updated 11/17/2005 1:25:01 PM ET 2005-11-17T18:25:01

Guest: Russ Feingold, Tom DeFrank, Richard Cohen, Dick Sauber, Leonard Downie, Jr

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The return of Deep Throat—Bob Woodward, the sleuth who blew the lid on Watergate, has testified under oath that a senior administration official outed CIA agent Valerie Wilson to him a month before Bob Novak broke the story. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Hot news in the CIA leak story—the “Washington Post” confesses that its own assistant managing editor and Watergate hero, Bob Woodward, testified under oath Monday that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Wilson and her position at the agency almost a month before her name was revealed in a Robert Novak column. 

Why did Woodward, the star investigative of the 20th century, not go to press with this story?  And who is this new Deep Throat; was it Dick Cheney, that great inside source for Woodward‘s Iraq war books? 

Woodward‘s testimony would make the unnamed official, not Scooter Libby, the first government employee to disclose Wilson‘s employment at the CIA to a reporter, and Woodward the first reporter known to have learned about Wilson from a Bush administration official. 

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward for more than two hours Monday about the previously undisclosed conversation after the official alerted the prosecutor to it on November 3rd, one week after Vice President Dick Cheney‘s chief of staff was indicated.

Big questions remain.

Woodward‘s source freed him to testify but not to disclose their conversations or the official‘s name. 

So who is Bob Woodward‘s source and why did the source come forward after Libby‘s indictment? 

Today, Woodward apologized to his bosses at the “Washington Post” for not sharing the information.  But why didn‘t the most famous investigative reporter in the country write about what he knew earlier? 

HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has more on the story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Bob Woodward got the first leak and its news that has left the nation‘s capital wondering who was his source this time. 

The “Washington Post” reported today the famous Watergate journalist, quote, “testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.”

That means Woodward received the first leak of classified information and it raises questions about what the senior official he spoke with told investigators. 

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROF. OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV.:  If the official was interviewed in the field, let alone the grand jury, and did not reveal the information, it could be a serious legal problem.  We could see a new indictment. 

SHUSTER:  Woodward wrote today the source only told prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about the conversation two weeks ago, after the indictment of Vice President Cheney‘s chief of staff Scooter Libby. 

Woodward, quote, “I was first contacted by Fitzgerald‘s office November 3rd.”

And when Woodward then spoke with the source, the official, quote, “requested that I testify.” 

Woodward added, “I have not been released to disclose the source‘s name publicly.” 

But lawyers for Scooter Libby say Libby was not Woodward‘s source. 

Karl Rove‘s spokesman says Rove was not either.

And when you combine other clues from various parts of this case, the puzzle that forms suggests that Woodward‘s senior administration official could be Vice President Cheney. 

Cheney is widely believed to have been a crucial source for Woodward‘s book, “Plan of Attack,” which tells the administration‘s story about the run-up to the Iraq war.

Woodward was working on this book at the time of the conversation about the Wilsons, which Woodward says came in mid June 2003.

According to the Libby indictment on June 9, 2003, the CIA faxed documents about the Wilsons to the office of the vice president.  And the indictment says on June 12, Vice President Cheney told Libby that Wilson‘s wife worked at the CIA. 

Woodward‘s conversation with the unnamed senior official came before Libby spoke about the Wilsons to reporters, and therefore Woodward‘s conversation could help Libby‘s defense team show that at least one claim about Libby was wrong. 

PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. 

SHUSTER:  Libby, though, who was at the courthouse today examining pretrial documents, is charged with obstructing the investigation, and legal experts say a change in the prosecution leak chronology may not matter very much in the Libby case. 

But it could matter, they say, as far as the overall investigation is concerned and Fitzgerald‘s effort to determine what Libby may have been trying to hide. 

Meanwhile, as for Bob Woodward, his status in the investigation offers a new perspective on his public comments, including those on HARDBALL, when Woodward had this to say about prosecutor Fitzgerald‘s efforts to force reporters to testify. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, “WASHINGTON POST”:  When I think it‘s all told, there is going to be nothing to it, and it‘s a shame and the special prosecutor in that case—his behavior in my view has been disgraceful. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  As a top editor at the “Washington Post,” Woodward has a unique relationship with sources and the paper, a relationship that allows him to keep his own reporting confidential from the paper. 

But will it work against him this time? 

TURLEY:  What is truly incredible is he was not only giving interviews as an independent journalist, he was giving interviews to his own advantage, questioning the significance of this information that it turns out he too, revealed, questioning the value of the investigation, when he knew he was a potential witness.  It is truly breathtaking. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  This afternoon, Bob Woodward apologized to his colleagues at the “Washington Post,” saying he should have told editors much sooner but was afraid of getting subpoenaed. 

As the “Post” works this out, the bottom line is that prosecutors have been given something new and significant that appears to deepen the investigation. 

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster. 

Len Downie is the executive editor of the “Washington Post.” He joins us now.

Len, thank you for your time today. 

LEONARD DOWNIE, JR., EXEC. EDITOR, “WASHINGTON POST”:  You‘re welcome.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a tricky time for a lot of people in journalism now. 

I want to ask you, why do we now know that Bob Woodward got a leak from a senior administration official about the identity of Joe Wilson‘s wife?  Why do we know that he ever got that information right now? 

DOWNIE:  Chris, at the time that this conversation took place back in June of 2003, rMD+BO_rMDNM_Bob was conducting a series of interviews with this and other sources for his book, “Plan of Attack.”  He had, had many conversations with this source.  And this came up as a small business of banter within a much longer interview about other things. 

And Bob at the time—this is before Novak‘s column—didn‘t think much of it.  It wasn‘t what he was after for his book.  It didn‘t seem very significant to him.  Only after the—and that‘s why he didn‘t tell me about it at that time. 

Later on, when the leaks investigation began, because this is a confidential relationship with this source, he became concerned about protecting that source and also concerned about whether or not he, himself, might be subpoenaed in that investigation.  And that‘s why he didn‘t tell me at that time. 

I‘ve told him, however, that those were not sufficient reasons to not bring me into his confidence.  I don‘t know if we could have made any use of this information at the time if he had told me, because it is a confidential source relationship.  Couldn‘t name the source.  Couldn‘t use the information at that time. 

But he should have told me about it and that‘s why he has apologized today. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s what I don‘t get.

What has changed between then and June of 2003 and now? 

We now know that the message was, from that source, that high administration official, that Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA, Joe Wilson‘s wife, and may have played a role in his going to Niger. 

But why do we know that now?  What freed him up to tell us that, the information itself? 

DOWNIE:  What‘s happened since Bob first told me about this toward the end of October, shortly before the indictments came down, and what happened after that, is the—as Mr. Shuster‘s report said, is that he was contacted by the special counsel, asked to give this deposition and then sought waivers from the three sources the special counsel wanted to ask questions about, because Bob couldn‘t give testimony unless these waivers were given for the purpose of testimony. 

All three gave him waivers for that.  He also asked for waivers to be able to write about it.  And, one, Mr. Libby gave him a waiver to be able to write about it in today‘s paper. 

It took a while to reach Andrew Card, who is traveling with the president, the president‘s chief of staff.  We now have his waiver to be able to write about.  We can write about that in tomorrow‘s paper.  We‘ve already done so on the Web site today. 

But the other source has not given us a waiver, so we still can‘t name him or report on the substance of the conversation. 

MATTHEWS:  But haven‘t you, by saying that someone, a high administration official told Bob that Valerie Wilson works for the CIA—isn‘t that the information?  And we have it now, we have it because Bob gave it—put it out in a statement. 

Why did he put it out now and not put it out two years ago? 

DOWNIE:  We have only been able to report it to the extent that I just said, consistent with our agreement with his source. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the source, in other words—I‘m afraid—well, let me ask you about being used here by his source. 

The source says you can testify about it, says to Bob you can testify under oath, of course, because you‘re free to do that.  I waive that.  You can testify as to the message.  You can say somebody leaked this back in  mid June of 2003 before it was leaked by Scooter Libby, according to the indictment language. 

In other words, that‘s all useful to somebody if they want to help Scooter get off.  But it‘s not telling the whole story, it‘s just telling the useful part of this story.  I mean, the people over at Libby‘s legal operation are ecstatic now. 

DOWNIE:  I‘m not drawing any conclusions about that.  That‘s their business. 

What we are doing is maintaining our relationships with the confidential source, as we do with many other confidential sources.  That‘s very important to us. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does it bother you that the confidential source could be using rolling disclosure here for a political purpose; in other words, peeling off the confidentiality just enough to achieve a political goal, which is to take perhaps some of the political—or the legal heat off of Scooter Libby? 

The reason I ask that is because—and you know this—the logic of this, it comes out just a week after Scooter Libby‘s indicted.  If someone who was friendly to him, the vice president perhaps, who wanted to help him, or someone else like Colin Powell who wanted to help him, would say, “Well, get this information out to the press that he wasn‘t the first one to talk to the press about this; I was.”

DOWNIE:  Chris, I can‘t engage in that kind of speculation, you know that.  We have a confidential-source relationship to protect here.  Woodward protected the name of deep throat for 30 years.  That is why he was seeking to protect this confidential-source relationship.  But he should have told me about it.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about the role of an editor in a case of like this.  Let‘s talk about the period between what Bob refers to as mid June of 2003 and the time that you ran—well, you don‘t make these decisions, I guess their publishers do.  I don‘t even know who makes the decision to run the Bob Novak column. 

But around on the 14th in your paper, a syndicated column by Bob Novak.  Of course, the Post doesn‘t edit Bob Novak, he‘s syndicated.  But would you have liked to have had that story sometime before he did it and would you have ran it, if Bob had given it to you. 

The story that a CIA agent was the wife of the guy that went to Niger, that may have played a role in the fact that he went on the trip.  It may have been politically significant that the vice president—although he may have triggered this trip, in his question to the CIA briefer, the trip was in fact undertaken perhaps with some role by Joe Wilson‘s wife? 

DOWNIE:  We always want to publish information as soon as we receive it, Chris.  In this case, the information was—did come from a confidential source and had to be kept confidential. 

It was a reporting for a book, whose publication was way off into the future.  I would have liked to have known this from Bob at the time, so we could consider exactly the kind of considerations that you‘re raising now.  We were unable to do that at the time.  But, I don‘t know if our decision would have been we‘d be able to publish the story, because of the confidential nature of the interview. 

