Next week the prosecution is expected to rest in the perjury and obstruction of justice trial of the vice president's former chief of staff, Lewis Libby.
NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg has been covering the trial and joins us. Nina, thanks for being with us.
NINA TOTENBERG: My pleasure.
SIMON: The end of the prosecution's case is in sight. How is it proceeding?
TOTENBERG: Well, it's been a pretty smooth and linear case. The prosecutors has put on six witnesses from the White House itself, from the CIA and the State Department, all of whom contradicted Scooter Libby's account of events.
Libby's story, remember, is that when he was interviewed by the FBI twice, and then when he testified twice before the grand jury, he didn't lie. He didn't intentional give false testimony. Rather, if it was false, he simply misremembered events.
Well, now we've seen this parade of witnesses testify that the vice president's office, and Libby, as its head staff guy, they were crazed in the summer of 2003 when former Ambassador Joseph Wilson accused them of twisting intelligence. So all these witnesses are describing how Libby was asking all about Joseph Wilson, looking for information to rebut Wilson's charges and to discredit him. And over and over again, Libby is told that Wilson's wife works for the CIA. Then, when there's a criminal investigation of how her name was leaked to the press, well, you can see that Libby is worried.
SIMON: And talking about press leaks, of course this was the week that former New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper took the stand.
TOTENBERG: Yes, and both of them testified that Libby told them about Mrs. Wilson's CIA identity. Miller, in fact, testified that she had detailed conversations with Libby about Mrs. Wilson's role some two weeks before Ambassador Wilson went public with his criticisms. There was an important little nugget of testimony this week from David Addington. Addington's known in Washington as Cheney's Cheney. He used to work for the CIA, and he said that at the end of 2003, Libby asked him how you would know if someone was a covert agent. And Addington said he told Libby, you wouldn't know unless you were told, and he gave Libby a copy of the statute that makes it a crime to knowingly divulge the identity of a CIA covert agent. Then it's the prosecution's theory that Libby, fearing that he might be in legal jeopardy, or at least that he would be fired for leaking, then constructed a phony story that he had learned of Mrs. Wilson's identity not from government sources, but from reporters.
SIMON: Nina, the veil has been lifted in some portions of this trial, both on the operations daily of the White House, and for that matter journalism. Do you have favorite item that came out?
TOTENBERG: My favorite piece of dirty laundry, as it were - and I guess it's dirty about everybody - took place the day that Libby talked to Tim Russert of NBC. He said he first learned about Valerie Wilson's identity from Tim Russert. But earlier in the day, he's desperately trying to rebut these Wilson allegations and he calls up Mary Madeleine, who is on the inside circle of the Cheney operation, and to get ideas for strategy. And he's a compulsive note-taker. And he writes down everything she says. And she says - she says this story has legs. You've got to get our story out. She says call Tim, meaning Tim Russert. He hates Chris, meaning Chris Matthews, because there were a lot of complaints about what Chris Matthews was saying on his program. Then he writes down, quoting Madeleine, Wilson is a snake.
SIMON: Okay. Thanks very much. NPR's Nina Totenberg.
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Bloggers Join Frenzy at Media-Saturated Libby Trial
Journalists have descended en masse upon the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., to cover the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff. But as the usual assortment of newspaper reporters and network correspondents clamor for their seats this week, bloggers join the ranks of journalists in the courthouse.
For the first time in the admittedly brief history of the blogosphere, the U.S. District Court in Washington has given the Media Bloggers Association two press credentials. A rotating cast of association members claims those seats each day, posting commentary about the trial.
In Place of Television
Bloggers are allowed to sit in the nearby press room and relay their posts via a wireless Internet connection. Given that no cameras, video, or audio equipment are allowed in the courtroom, play-by-plays posted on some blogs offer an alternative perspective on the trial. The bloggers insist that the posts not be read as transcripts. After all, they're not court reporters. Instead, they call the updates "liveblogs."
"Liveblog" commentaries can be snarky. ("Now she's got a pissed look on her face," the writers of Fire Dog Lake noted when describing former New York Times reporter Judith Miller on the stand). But they also play it straight. For example, on Media Is A Plural, Rory O'Connor offers a dry account of each step in the trial:
"Defense then refers to Cooper's notes of his conversation with Libby. First, Libby gave him the full on the record statement about the Niger/uranium story. It noted that the VP was unaware of Wilson's trip until long after it happened."
Journalists On Journalists
Robert Cox was the first blogger to cover the trial during jury selection. He's also the president of the Media Bloggers Association. That's the non-partisan, 1,000-member organization that worked to secure the press credentials. After two years of wrangling with judicial officials across the country, the association finally won the chance to prove what blogs and bloggers can contribute beyond traditional journalism. And this case, in particular, is an interesting battleground to debate the role of blogs in journalism, since many of the witnesses in the trial are, in fact, journalists.
John Dickerson is covering the trial for Slate. He's also a potential witness but hasn't been subpoened. On his trial blog, he shared his surprise at hearing his own name mentioned during testimony:
"I was at the Scooter Libby trial to cover it, and all of a sudden, I found myself in the middle of the case. In his testimony today, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told the courtroom—which included me—that when I was a White House correspondent for Time magazine, he had told me that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.
"Everyone had heard about Robert Novak, Matt Cooper, and Judith Miller, the reporters who had received the Valerie Plame leak. But now Ari was saying I was in that club, too."
In his Web articles, Dickerson denies having been told about Valerie Plame Wilson. Clarice Feldman, who currently holds one of the press credentials being shared by the bloggers, recounts the moment on Just One Minute. In one post, Feldman wonders how Ari Fleischer's testimony about Dickerson and David Gregory (who, like Tim Russert, works for NBC News) might affect the outcome of the trial.
"Dickerson denied the story absolutely. If he admitted it, his two written accounts would impeach that admission. But if Gregory confirms the Fleischer account, it becomes harder to believe Russert's fuzzy denial that he had no knowledge of the Wilson-Plame-CIA account. Either way, flaws in Fitzgerald's case are exposed."
Journalists On Journalists On Journalists
The writers at Fire Dog Lake keep their site updated throughout the day, offering a playful mix of colorful details and inane minutiae — such as this commentary, when reporter Judith Miller took the stand.
"Judy back. Looks like she's doing breathing exercises, pouring herself water. Got out of chair and is now back. Gets more water. Thanks person who brings more. Looking around cautiously. Closes eyes. Breathes. Breathes out. Looking straight foward. Head darts nervously. Staring forward. Shifts in chair. Looks toward Libby's team? Looks towawrd lawyers. Adjusts blouse. Looks at lawyers again."
This particular post inspired yet another popular blog, Wonkette, to question the utility of having bloggers in the courtroom.