CNN’s Blitzer Implies White House Officials Will Lie in CIA Matter

Instead of leading with the Iowa caucuses, Wednesday’s "The Situation Room" began its broadcast covering attorney general Michael Mukasey’s decision to open an investigation into the destruction of interrogation tapes by the CIA. Host Wolf Blitzer, during a segment with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, compared this investigation to the investigation by Patrick Fitzgerald that led to the obstruction of justice conviction of Scooter Libby. "Whenever they [Bush administration officials] have to go testify, whether before a grand jury or to the FBI, and tell what they know... they fall into that dangerous area where they might not necessarily tell the whole truth, and then they could be charged with a cover-up, if you will, sort of along the lines of Scooter Libby."

Toobin agreed with Blitzer, and replied, "Well, that situation with Scooter Libby is precisely analogous," and described the circumstances of the Fitzgerald investigation. "[I]n that case, the attorney general at the time -- I believe it was John Ashcroft -- yes, it was John Ashcroft -- had to appoint an outsider. And he said Patrick Fitzgerald, you come in and investigate. Patrick Fitzgerald never found the crime he was originally looking for, which was improper disclosure of a CIA agent. He found that his own investigation was obstructed by Scooter Libby. And that's the case that he won against Scooter Libby."

The full transcript of the short segment, which came 2 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour of Wednesday’s "The Situation Room:"

WOLF BLITZER: Let's get some analysis from Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst. You're a former assistant U.S. attorney. You know something about these criminal investigations. How big of a deal is this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: It's a big deal, because particularly when you assign one prosecutor to investigate one case, it takes a long time. And John Durham is a very distinguished prosecutor. Janet Reno appointed him to investigate a very controversial case in Boston involving the FBI, ties to the mobs. So, I don't think anyone will question his qualifications. But the Bush administration is certainly in, for the remainder of its tenure, dealing with subpoenas, grand jury testimony about a very difficult subject.

BLITZER: And whenever they have to go testify, whether before a grand jury or to the FBI, and tell what they know, whether a CIA official or White House lawyer, or anyone else, they fall into that dangerous area where they might not necessarily tell the whole truth, and then they could be charged with a cover-up, if you will, sort of along the lines of Scooter Libby.

TOOBIN: Well, that situation with Scooter Libby is precisely analogous, because in that case, the attorney general at the time -- I believe it was John Ashcroft -- yes, it was John Ashcroft -- had to appoint an outsider. And he said Patrick Fitzgerald, you come in and investigate. Patrick Fitzgerald never found the crime he was originally looking for, which was improper disclosure of a CIA agent. He found that his own investigation was obstructed by Scooter Libby. And that's the case that he won against Scooter Libby. So, those are the kinds of things that could happen. I think the one thing they have going for them, the Bush administration has going for them, is it may take longer than 10 months to get this done, so they won't have to deal with the aftermath.

BLITZER: It's an open-ended investigation, and these investigations, as you say, take a long, long time with a lot of pitfalls out there. Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center