26Sep/110

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? Saving Jesse Jr. (Part 4)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

As the FBI planned the arrest of Blago, most of the serious wantabees lobbying for appointment to Obama’s Senate seat had backed off the pursuit, no doubt realizing that association with Hot Rod was about to become toxic.

But, there was still one candidate with his eyes on the prize.  Right up to the day of Blago’s arrest, Candidate #5’s people were working hard to put a package together to buy their guy the seat. Had Fitzpatrick waited a bit longer to pull the trigger on Blago, Candidate #5 might have been swept up in Fitz’s rush to stop a “corruption crime spree” in progress.

But it wasn’t to be, because the precise timing of the arrest of Blago was really about saving Jesse Jackson Junior’ political career.  And maybe even his freedom.

The Designated Bundler: Raghuveer Nayak

A prominent member of the Chicago Indian business community plays a key role in this story.

Here’s how the Chicago Tribune described Raghuveer Nayak in a December 10, 2008 article:

Nayak, 54, is a political and community leader in Chicago's Indian community who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blagojevich, including more than $200,000 from Nayak, his wife and his various corporations. Nayak and his wife have donated more than $22,000 to Jackson, federal records show, and raised more for the congressman.

Nayak owns a series of surgery centers on Chicago's North Side. He also founded and until recently retained an ownership stake in a drug testing laboratory with millions of dollars in Illinois public aid contracts.

The Fund Raising Event

According to that same Tribune article, Nayak and Jessie Jackson Junior’s brother, Jonathan Jackson, co-hosted an October 31, 2008 “Blagojevich fundraiser” in Elmhurst. “According to several people who were there, Nayak and Jonathan Jackson go back years and the two even went into business together years ago as part of a land purchase on the South Side.”

So the Jacksons and Nayak were long-time buds.

Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt was among those attending the event. More on him later.

The December 10, 2008 Tribune also reported that:

Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi {remember his name, too} privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson's bid for the Senate.

A year-and-a-later, on July 7, 2010, a Chicagobreakingnews.com article reported that:

A supporter of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. told the Democratic congressman in 2008 that he would raise $1 million in return for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich naming Jackson to the U.S. Senate, a federal prosecutor said today.

The allegation, made on a busy day at Blagojevich's federal corruption trial, was the first time authorities publicly suggested Jackson was aware of efforts by his allies to swap campaign cash for his appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Prosecutors also played a rapid-fire sequence of secret wiretap recordings that show Blagojevich reluctantly warming to Jackson as a Senate pick after first profanely ripping him as a non-starter.”

Nearly three months later after the Chicagobreakingnews.com piece, on September 21, 2010, the Chicago Sun-Times (article available here) followed suit with,

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. directed a major political fund-raiser to offer former Gov. Rod Blagojevich millions of dollars in campaign cash in return for an appointment to the U.S. Senate, sources said the fund-raiser has told federal authorities.

The allegation by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak counters public statements made as recently as last week by Jackson that he never authorized any deal to attempt to buy the Senate seat.

The FBI interviewed that acquaintance -- a Washington, D.C., restaurant hostess named Giovana Huidobro {with whom JJ Junior was having an affair} -- about a year ago as part of its corruption probe of Blagojevich. Authorities were trying to determine whether Jackson had asked Nayak to offer Blagojevich campaign cash in exchange for the then-governor appointing Jackson to the seat once held by President Obama, according to sources with knowledge of the probe.

Huidobro, Jackson and Nayak all dined together on Oct. 8, 2008 {about three weeks before the Oct 30 Elmhurst fundraiser} -- the same day that Nayak has told authorities he had a key conversation with Jackson about the Senate appointment, sources said. The three then ended up at Ozio, the restaurant and club where Huidobro works and where Jackson has held fund-raisers.

Before he dined with Huidobro and Jackson on Oct. 8, 2008, Nayak said he had a critical conversation with the congressman about the seat while the two were alone. Nayak, also a former Blagojevich fund-raiser, said that Jackson asked him to tell Blagojevich that if the then-governor appointed Jackson to the U.S. Senate, Chicago's Indian community would raise $1 million for Blagojevich and -- after Jackson was appointed -- Jackson would raise $5 million for the then-governor.

