It’s not widely recognized that this is the second time James Comey has launched a special counsel at a Republican administration. The first was during the GW Bush administration. When Joe Wilson first published his “16 Words” op-ed in the New York Times, and then his wife, Valerie Plame (that’s in Joe Wilson & Valerie Plame, the “we’re not anti-semites, we just don’t want Jews running everything” couple), was outed to Bob Novak by an administration source as a CIA agent, and AG Ashcroft recused himself (sound familiar?), his deputy Comey saw an opportunity to get his arch-nemesis Dick Cheney.
Comey and Cheney were at crosshairs because of their differing views on the War on Terror and the role of the CIA/FBI and surveillance. Comey was convinced the source of the leak about Plame was Cheney or one of his staff, so Comey appointed his friend Patrick Fitzgerald (who was also godfather to Comey’s daughter) as special counsel and set him loose.
Unfortunately within a couple of weeks, Fitzgerald knew the source of the leak was Richard Armitage (as @CTlaw pointed out in his post). The problem was Armitage worked for Colin Powell, not Cheney. Moreover, Armitage and Powell were also opponents of Cheney (and by the way, it appears no law was broken by the Armitage disclosure). So instead of winding up his investigation, Fitzgerald asked Armitage not to disclose his role and proceeded to spend the next year setting perjury traps for Cheney and his staff. I would be shocked if Fitzgerald acted on his own without consulting his supervisor, James Comey.
[UPDATE: @philo comment below prompted me to look for more material at Tom Maguire’s website which covered the trial extensively and this post provides his take on the Comey/Cheney angle. He describes Fitzgerald as a torpedo dropped in the water by Comey “towards the USS Cheney”.]
I think it is also objectively an open question whether Libby committed perjury. Of course, it didn’t make much difference for Libby since even a mediocre prosecutor can convict a Republican with a DC jury. Also sound familiar?
That’s why Trump is pardoning Libby. It’s a direct rebuke of Comey’s sleazy machinations.
The Wilson/Plame matter also has some similarities to the Russian collusion story in the lack of mainstream media interest in anything that would interfere with the preferred narrative.
[UPDATE: On the substance of Wilson’s claims, here is the Washington Post reporting in July 2004 on a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on the matter (this is before the WaPo publicly announced its aspiration to smother democracy in darkness). From the article:
Wilson’s assertions — both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information — were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.]
For instance, I was always struck that no one in the Democratic controlled media ever asked why Joe Wilson made his revelation at the particular time, in July 2003, after the initial phase of the war was over and Saddam Hussein deposed, since he’d made his Africa trip more than a year earlier.
Let’s look at the timeline:
Joe Wilson is sent by the CIA to West Africa in February 2002 to investigate allegations that Saddam is trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. Oddly, it appears the CIA never asked him to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
On October 11, 2002, the Senate voted to authorize the President to use force in Iraq. Half of the Senate Democrats, including Biden, Kerry, and Clinton, supported the authorization.
On January 28, 2003, President Bush gave the speech that later became known as the “16 Words” speech because of his reference to Saddam’s efforts to obtain yellowcake in Africa.
The Iraq War began on March 20, 2003.
Joe Wilson’s op-ed in the NY Times appeared on July 6, 2003.
Why, if Wilson thought Bush had a “lack of candor” in his January 28 speech did he not raise his concerns before the start of the invasion in March? My belief is related to Wilson’s own views about Saddam’s capabilities, and internal Democratic party politics.
Specifically, in a talk Wilson gave in the fall of 2002 to an audience in DC (I listened to a recording of it years ago, and am trying to find it on the internet once again), he believed Saddam had significant chemical and biological warfare capabilities. In fact, he opposed the invasion for two reasons. First, he thought the US would suffer significant casualties because of Saddam’s WMD capabilities, and second, he didn’t want American “boys and girls” dying on behalf of Israel (btw, I don’t think he was referring to Israeli Arabs when he was making that statement).
Further, Wilson was a Democrat and interested in the party’s success in the 2004 elections. If Wilson went public with his concerns prior to the invasion, it would have put a lot of public pressure on Clinton, Kerry, and Biden to declare whether they would change their authorization vote and demand another vote. Since none of them knew how the war would turn out and whether WMD would be found that would have put them in an untenable position with a lot of political risk and none of them would have wanted it.
It was only politically safe for Wilson to make his accusations after the invasion when little WMD, and no nuclear material, was found.
The other important element in the specific timing of publications by the New York Times was that it created a media frenzy right in the middle of George Bush’s trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Since the media narrative was that Bush was a racist, there was a need to divert attention from his obvious concern about, and commitment to, improving conditions in Africa. The Wilson story also helped to overshadow President Bush’s speech at Goree Island in Senegal, the most remarkable speech by an American president on race and slavery since Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.
Joe Wilson wasn’t the only one in his family concerned about Jews. In 2017, Valerie Plame’s long-standing history of similar views finally became public over her endorsing tweet of an article entitled “America’s Jews are driving America’s wars” published on a website that also carried articles like “It’s time to rethink David Duke”.
There are two interesting aspects of the 2017 tweet, which, once again, was not an aberration by Plame. First, it caused her to have to resign from the Board of the Ploughshares Foundation. Ploughshares is the leftist foundation that helped create what Ben Rhoades, President Obama’s right hand man on the Iran Nuclear Deal, called the “echo chamber” to work with the administration in a coordinated effort to help sway public opinion, an effort that included accusations of dual loyalty by American Jews.
Secondly, the Wilson/Plame worldview also obscured differences between American neo-cons and Israel on foreign policy. During the run up to the Iraq War the Sharon government in Israel told the Bush Administration that it thought Saddam was successfully contained and that Iran was a much bigger threat. Once it was clear that Bush was set on prioritizing Iraq, Sharon directed his officials to stand down on the basis that as an American ally, Israel needed to support the United States. In other words, causation was the opposite of Wilson/Plame’s accusations.