MATTHEWS:  The source was confidential, but you believe that the background agreement between Bob and his source, the high administration official, was also the information was off the record.  Is that right? 

DOWNIE:  At that time, it was for the purpose of publication of a book in the future, and therefore was confidential.  And the source has told us it remains confidential. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you.  Andy Card was mentioned on-line today from “The Washington Post” as one of the other sources.  Scooter Libby is the—who is the third?  Are we going to know that at any time soon?

DOWNIE:  I don‘t know.  Obviously, we‘re interested in having the source free us from our obligations.  We‘ll have to wait and see if that happens.

MATTHEWS:  Is it important to your readers, if you can get that waiver to be complete, not just to be limited to publish that information?  What would it tell the reader?

DOWNIE:  Of course it is, along with all the other reporting that we are continuing to do on this story. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the significance of this whole thing.  As a journalist, as an editor of one of the great papers in the country and the world. 

Is it important—is there a conflict here between Bob‘s writing books—and they‘re hell of books, everybody reads them, they‘re best sellers—and his role as a daily newspaper editor?

DOWNIE:  Scores of members on our staff, including myself on occasion, have written books.  And we think that‘s an important thing for our professionals to be able to do.

And oftentimes, they do reporting that does produce stories for the newspaper, along with their books.  And in all of Bob‘s books, he has produced stories for the newspaper out of his reporting.

Sometimes stories long before the book is published, or sometimes in other cases, we publish excerpts from the books, long series of articles, giving our readers the first shot at all of his important information.

It has worked throughout.  And he has always kept me informed about the important things that he has discovered in his reporting.  This is the first time that I can recall in the 30 years of this relationship, that he has failed to tell us something that he should have told us at the time.  And he has now apologized for that. 

MATTHEWS:  Bob‘s been very tough on Fitzgerald.  He has called him a junk-yard dog.  He‘s dumped on this whole investigation.  I think I understand why.  I‘d like you to tell me why.  Because he does rely on leaks, that‘s how he broke the Watergate story. 

Is that what this is about?  Bob protecting the whole notion of government employees being free to be guaranteed in their confidentiality? 

DOWNIE:  I would say that obviously, much of Bob‘s reporting relies on confidential sources, people who risk their livelihoods to tell him important things that the American people needs to know. 

And so obviously, he did care about whether or not this investigation was going to chill relationships that he and other reporters like him, including many in this news room, have with sources. 

So that worried him.  However, I have also told him that when he appears on television, he is not supposed to state his personal opinions.  That is the policy of the Post and he is going to better about that in the future as well.  Even if you ask him questions, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I keep pushing for that opinion.

Anyway, thank you.  Len Downie, executive editor of “The Washington Post.”

Coming up, is Dick Cheney that senior White House administration official who told Bob Woodward about CIA operative Valerie Wilson?  Senior administration official, I should say.  We‘ll talk to Dick Sauber, the attorney for another reporter at the center of the case, Times Matt Cooper. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

New developments in the CIA leak investigation.  Today‘s revelation that a senior administration official told Bob Woodward in mid June of 2003, that Wilson‘s wife, that‘s Joe Wilson‘s wife, worked for the CIA.

Is this good news for Scooter Libby?  Dick Sauber is the attorney for “TIME Magazine” reporter Matt Cooper, who‘s one of the journalists at the center of this story.

Dick, thanks for coming on.

It‘s a very hot time and an interesting time.  The intrigue here.  Why would somebody come forward a week after Scooter Libby is faced with 30 years in prison and say, I‘ve got something new to add?

DICK SAUBER, MATT COOPER‘S ATTORNEY:  There are only two reasons that come to mind.  One to help Mr. Libby, and two, because that person, whoever he is, felt that Fitzgerald inevitably would get to him.  And so, he wanted to come forward to forestall any possibility of being a subject or target. 

MATTHEWS:  This person who was positively inclined that Scooter Libby comes forward and says, I told Bob Woodward about this a month before the article ran in Bob Novak‘s column, and apparently before anybody else did it.

So how can you say in your indictment that Scooter was the first?  It doesn‘t exonerate him.  In front of a D.C. jury, after a 10-month trial, the jury would say, wait a minute, this prosecutor doesn‘t know what he‘s talking about. 

SAUBER:  Well, I don‘t think that the issue of who the first person was, the first leaker of the information, is going to be critical to the trial.  I think that‘s what Pat Fitzgerald said at the press conference.  But at the trial, if Fitzgerald has his way, he‘s going to focus on in, did you lie?  Did Mr. Libby lie when he was interviewed.  And in the grand jury.  I think Mr. Libby‘s lawyers now are going to try to introduce the fact that there are all these other people.

MATTHEWS:  Let me introduce what I think. 

SAUBER:  Go ahead.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve been studying this all afternoon.

What‘s fascinating here is here‘s a source, high administration official—we don‘t know how high they care, it could be a principal like the vice president, the secretary of state, maybe somebody else who‘s flacking (ph) for the White House inside—and they decide, “I‘m going to call up the prosecutor, the toughest guy in the world, Fitzgerald, and I‘m going to tell him that I leaked Valerie‘s Wilson‘s ID at the risk potentially of prosecution of me and I‘m going to do this in a simple way.  And then I‘m going to call Bob Woodward and I‘m going to say, Bob, you‘re waived; you can tell people under oath what I want you to do”—in other words, what happened—“that I leaked to you, but you can‘t tell the public.  All you can tell the public is that somebody leaked this story before Scooter did, but you can‘t say who it was.”

