Week in Review: Libby, Rove, Miers

The indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief adviser to Vice President Cheney, is one major story. Another is Harriet Miers' withdrawal from consideration for a Supreme Court appointment.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Mr. PATRICK FITZGERALD (Special Prosecutor): A few hours ago, a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia returned a five-count indictment against I. Lewis Libby, also known as Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff.

WERTHEIMER: That was special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald on Friday. Lewis Libby has been indicted on charges of obstructing justice, perjury and making false statements in his testimony to the grand jury about the leaked identity of an undercover CIA agent. Mr. Libby has resigned from office, but that is not the only major story of this week. After weeks of speculation and bad press, White House counsel Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination to the US Supreme Court. NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr joins us.

Dan, hello.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Hi, Linda, and welcome back.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much. So, Dan, first of all, wasn't at least one other indictment expected in the CIA leak case--that would be against presidential adviser Karl Rove?

SCHORR: Yes, and what's very interesting is that Rove's lawyer said that `He is not being indicted today.' And I wonder why they said `today.' Also interesting, if you read the indictment, there's a passage that speaks of Official A told Libby that he had talked with conservative columnist Robert Novak. And so it begins to look as though the White House was talking and spreading the word about Valerie Plame to some journalists, and Libby was in charge of conveying the same message to other journalists.

WERTHEIMER: Mr. Fitzgerald refused to talk about anyone else's involvement in the leak. He only talked about Lewis Libby. At this juncture, do we have any clearer understanding about who said what and when?

SCHORR: Well, we're beginning to have the understanding. The fact that Libby was so active in doing this--now Libby was reporting to Rove at the White House what he was doing and who was speaking and leaking to which reporter. I think that points a finger at Vice President Dick Cheney. It's hard to believe that Libby would have done all of that unless he were under orders to do it or carrying out a mission. And there appears to be a mission to get this story leaked very thoroughly into several places, and I think that when we're finished with this, we'll find the center of this was the vice president.

WERTHEIMER: The White House has been in some considerable disarray over this whole investigation, which has lasted for nearly two years. Now that an indictment has been handed down, is that a blow for the president, to have a high-ranking official indicted? Is that gonna keep the president from getting back to his own agenda, do you think?

SCHORR: Well, this whole two-year investigation has been a series of blows to the administration and to the president. It raises the question that if you didn't believe in what they were doing and want them to do it, how could people run around taking pot shots at people who are not in the government? It's bad, and then that it should come together with one-two punch--and the other is the withdrawal of the nomination of Harriet Miers--doesn't make it any better.

WERTHEIMER: Well, we're gonna get to that in just a second, but first, I wanted to ask you about the way this has affected the relationship of reporters and sources and prosecutors. The grand jury sought out and got access to the notes of two reporters--Judith Miller of The New York Times, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine. What effect do you think this episode will have on issues of confidentiality between a reporter and his or her sources?

SCHORR: Oh, I imagine that short range for a few weeks, perhaps a couple of months, that both reporters and officials will be very careful about not talking together too much because you could end up before a grand jury. That, I think, will be for a maximum three months. But the urge of leakers to leak and the urge of reporters to benefit from those leaks is so great that we'll be, I'm sure, back in business before long.

WERTHEIMER: Now turning to the other big story, ex-Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Ms. Miers said that she decided to withdraw her nomination because the Senate demanded to see internal White House documents that could not be released because of executive privilege. So do you think that was the only reason?

SCHORR: Well, probably not. The chances were that she would not get a vote in her favor in the Senate, the way things look now, because a great many Republican senators had their doubts about her qualifications. However, Charles Krauthammer, the conservative columnist, had made a suggestion to them which they may have taken. And that was, `Just say that there's such tension between papers that the executive had and Senate wants, that maybe for this reason alone, we should have her withdraw.' In other words, it's much better than saying she was withdrawing and the president was accepting her withdrawal simply because she wasn't making it in the Senate and certainly not making it before the conservatives who thought they were not sure how conservative she was.

WERTHEIMER: So Justice O'Connor, who has announced her intention to retire...

SCHORR: Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: ...and thought she was there on two different occasions...

SCHORR: Right.

WERTHEIMER: ...appears to be back at work.

SCHORR: Well, she announced last July that she wanted to retire, and then she said--maybe she's sorry said it--that she would be willing to go on serving until her successor was confirmed. That was last July. I don't know if it'll be next July before she'll be able to say `I resign again.'

WERTHEIMER: Turning now to Iraq, in a week when domestic issues seem to claim most of our attention, the Iraqi constitution has been officially gratified...

SCHORR: Right.

WERTHEIMER: ...by a narrow vote. A majority in one key province voted against it, but the no votes did not reach the two-thirds threshold needed to reject the document. So now what?

SCHORR: So now they start getting ready for an election of a parliament in December. And so now what we have now is the question, always the question, of how the Sunnis will react to all of this, whether they will gear and get up together and participate in the election campaign or whether, as every now and then happens, some of them will say, `To hell with this, let's go back to being an insurgency.'

WERTHEIMER: A gloomy number was reached in Iraq this week, a terrible milestone: More than 2,000 American soldiers have been killed there since the start of the war.

SCHORR: It was gloomy, indeed. You know, the interesting thing is the Pentagon gives you figures on Americans, but doesn't tell you about Iraqis. Some unofficial estimates have been made, and that is that 30,000--30,000 Iraqis lost their lives in the same period. So it's sort of 10:1.

WERTHEIMER: As a reminder of one of the many uninspiring episodes in the period of sanctions before the Iraq War, a United Nations investigation, which was led by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker released its final report on the UN oil-for-food program. The report said that more than 2,000 firms, mainly Russian and French, fleeced the oil-for-food program with bribes and kickbacks.

SCHORR: Yes, that's a terrible thing, and they're all resting it on the doorstep of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who's wondering if he's going to be re-elected. I don't want to write editorials, but the idea, when you're talking about food for people to be bought with a certain amount of oil at a time when sanctions are sopping all the oil, and you can't get people to try to avoid bribes and kickbacks in a situation like that, what's there to say except what a sad world.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Dan.

SCHORR: Sure.

WERTHEIMER: Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

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