Matalin still spinning, issuing falsehoods on Plame case

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Republican strategist Mary Matalin falsely claimed that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald said "that no crime was committed" in the alleged leak of former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity and that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was "flat-out lying" in his 2003 New York Times op-ed.

On the July 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Republican strategist Mary Matalin falsely claimed that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald said "that no crime was committed" in the alleged leak of former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity and that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was "flat-out lying" in his July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed in which he disclosed that Iraq had not attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger. In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted numerous times (for example, here and here), when Fitzgerald announced the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of perjury and obstructing the grand jury's efforts to investigate the alleged leak of Plame's identity, he explained that he had been unable to determine whether the alleged leak itself constituted a violation of the law, not that a crime had not been committed, as Matalin asserted. Also, while the CIA report on Wilson's findings is still classified, the Senate Intelligence Committee disclosed much of its contents in its 2004 "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq." The descriptions contained in the committee's report indicate that the findings and version of events Wilson disclosed to the CIA did not contradict those detailed in his op-ed.

Matalin has previously served up baseless claims regarding the Plame matter, repeating the unsupported assertion that Wilson himself disclosed the fact that Plame, his wife, was a CIA operative. Matalin asked, "What's the crime here?" She contended that "[e]verybody in town knew that, and who outed her was her husband -- 'my wife, the CIA wife' and all this stuff," an assertion that Media Matters has debunked (here, here, and here).

Discussing a just-posted column by Robert D. Novak, who purported to reveal his role in the Plame leak investigation, Hannity & Colmes co-host Alan Comes interviewed Matalin, asking: "Is there any doubt now" that the alleged leak of Plame's name was an "attempt to retaliate against Joe Wilson for speaking out ... against the Bush administration?" Matalin responded: "No. Alan. ... What the prosecutor himself [Fitzgerald] said was that no crime was committed, OK? There's been no crime committed here." She added that "[t]he only person through several investigations documented to have been a bona fide liar in this case is Joe Wilson." Later, Matalin defended the Bush administration's decision to counter Wilson's op-ed, saying that "it would be immoral if the administration did not answer its critics when its critics were lying, flat-out lying about facts relative to the war on terror, which Joe Wilson was knowingly doing."

But contrary to Matalin's assertion on Hannity & Colmes that Fitzgerald said that no crime had been committed in the alleged leak of Plame's CIA identity, in an October 28, 2005, press release summarizing Libby's indictment, Fitzgerald indicated that he had not been able to reach a conclusion about whether a crime had been committed, saying that Libby impeded the grand jury in getting to the bottom of the leak:

Without the truth, our criminal justice system cannot serve our nation or its citizens. The requirement to tell the truth applies equally to all citizens, including persons who hold high positions in government. In an investigation concerning the compromise of a CIA officer's identity, it is especially important that grand jurors learn what really happened. The indictment returned today alleges that the efforts of the grand jury to investigate such a leak were obstructed when Mr. Libby lied about how and when he learned and subsequently disclosed classified information about Valerie Wilson [Plame].

And in a press conference that same day, a reporter specifically asked Fitzgerald whether the investigation was over and whether the probe would fail to "lead to a charge of leaking." In response to the first question, the special counsel confirmed that the investigation had not concluded. In response to the second question, Fitzgerald compared himself to an umpire who, while attempting to determine whether a pitcher intentionally hit a batter, had sand thrown in his eyes:

QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, this began as a leak investigation, but no one is charged with any leaking. Is your investigation finished? Is this another leak investigation that doesn't lead to a charge of leaking?

FITZGERALD: Let me answer the two questions you asked in one. OK, is the investigation finished? It's not over, but I'll tell you this: Very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried and would you ever end a grand jury investigation. I can tell you, the substantial bulk of the work in this investigation is concluded. This grand jury's term has expired by statute; it could not be extended. But it's in ordinary course to keep a grand jury open to consider other matters, and that's what we will be doing.

Let me then ask your next question: Well, why is this a leak investigation that doesn't result in a charge? I've been trying to think about how to explain this, so let me try. I know baseball analogies are the fad these days. Let me try something. If you saw a baseball game and you saw a pitcher wind up and throw a fastball and hit a batter right smack in the head, and it really, really hurt them, you'd want to know why the pitcher did that.

[...]

In this case, it's a lot more serious than baseball. And the damage wasn't to one person. It wasn't just Valerie [Plame] Wilson. It was done to all of us.

And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell [New York Times reporter] Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. [Matthew] Cooper [of Time magazine]? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?

Or did they intend to do something else, and where are the shades of gray?

And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened, and somebody blocked their view.

As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it.

So what you were saying is the harm in an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make.

In neither the press release nor the press conference did Fitzgerald say or suggest that he had concluded that no crime had been committed in the act of leaking itself.

Matalin also falsely claimed that Wilson was "flat-out lying about facts relative to the war on terror" in his July 6 op-ed, apparently conflating the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism. However, as Media Matters for America has noted, in his op-ed, Wilson wrote of the reported sale of Nigerian yellowcake uranium to Iraq that "[i]t did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." In support of his conclusion, Wilson wrote:

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

Wilson's language closely echoes the Intelligence Committee's description of his report:

The intelligence report also said that Niger's former Minister for Energy and Mines, Mai Manga, stated that there were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980's.

[...]

The intelligence report described how the structure of Niger's uranium mines would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Niger to sell uranium to rogue nations, and noted that Nigerien officials denied knowledge of any deals to sell uranium to any rogue states, but did not refute the possibility that Iraq had approached Niger to purchase uranium.

From the July 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: Mary, let me go to the Novak story for just a second before we talk about the economy. Is there any doubt now -- and this one person apparently connected to the administration yet to be named -- that this was a [sic] attempt to retaliate against Joe Wilson for speaking out about -- against the Bush administration --

MATALIN: No, Alan, Alan --

COLMES: -- by revealing Valerie Plame. Isn't that more and more evident?

MATALIN: What the prosecutor himself said was that no crime was committed, OK? There's been no crime committed here. There was no classified information.

COLMES: Well, why was Scooter Libby indicted? We don't know if a crime was committed.

MATALIN: This is a crime and -- and he did not commit a crime. He had a mis-remembrance of when it was that he heard about it, but clearly he's not one of the guys that revealed it in the first place, which the revelation of such was not a crime. The only person through several investigations documented to have been a bona fide liar in this case is Joe Wilson, who went on a mission under dubious circumstances --

COLMES: All right. But I didn't say crime, Mary.

MATALIN: -- and came back and lied about it.

COLMES: I said an attempt by the administration -- retribution against Joe Wilson.

MATALIN: No. No.

COLMES: I didn't say crime. That's clearly what they were doing.

MATALIN: Listen to me: This was not any retribution. It is the -- it would be not just be malfeasant, it would be immoral if the administration did not answer its critics when its critics were lying, flat-out lying, about facts relative to the war on terror, which Joe Wilson was knowingly doing.

COLMES: He had an opinion that the administration didn't agree with. Let me talk --

MATALIN: It was not an opinion. He was stating as fact information about the existence or lack thereof of a critical element of the nuclear reconstitution program. It was completely known to be --

COLMES: Which was borne out, as I recall.

MATALIN: No, it was not. In fact, the report that he submitted was -- proved the fact that Saddam had been in pursuit of -- the Iraqis had been in pursuit of yellowcake. Look, we can go down --

[crosstalk]

COLMES: Not from Niger.

Posted In
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Mary Matalin
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CIA Leak Investigation
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