CNN's Blitzer interviewed Toensing after Libby verdict, did not disclose her legal work for CNN during probe
Research ››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN & BRIAN LEVY
Wolf Blitzer brought on attorney Victoria Toensing to discuss the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, but Blitzer did not disclose that Toensing co-wrote a legal brief during the related CIA leak investigation on behalf of CNN and media outlets arguing against forcing them to testify, nor did Blitzer mention that she was a member of the Reagan administration.
On the March 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer brought on attorney Victoria Toensing to discuss the conviction of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, on charges of perjury, obstructing justice, and making a false statement. Blitzer identified Toensing as "a former Justice Department official," a "former federal prosecutor," and one of many "legal experts [who] have questioned [special counsel Patrick J.] Fitzgerald's case and their tactics." But Blitzer did not disclose that Toensing co-wrote a legal brief during the related CIA leak investigation on behalf of CNN and 35 other media organizations, arguing that the media should not be forced to testify before Fitzgerald's grand jury. And while Blitzer did mention that Toensing was a "former Justice Department official," he did not mention that she served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division during the Reagan administration.
The on-screen text identified Toensing as "former federal prosecutor":
The brief that Toensing co-wrote, filed on March 23, 2005, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn a three-judge panel's ruling that then-Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper and then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller had to testify before a grand jury that was investigating the CIA leak case at the time. The brief argued that the journalists should not be jailed for refusing to testify before the grand jury because "the circumstances necessary to prove" a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) "seem not to be present here," and therefore, the trial court should be ordered to hold a hearing "to determine whether specific elements of the [IIPA] ... have been met." Blitzer did note that Toensing "helped write" the IIPA.
In a February 23 column, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote that editors of the Post's Outlook section "should have mentioned the court filing" when they published a February 18 op-ed that Toensing wrote about the case. The Post was among the media organizations Toensing represented in filing the brief.
From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the March 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Coming up, what's next for Scooter Libby? Does he have a good chance at an appeal? Victoria Toensing, former top Justice Department official, she's standing by live to join us right here in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Let's get some more now on our top story, the guilty verdicts against former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, says he's gratified by the jury's decision. Some legal experts have questioned Fitzgerald's case and their tactics, among them Victoria Toensing. She's one of those critics. She's a former Justice Department official, former federal prosecutor. Vickie, thanks very much for coming in.
TOENSING: Good to be here.
BLITZER: He, according to this jury, men and women of his peers, he's convicted of lying to the FBI, lying to a federal grand jury. Presumably, he's going to jail at least for some period of time. Was justice served?
TOENSING: Well, I didn't think justice was served by bringing the case in the first place.
BLITZER: How worried should [White House senior adviser] Karl Rove, Dick Cheney be about this civil lawsuit that [former Ambassador] Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame Wilson are now moving forward with?
TOENSING: Oh. Well, it's like a mosquito. I mean, there's just no basis, there's just no basis. There's just no basis for that civil lawsuit, and I predict it'll be thrown out. Do I get to come back here when that -- when that case goes away? And also --
BLITZER: You'll come back --
TOENSING: -- just by the way, the sentencing guidelines say only 15 to 21 months, not a year and a half to three years. It's a Level 14. Fifteen months to 21 months.
BLITZER: Which was what -- so -- but presumably, if this holds, he'll spend a little time in jail.
TOENSING: It depends, because the judge isn't bound now by the guidelines anymore.
BLITZER: All right. Victoria Toensing, former Justice Department official, and helped write the law on which a lot of this case was initially based. Thanks for coming in.