecutor limited to his original mandate? I seem to recall he can go to the judge and expand the scope of his investigation.

    Can't find the source now, but I recall he had to show the judge 8 pages of redacted Times notes in order to force what's his name to testify.

    Maybe I can relocate it.

    Jeff

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  3. Ah, published this with the wrong post:

    h, I have that all backwards. This from O'Donnell:

    In February, Circuit Judge David Tatel joined his colleagues’ order to Cooper and Miller despite his own, very lonely finding that indeed there is a federal privilege for reporters that can shield them from being compelled to testify to grand juries and give up sources. He based his finding on Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which authorizes federal courts to develop new privileges “in the light of reason and experience.” Tatel actually found that reason and experience “support recognition of a privilege for reporters’ confidential sources.” But Tatel still ordered Cooper and Miller to testify because he found that the privilege had to give way to “the gravity of the suspected crime.”

    Judge Tatel’s opinion has eight blank pages in the middle of it where he discusses the secret information the prosecutor has supplied only to the judges to convince them that the testimony he is demanding is worth sending reporters to jail to get. The gravity of the suspected crime is presumably very well developed in those redacted pages. Later, Tatel refers to “[h]aving carefully scrutinized [the prosecutor’s] voluminous classified filings.”

    Some of us have theorized that the prosecutor may have given up the leak case in favor of a perjury case, but Tatel still refers to it simply as a case “which involves the alleged exposure of a covert agent.” Tatel wrote a 41-page opinion in which he seemed eager to make new law -- a federal reporters’ shield law -- but in the end, he couldn’t bring himself to do it in this particular case. In his final paragraph, he says he “might have” let Cooper and Miller off the hook “[w]ere the leak at issue in this case less harmful to national security.”

    Tatel’s colleagues are at least as impressed with the prosecutor’s secret filings as he is. One simply said “Special Counsel’s showing decides the case.”

    All the judges who have seen the prosecutor’s secret evidence firmly believe he is pursuing a very serious crime, and they have done everything they can to help him get an indictment.

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  4. "All the judges who have seen the prosecutor’s secret evidence firmly believe he is pursuing a very serious crime, and they have done everything they can to help him get an indictment."

    That statement has to be conjecture, because any judge who actually said something like that about a case she was involved in would be committing a serious violation of judicial ethics ;)

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  5. I'd say it's pretty good conjecture, wouldn't you?

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  6. Probably so. Judges have to be careful to maintain the appearance of impartiality, though.

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  7. Well, as I said before somewhere, if all this sound and fury ends up in nothing but a fizzle case against Carl Rove, I'll be very disappointed in Fitzgerald, and seriously doubtful of his motives.

    Jeff

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  8. This is absolute pure speculation on my part and I doubt that Fitzgerald is investigating this question but there was another CIA leak that featured many of the same players as Rovegate.

    According to this NY Times story from June 2, 2004 http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00815FF3F550C718CDDAF0894DC404482 , Ahmad Chalabi allegedly told Iran that U.S. intelligence had cracked the code used by the Iranian spy service on their encrypted communications. Of course, the Iranians immediately changed their codes and the U.S. lost an extremely important source of information.

    As for Chalabi, he is/was quite chummy with Judith Miller, the neocons and, apparently, President Bush himself. Chalabi was convicted of bank fraud in Jordan in 1989 when he stole $300 million in bank deposits, http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level.php?cat=Politics&loid=8.0.165510046&par=0. But surprisingly, on May 11, 2005, King Abdullah of Jordan pardoned Chalabi. According to Seymour Hersh http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/05/11/142250&mode=thread&tid=25, George Bush himself asked King Abdullah to pardon Chalabi.

    So, like Rovegate, this particular story features CIA leaks, neocons, Judith Miller and George Bush. I doubt that Fitzgerald's investigation has anything to do with this case, but it is in the same ballpark.

    Karen

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  9. Karen,

    I haven't brought it up yet, but I believe Chalibigate is also involved. Wheels within wheels, lies within lies, enigmas withing conundrums.

    That's also what makes me think Fitzgerald is taking his time getting to where he's going, and keeping his mouth shut about it.

    We shall see.

    Jeff

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  10. Jeff:

    I've been doing a bit of digging around and I'm starting to think the whole Rove flap may not be all its cracked up to be. I'll post something on my blog in the next few days.

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  11. Anonymous12:48 AM

    What have you been reading, the White House Press Briefing with Scott "On-going Criminal Investigation" McClellen?? Hoo boy - yeah, nothing to hide there!

    Or maybe you've been reading the Talking Points from Ken Mellman and the RNC, because God knows THEY are a credible and reliable resource - so well researched.