Here’s a version of J.J. Junior’s “public statement” mentioned in the second paragraph above:


A concise account of the ramp-up among Blago and his advisors concerning the possibility of appointing J.J. Junior to the Senate also appears in the July 7 Chicagobreakingnews.com piece linked above.

Here’s the setting: During the first Blago trial, Rajinder Bedi was being questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner.

Bedi testified he met with Jackson and another important Indian businessman, Raghuveer Nayak, at a Loop restaurant on Oct. 28, 2008, and Jackson expressed his interest in Obama's Senate seat.

At that point, U.S. District Judge James Zagel sent jurors out of the room, then asked Niewoehner to explain where the testimony was headed.

Nayak says to Jackson in Bedi's presence, “I will raise a million if he appoints you to the Senate seat,” Niewoehner explained.

Zagel barred Niewoehner from asking Bedi about that part of the conversation before jurors, but Bedi did testify that both Jackson's interest in the seat and fundraising were discussed with Jackson sitting at the table. Prosecutors then played wiretaps of conversations in which Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, appeared aware of the approach involving Jackson. {one such transcript is below}.

In one, recorded the same day as that restaurant meeting, Robert Blagojevich told the governor that Bedi had filled him in on the details, including Nayak's offer to do "some accelerated fundraising" on the governor's behalf if Jackson got the Senate nod.

Three days later, Gov. Blagojevich was recorded talking about overtures for Jackson in a conversation with one of his deputy governors, Robert Greenlee.

"I'm tellin' ya that guy's shameless," Greenlee said.

"Unbelievable isn't it," responded Blagojevich. "Then I, we were approached, pay to play. That, you know he'd raise me 500 grand, an emissary came, then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him a senator."

In a Dec. 4 telephone call with one of his advisers, Fred Yang, Blagojevich said he was now keeping an open mind on "clearly somethin' I would never have considered and that's Jesse Jr."

The thought was repugnant, Blagojevich said, but "just between you and me, they've offered a whole bunch of different things they wanna do for me." Those things included fundraising, Blagojevich said on the recording, asking Yang to think about the politics of making a pick that was sure to be unpopular with the Washington establishment.

A couple of hours later, the governor was on the phone with his brother, filling him in on the idea that he had elevated Jackson to the top of the list of candidates he was considering to replace Obama. He wasn't going to tolerate making a pick and getting nothing in return, he said on the recording.

"And I can cut a better political deal with these Jacksons and, and most of it you probably can't believe, but some of it can be tangible upfront," Blagojevich said to his brother.

He directed Robert Blagojevich to get in touch with Nayak and explain that Jackson was a realistic pick, but the promised help had to start coming in immediately. And he warned him to be careful how that message was delivered.

Blago wasn’t keen on appointing J.J. Junior to the Senate, but the more the money-talk heated up, the more he warmed to the idea.

On December 6, the Blagojevich brothers had this brief conversation.

Date: 12/6/08

Time: 12:39 pm

Robert Blagojevich Cell Phone

Session: 2615

Speakers:

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH

ROD BLAGOJEVICH

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH {The Governor’s brother} Well, here’s one, uh that’s    pending tonight, possibly, with Raghu {Nayak}.  And all I’m thinking, all I’m thinking about saying is, you know, your guy’s meeting with Rod on Monday.  That’s all I’m gonna say, and I’ll leave it at that. Based on what you told me, correct? 

ROD BLAGOJEVICH Yeah, that’s all. You know, if he says, I can do a lot more money, say, that’s you know, you answer that and just say, uh, look one, you know, that’s, that’s your decision…

 ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH One is not tied to the other. One is not tied to the other.  And if you want to, obviously, we want to help you do that.”

 ROD BLAGOJEVICH Yeah, that’s good. I like that. But you..yeah, that’s good.

 ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH Alright, well, I hear your caution, and I’m not being defensive, I’m just trying to be explanatory, that’s all.  Alright, look, I’m freezing my ass off.  I’ve got to get in the shower here.

 ROD BLAGOJEVICH I’ll see you.

 ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH Alright bye.

 ROD BLAGOJEVICH Bye.

On Monday, December 8, JJ Junior and Blago met for 90 minutes during which J.J. Junior said, later, that he merely laid out his qualifications as a potential Senator.  No pay-to-play was discussed, he claimed.

