The new attorney for Joseph and Valerie Wilson says the Wilsons do not plan to add former State Department official Richard Armitage to their lawsuit against top Bush administration officials because Armitage “did not act with the same level of malevolence” as Vice President Dick Cheney, top White House aide Karl Rove, and former Cheney aide Lewis Libby in the CIA-leak affair.
In July, the Wilsons sued Cheney, Rove, and Libby, along with ten other un-named co-defendants, charging that were part of a conspiracy to “discredit, punish and seek revenge against the plaintiffs that included, among other things, disclosing to members of the press Plaintiff Valerie Plame Wilson’s classified CIA employment.” Armitage was not named in the suit.
This week, a new book, Hubris, by the Nation’s David Corn and Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, confirmed widespread rumors that Armitage was the original leaker in the CIA controversy.
A few weeks ago, the Wilsons made changes in their legal team, joining forces with the liberal advocacy group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW). The Wilsons also hired the San Francisco-based firm Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy. Constitutional lawyer Erwin Chemerinsky, who helped write the lawsuit, remains with the case.
Melanie Sloan, the executive director of CREW, is now the lead attorney for the Wilsons. In an interview with National Review Online, she said that if the account of Armitage’s outing of Plame in Hubris is correct, then “Armitage was just basically gossiping with [columnist Robert] Novak and just mentioned that Valerie worked for the CIA. His mentioning that to Novak is really not the same as the concerted effort that Cheney, Rove, and Libby made to get Valerie’s undercover identity out to the newspaper.”
“The underlying heart of the suit is about the conspiracy of these individuals to out Valerie Wilson in order to retaliate against Joseph Wilson,” Sloan continued, “and it doesn’t look at this point that Armitage was party to that plan.”
When asked about reports that Armitage told not only Novak about Mrs. Wilson, but also the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, Sloan answered, “Woodward never printed it.”
“I’m not trying to say that what Armitage did was just fine,” Sloan continued. “It is obviously not OK. But it did not have the same level of malevolence as what Rove, Cheney, and Libby were trying to do, which was to out Valerie to punish Joseph.”
Sloan said that “there is still a lot that we don’t know” about the CIA leak matter, and that if it were shown that Armitage was part of a White House conspiracy, then he might be added to the lawsuit. But she said it doesn’t look like that is the case. “He didn’t even know that she was covert,” Sloan said of Armitage.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is best known for its filing of ethics complaints against members of Congress, the overwhelming majority of them Republicans. Sloan is a former aide to Democratic lawmakers John Conyers and Charles Schumer.
— Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of the book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President — and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.