Will Mitchell Blow Up NBC?

The Scooter Libby trial is coming down to the wire. The prosecution has rested its case and the defense has but one more witness to call - Andrea Mitchell - who the prosecution is trying to keep off the stand. My prediction is that she will be forced to appear and might well provide the most explosive testimony of the trial.

The crux of the issue is this. Libby says Russert told him Plame worked at the CIA and was involved in sending her husband on a trip to Niger. Russert says he did no such thing because at the time he didn't know about Plame. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Russert did know about Plame, and that it was Mitchell who told him. In fact she confirmed this on national television before later backtracking. If she did tell Russert, then he lied to the FBI and perjured himself on the stand.

But something more sinister has appeared in the last couple of days. Early in the FBI's effort to gather information on the case, they interviewed Russert to determine if Libby was lying. All the notes of that initial interview have been "lost" and the agent who conducted the interview "retired". You can read the details here, but the whole thing looks very fishy. The government's description of that initial interview seems all but implausible, and suggests that they are covering for Russert. If so, it would seem that Fitzgerald and Co. may be involved in some pretty serious fraud.

But back to Mitchell. If she is forced to testify, claims ignorance of Plame, and Libby is nonetheless acquitted, the Russert/Mitchell position will not be scrutinized. And if she testifies and Libby is found guilty, there will surely be an appeal and the whole mess will live on for another day. But if she testifies and contradicts Russert, NBC will be forced to fire both of them and it will be a national media scandal.

Given all the evidence suggesting that Mitchell and Russert did in fact know about Plame, there is an outside chance that this trial may blow up into a national media scandal next week. Mitchell may try to testify in lock step with Russert. But I'm betting she's not as good a liar as he is, and that if put on the stand, will undermine Russert as a witness and might just wreck NBC News.

0 comments: