For an account of the opening arguments of the Libby trial, click here.
On the second day of the Scooter Libby trial, Ted Wells, the defendant’s attorney, continued with his double strategy of challenging the memories of the prosecution’s witnesses and of creating a series of narratives that could end up confusing jurors.
The first witness called to stand by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was Marc Grossman, who was the No. 3 at the State Department in the summer of 2003. His testimony was clear-cut. On May 29, 2003, he was contacted by Libby, who was seeking information on former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger. Three weeks earlier, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof had written a piece–without mentioning Wilson by name–citing Wilson’s mission as evidence that the Bush administration had hyped the prewar intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Few in the media had paid any attention to Kristof’s column, but Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus was looking into Vice President Dick Cheney’s connection to the Wilson affair. (Wilson had been sent by the CIA on this trip in 2002 after Cheney had asked an intelligence briefer for more information on the allegation that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger.)
It was while Pincus was sniffing around that Libby, according to Grossman, called him and asked for information on Wilson’s mission. Grossman testified that he had known nothing about the trip, then learned the basic details from others at the State Department, and shared this information with Libby. He also testified that he had asked the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research to prepare a memo on the trip. The memo noted that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA division that had dispatched Wilson. Grossman testified that he shared this fact with Libby during a face-to-face meeting on June 11 or June 12, 2003.
This is important because after the CIA leak criminal investigation was launched, Libby told the FBI and a grand jury that when he heard from Meet the Press host Tim Russert on July 10 or 11 that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA, he believed he was learning this fact anew. (Russert denies saying anything to Libby about Valerie Wilson.) Fitzgerald’s plan is to demonstrate that Libby aggressively gathered information on Joseph and Valerie Wilson before the leak to prove that his story to the grand jury and the FBI–that he had forgotten he knew anything about Valerie Wilson and had merely passed along to reporters rumors about her he had heard from other reporters–was an intentional lie.
If Libby was pressing Grossman for official information on Wilson and receiving information on Wilson and his wife (which was classified), it means he possessed far more than scuttlebutt. And Grossman was only the first of several witnesses Fitzgerald expected to call to make this point.