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WHO HIRED THIS GUY! Who hired Patrick Fitzgerald? An early profile of the prole gumshoe may lead a leaker to ask: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JULY 25, 2005

WHO HIRED THIS GUY: With Patrick Fitzgerald front and center in the newly high-profile Plame case, we thought you might enjoy David Von Drehle’s original profile in the Washington Post. The piece appeared two days after Fitzgerald was appointed. Here’s how it started out:
VON DREHLE (1/1/04): If Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the man chosen to investigate the leak of a CIA operative's identity to a prominent Washington journalist, is everything people say he is, there should be a nervous leaker out there today.

Colleagues, classmates and more neutral observers say the Chicago-based U.S. attorney is fiercely independent, relentless, tireless, fearless. He has sent al Qaeda terrorists, mob hit men and drug dealers to jail; last month he indicted the former governor of Illinois. American Lawyer magazine has written of his "almost frightening brilliance." Author Daniel Benjamin, having studied Fitzgerald's work in prosecuting terrorists in New York, calls him "an awesome public servant."

"Anybody who has done something wrong in connection with [the leak] should not be heartened by Patrick Fitzgerald's appointment," says former deputy attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. "That's an incredible understatement."

Oof! But things only got worse for a leaker-gone-wrong when Von Drehle limned Fitzgerald’s family background:
VON DREHLE: Fitzgerald is the son of Irish immigrants—"fresh off the boat," in the words of John Goggins, a prominent corporate lawyer in New York who has known Fitzgerald since high school. He grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and won a scholarship to Regis High School in Manhattan, a highly competitive Jesuit academy.

He worked his way through Amherst College, cleaning the school's restrooms and painting walls. In summers, the math and economics major earned more tuition money as a school janitor and part-time doorman in some of the same Upper East Side luxury buildings where his father had worked as a doorman for years.

Fitzgerald got his fill of rich and powerful people that way, Goggins said.

"He had numerous funny anecdotes about being treated shabbily by residents who didn't realize this was a Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst, and later a Harvard Law School student, holding the door." According to his friends, Fitzgerald never resented the slights, but he also made it clear that he was never going to seek the approval of such people.

Eek! A brilliant, hard-nosed prosecutor who “got his fill of rich and powerful people” as a youth? If we were a leaker-gone-wrong in the White House, we’d be asking: Who hired this guy?

STEPHANOPOULOS GETS IT RIGHT: George Stephanopoulos got it right in yesterday’s interview with John McCain. On Friday, former CIA agent Larry Johnson aimed an unflattering blast at McCain. And omigod! Stephanopoulos broke every known press corps stricture! Speaking with McCain, he played the tape of Johnson’s attack, then asked the solon to comment:

STEPHANOPOULOS (7/24/05): Let’s turn to Karl Rove and the CIA leak investigation. A number of former CIA officers have come out very strongly criticizing this leak, saying it’s endangering national security, endangering our sources, and certainly very unfair to Mrs. Wilson. I want to show you what one of them, Larry Johnson, said at a hearing organized by the Democrats on Friday.

JOHNSON (videotape): I wish there was a Republican of some courage and conviction that would stand up and call the ugly dog the ugly dog that it is. Instead, I watched last night, John McCain on Chris Matthews' Hardball making excuses, being an apologist! Where are these men and women over there with any integrity to stand up and speak out against this?

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you respond to Mr. Johnson?

“Thanks, Larry!” McCain replied. We present his full response below.

It’s true—McCain had been “making excuses” on Thursday’s Hardball (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/05), and Stephanopoulos deserves a hand for challenging him with Johnson’s statement. Let’s be clear—McCain is often one of the Senate’s more constructive members. But the press corps’ pandering to McCain during Campaign 2000 was an utter embarrassment. Democrats and liberals need to starting insisting, right now, that the corps adopt a new approach during Campaign 08. No, they can’t get up each day and tell the world how brilliantly honest the great solon is. And they’ll even have to stop singing “Happy Birthday” to their dearest darling at his fancy birthday parties, as they did in a ludicrous incident at last summer’s GOP convention (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/19/04). In short, they’ll have to start acting like actual journalists, not like a bunch of store-bought shills recruited from McCain’s PR staff. For most scribes, this will take a large adjustment. Dems should start demanding it now.

During Campaign 2000, coverage of McCain was absurd, a bad joke. Dems should start insisting—now—that the press treat McCain like everyone else. Yesterday morning, getting it right, Stephanopoulos took this strange new approach.

