So, it’s official. Scooter Libby’s defense will be based, as his lawyer Ted Wells put it, on “recollection problems” – not just Libby’s, though, but those of the journalists and officials who are expected to testify at his trial as well.
“Could Russert Be Mistaken?” read a slide shown to the jury this afternoon, as Wells resumed his opening statement after a lunch recess. Not that Wells plans on proving this one way or the other – he is simply trying to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. At one point, he said that the defense will provide “evidence suggesting that Tim Russert, not Scooter Libby, got it wrong.” At another, seemingly contradicting any evidence he might provide, Wells suggested that Libby, in testifying before the grand jury, may have mistaken his conversation with the NBC journalist for a chat, on a similar topic, with Robert Novak. And besides, Wells said, “Russert has no notes” to support his version of events (namely that he didn’t tell Libby about Plame, as Libby has asserted).
As for Matt Cooper, the former Time reporter, Wells claims that “Cooper’s notes do not support his recollection” of his conversation with Libby, in which Plame was raised (reportedly by Cooper). Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter who spent 85 days in jail protecting her source — Libby — suffers from a “fuzzy memory” as well, according to Wells. Also fuzzy on the details, he says, are anticipated prosecution witnesses including Libby’s one-time CIA briefer Craig Schmall; former CIA official Robert Grenier; and former White House flack Ari Fleischer, among others. “They’ve got recollection problems,” Wells said.
Wells then reminded the jury that Libby, too, is “known for having a bad memory.”