Plame probe update

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 8, 2004 7:04PM (EST)

There are so many interesting developments in the federal grand jury investigation into who outed CIA officer Valerie Plame, we can barely keep up. Here's a round-up of news on that front from the last few days:

Newsday reported on Saturday that "a transcript subpoenaed in the CIA leak probe reveals the White House press operation began efforts to personally discredit former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV days before a columnist blew the cover of his CIA-officer wife."

That piece came one day after Newsday reported that "the federal grand jury probing the [Plame] leak  has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer's name was published in a column in July  Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. And the subpoenas asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman's press briefing in Nigeria, a list of those attending a birthday reception for a former president, and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news media outlets."

The subpoena list includes: Robert Novak, "Crossfire," "Capital Gang" and the Chicago Sun-Times; Knut Royce and Timothy M. Phelps, Newsday; Walter Pincus, Richard Leiby, Mike Allen, Dana Priest and Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post; Matthew Cooper, John Dickerson, Massimo Calabresi, Michael Duffy and James Carney, Time magazine; Evan Thomas, Newsweek; Andrea Mitchell, "Meet the Press," NBC; Chris Matthews, "Hardball," MSNBC; Tim Russert, Campbell Brown, NBC; Nicholas D. Kristof, David E. Sanger and Judith Miller, The New York Times; Greg Hitt and Paul Gigot, The Wall Street Journal; John Solomon, The Associated Press; and Jeff Gannon, Talon News.

On Friday, Josh Marshall pulled out an exchange from the White House press briefing in which spokesman Scott McClellan wrestles with a question on whether it's acceptable to the White House for staffers to plead the Fifth if questioned in the Plame case. Marshall's conclusion: "I think we can infer pretty clearly that [McClellan's] boss is not willing to say that his aides shouldn't be taking the fifth when Patrick Fitzgerald's investigators come calling.

In U.S. News, Roger Simon wonders aloud what might happen to the Bush-Cheney ticket "if, as some fear, the Plame affair gets uglier?  A grand jury is now investigating, and there has been at least one published report quoting an unnamed source saying some of the targets of the probe work or worked for Cheney. That's a long way from toppling a vice president, but those close to the White House say there is some nervousness there. So what if Cheney needed to be replaced for this or health or other reasons? Who would replace him? Certain names leap into play: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and--here's the long shot--National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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