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Is Peter Osnos Withholding Impeachable Evidence?

Is Peter Osnos Withholding Impeachable Evidence For "Lucre"?

By Bob Fertik

Let me state at the outset that I bear no ill will towards Peter Osnos, the highly-respected founder and editor-at-large of PublicAffairs, which publishes outstanding books, including Scott McClellan's forthcoming memoir.

But I'm writing this blog because Osnos has just published a column about the media frenzy that followed publication of McClellan's now-famous excerpt about the Plame lies.

“The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

“There was one problem. It was not true.

“I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice-President, the President’s chief of staff and the President himself.”

Osnos concludes his column with this:

Scott McClellan is writing a responsible book about his moment in history. Much of our popular media, including some leading brand names, apparently shoot first and ask later. The blogosphere and cable news operate in a universe of their own in which frenzy and vituperation are the major currency. As for the known perpetrators of the Plame leak, whatever they may have done to McClellan and the pursuit of truth, they seem to have gotten away with it. Karl Rove is now a contributing columnist for Newsweek and is getting a substantial book contract. Libby was convicted of perjury but excused from jail time by President Bush.

All of which is true. And as a blogger, my skin is thick enough to take the slings and arrows that come with the territory. I'm not trying to prove Osnos wrong or defend my own or anyone else's blogs.

But I do want to add an important point that Osnos leaves out.

Scott McClellan is a witness to a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice by the five most powerful people in the White House.

We do not yet know exactly which members of that conspiracy committed exactly which actions, but we know that at least two of them (Libby and Rove) participated in the outing of Valerie Plame, which shut down her urgent work stopping the spread of WMD's to our enemies, and was therefore an act of treason - not to mention a probable violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) and a certain violation of the law governing use and abuse of classified information.

The CIA investigated the outing, concluded a serious crime was committed, and referred it to the Justice Department for prosecution. Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed Special Prosecutor and tried to get to the bottom of the crime but was prevented from doing so by Scooter Libby's lies. Based on the limited evidence available, everyone who followed the trial believes Libby lied to conceal the role of his immediate boss, Dick Cheney, and possibly George Bush as well, in Plame's outing.

In a further act of obstruction, George Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison term to keep Libby from cooperating with Fitzgerald. Bush reportedly did so at the urging of Cheney.

So based on available evidence, Bush and Cheney may have participated in the crime of outing Plame. They certainly participated in the coverup of that crime. Either way, they committed impeachable offenses.

Scott McClellan has important evidence about these impeachable offenses. And Osnos is likely in possession of that evidence, if McClellan has written the whole truth (naturally a big "IF"):

The chapter cited in the catalog has been drafted. It is a meticulous account of the period at the start of McClellan’s tenure, when he had to handle the flap over the disclosure that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA operative, collateral damage in the Washington fracas over blame for the Iraq war blunders...

Before taking on his book, my colleagues and I talked to White House correspondents and reporters in Texas and were assured that if McClellan said he would write a book without fear or favor, he would. And he is. (The Associated Press put out a story under the headline “Aides Choose Royalties over Loyalties,” listing the press secretaries who have written memoirs for large advances. I can assure you, as anyone familiar with PublicAffairs will attest, that lucre is not McClellan’s incentive to work with us.)

If McClellan is not after "lucre," then why doesn't Osnos immediately publish McClellan's complete chapter on this episode, so Congress and the American people can determine whether McClellan has material evidence of impeachable offenses?

Osnos of course has no legal obligation to do so, but he has a moral obligation at a time when a majority of Americans suspect impeachable crimes but lack firm enough evidence to convince Congress to act.

The only reason for Osnos not to publish this chapter now is fear it would hurt sales of the book.

So if McClellan is not after "lucre," why is Osnos?


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