What Did The President Know And When Did He Know It?

From Holden:

I lead last Friday’s gaggle coverage with this exchange between Helen Thomas and Little Scottie and was surprised that none of the other bloggers who covered Friday’s gaggle mentioned it at all. The question of whether or not Bush knew that Valerie Plame was both Joe Wilson’s wife and a clandestine CIA operative is important.

Notice how Scottie does not answer Helen’s simple yes or no question, but instead points her to the latest Fitzgerald filing which actually says nothing definitive about the President’s knowledge of Plame’s status.

Q Did the President know that Joe Wilson was married to a CIA agent before Novak revealed it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this goes to — go back and look at previous comments, but this goes to an ongoing legal proceeding, and I would encourage you —

Q Did he know? It’s a simple question.

MR. McCLELLAN: — I would encourage you to go and look at the filing that was made just the other night, because Mr. Fitzgerald touches on that subject in the filing.

Q You mean the President did not know?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I can’t get into discussing an ongoing legal proceeding, and that’s a question relating to the ongoing legal proceeding.

Q I think it’s a very simple, important question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Matt, did you have something?

Today Jason Leopold tells us that the president did know.

In early June 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney met with President Bush and told him that CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was the wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson and that she was responsible for sending him on a fact-finding mission to Niger to check out reports about Iraq’s attempt to purchase uranium from the African country, according to current and former White House officials and attorneys close to the investigation to determine who revealed Plame-Wilson’s undercover status to the media.

Post continues, click Read More.

From Holden:

Other White House officials who also attended the meeting with Cheney and President Bush included former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, her former deputy Stephen Hadley, and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

[snip]

The revelation puts a new wrinkle into Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s two-year-old criminal probe into the leak and suggests for the first time that President Bush knew from early on that the vice president and senior officials on his staff were involved in a coordinated effort to attack Wilson’s credibility by leaking his wife’s classified CIA status.

Now that President Bush’s knowledge of the Plame Wilson affair has been exposed, there are thorny questions about whether the president has broken the law – specifically, whether he obstructed justice when he was interviewed about his knowledge of the Plame Wilson leak and the campaign to discredit her husband.

[snip]

The attorneys and officials close to the case said over the weekend that the hastily arranged meeting was called by Cheney to “brief the president” on Wilson’s increasing public criticism about the White House’s use of the Niger intelligence and the negative impact it would eventually have on the administration’s credibility if the public and Congress found out it was true, the sources said.

[snip]

A more aggressive effort would come a week or so later when Cheney – who, sources said, was “consumed” with retaliating against Wilson because of his attacks on the administration’s rationale for war – met with President Bush a second time and told the president that there was talk of “Wilson going public” and exposing the flawed Niger intelligence.

It was then that Cheney told Bush that a section of the classified National Intelligence Estimate that purported to show Iraq did seek uranium from Niger should be leaked to reporters as a way to counter anything report Wilson might seek to publish, these sources said.

Throughout the second half of June, Andrew Card, Karl Rove, and senior officials from Cheney’s office kept Bush updated about the progress of the campaign to discredit Wilson via numerous emails and internal White House memos, these sources said, adding that some of these documents were only recently turned over to the special counsel.

One attorney close to the case said that Bush gave Cheney permission to declassify the NIE and that Cheney told Libby to leak it to Bob Woodward, the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor, which Libby did on June 27, 2003.

But Woodward told Libby shortly after he received the information about the NIE that he would not be writing a story about it for the Post but that he would use the still classified information for the book he was writing at the time, Plan of Attack.

[snip]

Libby told Cheney that he had a good relationship with New York Times reporter Judith Miller and that he intended to share the NIE with her. Libby met with Miller on July 8, 2003 and disclosed the portion of the NIE that dealt with Iraq and Niger to her.

According to four attorneys who last week read a transcript of President Bush’s interview with investigators, Bush did not disclose to the special counsel that he was aware of any campaign to discredit Wilson. Bush also said he did not know who, if anyone, in the White House had retaliated against the former ambassador by leaking his wife’s undercover identity to reporters.