That is a damn convenient way to help a client without exposing yourself public for a couple months, because it will take a while for us to get the fact of who this person is maybe. 

SAUBER:  Yes.  A couple of things...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... very useful to the defense and not so useful to journalism or to the country. 

SAUBER:  If the confidential source privilege is meant to encourage the free flow of information, this is not it. 

MATTHEWS:  This is rolling disclosure at its worse, where you peel off information at your convenience, the public never gets all the facts, they get what you want them to get. 

SAUBER:  We now have a situation where we have a news organization who knows the identity of the source, the prosecutor knows the identity of the source...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t know if Bob has shared that with Len Downie yet. 

I didn‘t hear him say that just now.

SAUBER:  Well, he is an employee of the paper and supposedly is one of the people...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t all share our sources with our bosses. 

SAUBER:  Well, there you have it.

But clearly the grand jury and Mr. Fitzgerald and all of the FBI knows who the source is.  The only people who don‘t know who the source...

MATTHEWS:  Is us.

SAUBER:  ... are the public. 

MATTHEWS:  What information do you think—being a criminal defense attorney in this case with Matt Cooper as your client, what use do you think Fitzgerald‘s putting—he‘s, first of all, flabber—my God, I didn‘t know about this.  He doesn‘t like that fact.

SAUBER:  Yes.

I would say he‘s what we call in the law annoyed right now. 

MATTHEWS:  At new information.

SAUBER:  He‘s very annoyed that this is coming—I would suppose—coming forward at the last minute after he went up and stood up in public and said this was—Mr. Libby was the first leak of the information.  He‘s been looking into this for two years. 

If this person is an administration official, I think there is a lot of people who have something to answer for. 

Where was Mr. Bush‘s directive to everyone to come forward and cooperate?  What happened to that?  What happened to the claim that everyone was going to cooperate in this investigation? 

And what happened to the original claim that whoever was part and parcel of leaking this woman‘s information would no longer have a job in the administration? 

MATTHEWS:  And whatever happened to these blanket waivers—they didn‘t mean anything to journalists, because I don‘t think I think much of them.  If somebody is forced like a prisoner of war to say you‘re waived from our confidentiality agreement, you immediately know that‘s not legitimate. 

SAUBER:  Well, but if you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Or you‘re fired.

SAUBER:  But what I don‘t—I think the rules about these waivers do have to be clarified. 

In this case, if what we understand is true, the source has now told Fitzgerald about his conversation with this reporter.  But the reporter still wanted something more before he considered the confidentiality to be waived. 

What more do you need than that your source has come forward and gone to the prosecutor and told about the conversation? 

To me, and in every other aspect of the law of privileges, that is a waiver of whatever confidentiality there be. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean the minute that the person who leaks it says, “I‘m going to testify that I leaked it”...

SAUBER:  And then testifies.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... the reporter has no more responsibilities? 

SAUBER:  I don‘t understand what the confidentiality agreement could be. 

The only people who now do not have information about this incident is the American public.  So if this is a privilege meant to protect and encourage the free flow of information, it‘s not doing that. 

MATTHEWS:  Karl Rove leaked this information to your client Matt Cooper.  Karl Rove leaked it to Bob Novak, OK.  We know that just by reading this information—I‘m sorry, Official A. 

SAUBER:  Official A, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s call him that.

Why does the prosecutor keep that terminology alive, Official A, rather than Karl Rove? 

SAUBER:  You know, I don‘t really know the answer to that. 

I think, again, Mr. Fitzgerald has said that Mr. Rove is still under investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  Could you send Official A to jail without Karl Rove being notified? 

SAUBER:  I don‘t think you can have a Social Security number if you‘re only Official A.  I think you actually have to have...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So where does this go now?

If Fitzgerald is still investigating Karl Rove, does this help or hurt the Rove defense now?  Is he just one of two suspects now?  Because there is this other guy out there, Deep Throat II we‘re calling him, this other person, senior administration official, that Fitzgerald‘s got to be tailing right now. 

SAUBER:  I think this information is consistent with the idea that Valerie Plame‘s identity and her relation to Ambassador Wilson‘s trip were widely known within the administration.  And that, that information...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Or one other thing—that, that small group of people that knew about it, the secretary of state, the vice president, Scooter Libby, by June 12th of 2003, one of them did it.  That‘s still a possibility. 

Well, thank you very much, Dick Sauber.  You were great to come on.

When we return, we‘ll look at the relationships between reporters and high government sources with MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough. 

Plus, we‘ll talk to Senator Russ Feingold, who says that the casualty count in Iraq should force the administration to have a clear troop withdrawal plan. 

And a reminder, this Friday on HARDBALL:  “New York Times” columnist Maureen Dowd with all she has to give is coming to HARDBALL.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

We‘re here with Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC‘s “Scarborough Country” at 4:00 and 10:00 p.m. Eastern here every day during the week.

