Russert testifies he never discussed CIA operative with Libby

Wednesday, February 7th 2007, 6:05 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ NBC News reporter Tim Russert took the stand Wednesday as the final government witness in the perjury and obstruction trial of former White House aide I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby.

Russert testified about a July 2003 phone call in which Libby complained about a colleague's coverage. Libby says that, at the end of the call, Russert brought up the subject of an outspoken war critic, Joseph Wilson, and said Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

``That would be impossible,'' Russert testified Wednesday. ``I didn't know who that person was until several days later.''

That discrepancy is at the heart of Libby's case. Libby is charged with lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters regarding Wilson's wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Russert's direct testimony lasted less than 15 minutes. Cross-examination by Libby's attorneys was expected to last much longer.

During Libby's 2004 grand jury testimony, Libby described in detail a conversation with Russert.

``Did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked at the CIA?'' Libby said Russert asked.

``No, I don't know that,'' Libby said he replied.

``Yes, all the reporters know it,'' Russert responded, according to Libby's grand jury testimony.

Fitzgerald believes Libby learned about Plame's identity from Vice President Dick Cheney and other government officials, passed that information on to reporters, then concocted the Russert conversation to cover it up.

Libby acknowledges learning about Plame from Cheney but says he forgot it. He says he learned it from Russert a month later as if it were new and only discussed Plame with other reporters based on that conversation.