    Isn't it funny, though, how Scottie "On-going Criminal Investigation" McClellen, who actually has to testify under oath to a federal grand jury isn't spouting the usual Kool Aide line like he normally would - or how Mellman is...who DOESN"T actually have to testify under oath to a federal grand jury.

    It is a wonder to behold how the threat of jail time really focuses and clears the mind. Helps you set your priorities. Maybe put the Kool Aide away for a while.

    But I really can't comment during an ON-GOING CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION, and it's an on-going CRIMINAL investigation because the CIA repeatedly asked the Justice Department to look into the exposure of one of their covert operatives. But yeah, there probably isn't a lot to this on-going CRIMINAL investigation.

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  12. Sorry, whoever you are with your 'anonymous' post, but the fact they aren't talking doesn't say much. Any lawyer who isn't a total incompetent would be telling the lot of them not to comment pubicly on any of this.

    Unlike you, I actually like to try and figure out what is really going on; that's more than just spouting the usual partisan nonsense (which is something I suspect you are good at). Be honest, you've got Kool-Aid in your hand right now, haven't you?

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  13. Well, Scott, IMO use of "spout the usual partisin nonesense" is spouting the usual partisan nonesense.

    And I'm not sold on the notion that it's okay for our government official to keep things hidden because lawyers told them to.

    Jeff

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  14. Anonymous10:28 AM

    You're funny, R. Scott Kimsey, if that's your real name.

    Sorry whoever you are with your not anonymous post, Scottie "on-going Criminal Investigation" McClellen was happy to talk last year to defend Rove during a still on-going criminal investigation - "it's ridiculous to think he had anything to do with it" - to now hiding behind "no comment because it's an on-going criminal investigation." And if you were really "trying to figure out what's going on" your post might have made note of that.

    For you to say there is nothing to these charges reflects less of a grasp of the issues then you keep claiming you have. Not a single one of your posts presents even one fact or displays any particular instance of you having tried to "figure out what is going on" beyond what your fellow Kool Aide drinkers have said. Had you written something that disagrees with Jeff which showed you actually have thought about it, internalized the many discussions and came to your own conclusions then I wouldn't charge you with Kool Aide drinking. And I would enjoy a discussion based on honest disagreements. But none of your comments, whether be it be on this topic or others earlier in this blog, displays any notion of being able to think for yourself. And I have no respect for that.

    As for me drinking the Kool Aide? Well, I served the United States military and I worked iwth CIA; I reluctantly supported the Iraq War - "reluctant" because it seemed Saddam was leashed and our military leaders didn't support the invasion; "supported" because my President told me Saddam was an imminent threat.

    Now I know I was lied to. And thousands of people have been killed and maimed for a lie. And this outing of a CIA operative was part of that whole package of lying to get us into war. And this outing of a CIA operative, this releasing of classified information, to a news reporter is traitorous. They compromised national security for political gain and as an American, that makes me sick. It doesn't get more unpatriotic, and whoever did it, whether it be Rove or someone else, is no better than Robert Hansen or Aldrich Aimes.

    Yes, I'm drinking the Kool Aide and its colored Red, White, and Blue.

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  15. What do you say to that, R. Scott Kimsey, if that's your real name?

    Sorry, sorry. I'm not being helpful. But it was hard to resist.

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  16. Hey Doug - guess I'll have to double-check my birth certificate to make sure.

    Jeff: I don't think a person loses the right not to incriminate oneself merely because they are a government official. The reason the lawyer is telling them not to say anything is to avoid statements that could later be used as 'admissions' if there is a court proceeding, among other things. The reason for the change with respect to commenting is fairly obvious and is two-fold - 1) practical political considerations. It is a weak reason, but there you have it; and 2) I'm not sure it was entirely clear prior to a short while ago that a high-up admin official was potentially guilty of a criminal act or abuse of power. Once you have a name out there and some more specific allegations, that's when the lawyer should advise everyone not to comment publicly on the case. The admin officials might decide to comment anyway, but it can't help them, it can only come back to bite them.

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  17. But you don't think there's a little problem when this many high government officials have to worry about incriminating themselves?

    Yes, I agree rule of law and protections apply to them--I just think it says a hell of a lot when they have to use them.

    Jeff

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  18. Jeff:

    Could very well be that you are right. I posted my thoughts on my blog and would interested in your take. Where I basically end up is whereas I thought a few days ago I knew enough of the 'facts' to say that at the very least Rove abused his power, I know think we have to wait further. Dno't get me wrong - Rove may well have abused his power; he may still even have committed a crime, but I'm not certain of it any longer. Depending on whose versions of events end up more closely related to the truth, it could go either way.

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