STILL LIMNING TIM: What did Russert say—and when did he say it? Well, we actually know when he said it—on August 7, 2004, when he testified for the Leakgate prosecutors about his conversation with “Scooter” Libby. But what did Russert tell the gumshoes? On this week’s Chris Matthews Show, a hemming-and-hawing Howard Fineman didn’t seem all that sure:

FINEMAN (7/24/05): What you’ve got going on here now is a—what looks to be a swearing match. Some [administration officials] are saying that they learned it from reporters. Scooter Libby is saying—the vice president’s chief of staff—says that he heard it from Tim Russert of NBC. And Russert, I think—I think Russert has said, I’m not sure, but I gather that Russert has said, “No way.”
As Fineman’s hemming and hawing suggests, it’s still unclear what Russert has said. According to public statements by Russert and NBC, Russert testified that “he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative” when he spoke with Libby in July 03 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/23/05). But did he know that Wilson’s wife (name unknown) worked for the CIA (in some manner)? Did he say something like that to Libby? It isn’t clear from these public statements—public statements which give the appearance of being rather carefully parsed.

That may explain why Fineman flailed about what Russert has said. Meanwhile, on yesterday’s Meet the Press, Russert explained what he told the prosecutors. Well—the baffling Buffalonian semi-explained. Here’s his latest vague statement:

DAVID GREGORY (7/24/05) I think what the special prosecutor is looking at right now is who might have actually blown Valerie Plame's cover, or did somebody lie, in their testimony, about their conversations with reporters? The White House defense has been that they learned about Valerie Plame from reporters. There is now information, including a classified State Department memo, that may contradict that. There at least is the potential that White House officials were aware of who she was, what she did and her role in sending her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger to investigate this uranium-Iraq thing.

RUSSERT: There has to be an original source, somebody.

GREGORY: Yes.

NINA TOTENBERG: Right.

RUSSERT: Even if it came from a reporter—

GREGORY: Right.

RUSSERT: —the reporter got it from someplace.

TOTENBERG: Right. And—

RUSSERT: But I was asked what I said [to Libby]. I did not know.

TOTENBERG: Well—and we should remember here, I've been where not—I never had to go to jail, but you have to be willing to do that. But having said that, what you have to remember is Valerie Plame—it's not just Valerie Plame. It's her whole network. She was a person who had a network of people who dealt with her about weapons of mass destruction, and her whole network was put in jeopardy by the revelation of her identity. And that's why this is a hard case.

“I was asked what I said. I did not know,” Russert said. But what exactly did he “not know?” It may be that he didn’t know anything about Plame and the CIA. But again, he passed on the chance to say this explicitly, offering a vague remark in its place.

Let’s be clear: We have no idea what Russert knew; what he said to Libby; or what he testified last August. His public statements appear to be parsed, but that may be an illusion. Meanwhile, we know you’re shocked by this whole line of reasoning. Russert’s from Buffalo, after all. And in Buffalo, people don’t parse.

WALKING IT BACK: On these weekend shows, McCain and Brooks began walking back their earlier pandering statements. On Wednesday’s Imus, Brooks repeatedly stressed his inability to see a crime at the heart of this probe. He’d gone cross-eyed trying, but he just couldn’t do it, he told his hapless host (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/23/05). But on this weekend’s Chris Matthews Show, he walked that pander back:

BROOKS (7/24/05): But listen, the crucial things to this whole event, and it’s kind of been making me sick increasingly over the past week, is that we don’t know any of the crucial answers. If you look at all the stories, there’s like a big ocean of heavy breathing, a tiny little kernel of fact. You know, this is why people hate this business, because we speculate with a small minimum of facts. It’s beginning to remind me of the time a couple of summers ago when we convicted Gary Condit of murder and we just didn’t know what was going on. It could be there’s something serious, it could be there’s nothing. We have no idea yet.
Brooks had his thumb on the scale in this comment, but his early statement of the obvious (“It could be there’s something serious”) represented a significant shift from his absurd Imus outing. Meanwhile, McCain also walked things back a bit. Here was his response on This Week to that straight shot from Johnson:
MCCAIN (7/24/05): Thank you, Larry. (Laughter.) Look, I think that everyone has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Two, it's clear that Rove was trying to knock down what he felt were some inaccurate portrayals about Ambassador Wilson's mission to Niger. I don't know much more than that. I do know that this prosecutor is highly regarded. I don't understand why a journalist who hasn't written a word is in jail. A lot of things that I don't understand.
He still doesn’t know why Miller’s in jail, and he’s still vouching for Rove’s good faith. But he too dialed back his prior High Attitude, the attitude from Imus and Hardball. Directly challenged by Stephanopoulos, Straight-Talk brought his words a bit more in line with his world-famous reputation.

LINKS: Sorry. This Week doesn’t provide public transcripts. Nor does the Chris Matthews Show.