On Tuesday, December 9, the FBI arrested Blago at his home.

Nayak, Harish, and Bedi – What’s become of them?

Raghu has had his own problems with a federal grand jury.

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed dozens of doctors in the Chicago area as part of a probe into a wealthy Indian-American fund-raiser who owns surgical centers — and has ties to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

While the FBI and IRS investigation is centered on businessman and political fund-raiser Raghuveer Nayak, who owns surgical centers in Illinois and Indiana, the feds have cast a wide net: Sources said at least 30 doctors received grand jury subpoenas, and more than 10 of Nayak’s employees have also been subpoenaed.

In addition, two of Nayak’s surgery centers in Chicago were hit with search warrants in late January, and at least half a dozen doctors have been offered immunity or been granted immunity for their testimony, sources with knowledge of the investigation say.

Federal authorities are investigating whether Nayak made improper payments to the doctors in order to draw their surgeries to his centers. Under the allegations, while private insurers paid doctors and the centers for surgeries performed, Nayak is under investigation for allegedly separately paying doctors hundreds of dollars for every surgery brought to the centers. Doctors who perform out-patient surgeries, including chiropractors and podiatrists, practice at the centers and can choose to bring their work to the centers rather than a hospital.

Harish was visited by the FBI.

FBI agents on Thursday searched two Joliet drugstores owned by a major fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagojevich who was the focus of a state investigation into whether campaign donations were made in exchange for regulatory favors.

Agents took records from the Basinger's Pharmacy stores but declined to say what they were investigating. FBI spokesman Ross Rice confirmed search warrants were executed and said no arrests were made.

The pharmacies are owned by Harish M. Bhatt, a prominent Indian businessman who helped the state's top pharmacy regulator win his job. The Tribune reported last year that state pharmacy auditors probing allegations of Medicaid fraud at Basinger’s complained that their bosses thwarted the investigation.

Bhatt denied he exerted any improper influence and said the investigation stalled for lack of evidence. State police and federal corruption investigators reopened the Bhatt investigation after Tribune reports.

And Bedi got arrested for shoplifting.  Back in April 2009, Bedi was fired from his $100K-plus job at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, so maybe he was short on cash.

Jesse Jackson Junior – What’s become of him?

Well, nothing so far.  He continues to be a United States Congressman. In the wake of his affair becoming public and lingering doubts surrounding his activities as Candidate #5, he decided not to run for Mayor of Chicago.  Nowadays, he keeps a relatively low profile.

Best of all, for him, is that he didn’t get indicted for trying to buy a seat in the United States Senate. For that he has the U.S. Attorney for the Northeastern District of Illinois to thank.

So why would Patrick Fitzgerald want to step in, at the 11th hour, to stop J.J. Junior from stepping on a political and criminal landmine?

22Sep/110

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? The Timing of the Blago Arrest and the Willing Suspension of Disbelief (Part 3)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

Completely believing Patrick Fitzgerald’s publically stated explanation concerning the timing of the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in December 2008 – “we’re in the middle of a corruption crime spree, and we wanted to stop it” – represents what one popular politician once called “the willing suspension of disbelief.”

The “we wanted to stop it” part is obviously true. The motive, though, is…well, questionable. Disbelief requires presenting an alternative explanation necessarily based on circumstantial evidence.  Does that lean into conjecture? Sure. Might it also come closer to the truth than the official version announced in the press conference held in the wake of the arrest of Blago?  That’s for you to eventually decide.

The link to the complete transcript of the Press Conference hosted by Patrick Fitzgerald after the arrest of Blago is found here. The 47-minute video version is available in total, and in brief episodes:

We’ll start toward an alternative understanding of what happened, but not finish yet, by parsing portions of that press conference, looking for the back story of why Fitzpatrick decided to pull the trigger on the arrest of Blago, who’d been under investigation for years, at that particular time.  Remember, it was December 9, 2008.  Approximately one month after the election of former Illinois Senator Barack Obama to the Presidency.

Here are the transcripts of several exchanges, with the starting time in the video linked above at the beginning of each question.


[14.13] Question #1:  Mr. Fitzgerald was this done today in an effort to head off the appointment of someone to fill Barack Obama’s senate seat? Was it – was it so imminent that that’s why you had to step in?