Joe, colleague, let me ask you about this.  Just when you think it‘s starting to get clear, we get Bob Woodward, the Watergate sleuth coming in here admitting that he got a leak from the administration a month before Novak did, the prince of darkness. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Now we have more darkness on this case.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I always love reading Woodward books because he is—we talked about this before—he‘s sort of—he really doesn‘t work for a newspaper, he works for Woodward.  He writes these books. 

And for Washington insiders, they read these books and you just think, OK, this person leaked this way, this person leaked that.  When I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think Clinton really did do that, by the way.  I think he underlined, “George Stephanopoulos said this” and that kind of thing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But it‘s just so easy to figure out.

And in this case you have Bob Woodward obviously protecting his source, who is... 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s Cheney?

SCARBOROUGH:  I certainly do. 

And of course, it‘s so funny—about a month back, I heard somebody -

somebody called me up and said, you know, Cheney, it looks like Cheney is going to be running for president 2008, which I heard from people deep inside the Bush administration... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You heard that, too? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But I said, “Well, how do you know?” 

And they said, “Because Bob Woodward is going around telling everybody.” 

MATTHEWS:  What was he, flattering a source, do you think?

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course he was.

And again, I remember I think in 1991 reading “The Commanders” at the beach and just dying laughing, going, oh my God, Colin Powell will leak this chapter, somebody else leaked that—but it happens all the time. 

And people don‘t understand that, that reporters take it easy on their sources.

I remember one time we were in one of those meetings where we were trying to overthrow Newt Gingrich, right?  This one time, I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.  I said absolutely nothing.  Sat in the back, I said I‘m not going to get caught in this.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t want a bouquet thrown to you by Bob Novak, for example?  And just say, everyone in the cloak room knows you ratted out a week ago.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  So I said absolutely nothing.  Another guy in there who never liked me came out.  He leaked to his source, tore me to shreds.  Lied about me.

This newspaper ran it, and this reporter everybody knows.  And I said what the hell just happened?  Four days later, the leaker gets a front-page glowing review.  A conservative that this newspaper had always hated.

And I went to the reporter, I said I know what you did.  He said, what are you talking about?  I said I know what you did.  You kicked me in the butt.  You got this guy‘s other source and told him you‘d write him a positive article if he ratted everybody out. 

That‘s how it works.

MATTHEWS:  Fee for service.

SCARBOROUGH:  Fee for service.  And the thing is, it happens whether you are talking about “Roll Call,” “The Washington Post,” or “The New York Times.”

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about the intrigue here.  We have one guy facing 30 years, going down on his sword, apparently for his boss.  Because we know from the record that his boss was the one who told him about this agent.  It‘s in the indictment. 

And we know his boss told him how to deal with the press on the matter.  That same day he talked to two reporters.  There‘s a lots of dots to be connected here and you can‘t conclude anything.  But now Scooter Libby looks like he may be delivered from the frying pan by another leaker. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s absolutely unbelievable.  Again, this story keeps getting, the plot thickens.  If you‘re the White House, you don‘t like the fact...

MATTHEWS: ... OK, let‘s talk about the war, which I think is the backdrop.  Just like Watergate, the backdrop was Vietnam.

I‘m watching people like Tom Davis this weekend, the Congressman who used to be chairman of the campaign committee.  A really smart guy, separate himself from the president.  He is a Virginian. 

We see John Warner, the ultimately loyalist of the old school, he looks like central casting Senator.  Him separating himself just yesterday from the president of the war, by basically floor managing this resolution that tells the president to start reporting on the war, more up to date.  What‘s going on in the Republican party and the president?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I‘ll tell you what.  Two things are going on.  The first thing that‘s going on is, that there are a lot of Republicans very upset that this administration hasn‘t articulated a good message over the past few years.  Over, the most basic of questions.  Why are we there?

I hear time and time again, that the politician that has come to America and best expressed why we‘re in Iraq is Tony Blair.  That‘s not good enough for the Republicans.

George Bush comes out, what Friday?  Had all these quotes from Democratic Senators, basically saying they saw the intelligence.  It was good intelligence. 

And a lot of people think, what took him so long?  That‘s the first thing.  They botched the communication—a war that I still believe in.  But you look at the president and say, the second thing is.  Again, I said, I told you, I support this war.

But at the same time, I‘m sitting here, I‘m seeing things blown up over there.  I know the Iraqi people hate the insurgents because as Tom Freedman said, they‘re blowing up their own people.  And yet our guys are still dying.  I just sit here, even as somebody that supports the way.  I say wait a second, at what point do they step in and start taking this over?  So, I think that a lot of people...

MATTHEWS:  ... you mean, the Iraqi people? 

SCARBOROUGH:  The Iraqi people.  When do the Iraqi soldiers say—they supposedly had such a fiercesome army that it was going to be difficult to ‘91 and 2003 to go in there.

MATTHEWS:  By this November, when your party, the Republicans, have to run for re-election.  Big time senators, who can be beaten.

SCARBOROUGH:  Which, that‘s what it‘s all about.  As you and I both know, it‘s about the 2006 election.

MATTHEWS:  They want more separation by then. 

SCARBOROUGH:  There will be a lot more separation by then.  Unless again, the White House gets out.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what‘s your topic tonight? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Topic tonight, we‘re talking about a lot of different things.  But, talking in part about this Iraq issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you Joe Scarborough. 

When we return, why did Bob Woodward apologize to “The Washington Post.”

You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with one of Washington‘s premiere reporters, Tom DeFrank.  He‘s been covering the leak case and beating a lot of people for the “New York Daily News.”  We‘re also joined by Richard Cohen, he‘s a columnist for “The Washington Post.”

I guess I should start with “The Washington Post.”  What‘s the impact now of Bob Woodward saying, I can tell you now what the story is.  This guy leaked to me about Valerie Wilson back in June, before Bob Novak broke the story.  I can tell you that.  I can‘t tell you who told me, because he won‘t let me. Is it OK for journalists to rescramble his ground rules all these years later?

RICHARD COHEN, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST:  I don‘t think Bob is re-scrambling any ground rules.

MATTHEWS:  No, he‘s not.  His source is demanding that he‘s only able to use the content of what he gave him, but not who the source is. 

COHEN:  Well, I understand that.  But, there‘s compulsion here.  I mean, Bob was subpoenaed by a special prosecutor.  The source, whoever he is, felt compelled to volunteer that he had been a source of Woodward‘s on this affair.  So, I don‘t this is Bob rewriting the rules.  I think these are rules being rewritten.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not saying that.  I‘m asking you.  A guy decides he doesn‘t like Scooter Libby being indicted.  A week later, he comes forward to the prosecutor and then he tells the reporter he spoke to Bob Woodward, in this case.

Oh, Bob, by the way, you can tell your press, you can tell everybody about the fact of what I leaked, which is going to let Libby off the hook.  But you can‘t tell them who I am.  Do you think that‘s OK for sources, to start dictating revisions.

COHEN:  Chris, with all due deference, you‘ve made this up.  I mean, you don‘t know that this is what happened. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, we do know this.  What don‘t we know? 

COHEN:  Well, it makes just as much sense to me that when this person realized that between the prosecutor and the defense councils, they were going to throw a very wide net around Washington about who said what to whom about the CIA agent.  He volunteered and said, I‘ve got to come forward because I‘m going to get caught either way.  And the special prosecutor is going to appreciate.

MATTHEWS:  But this is after the indictment was made.

COHEN:  Well, right.  But now because ...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking about ground rules here.  I just want to help—give me.  You have got the expertise here.  If you set a ground rule with a person, it‘s off the record.  You can‘t use it.  Even the information, you can‘t use.  You can have it in your head but you can‘t report it, and you certainly can‘t report the source. 

All of a sudden, two years later, you call up—they get in conversations between Bob Woodward and his source, whoever this high administration official is, and they said, yes, you can testify to that regard, but you can‘t say who it is, but you can tell the public what I told you. 

COHEN:  Are you asking whether Bob should stick to that agreement, is that it?  Or do you think he is being used? 

MATTHEWS:  I think he might be being used.  Yes, that‘s what I‘m saying.  I‘m asking you what you think. 

COHEN:  Well, I‘m not sure that he is being used.  And I have a lot of faith in Woodward.  I have known him a long time.  I‘ve read every single one of his books, and his reporting holds up.  I don‘t think that Bob Woodward is the kind of guy that gets used.  I mean, sure ...

MATTHEWS:  No, no, the thing is, does he have any choice in the matter?  If he knows something, he wants to report it, the guy says you can only report half of it.  Doesn‘t that put him in a bind? 

COHEN:  Well, of course, this is a bad spot for him.  You know, he is in a bad spot for a couple of reasons.  One is because he is reporting on it, and now he‘s been handicapped.  He‘s obviously talked with—it‘s clear now, to a whole lot of people at the White House and now there is going to be a fear that other people are going to know who the sources are. 

Secondly, he is distracted by this thing, so his reporting is—you know, for one or two weeks has been put on hold.  But I‘m not sure that he is that much—that conflicted about this source.  You keep using the terms off the record. 

I‘m not sure that Bob talked to this guy off the record, as opposed to deep background.  A man was talking for a book, and he expected Woodward would use it.  What he didn‘t want was it for it to be in tomorrow‘s newspaper.  Those are the ground rules Woodward has had with a lot of people. 

MATTHEWS:  I see.  So, it‘s deep background, it wasn‘t off the record. 

It was just he couldn‘t say what the course was. 

COHEN:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Tom DeFrank.  Tom, this story—what about how this has developed here?  This guy comes forward a week after the indictments and he informs the special prosecutor, in this case Fitzgerald, that he was, in fact, the source for a leak before anybody else was back in mid-June of 2003. 

He then calls up Bob Woodward, the prosecutor does, and says this guy is going to give you a waiver now and the waiver is going to be to the extent you can testify, but it‘s—apparently doesn‘t include anything the substance.  You can go public with that.

TOM DEFRANK, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Well, the whole thing is a little strange, but I‘m a little sympathetic to bob Because of the circumstances under which he got this, because he got this for a book.  And, you know, in ‘84, ‘88, and ‘92 when I was working on election projects at “Newsweek,” I was talking to people off the record until after the election. 

And I and my colleagues were getting all kind of information that would have made delicious for the magazine, but we were not required to tell anybody about that.  And this guy two years ago was not laying this on Bob, because he wanted it to be out, he was laying it on Bob, I suspect—

I‘m guessing—because he knew it wasn‘t going to be out there for a while. 

MATTHEWS:  But, Bob had to hold it for the book, but if he didn‘t use it in the book, he is free to use it in the paper, isn‘t he? 

DEFRANK:  Not, well—I‘m not going to get into the “Washington Post” ground rules because I am not privvy to them, but I would suspect that it‘s for the book, not for the newspaper, and that makes this a little murkier.  I do tend to agree this is probably something that helps Mr. Libby but not as much as his lawyers are wanting people to believe today. 

I couldn‘t believe that only 10 days ago when Mr. Libby was arraigned, Ted Wells (ph), his lawyer, came out and said, “We are not going to try this case in the news media.” 

Well, he‘s all over the news media today talking about how this is great news for Scooter Libby.  So you just got to roll your eyes and smile at that, I guess. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me give Dick a chance to—what do you think of this whole case, Dick? 

COHEN:  I‘ve said for a long time—I‘ve agreed with Bob on this.  I didn‘t know why Bob was feeling so strongly about it. 

But no matter what, it‘s a silly case—it‘s a silly case about nothing much and it‘s doing a lot of damage.  I mean, you now have to worry about getting subpoenaed for doing routine reporting, you have to worry about your sources worrying that they‘re going to be revealed.  It‘s done nobody any good.

The prosecutor didn‘t bring an indictment relating to the original underlying crime.  It‘s an indictment about a cover-up.  I mean, it‘s the Martha Stewart thing all over again.  It‘s not the crime itself, it‘s not admitting to the crime or the alleged crime or whatever it is. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re not concerned that the motive for this cover-up, like it was in Watergate, wasn‘t for real? 

Nixon wasn‘t irrational in not admitting knowledge about what Halderman and Erlichmann were up to.  He knew what they were up to and he didn‘t want to say, as you know better than anybody.

Aren‘t cover-ups usually well advised by the people who‘re covering up? 

COHEN:  No. 

I think in this case—I mean, maybe then I‘m as ignorant as the next guy, but I read that original Novak column and I said so.  I didn‘t think a big deal about it.  So she was a CIA operative.  It didn‘t jump out at me that there was a possible violation of the law. 

I think there were a lot of people in Washington, clearly there were a lot of people in Washington and at the White House who were saying, “Hey, if you really want to know why Wilson went to Africa, it was because his wife sent him.” 

It seems to me routine dirty politics.  It is what Washington does all the time. 

Pittsburgh used to do steel; Washington does character assassination. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Thank you, Richard Cohen of the “Washington Post,” Tom DeFrank of the “New York Daily News.”

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  They‘ll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Bob Woodward says he, too, knew about Valerie Wilson a month before her identity was made public. 

But who was his source—when HARDBALL returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “Washington Post” columnist Richard Cohen and Tom DeFrank of the “New York Daily News.”

Len Downie, the executive editor of the “Washington Post,” told me earlier on the show that Bob Woodward broke “Post” policy, “Washington Post” policy, by giving personal opinion on the case.

Dick Cohen, you‘re a columnist; you‘re not covered by that, right?

COHEN:  Right.

I have different ground rules.

MATTHEWS:  Tom DeFrank?

DEFRANK:  I try real hard not to inject my opinoin into what I write. 

I‘m not an oracle.  I‘m not a pundit.  I‘m a reporter.

MATTHEWS:  But the great thing about journalism is that you can give information on a topic that incredibly improves the people‘s understanding of it without saying who‘s right and who‘s wrong, right?

DEFRANK:  Well...

MATTHWES:  That‘s what journalism is.

DEFRANK:  When we‘re doing it right, the right way, that‘s what it ought to be, yes.

MATTHEWS:  What is the story adding up to, Tom?  I want to go ahead with your reporting, because you‘re on this every damn day now.

Are we getting closer and closer to the big fish or not, meaning the vice president?

DEFRANK:  Well, the vice president—I don‘t know if he‘s the big fish or not...

MATTHEWS:  Only because the indictment language says so.  It says he was the one that told this guy who Valerie Wilson was.  He was the guy who gave his guy advice on how to handle it the day he leaked both—to both reporters. 

DEFRANK:  Well, I think the two things that have really kind have been overlook today, Chris, are the significance of the whole Woodward business is that this investigation is not over, it‘s going to continue for a lot longer than Karl Rove and the vice president.  And lots of other people, including reporters thought and it also shows today that more people in the administration were talking about Valerie Plame during this time frame than we thought. 

Here‘s somebody else that we don‘t know about.

MATTHEWS:  One question that lingers in my heart and makes me happy about this story is the possibility that there‘s a bigger story behind all of this.  That what the vice president, his guide Scooter Libby were so angry at Joe Wilson about was some serious thing.  What do you make of that, Dick?  Or do you think it‘s all this street level stuff of who leaked and who didn‘t? 

COHEN:  I really do.  And I think just the opposite.  I think beyond this, it‘s not something bigger, but something really insignificant.  I—you showed a clip earlier about Woodward saying when this all comes out, people see that it‘s about nothing.  And I agree.  I don‘t sense something really big here. 

I think what happened is so clearly within a pattern that this guy goes to Africa, comes back, writes an op-ed piece in the “New York Times,” first leaks in the “Washington Post” some others and then writes—and then people in the White House are saying, in effect, who the hell is this guy?  And somebody says well, his wife sent him.  Simple.

It doesn‘t take a major conspiracy and it doesn‘t take a burglary and it doesn‘t take anything else.  It‘s just the way things work.  It‘s cause and effect. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ll see if the chain reaction has ended with this story.  Anyway, thank you very much Richard Cohen from “The Washington Post,” Tom DeFrank of the “New York Daily News.” 

Up next, the Senate votes to transfer power to the Iraqis by next

year.  They‘re starting to get involved, but when will the troops start

come home?  This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war.  These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community‘s judgments related to Iraq‘s weapons programs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Five months ago—that‘s five month months ago, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin introduced a resolution urging the White House to furnish a time frame for pulling troops out of Iraq—or pulling them from Iraq, I should say correctly.  It fell on deaf ears at the time, but things have changed.  Even though the Republicans sponsored an amendment on Iraq that recently passed has no timetable for troop withdraw itself, it does pressure the White House to focus on dealing with the problem over there and how we‘re going to end it. 

Russ Feingold is here with us this evening.  Thank you, senator.

What‘s changed? 

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, (D) WISCONSIN:  Well, it‘s very sad.  The American people have basically become deeply despaired about what has happened.  And I noticed it especially in May and June and then when I went back for the August raises and did town meetings all over the state, I think other members of Congress had the same experience. 

People are very frustrated, especially those who supported the war, some of whom whose kids are over in Iraq.  They‘re saying, how did we get into this thing?  How come they didn‘t have a plan for what might go wrong?  And now that I things aren‘t going well, why don‘t they finish it and bring the troops home? 

So people are frustrated across the board.  And the members of congress are reflecting that.

MATTHEWS:  Why does this administration believe that everything that should be done, we have a right to do? 

FEINGOLD:  Say it again? 

MATTHEWS:  Everything that should be done, we have a right to do.  Now, if you don‘t like Saddam Hussein, they assume that means we have a right to overthrow him.   If you don‘t like their form of government, they assume you have a right to go in there and run the country.  That‘s a hell of a leap.  I‘m serious about this, senator.  I wish you guys would debate this point.

It‘s not—we like a lot of things in the world.  We like Mubutu (ph) says Hesaka (ph) was a bad guy in the Congo.  We didn‘t like him.  We didn‘t like that guy over in Cambodia, the guy who killed everybody.  But just because we don‘t like things, where do we get this idea where we have the right to go in those countries, kill the leaders and take it over, just because that‘s the right thing to do. 

This is the neocon argument.  That right, somehow makes might and right and everything, it isn‘t working. 

FEINGOLD:  Of course now.  And it‘s wrong.  And you ought to here what Robert Mugabi is saying about us in Zimbabwe right now.  If we followed this kind of an idea...

MATTHEWS:  Well here‘s a guy we ought to knock off.  But you just don‘t do it.

FEINGOLD:  But the point is we shouldn‘t be worrying about who we should knock off and who‘s a bad guy and who‘s a good guy.  What we should be concerned about is the safety of the American people.  What‘s our top priority?  Our top priority is stopping the people who attacked us on 9/11.  Knocking over Saddam Hussein is a good thing, but it didn‘t relate to that issue.

MATTHEWS:  We knew at the time after we went after—that we knew they weren‘t just in Afghanistan, they were in Somalia, Sudan.  They were in the Philippines.  Why didn‘t we spend the last three years tracking down al Qaeda and making friends in the Arab world while we were going after the bad guys instead of making enemies in the Arab world and killing Arabs so they end up going into Jordan and killing their own people again?

FEINGOLD:  I‘ve said that 5000 times.  I‘ve said it every day since

I..

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t you talk to Hillary Clinton and John—and all these other people who voted for the war.  Do they ever say they‘re wrong.  I see John Kerry is going to come on and say he was—he got wrong information.  John Edwards is saying he got the wrong information.  Hillary is still at the—still at the battlefront.  Chuck Schumer is still at the battlefront.  They‘re still defending their vote. 

FEINGOLD:  If the issue is the people that led us into this war.  And that demanded that we go into this war.  The president and the vice president took every opportunity they could to take information, cherry pick information and use that as a justification for this.  I think a number of Democratic senators wish they hadn‘t voted for the war. 

But the real crime here is bamboozling the American people into taking this as somehow relating to 9/11.  That‘s how they got away with it.  And I was—I was in all the briefings on this.  I‘m on the Foreign Relations Committee.  I went to the CIA briefings and I heard what they said and their tone.  It was so different. 

MATTHEWS:  Polling showed that people believed.

FEINGOLD:  But it didn‘t work.

MATTHEWS:  The good people watching this show believed that the people who attacked us in 9/11 were Iraqis.  They were on the plane. 

FEINGOLD:  And that‘s because—you know, when I was in the briefings, I didn‘t hear that.  But when you heard what was being said by the administration, it was very different from the tone of the CIA briefing. 

MATTHEWS:  Was it propaganda? 

FEINGOLD:  It was propaganda.  And instead of being defensive and attacking us, they ought to be ashamed of themselves and focus on fixing the problems that they‘ve created.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got to get together on this thing.

Thank you very much.  Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Join me again tomorrow.  Join us 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for a great show—tomorrow night, John Kerry is going to be here and John McCain.

Right now, it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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