A Call for Vigilance

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, July 7, 2005; 1:30 PM

"The war on terror goes on," President Bush somberly declared today in a short statement after the London bombings.

He also warned Americans to be "extra vigilant."

Earlier, Bush literally stood behind British Prime Minister Tony Blair as Blair read a statement from the global leaders gathered in Scotland in which they declared the bombings in London "not an attack on one nation but on all nations and on civilized people everywhere."

Press secretary Scott McClellan, in a telephone gaggle , described the president's morning, which included a secure video conference with some of his homeland security and national security advisers.

Bush saw himself as among allies. "I was most impressed by the resolve of all the leaders in the room," he said. "Their resolve is as strong as my resolve. And that is we will not yield to these people, will not yield to the terrorists."

But few of them share his approach to fighting those terrorists.

It's too soon to say what all this means, either to the war on terror, the G-8 meeting or the political climate in the United States. So I, with you, will be following the news closely today.

Valerie Plame and Karl Rove

New York Times reporter Judith Miller is in jail today, after refusing to say who told her what about Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose name was leaked by senior administration officials in retaliation against her husband, an administration critic.

Time reporter Matt Cooper is not in jail, after a last-minute intervention from his source, who released him from confidentiality.

Signs increasingly point toward Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist, as Cooper's source. What's not clear is why Miller's source -- be it Rove or someone else -- has not given her the same explicit release from confidentiality.

Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times: "Mr. Cooper's decision to drop his refusal to testify followed discussions on Wednesday morning among lawyers representing Mr. Cooper and Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser, according to a person who has been officially briefed on the case. Mr. [Special prosecutor Patrick J.] Fitzgerald was also involved in the discussions, the person said.

"In his statement in court, Mr. Cooper did not name Mr. Rove as the source about whom he would now testify, but the person who was briefed on the case said that he was referring to Mr. Rove and that Mr. Cooper's decision came after behind-the-scenes maneuvering by his lawyers and others in the case.

"Those discussions centered on whether a legal release signed by Mr. Rove last year was meant to apply specifically to Mr. Cooper, who by its terms would be released from any pledge of confidentiality he had made to Mr. Rove, the person said. Mr. Cooper said in court that he had agreed to testify only after he had received an explicit waiver from his source. . . .

"In her statement in court, Ms. Miller said she had received no similar permission from her sources. . . .

"Mr. Fitzgerald said no one could be sure that Ms. Miller would not talk until she was actually jailed.

" 'People change their minds,' he said. 'We saw here today that a source reached out to Mr. Cooper and caused him to testify. How do we know the same would not happen with Ms. Miller?' "

Carol Leonnig reports in The Washington Post that Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, in an interview yesterday, "said Rove was not the source who called Cooper yesterday morning and personally waived the confidentiality agreement."

But Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball suggest on Newsweek.com that maybe it was Rove after all -- just not by phone.

"Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, told Newsweek today that Rove 'did not call Cooper' prior to today's court hearing, nor had the two of them 'spoken' about the subject of waiving confidentiality.

"But Luskin would make no other comments, including whether there had been any other form of communications between Cooper and Rove."

Richard B. Schmitt writes in the Los Angeles Times: "White House political strategist Karl Rove has acknowledged speaking with Cooper in the past, but has denied unmasking the CIA agent. Asked whether Rove was the source who called the Time reporter to waive his confidentiality, his lawyer, Robert Luskin, said Wednesday night that the strategist had 'not contacted Cooper about this matter,' but declined to comment further."

Closing In?

The bigger question, which was almost forgotten in the furor over press freedom yesterday, is whether special prosecutor Fitzgerald is close to indicting someone in the White House.

Isikoff and Hosenball write on Newsweek.com: "While New York Times reporter Judith Miller went off to jail today, the decision by another journalist, Matthew Cooper, to testify before a federal grand jury could increase the pressure on the White House in the nearly two-year long furor over the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity."

They note that "the White House press office has refused to make any public comments about what White House aides may or may not have told journalists--a position it repeated this evening. 'The president's instruction from the beginning was to fully cooperate with the investigation,' a White House spokeswoman said. 'As part of the cooperating, we are not going to comment on any matters that come up during that process.'

"But with today's developments, the political atmosphere could change."

And here's NBC's Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC yesterday: "Let's step back for a moment because this story is huge, and I say it has huge political ramifications because of the subject and what originally launched this whole case. This is about the justification that the president used to go to war in Iraq. . . .

"I think what's most stunning about the case is the involvement of Karl Rove, the president's deputy chief of staff, a senior political advisor . . . his strongest defender in the White House. . . .

"'This case has been on the verge of blowing up for months now and we are closer than ever to finding out just what Fitzgerald wants to do. Many people may be looking at . . . [the] legal issues about jailing reporters -- [but] this is about a potential scandal in the second term of the Bush administration, and just what the prosecutor, Fitzgerald, is up to, no one knows. But it could be huge."

Getting to the Bottom of It

Fitzgerald has been incredibly secretive about the case, where it's going, and why he's subpoenaing all these reporters. But being secretive is his job. He's a prosecutor. And federal law is clear that authorities are not allowed to divulge grand jury testimony.

But the witnesses are under no such constraints. It's been reported that Fitzgerald has asked witnesses not to talk about the case in public -- but that has no legal authority.

Prosecutors sometimes legitimately ask grand jury witnesses not to speak publicly so as to not tip off subjects or other witnesses. But Fitzgerald has declared that he is almost at the end of his investigation, and the subjects certainly know who they are by now. So that's pretty much moot.

In fact, the only people not getting tipped off are the members of the public, and it's time that stopped. Why is everyone keeping Fitzgerald's secrets for him? Enough!

For instance, if Cooper and Time are willing to divulge their sources to Fitzgerald, why not go public? What are they waiting for?

And the New York Times could answer some questions. For instance, have they contacted Miller's source and asked for an explicit waiver of confidentiality -- and been denied? That would be good to know. And if so, might that not properly put the pressure back on the White House, where it belongs? Wouldn't the Times be happier if the source came forward? Or is it in their interests to turn Miller into a martyr?

Similarly, the press should pressure President Bush to call on his aides to come forward and tell all they know.

Supreme Court Watch

Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker write in The Washington Post: "President Bush tried Wednesday to quell the conservative criticism engulfing Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales...

"In the wake of Bush's stern warning, delivered from his first stop on a European trip, many conservatives ratcheted down their rhetoric or went silent altogether, but others ignored the president and pressed their attack on Gonzales for not aggressively opposing abortion and affirmative action. Further fueling the debate over the potential nominee, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) offered qualified words of support for Gonzales.

"The continued focus on the attorney general underscored how the selection process has swiftly evolved into a Gonzales-or-someone-else choice."

Mike Allen writes in The Washington Post: "Fred D. Thompson, a 'Law & Order' actor, lobbyist and former senator, said yesterday after being named to shepherd President Bush's future choice for the Supreme Court that he will counsel the nominee to be restrained in answering senators' questions.

"Thompson's declaration was a fresh indication of a possible collision between the White House and Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee, who call it their duty to thoroughly question the nominee."

Here's the text of Thompson's interview with John King on CNN.

Jesse J. Holland writes for the Associated Press: "Democrats say the courtesy calls from President Bush and his top aide, while appreciated, fall far short of the advice and consent consultations they expect before Bush announces a Supreme Court nominee."

The Squeeze

Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post that Bush is caught in a squeeze: "President Bush has long pursued a calculated strategy to build a lasting Republican majority, coupling courtship of the party's conservative base with efforts designed to attract support from Hispanics and targeted swing voters. But rarely have the two sides of this strategy been in such conflict as they are today with the possible nomination of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to the Supreme Court.

"Well before Bush makes his decision known, a fierce battle has erupted over Gonzales, the former White House counsel and Texas Supreme Court justice. It pits the ideological priorities of social and religious conservatives, who think Gonzales is insufficiently opposed to abortion, against the aspiration of the Latino community to see the first Hispanic named to the high court."

Bill Adair , writing in the St. Petersburg Times, also sees a squeeze, but a different one. Yes, it's conservative Christian groups on the one side. But on the other, he writes: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants Bush to nominate someone who is pro-business. Democrats want him to pick a middle-of-the-road justice like Sandra Day O'Connor, the Reagan nominee who announced her resignation Friday."

Howard Fineman writes for MSNBC that he sees a tug-of-war going on in Bush's heart between "the various influences that have shaped Bush, in his personal life and in his political career."

But then David S. Broder writes in his Washington Post column that his "strong impression is that the constituency that is most important is the one inside the White House -- the people who share and, I believe, reflect the president's own deep sense of grievance about the Democrats' past treatment of his judicial nominees. . . .

"Given these explosive ingredients, one has to be a 'cockeyed optimist' to foresee a compromise choice who could be easily confirmed with bipartisan support. . . .