MR. FITZGERALD: I would say that we decided that this required unusual measures and there are a lot of things going on that were imminent. There's a bill sitting on a desk that we think a person who was supporting that bill has been squeezed to give $100,000. And to let that bill be signed, to me, would be very, very troubling.

There's a hospital -- a children's memorial hospital -- believing that it's getting $8 million, but its CEO has not coughed up a campaign contribution, and the thought that that money may get pulled back from a children's memorial hospital is something that you cannot abide. There is an editor that they'd like fired from the Tribune, and I laid awake at night, worried whether I'd read in the paper in the morning that when there were lay-offs, that we'd find out that that person was laid off.

The complaint -- the complaint lays out, in there in fact, when there were layoffs, there were conversations to find out whether the editor who should of -- they thought should be fired, and he wasn't. And the governor was asking whether there would be more layoffs. So we have a governor in this modern times, the only one who's looking for more layoffs. You take that, what's going on and add it to the fact that we have a Senate seat that seemed to be, as recently as days ago, auctioned off to, you know, to the highest bidder for campaign contributions. And Governor Blagojevich, own words, on the -- on the tape or the bug that set forth in the complaint, talked about selling this like a sports agent.

QUESTION: Couldn't you...

MR. FITZGERALD: So -- so -- I'm just -- and so, we stepped in for a number of reasons. Basically, as I said before, we're in the middle of a clutching crime spree, and we wanted to stop it.

Comment: The question, and Fitzpatrick’s answer, assumes that once Blago appointed someone to Obama’s seat that person was immediately – presto – a U.S. Senator. The subsequent and multiple legislative steps, and the accompanying length of time, that passed after Blago named Roland Burris before Burris was sworn in as a U.S. Senator disproves that assumption on its face.

The timing of the arrest let person or persons prepared to engage in the buying of a Senatorial seat off the hook. And, furthermore, none of the “imminent” events to which Fitzpatrick referred – the possible firing of a newspaper editor, a bill in the Illinois legislature, state money denied to a children’s hospital – were irrevocable if the USAO had waited until a deal between Blago and another party was consummated.

 It would be like arresting one drug dealer while he was negotiating a price on a shipment of heroin with another drug dealer in order to stop the crime. One gets away to buy another day.


[15:57] QUESTION #2: You said twice that we shouldn't cast dispersions {sic}on people who we think we recognize within a complaint. Does that mean that all of these people are beyond blame in any way? I mean some of the things in the complaint point a very, kind of, a tacky finger at some people, their willingness to play. And if pay-to-play is illegal. Isn't the willingness to play also culpable if you didn't charge today?

FITZGERALD: OK, there -- what -- what I'm trying to say is this: Look, we never give -- you know, and I think anyone who's from Chicago knows, you've heard it a thousand times -- we don't give clean bills of health. And what I've always been afraid of is you can say, you know, did -- did Carlos or me -- are we in trouble? I'm never going to say no, because that's just our practice, but I don't want people, when they answer those questions, to imply that someone is in trouble.

What I'm trying to do it is explain caution about a complaint. When someone says something that's on tape, largely, they're stuck with it. But when someone says something on tape about someone else, you usually want to do more investigation to verify what it is that happened.

And we're going to do that investigation and verify what it is that happened, what didn't happen, what the circumstances are.

There may be people who had no idea what was going on, had no idea they were being discussed. There may be other people who were involved in things they shouldn't have been involved in. And we're going to sort that out, and we're going to see, you know, some things will be black and white and some things be shades of gray.

Comment: The brief answer to the question (underlined) is, apparently, no. The person(s) negotiating price with Blago were cut-outs that left the person(s) they represented the option of a credible denial – long an effective tactic among Chicago pols. It’s the Sergeant Schultz Defense: “I know nothing.”

 As at least one of those potential deals moved toward consummation, the façade of credible denial would be seriously damaged by an exchange of money. Might that person, who stood to buy the Obama seat, have been the one Fitzpatrick was protecting by arresting Blago before money changed hands? More on that in Part 4.


[18:12] Question #3: ... Also, would you address the fact -- and I know you referred to this -- would you just address whether or not President-elect Obama was aware that any of these things were taking place?

