Recordings Key to Case Against Libby Released

Scroll down for audio and transcript excerpts of Libby's testimony before the grand jury.

Tim Russert leaves court. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Tim Russert Testifies

In testimony before the Libby trial jury Thursday, NBC journalist Tim Russert flatly contradicted Libby's story – heard in the newly released grand-jury testimony recordings — about when the vice president's former chief of staff first learned about CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. Russert and Libby have offered very different accounts of a July 2003 phone that is at the heart of the case.

A jury in Washington, D.C., has spent the week listening to audio recordings of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's testimony before a grand jury in March 2004.

These recordings – in which Libby allegedly lies under oath – are at the heart of the prosecutor's case against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. Libby is accused of obstructing a federal investigation into the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity by lying to a grand jury and FBI agents. Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a prominent critic of the White House's justification for war with Iraq.

The judge in the Libby case took the unusual step of releasing the audio recordings of Libby's eight hours before the grand jury. These recordings are now available publicly. Here are some of the highlights:

On Conversations with NBC News' Tim Russert

This section of Libby's grand jury testimony appeared in the indictment charging Libby with perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby recounts a phone call he had with NBC journalist Tim Russert. Libby says that during this call, Russert told Libby that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Russert has testified "that would be impossible, because I didn't know who [Valerie Plame] was until several days later."

On Earlier Discussions with Officials About Plame

In this exchange, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asks Libby about a string of government officials, all of whom have testified that they had conversations with Libby about Valerie Plame before Libby claims to have learned Plame's identity from journalist Tim Russert. Marc Grossman was a State Department official, Cathie Martin was Vice President Cheney's spokeswoman, and Ari Fleischer was the White House spokesman. The passage also refers to "Pincus," who is Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus.

On Relying on Staff to Fill In Memory Blanks

Libby explains how it is possible that he may have forgotten multiple conversations that he allegedly had with reporters and government officials about Valerie Plame. He describes his workload and his dependence on notes and staff to assist his memory.

On Getting a Tepid Defense from the White House

When the CIA-leak investigation began, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said publicly that White House adviser Karl Rove was not the source for newspaper columnist Robert Novak's story about Valerie Plame. When asked about Libby, McClellan said he would not go down a list of who was and was not involved in the leak. This portion of the grand jury testimony shows Libby's reaction to that comment from McClellan.

On Forgetting Cheney Told Him About Plame

In this excerpt, Libby describes finding a note that suggests he first learned of Valerie Plame's identity from Vice President Cheney and then forgot it by the time Libby spoke on the phone with journalist Tim Russert. Libby also testifies about the conversations he had — and did not have — with Vice President Cheney about the leak. Prosecutor Fitzgerald mentions "Cooper, Kessler and Miller." These are journalists Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, and Judith Miller, formerly of The New York Times.

On Cheney's Efforts to Defend Libby

Fitzgerald asks Libby to examine a document with Vice President Cheney's handwriting on it. It says in part, "Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder." Fitzgerald and Libby discuss what that means. This passage makes reference to "Tenet," meaning CIA director George Tenet.

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