- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Reporter Matt Cooper testified yesterday he thought I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. had confirmed that a prominent war critic’s wife worked at the CIA but acknowledged he never asked the former White House aide where he had heard the information.

Mr. Cooper, Time magazine’s White House reporter at the time, testified at the CIA leak trial that Mr. Libby was a source for his learning that Valerie Plame, wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was a CIA operative. Mr. Libby says he only told reporters he had heard that information from other reporters.

Mr. Libby, ex-chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, is being tried on charges he lied to the FBI and a grand jury about his conversations with reporters about Mrs. Plame and obstructed the investigation into how her identity leaked to the public in 2003. He is not charged with the actual leak.

Mr. Cooper’s appearance allowed defense attorney William Jeffress to ask repeatedly about President Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, because Mr. Cooper identified Mr. Rove as the first official to tell him about Mrs. Plame’s job at CIA. Mr. Cooper said Mr. Rove told him that Mrs. Plame, rather than Mr. Cheney, was responsible for sending Mr. Wilson to Niger in 2002.

On July 6, 2003, Mr. Wilson said in print and on television that what he learned on the trip debunked a report that Iraq was trying to buy uranium there for nuclear weapons. He said Mr. Cheney should have learned of his findings long before Mr. Bush used the uranium story in his January 2003 State of the Union speech as a justification for war with Iraq.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Theodore Wells said the White House was trying in 2003 to blame Mr. Libby for the leak in order to protect Mr. Rove, although Mr. Wells did not explain precisely how that related to the perjury charges against Mr. Libby.

Mr. Cooper recalled a July 12, 2003, telephone conversation in which he asked Mr. Libby whether Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and was behind the Niger trip.

Mr. Cooper testified yesterday that Mr. Libby responded, “Yeah, I’ve heard that, too,” or “Yeah, I’ve heard something like that, too.”

Anticipating the defense attack, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald asked whether Mr. Libby said where he heard that.

“Not in any way,” Mr. Cooper replied.

The reporter also said he didn’t take any notes on that exchange and that he had posed his question to Mr. Libby “off the record.”

Mr. Jeffress called the jury’s attention to the extensive notes and memos to Time editors that Mr. Cooper produced after his talk with Mr. Rove.

Mr. Jeffress asked Mr. Cooper whether he ever asked Mr. Libby where he had heard about Mr. Wilson’s wife.

“I did not,” Mr. Cooper replied.

Mr. Jeffress then asked Mr. Cooper how he could take his exchange with Mr. Libby as confirmation.

“I took it as confirmation,” Mr. Cooper said.

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