MR. FITZGERALD: OK. I'm not going to speak for what the president- elect was aware of. We make no allegations that he's aware of anything. And that's as simply as I can put it…

Comment: This is an artful dodge of the question.  He didn’t say yes.  He didn’t say no.  He didn’t say he didn’t know.  He said he can’t speak for what Obama was aware of. Well, of course he can’t.


[28:30] Question #4: Mr. Fitzgerald, would you make clear just something about the timing here? When the Tribune ran its story a few days ago revealing that the governor was being taped, would you explain -- and I think some of this is laid out in the complaint -- did further taping take place or did that essentially terminate your ability to listen in?

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, what I would say is, to back up and to the extent that there have been articles, I'm not confirming or denying the accuracy of the articles. You can compare them against what happened.

I will say this, as you guys know, you guys are in the information business of getting it and publishing it, and we're in the information business of getting it and using it.

About eight weeks ago, before we had the bug installed and before we had the wiretap up, we were contacted by the Tribune to comment or confirm or deny on a story that they were going to run.

Had they ran that story, we thought we'd never have the opportunity to install the bug or place the telephone tap. And we made an urgent request for the Tribune not to publish that story.

That is a very rare thing for us to do and it's an even rarer thing for a newspaper to grant. We thought that the public interest required that the story not run…etc, etc, etc.

Comment: The complete answer goes on for 428 words. The net result of it is that the Tribune exposed a key element of an ongoing criminal investigation at a critical moment in that investigation and, according to Fitzpatrick, “I appreciate that and respect what they did.” Really? Well, perhaps he did.


[32:15] Question #5: QUESTION: You spoke before about if Senator -- you didn't know the awareness that Senator -- or President-elect Barack Obama knew about this. So is it safe to say he has not been briefed? And can you also tell us if any phone calls that were made to President-elect Obama that you intercepted, or to Rahm Emanuel?

MR. FITZGERALD: Anna, I'm not going to go down anything that's not in the complaint. And what I simply said before is, I'm not -- I have enough trouble speaking for myself, I'm never going to try to speak in the voice of a president or president-elect. So I simply pointed out that if you look at the complaint, there's no allegation that the president-elect -- there's no reference in the complaint to any conversation involving the president-elect or indicating that the president-elect was aware of it, and that's all I can say.

Comment:  Another dodge.


[37:40] Question #6:  QUESTION: I got a question -- if you could also just clarify again, is discussing a quid pro quo where he, you know, acted criminally versus actually carrying out. I mean, if he's just having conversations about eliminating a member of the editorial board at the Chicago Tribune but nothing is actually carried out, how much of that is just someone trying to be a tough guy and how much of that is criminal behaviors?

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, you hit on two questions. One is a legal distinction. There is scheming or conspiracy to commit a crime and then there's a substantive crime. We've charged conspiracy or scheming in this complaint.

One of the things we want to do with this investigation is to track out the different schemes and conspiracies to find out which ones were carried out or not and who might be involved in that or not. And that's something we haven't done yet. Now that we've gone overt we'll be interviewing people and figuring that out.

But it is a crime in and of itself for people to scheme to violate the law. That's called conspiracy. Then there's a substantive crime.

As far as how much -- whether or not there people acting like a tough guy or not, I don't want to pre-try the case, but if you lean on someone and leave them to believe their bill is not getting signed unless they give you the money, that is what acting like a tough guy is, it's a crime.

And we can sort through it at any trial as to what was said, what was followed through, but it is a crime to conspire to shake someone down.

Comment: The USAO was after only one criminal. Blago. The other criminals who were conspiring to commit a crime by buying a senate seat, which is a crime in and of itself, got a pass.


[39:00] Questions #7 & #8: Sir, just to be crystal clear and to make clear, you're not aware of any conversations then that took place with the governor and any member of Barack Obama's transition team, at all?

MR. FITZGERALD: And what I simply said is you can read the complaint. I'm not going to sit here with a 76-page complaint and parse through it. That's all we're alleging. And I'm just -- I'm not going to start going down and saying, did anyone ever talk to anyone?

You can read what we allege in the complaint. It's pretty detailed. Look in the 76 pages. And if you don't see it, it's not there.

QUESTION: You talked about -- you talked about keeping your superiors informed as to what was going on, I'm assuming that means the attorney general.

