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Ex-White House Spokesman: Libby Spoke Of Plame’s Job June 7 January 29, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer testified Monday that then-colleague I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby told him over lunch that the wife of a prominent war critic worked at the CIA.

Fleischer said the conversation happened June 7, 2003, days before Libby told investigators he was surprised to learn about the CIA operative from a reporter. That discrepancy is at the heart of Libby’s perjury and obstruction trial.

Fleischer, who was the chief White House spokesman for the first 2 1/2 years of President George W. Bush’s first term, said Monday that Libby invited him to lunch to discuss Fleischer’s planned departure from the White House. He said it was the first time he and Libby had eaten lunch together.

They talked about Fleischer’s career plans and their shared interest in the Miami Dolphins football team, Fleischer testified. He can’t remember who brought it up but he said the conversation then turned to the growing controversy over former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the White House of ignoring prewar intelligence on Iraq.

“Ambassador Wilson was sent by his wife,” Fleischer recalled Libby saying. “His wife works for the CIA.”

Fleischer said Libby also used the woman’s name, Valerie Plame, and told him it was “hush hush.”

“My sense is that Mr. Libby was telling me this was kind of newsy,” Fleischer said.

Fleischer testified under an immunity deal with prosecutors and arrived in court with his attorneys. He sought the deal because he discussed Plame with reporters. Libby’s attorneys plan to argue during cross-examination that the immunity deal makes Fleischer’s testimony less credible.

Prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg sought to head off that argument early in Fleischer’s testimony by having him describe his deal.

“I cannot be prosecuted for what I did with the information I was provided,” Fleischer said. “The immunity provides no protection for perjury.”

Libby says he was surprised to learn from NBC News reporter Tim Russert that Plame worked at the CIA. Anything he later told reporters about Plame was simply a repetition of what he learned from Russert, Libby said.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s first witnesses were government employees who testified that they told Libby about Plame days before the Russert conversation. Fleischer is a key witness because, as Fitzgerald said in his opening statement: “You can’t learn something on Thursday that you’re giving out on Monday.”

Nobody was ever charged with leaking Plame’s identity. Libby is the only person charged in the case.

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