ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
The pace of testimony picked up today at the trial of Lewis Libby. He's charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby served formerly as Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff. He is accused of lying to the FBI and the grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity.
Joining us from the federal courthouse in Washington is NPR's Nina Totenberg. And Nina, today a second journalist testifying under subpoena.
NINA TOTENBERG: Former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper testified also under subpoena, as did former New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Cooper said it was Karl Rove, the president's top political advisor who first told him about CIA agent Valerie Plame. She's the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, who's a former ambassador sent by the CIA on a fact finding mission related to the run-up to the Iraq war.
Cooper said that he spoke to Rove on July 11, just five days after Ambassador Wilson's celebrated op-ed piece appeared in the New York Times contending that the administration had twisted intelligence in the run up to the war. And Cooper said that Rove told him, quote, "Don't get too far out on Wilson." That a number of things were going to be coming out about Wilson that would cast him in a different light.
Cooper says that Rove told him that Wilson's wife had sent him on the fact finding trip he wrote about in the Times, that the wife worked on WMD at the agency - meaning the CIA. And Cooper also testified that a day later, he spoke to Lewis Scooter Libby, the defendant in this case, and that when the Cooper asked him about the wife in the CIA, Libby replied yeah, I've heard that, too.
BLOCK: Now you mentioned that Matt Cooper followed former New York Times reporter Judith Miller to the witness stand. How would you compare their two testimonies before the jury?
TOTENBERG: Well, Cooper was pretty unflappable. He, you know, would say yes, I suppose that's possible but that's not the way I remember the conversation, when questioned by Libby's counsel.
In contrast, Judith Miller seemed more ragged, and she has memory problems as she readily admits. And so I would say that her testimony probably was not as forceful as Cooper's was.
BLOCK: Nina, jurors are often frustrated that they can't ask questions of witnesses, but I understand that in this case, they can ask questions. How is that working?
TOTENBERG: Well, the jurors at the end of the direct examination and cross examination and re-direct are allowed to submit questions to the judge and he then screens them and asks them for the jurors. And there were a lot for reporter Miller. many more than for any other witness.
Yesterday, Miller said that when she testified the first time before the grand jury she forgot about her first meeting with Scooter Libby, which was on June 23 of 2003, three weeks before he claimed to have known about Mrs. Wilson's CIA identity. And Miller said that she remembered that first meeting after finding a notebook relating to that first interview with Libby and that she found it in a shopping bag under her office desk.
Well, the jurors wanted to know if that was the way she archived her material. And she said she put a bunch of stuff there thinking that she could take it back home but because she had refused initially to testify before the grand jury, which she was held in contempt and carted off to jail for 85 days, and when she was released and testified almost immediately before the grand jury, she went back that night and found the stuff under her desk.
And the jurors asked her a lot of questions about why she had refused to testify. And she said she didn't want to be a martyr. That reporters can't find things out if they can't protect their sources and a lot of other stuff.
BLOCK: Nina, what's going on behind the scenes of the Lewis Libby trial?
TOTENBERG: Well, what I'm about to tell you was out of the hearing of the jury, and likely this is material the jurors will never hear, but the prosecution wanted to introduce as evidence a note that Scooter Libby took on July 10.
Now remember, July 10 is the date that Libby told the grand jury was the day he first learned about Valerie Plame Wilson's identity and that he learned it in a phone call with NBC's Tim Russert.
Well, this note reflects the conversation that Libby had earlier that day with Mary Madeleine, the vice president's former press officer and very much part of the Cheney inner circle, and Libby had called her for advice. And the note quoted her as saying that the Wilson's story, quote, "had legs," and quote, "we need to get our story out." And the strategy she recommended, call Tim - meaning Tim Russert - he hates Chris - meaning NBC's Chris Matthews. And he - meaning Russert - needs to know it all. And then the note says Wilson is a snake.
Melissa, the jury will never see it, but this is pretty juicy stuff.
BLOCK: Indeed. Nina, thanks very much.
NPR's Nina Totenberg at the Federal Courthouse here in Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.