In the briefings that President-elect Obama had had over the past week with various government departments, would it be possible for him to have been briefed on what was going on here with regard to this investigation?

MR. FITZGERALD: I -- I -- I -- I'm not going to comment on that. I'm not -- I'm not -- I'm not the briefer. I'm not at those meetings.

But I would simply say that this was very close hold in Washington, and on a need to know basis. So, I'm -- but I'm not going to -- I'm not the briefer, so I'm not going to represent what happens. But -- I'll leave it at that.

Comment: Note the stuttering in the second response. The U.S. Attorney is becoming uncomfortable with both the questions and his responses. What’s wrong with saying, “I assume the man about to become our President is told everything he needs to know as he prepares to assume leadership of our federal government.  And the pending arrest of the governor of a large state certainly falls into that category.”


So what does this official explanation about stopping a corruption crime spree in progress suggest?  Was it timed to aid a children’s hospital?  Stop an unidentified newspaper editor from potential unemployment? Circumvent some Illinois legislative misdeed? Stop the immediate and irrevocable appointment of a U.S. Senator to fill Obama’s seat?

That’s the official explanation, and the one ultimately accepted by the Chicago big media.  But is there a more complicated, yet cogent, back story?  Yes there is.

Stand-by.

21Sep/111

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? The Untouchable Myth Is Born (Part 2)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

“[Joseph C.] Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” Robert D. Novak, “Mission to Niger,” The Washington Post, July 14, 2003

This sentence, written by the late columnist Robert Novak, catapulted Patrick Fitzgerald into national notoriety where he assumed the mythological stature of a relentless Special Counsel.

The key word used, or perhaps misused, by Novak was “operative.”

Once “operative” appeared, Plame assumed the image of the clandestine secret agent whose identify had been casually, and carelessly, revealed by a leaker with potentially nefarious motives.  The revealing was seen as a violation of 50 U.S.C. § 421 : US Code - Section 421: Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources.  Plame quickly became a pop culture Jane Bond. 

The word “operative” triggered the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate the leak – an investigation that stayed active in the news media, on-and-off, from September 2003 to March 2007.

At the end, when Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, was convicted on four counts of making false statements on March 6, Libby was the big loser.  The Special Counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, was the big winner.  His image as Untouchable had been cast in bronze by the mainstream media. Today, The Washington Post describes Fitzgerald with these words:

“The dogged Fitzgerald has been compared to Eliot Ness, the former head of the liquor-busting “Untouchables” in Prohibition-era Chicago… [T]he workaholic prosecutor’s most famous investigation was into the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity, a probe that led all the way to the Bush White House and resulted in the conviction of former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby (President George W. Bush later commuted his sentence.)”

Information concerning the Plame Case is well-documented and easily accessible on the internet.  No need to rehash it further here.

Future historians who review the saga will encounter a very curious fact.  It’s found in this 2006 interview between CBS News national security correspondent David Martin and Richard Armitage, who was Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Deputy at the State Department.

Click here to view video: 

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/09/07/eveningnews/main1981433.shtml

So, before Fitzgerald was appointed Special Council, Armitage told the FBI that he was the leaker.  When asked why he didn’t go public as the investigation to find the leaker grew, Armitage says, “The Special Counsel, once he was appointed, asked me not to discuss this, and I honored his request.”  Now that’s interesting stuff.  And puzzling, too.

 (Why did Armitage speak up publically in 2006, long after the media spotlight had turned on Libby, and, also, Karl Rove?   After all, Bush said,in July 2005, he wanted to know who leaked the information, and that he’d fire whoever committed the crime. In any regard, Armitage’s allegiance was not to his President but to a Prosecutor who went on the hunt for the leaker he already knew. Now, really, isn’t all this bizarre, or what?)

The CBS interview wasn’t the only time Armitage confessed to the crime.

Armitage agrees it was “foolish” for him to mention Plame’s CIA employment to Novak.

That begs this question: If “foolishness” is his excuse, what was Patrick Fitzgerald’s excuse for engaging in a long and costly investigation when, even before it started, the culprit, Armitage, had confessed to the crime?  (Has the media ever asked Fitzgerald that question? Or, were they so delightedly breathless to see the evil Cheney embarrassed through Libby that they dared not ask?)

