questions and a hunch
Occasionally, Tenet had breakfast with Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser, in the White House mess and joked that he would share secrets with Rove that even Rice was not allowed to know.
-Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, p. 67-8
As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it.
-Patrick Fitzgerald, Press Conference, Oct. 28th, 2005
In listening to some cautionary words from friends and commentators about optimistic interpretations of last Friday's indictment as a sign "more to come"...and in reconsidering what might best explain both the text of the Libby indictment and the course of Fitzgerald's press conference yesterday, it occured to me to ask this queston:
Where did Patrick Fitzgerald want to be last Friday?
It seems a fair guess to surmise that Fitzgerald was prepared to indict Libby and Rove last Friday. My hunch would be that he might have prepared similar charges against Rove to the ones he brought against Libby...some combination of perjury, false statements and, perhaps, obstruction of justice. (There's more than a few indications in the press and in the indictment itself that this may have been the case.)
In that sense, something may have gone wrong for Fitzgerald. Friday may represent a failure for Fitzgerald from his original aims..whether that failure occured within the grand jury itself or elsewhere...or not at all...who knows? But a last minute exclusion of a Rove indictment might explain some of the odd ways that the indictment of Libby reads as if it were slightly chopped from a "broader" case...and it might also explain some of Fitzgerald's odd statements and work-arounds in the Friday press conference: implying that the investigation was over and continuing at the same time...and the incongruity of arguing the seriousness of "thowing sand in the umps face"...but only charging one of the players with that...five times over, while we know that Rove, at the very least, was not forthcoming.
That being said. Let's assume that when Fitzgerald said the bulk of the investigation was largely complete, that he meant just that. The investigation is done except for some "Rove-related" loose-end, or, perhaps, an agreement by Rove or Libby to provide new evidence. The scope of the investigation, then, could accurately be described as being contained inside the four corners of the Libby indictment, especially, since, as billmon has consistently pointed out, that indictment points up very solid evidence of the original crimes being investigated. Fitzgerald's intention on Friday may have been limited to making indictments of Libby and Rove...indictments, however, that hint at the framework of a "broader case"... and then wait it out. Just as he appears to be waiting now.
After all, if you indict someone on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, but hold your investigation open, the obvious plea bargain would be to actually provide the information the prosecutor sought in the first place. And if you indicted two people, either one would have to think about the "what if" of the other cooperating. (Could Rove be cooperating now?)
I guess that leads me to say my hunch is that indicting Libby and Rove was Fitzgerald's intention for Friday. Indict both and then wait, with the bulk of the investigation complete, hoping to turn one or the other, or both. Something may have gone wrong, perhaps permanently so. Or, some further development with Rove may be forthcoming. In which case, Fitzgerald may get to where my hunch tells me he originally sought to arrive: having two central figures under indictment on serious charges, both of whom have some information that Fitzgerald seeks.
That would be a kind of double whammy. Fitz could play one off the other, and, if niether cooperates, Fitz could rest at that. In Fitzgerald's words, "what is charged is a very, very serious crime that will vindicate the public interest in finding out what happened here."
Which begs the question: what is the information that Fitzgerald is seeking, does he know he can get it, and, since his investigation is about indictments, not public information gathering, what is the legal jeopardy for the Vice President, and perhaps, others?