"[M]y gut tells me the president is not looking to duck a fight."

G-8, Day One

Jim VandeHei writes in The Washington Post: "Leaders of the world's eight major industrial powers convened at a three-day summit here Wednesday, with President Bush promising to help alleviate suffering in Africa but holding firm against mandatory cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.

"As police fended off protesters trying to march on this highlands resort hotel, Bush met with Irish activist rock stars Bono and Bob Geldof to discuss financial assistance to combat poverty, disease and war in Africa. Later, the Group of Eight leaders sat down to a formal dinner with Queen Elizabeth."

Richard W. Stevenson and Alan Cowell write in the New York Times: "Mr. Bush's approach to the environment is one of several topics on which he is at odds with other governments as well as public opinion in much of the world."

Climate (Not) Change

Here is the text of Bush and Blair's remarks today, which, it turns out, wrapped up just as the first bomb exploded in London.

Bush spoke about global warming: "The way to move forward together is to -- is to recognize, one, there's a problem, which I have since I've been the President; and two, that there is a constructive way to deal with the problem."

"Q: Mr. President, could I ask you about climate change? First of all, have you in any way changed your own view about this? And do you regard emissions targets as now off the table in terms of resolving this problem?

"PRESIDENT BUSH: I think if you look at a speech I gave in the Rose Garden there at the White House, I believe it was in the year 2001, I recognized that greenhouse gases were an issue and that we must deal with it."

Here is that speech from June 2001. And here's how Mike Allen and Eric Pianin described it in The Washington Post the next day: "President Bush declared yesterday that substantial doubts remain about the causes and severity of global warming. . . .

"'We do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had on warming,' Bush said in a Rose Garden appearance . . . 'We do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it. . . . And, finally, no one can say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided.'"

Bush Takes a Fall

Richard W. Stevenson writes in the New York Times: "It was President Bush's 59th birthday on Wednesday, and it started out in Denmark, with a suitably celebratory intake of cake for breakfast and cake again for lunch. It ended up in Scotland, with a collision on a rain-slicked road.

"Mr. Bush, apparently aiming to burn off some of his birthday calories after arriving at the Gleneagles resort in Scotland, took his mountain bike out for a spin. He was pedaling along at what his spokesman, Scott McClellan, described as 'a pretty good speed' when he crashed into a local police officer who had been standing guard along the road.

"The president, who was wearing a helmet, slid across the asphalt, suffering 'mild to moderate' scrapes on his hands and arms, Mr. McClellan said, and was bandaged by the White House physician, Dr. Richard Tubb."

Here is a Reuters photo showing Bush's injured fingers all taped up this morning.

Asked about the accident today, Bush said: "It just goes to show that I should act my age. . . . [H]e was standing. I hit slick pavement. I was -- we were flying coming in. And, by the way, when you ride hard on a mountain bike, sometimes you fall. Otherwise -- otherwise, you're not riding hard. And it was at the end of a good hour ride. The pavement was slick, and the bike came out from underneath me."

Halliburton Watch

Reuters reports: "The U.S. military has hired Halliburton Co. for nearly $5 billion in new work in Iraq under a logistics contract that has so far earned the Texas firm $9.1 billion, the Army said Wednesday."

The work order was signed in May, but not made public at the time.

The Zakaria Saga

Bush got a little confused yesterday when calling on a Reuters reporter at yesterday's photo-op in Denmark.

"Reuters man, Toby," he called out. Then he saw that Toby was in fact Tabassum 'Toby' Zakaria. "Woman -- excuse me. I can see that. (Laughter.) So how long have you been on the presidential beat?"

"Since February," Zakaria replied.

"Yes. Well, make yourself less scarce," Bush said.

Later in the day, when the pool was allowed to watch Bush blow out candles on a birthday cake, he was spotted mouthing "I'm sorry" to Zakaria.

And this morning, it came up again. "I'm trying to recover from my faux pas yesterday. I made a terrible mistake yesterday. Toby -- (laughter.) Listen, I don't want to revisit. . . I don't want to revisit the mistake. Let's just say, slightly offensive. Wrong gender when I called on her."

The Vikings

Julie Mason writes in the Houston Chronicle: "White House staffers like to embrace new places and new experiences -- and new headgear. During the Bush campaign last year, they wore yellow foam cheeseheads in Wisconsin.

"When the traveling press corps and the president's entourage arrived in Denmark, White House staffers met them on the tarmac in Viking hats."

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