By MATT APUZZO
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 24, 2007; 11:16 AM
WASHINGTON -- The government's first witness in the CIA leak trial acknowledged Wednesday that he made inconsistent statements about his conversations with former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, now on trial for lying to investigators.
Marc Grossman, the former No. 3 official at the State Department, testified Tuesday about a face-to-face meeting with Libby in June 2003 about a former ambassador who was criticizing the Bush administration's intelligence on Iraq.
Under cross-examination Wednesday, Grossman acknowledged that he told a different story in two FBI interviews. In those interviews, he described telephone conversations but no face-to-face meeting.
"You accept the fact that you told the FBI something different on February 24, 2004, than you told this jury?" defense attorney Theodore Wells said.
"Yes, sir," Grossman replied.
Memory is a key element of Libby's perjury and obstruction trial. He is charged with lying during the investigation into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to syndicated columnist Robert Novak. The leak came shortly after her husband, ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson, emerged as a prominent war critic.
Libby, who was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told a grand jury that he believed he learned Plame's identity from NBC newsman Tim Russert. Grossman is the first in a string of government witnesses who will say they told Libby about Plame well before his conversation with Russert.
Defense attorney Theodore Wells attacked Grossman's credibility. Grossman testified about a face-to-face meeting with Libby regarding Wilson, but Wells pressed him to acknowledge his inconsistent statements.
By calling Grossman's memory into question, Wells wants to cast the case as one of dueling memories. He says Libby made honest mistakes when testifying before the grand jury and notes that several government witnesses have had similar memory problems.
Wells also planned to press Grossman on whether his testimony was inappropriately coached by his friend and boss, then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Prosecutors sought to block Wells from inquiring about those conversations but U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton refused.
"It seems to me there might have been some inappropriate behavior taking place," Walton said.
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is trying to make the case that it's implausible Libby would forget several conversations he had with officials about Plame.
The trial is expected to last up to six weeks.
Associated Press Writer Michael J. Sniffen contributed to this report.
Documents for the Libby trial may be found at: