Patrick Fitzgerald: “Obstruction keeps us from making the judgments we need to make.”

Fitz, and a start.jpgPatrick Fitzgerald has finally spoken, and done a great job of it at that. Straightforward, decisive, in command of the facts, and refreshingly not in love with the spotlight, he delivered the facts succinctly and always with a view to the justice system and why it was that the leak probe was called in the first place.

This is a non-exhaustive write-up – just a few impressions.

Fitzgerald recounted the chain of events; hearing him go through it, I was surprised at how familiar it was. I guess we’ve all had ample opporutnity to learn these details. The crux: Scooter Libby, he said, presented as though he was “at the end of the chain” of information about Valerie Plame, hearing about it from Tim Russert who had said it was the word on the journalistic street. But, said Fitzgerald, Libby wasn’t at the end of chain, “he was at the beginning…and he lied about it afterwards, under oath, and repeatedly.” And so, indictment.

“When a Vice-President’s Chief of Staff is charged with perjury and obstructuion of justice, it shows the world that we take the law seriously,” he said — and it shows that it applies to everyone in the land, right up to the highest office.

He said that “the substantial bulk of this gand jury’s work is completed” — its term is expired and it will not be extended. That’s interesting, given the Rove-is-still-under-investigation subplot.

What of a leak invesigation that doesn’t actually result in a charge? he was asked. Perhaps it’s the Chicagoan coming out in him, but Fitz frames his response in terms of baseball.

Look, he says, let’s say a pitcher winds up and hurls a fastball at a batter’s head, you have to ask, why did the pitcher do it? Was it an accident? Did he do it out of a grudge or did his fingers slip? Did he hit the target or did he aim for the chin and miss? You’d have to look beyond the field, find out what happened in the dugout, see if it might have been retaliation (did the batter trash-talk the pitcher’s mama?), or at the end of the day was it just a bad ptch, get over it?

Fitz had to ask these questions — and meanwhile Scooter was standing up in front, waving his hands so he couldn’t see the field. That, said Fitz, is something to be taken very seriously.

Lookit, he says, this wasn’t done to Valerie Wilson, it was done to all of us.Why was this inforamtion going out? Why did he tell Judith Miller three times? Wsy did he tell Mr. Cooepr? What are the shades of gray? Down in front, Scooter. Fitz and the American people needed to know.

“What his motives were? I can’t tell you,” he said.”Obstruction keeps us from making the judgments wee need to make… anyone who will go before a grand jury and lie and obstruct the truth has committed a serious crime. It will vindicate the public interest in finding out what happened here.” Point being, the obstruction charge is no bridesmaid to a leak charge’s blushing bride — it’s just as serious, punishable to the full extent of the law.

Two notes:

  • “We make no allegation that the Vice President commited a criminal act. We don’t comment on people who are not charged.

    and, on Judy:

  • “I was not looking for a First Amendment showdown.”

    (for a media site, that’s burying the lede something fierce, but today for once it’s not about Judy.)