What was the Fitzgerald investigation really about?  If Armitage was guilty, why was he never prosecuted for the alleged crime? Does confessing get you a pass?

We get a hint to the back story from recent comments made by former Vice President Cheney while speaking at Union League Club Authors Group in Chicago on September 19.  According to the Chicago Sun-Times,

A block away from the office of the man who prosecuted his chief of staff, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter had harsh words Monday for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

“My friend Scooter Libby is a very good man,” Cheney said. “He gave up a very successful private life in order to serve the nation. … For his trouble, he ended up as part of a particular prosecution. I will always think that he did not deserve what happened.”

Cheney was in Chicago to discuss his new book "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir."  In his book, Cheney wrote, “It was as though he [Colin Powell] thought the proper way to express his views was by criticizing administration policy to people outside the government.”

Armitage was the Deputy Secretary of State under Powell.  Libby was Cheney’s Chief of Staff. It’s clear now that Powell and Cheney were not blood brothers. But there may have been occasional blood spilled between them.

In the now obvious power struggle that was going on between the two top Lieutenants in the Bush administration, what was Fitzgerald’s role? Was he the Untouchable, intrepid prosecutor in search of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of who committed the alleged crime of exposing Plame’s employment to Novak?  Or, was Fitzgerald a political operative touched by persons within the Bush administration to embarrass and undercut Cheney.

If Judith Miller went to jail for failing to reveal her source for what she later wrote about Plame, why did Novak get a pass?  Looks like Bob Novak was the real “Untouchable” throughout the entire saga.  Nobody touched him.

Turning now to more recent events, since John Chase of the Chicago Tribune is obviously getting a pass for notifying Blagojevich that his phone conversations were being tapped, how’d he earn that pass? Was it by leaking the information to Blago?

One last question:

In the events that constituted the sudden arrest of Blago, for who might Fitzgerald have been playing the political operative, dressed, again, in the dark suit of the Untouchable Eliot Ness?

19Sep/110

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald: Untouchable Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? (Part 1)

By: Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

Is the United States Attorney for the Northeastern District of Illinois an intrepid crime fighter, as he’s typically portrayed by most of the Chicago and national media?  Or, is the legend of a modern day Untouchable Elliott Ness largely a media-created myth?

The ABC News video below is from the June press conference following the conviction of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  It has about it a seriously surreal aspect.

At about 5:40 in the recording, Fitzgerald reports what everyone in the room already knows, and one reporter in the room knows better than all the others. “There was a leak to a newspaper article that indicated that Mr. Blagojevich was being recorded on,” he says.

Later in the press conference, reporters begin asking Fitzgerald – whose national reputation as a dogged plugger of leaks was built during his relentless pursuit of the person who revealed Valerie Plame’s identity as a Central Intelligence Agency employee – about the leak in the Blago investigation.  You’ll recall that Fitzgerald’s hunt for the Plame-leaker began in 2003, and ended in March 2007 with the conviction of Scooter Libby, after costing the taxpayers $2.58 million.  (Hold that thought. We’ll briefly revisit that saga in a later installment. It’ll help us answer the lede question.)

In the June 2011 press conference, the reporter sitting in the front row, slightly to Fitzgerald’s left, holding a tape recorder toward the podium is Chicago Tribune reporter John Chase.  He’s the slightly balding man, wearing a striped blue shirt and glasses. He carefully follows the questions other reporters ask about the “leak” that alerted Blagojevich that his conversations were being recorded by the FBI.  It’s reasonable he’d be interested, since he wrote the article to which Fitzgerald referred. Sitting right there with a front row seat as they talk about him. How ‘bout that.

Here’s a transcript of the intercepted phone conversation where Blago learns about Chase’s Tribune article in advance of its publication.

 

DATE: 12/04/2008
TIME: 10:29 P.M.
ACTIVITY: Rod Blagojevich home line incoming call.
SESSION: 1394
SPEAKERS: BLAGOJEVICH: Rod Blagojevich
P. BLAGOJEVICH: Patti BlagojevichGUERRERO: Lucio Guerrero
* * * * *
P. BLAGOJEVICH Hello.
 
GUERRERO Hey Patti, this is Lucio.
 
P. BLAGOJEVICH Hey Lucio.
 
GUERRERO Little late. Is the governor around?
 
P. BLAGOJEVICH Yeah, hold on.
 
GUERRERO Alright.
 
(PAUSE)
 
BLAGOJEVICH Hey.
 
GUERRERO Hey, sorry to call so...
 
10 BLAGOJEVICH Yeah.
 
11 GUERRERO You probably know this. Ah, Scofield
12 and I got a call from John Chase about
13 ten minutes ago. Uh, he said they're
14 writing a story for tomorrow's paper
15 that says as part of a federal
16 investigation they have recordings of
17 you and also, John Wyma's cooperating
18 with the feds. Uh, I've got calls out
19 to Quinlan, waiting to hear back. So
20 does Mary Stewart, I just haven't heard
21 back from him yet. I assume we're not
22 going to say anything but I want you to
23 know.
1
BLAGOJEVICH They have recordings of me and Wy-,
Wyma's cooperating with the feds? Who
said that?
 
GUERRERO John Chase. He said the story's gonna
say two things. He left me a message I
didn't pick up cause I wanted to hear
what he had to say. He said one, it'll
say it's the, as part of the federal
investigation they have recordings of
10 you. He doesn't say what it says on the
11 recordings. And, number two, that John
12 Wyma's cooperating with the feds.
 
13 BLAGOJEVICH Huh.
 
14 GUERRERO So, like I say I have a call in... I, I
15 assume we're not going to say anything,
16 but I, just so you know that tomorrow's
17 paper, that's gonna be in there.
 
18 BLAGOJEVICH In the Tribune tomorrow?
 
19 GUERRERO Correct.
 
20 (PAUSE)
 
21 BLAGOJEVICH Recordings of me?
 
22 GUERRERO Correct.
 
23 BLAGOJEVICH On the telephone with Wyma, maybe?
 
24 GUERRERO I don't know. Like I said I didn't pick
25 up the phone. I didn't want to get into
26 it with him so that's what he left on
27 my, on my, ah, voice mail.
 
28 BLAGOJEVICH And where's Quinlan?
 
29 GUERRERO I don't know. I got, Mary's got,
30 calling him and I've called and emailed
31 him.
 
32 BLAGOJEVICH Alright, I'll get him. I'll call you
33 back. Bye.
 
34 GUERRERO Bye.
2
BLAGOJEVICH (To P. BLAGOJEVICH) Tribune's
writing...

Late in the press conference, the prosecutor who jailed New York Times’ reporter Judith Miller for 85 days for failing to reveal a source, displays a rather blasé attitude toward having a key element of his investigation leaked to the media.  Chase isn’t going to jail like Judith.  What’s up with that?

At about 16:14 in the video, Fitzgerald states, “I didn’t do it.”  The “it” refers to leaking the information to the Chicago Tribune.  Who said he did?

That’s probably a truthful statement.  Of course, the US Attorney for the Northeastern District of Illinois would never phone a Chicago reporter and leak sensitive information.  He’d have someone on his staff do it.

The question is – Why?

While you ponder that thought, here’s another.

In the press conference, Fitzgerald makes a plea for persons with knowledge of corruption to come forward and report that information to his office.  He repeated that theme recently when, on September 12, while speaking before City Club of Chicago, according to the Sun Times, he said,

“The one thing I find frustrating is that people view corruption as a law enforcement problem. If I had a dollar for everyone who has come up to me after we’ve convicted someone and said, ‘Yes, we knew he or she was doing that all the time but we wondered when someone was going to get around to doing something about it. And I bite my lip, but I wanted to smack them upside the head.”

He said the person who needs to do something about corruption is “you. It is my view that sometimes we say, ‘that’s the way it is in Illinois or that’s the way it is in Chicago.’ If you’re finding yourself saying that, what you’re really saying is, ‘That’s the way I will allow it to be.’

“You either speak up and do something about it or you’re part of the problem. That’s the only way to look at it.”

So, here’s another question:

If you’re a citizen with first-hand knowledge of corruption, why in the world would you take that information to a U.S. Attorney’s office that has a leak, particularly when the guy in charge doesn’t seem all that concerned about leaks?  Doing so could cause you unintended pain, if it got leaked to the wrong person, or persons.