Skip to comments.Tim Russert at Libby Trial: Public Memory Lapse and a False Affidavit?
Posted on 02/07/2007 7:26:24 PM PST by kristinn
The courtroom was packed, the overflow room was packed, the street in front of the Prettyman building looked like it did back when the Lewinsky scandal was in full flower. All the attention was for the media's star witness against President Bush: Tim Russert. Actually, Russert was prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's star witness against I. Lewis Libby.
I arrived in the afternoon, a few minutes into the cross examination of Russert by Libby's attorney, Theodore Wells.
Russert started off strong, a little too strong in his demeanor on the witness stand. He didn't want to get boxed in by Wells' questions so he kept elaborating beyond what was asked. The point of exasperation was when Russert asked Wells a question.
Eventually Wells, with backing from Judge Walton, admonished Russert.
From other reports, Fitzgerald only questioned Russert for ten minutes to get his testimony on the record that he didn't tell Libby about Valerie Plame in their July 10, 2003 phone conversation.
Wells kept Russert on the stand for longer than that. A lot longer, with plans to keep Russert on the stand for two more hours when court resumes tomorrow morning.
Wells was able to once again call into question the veracity of the infamous FBI 302 summaries of witness interviews with Russert's testimony that his recollection of his FBI interview differed in some respects with the agent's notes.
The more interesting testimony, though, came when Wells brought up a public example of Russert's flawed memory for important phone calls. The questioning was based on this episode as recounted by The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz in June 2004:
Tim Russert has told the Buffalo News he regrets an error he made in a recent Washington Post Magazine interview.
Russert had said he never called News reporter Mark Sommer to complain about a negative review of his performance in moderating a Hillary Clinton-Rick Lazio Senate debate in 2000. But Sommer says in an interview that Russert called him twice about the piece and "was furious. . . . I was struck how a guy who basks in the reputation of being a tough reporter can't handle criticism when it applies to himself."
"I just plain didn't remember it," Russert says in an interview,...
Russert testified that he later remembered the phone call to Sommer when he reviewed a letter he had written to Sommer at the same time as the call that had a notation that he had indeed called Sommer.
Wells made a point of repeating many times the title of a Buffalo News article about the incident. I wasn't taking notes, but the headline was something like: Russert's Public Memory Lapse.
He got Russert to agree that he didn't deliberately lie about the phone call and that he was confident he was being truthful when he told Kurtz he hadn't called Sommer.
Wells noted that Russert's memory lapse occured a few months before his grand jury testimony in the Plame case.
Russert testified he has no notes from his conversation with Libby on July 10, 2003. His recollection is based solely on his memory--which his testimony showed needs prompting.
If Russert and Fitzgerald were feeling a bit crestfallen by the exposure of Russert's faulty memory, their moods went south quickly when Wells introduced into evidence the sworn affidavit that Russert submitted in an attempt by him and NBC News to squash the grand jury subpoena for Russert in 2004.
The affidavit began with Russert explaining what a big wheel he is in the media, lists his awards, and then explains how he has sources all throughout the government that he protects with promises of confidentiality. The affidavit then says that because of Russert's promises of confidentiality, he cannot even confirm to the government whether the conversation with Libby took place, let alone tell what was said.
Wells revisited the interview with the FBI agent, named Eckenrode(sp?), which took place in November 2003--many months before the affidavit.
Wells pointed out that Russert spoke about the conversation with Libby with the FBI agent without even verifying that the man on the phone was indeed an FBI agent or whether Libby had indeed waived confidentiality on the conversation.
Russert tried to weasel out of it by saying he considered Libby's phone call a "viewer complaint" about Hardball's coverage of the Joe Wilson story and that he had only told the agent his side of the conversation because the agent told him Libby was saying Russert told him about Plame.
Wells hammered home that Russert had not included this conversation with a government agent in his affidavit--raising the possibility that Russert filed a false affidavit with the court.
By this point Fitzgerald was slouched in his chair, intently staring at the jury to gauge their reaction to his star witness getting methodically taken apart.
Judge Walton recessed for the day a little before 5 p.m. He asked Wells how long he intended to question Russert when court resumed in the morning. Wells answered, with Russert watching from next to the witness box where he was leaning on his crutch, that he would question Russert for a long while. He repeated that answer when Walton asked him again. The third time Walton asked him Wells said about two hours.
Russert left out a side door while Fitzgerald and Wells spoke with Walton about the schedule for the trial.
As the media filed out, there were few happy faces to be found among them.
You may unbate your breath now.
Geeze, according to Fox News Radio, Russert contradicted Libby. Maybe they should try showing up at the trial.
a crutch? Does Russert have a handicap? or an injury?
posted that report earlier today.
Russert contradicts Libby's testimony
Thanks for the report, Kristinn...
I wonder how proud Gus would be of little Timmy now?
Small world, isn't it...
This appears to not only destroy the case against Libby and put Russert in danger of a charge of perjury, but to also provide the basis for a charge of prosecutorial misconduct against Fitzgerald: It makes it quite clear that there never was a case, and that Fitzgerald should have known that.
What a great report Kristinn - it's so important we have somebody we can trust to tell us what has been going on.
Rush has been saying all along that the Press isn't telling the public that Wells is taking apart Fitz's witnesses.
It's great to hear a first person confirmation that indeed Wells is doing just that.
I know liberalism is a heavy load to bear but I didn't think it needed crutches to keep you upright
Firsthand report from the trial!
BUMP for great freeping!
Wow! Without notes? That is the best report on the trial I have seen. You need to be a reporter (ducking). Thank you for a clear and to the point report. You're good.
Yep... totally different take than I heard on the news this afternoon even on FOX.