Tim Russert's Death
Was Russert another casualty of WMD damage control and the Plame Game?
Bush critic, Joe Wilson and CIA wife, Valerie Plame
The Iraq War continues.
Tim Russert's sudden death is one of the most troubling high-profile deaths in recent times. There can be little doubt that Russert had enemies in high places, and they may have feared they would be indicted as war criminals if Russert was not stopped. With Israel's current saber rattling, an Israeli strike against Iran seems eminent, with support from the Bush Administration. When such things are being planned, the plotters must get their propaganda machinery in place prior to the attack. This could be another reason for Mr. Russert's sudden demise.
It's easy to forget that Russert had been pulled in the middle of the controversial debate about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when he testified in the trial of Scooter Libby approximately 16 months ago. Mr. Russert was called to testify by Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and his testimony on February 7, 2007 ultimately helped convict Irv Lewis "Scooter" Libby on four counts of perjury related to White House harassment of former diplomat Joe Wilson for criticizing President Bush's statements about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain weapons of massive destruction. In apparent retaliation for Wilson's criticism, the Bush administration leaked to the press that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA agent/operative. The reason for leaking this information was to plant terror in the minds of Wilson and his wife. On June 1, 2008, twelve days before Mr. Russertís sudden death, Russert interviewed former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan on Meet the Press. McClellan had recently created a firestorm with revelations revealed in his new book, What Happened(?) - Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. In the interview, McClellan indicated that Bush's former top political aide, Karl Rove, also lied to him about personal involvement in the Wilson/Plame harassment case. Twelve days later, on June 13, 2008, Russert was dead. Scooter Libby was Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, and Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.
Recap of the Plame Game
On July 6, 2003, the New York Times published an op-ed piece written by Mr. Wilson which claimed that the Bush administration had twisted intelligence to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat" prior to the invasion. Eight days later, syndicated columnist Robert Novak published a response article which revealed that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA operative, an assertion that turned out to be true. Mr. Novakís article quickly turned into a scandal where many people accused the Bush administration of leaking Ms. Plameís covert CIA employment status to the media as a means of punishing her husband, Mr. Wilson, for writing the stated article. Some have claimed that Mr. Novak's article placed Ms. Plameís life in danger. A criminal trial ensued and ultimately Scooter Libby was convicted of multiple counts of perjury, but his sentence was commuted by Bush, and Libby never spent a day in jail. Miraculously, Karl Rove escaped indictment and prosecution, but things heated up approximately three weeks ago, on June 1, 2008, when Scott McClellan appeared on Meet the Press and told Tim Russert that Rove was involved in the Wilson/Plame scandal. (To read the full Meet the Press transcript from June 1, 2008, click here.)
Scott McClellan testifies on
Capitol Hill. Republicans are incensed.
McClellan's book and sworn
testimony on Capitol Hill provide a first-hand account of actions and
comments made by Bush and others in the administration's inner circle that
led up to the invasion of Iraq. This makes them vulnerable to criminal
prosecution when Bush leaves office in January 2009. Naturally they were
upset. Nobody wants to go to jail. Impeachment is possible too; however, in my opinion, it is not a
serious concern because only four months remain before the November
presidential election. After that, Bush will be a lame duck president for another two
months when the successor is officially inaugurated in January. So there
probably isn't enough time left to impeach anyone, but come the end of
January 2009, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove and others could definitely be
tried as war criminals, and McClellan could be a star witness for the
Republicans who are still loyal to President Bush have plenty of reason to
be angry with McClellan. The question to ask is are such people angry
enough to commit murder?
Russert hinted on Meet the Press that 9/11 was an inside job.
On the June 1st, 2008 airing of Meet the Press, Tim Russert subtly opened the discussion of 9-11 being an inside job. He did this by reading a passage from guest Scott McClellan's book, What Happened(?) - Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. He read the passage, then he pressed McClellan to say when the Bush Administration first made the decision to invade Iraq. Here is the exchange between Russert and McClellan:
(To read the full Meet the Press transcript from June 1, 2008, click here.)
Clearly people within the Bush administration had motive for killing Tim Russert. But motive alone does not equate to guilt. Nevertheless, the following list is a summary of anomalies I have found in Russert's death, followed by additional comments on each anomaly. At this point, the anomalies are based on cursory information obtained from newspaper articles, magazine articles, TV coverage, and Google searches related to Tim Russert's death.
The following comments are restatements of the previously mentioned anomalies, with additional comments provided for each.
 It is unclear who performed Russertís autopsy. An autopsy was reportedly performed on Russert within a few hours after his death, but we do not know who performed it or where it was performed. One would think it was performed at Sibley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, but we simply do not know the details of what happened at Sibley as far the identities of the doctors who pronounced Russert dead and who performed the autopsy soon afterwards.
 There are conflicting accounts about the cause of death. Jill Lawrence (USA Today) described it as follows: "Michael Newman, Russert's doctor, told MSNBC that Russert had asymptomatic coronary artery disease that was controlled with medication and exercise. He said Russert performed well on a stress test in late April. He died, Newman said, when cholesterol plaque ruptured in an artery, causing sudden coronary thrombosis. Newman said an autopsy showed he also had an enlarged heart."(1)
Ms. Lawrence mentions an autopsy, but who performed it? One would assume it was Dr. Newman because he supplied the information about the autopsy to Ms. Lawrence. If he was Russert's personal physician, then he most likely did not. Did Dr. Newman even work at Sibley? My research indicates that the answers are negative to both questions; however, it is not certain. (Dr. Newman's background is discussed in Point # 3.)
Assuming that Dr. Newman did not perform the autopsy, and assuming the person who did was a Sibley doctor (which seems more likely), then why didn't that doctor, or someone from Sibley, explain the autopsy results to the public instead of passing the information to another doctor (Dr. Newman)? Perhaps people were rushed and did the best they could. On the other hand, if the doctor who performed the autopsy report would lie about his/her findings because of foul play, then that doctor becomes legally compromised and could be charged with conspiracy to commit murder. By having another doctor lie about the autopsy findings, both doctors are immune.
Nevertheless, "sudden coronary thrombosis" was the initial cause of death, per Dr. Newman. It was repeated by many reporters besides Jill Lawrence.
On June 20, 2008, People Magazine offered a similar, but slightly different explanation. Jill Smolowe wrote the following explanation, with assistance from Molly Lopez and Nicole Weisensee:
Dr. Newman's "sudden coronary thrombosis" seems similar to Smolowe, Lopez and Weisensee's "heart attack and an arrhythmia known as ventricular fibrillation." I'm not a doctor, but it seems like doctors and journalists should use verbiage from the autopsy report to describe the cause of death of a well-known person like Tim Russert. That would mean they should be using the same medical terminology, but for some reason, different terms are being used.
 Dr. Michael Newman is the only known physician to describe Russertís heart condition; however, it appears that Dr. Newman does not work at Sibley Hospital, where Russert was pronounced dead. My research reveals that Dr. Newman works at George Washington Hospital, not Sibley. My research also shows that Dr. Newman does medical consulting with the State Department, which is often used as a euphemism for CIA. By law, CIA employees cannot reveal the identity of their employer, so many say they work for the State Department. Dr. Newman was reportedly a Peace Corp worker as a younger man. Many people firmly believe that the Peace Corp is a CIA front; however, it has never been established as fact.
 Sibley Hospital officials have not issued a public statement about Russertís death at that medical facility. Russert reportedly died at
Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, but there are no known
statements about his death by anyone who works at Sibley. As previously
stated, the main medical
spokes person to describe Russert's death was a Dr. Michael Newman, who was
reportedly Russertís personal physician, but apparently not affiliated with Sibley. Why
are the people at Sibley being so sheepish about commenting on Russert's
death? All we know is someone from Sibley Hospital pronounced Russert dead
at approximately 2:23 pm on June 13, 2008, according to Jill Lawrence with
 There is a disparity regarding the time that Russert went to his son's Georgetown apartment on the day he died to meet a Comcast cable technician. There are also conflicting accounts as to whether Russert died in the morning or the afternoon. Russert was reportedly at his sonís Georgetown apartment on the morning he died, according to a Washington Post article by Howard Kurtz. Russert reportedly went there to oversee his son Lukeís setup of cable service by Comcast. The name of the Comcast technician was Michael Hart, from Waldorf, Maryland. Russert and Hart reportedly knew each other casually and exchanged pleasantries. Hart said "they were laughing and joking as he [Hart] set up cable service for Russert's son." Hart reportedly said that Russert touched both of his hands as they left and rode the elevator together. Russert reportedly thanked Hart for taking care of his family and wished him a happy Fatherís Day. Hart claims he hugged Russert in return.(3) (This is odd behavior for two adult men. It seems like part of the story was left out for some reason.)
On Friday, June 20, 2008, People Magazine published an article, by Alex Tresniowski, about Russert's life and death. The article indicates that Russert was at the NBC studio in Washington, DC at 9 am to video tape The Tim Russert Show. The following is an excerpt from Mr. Alex Tresniowski's article:
Oddly, Mr. Tresniowski contradicts himself about the cable man because he also wrote, in the same article, that Russert went to his son's apartment in the morning to "wait for the cable man." The following is an excerpt from Mr. Alex Tresniowski's article:
 Few eye-witnesses have come forward to describe Russertís collapse/heart attack, which reportedly occurred during working hours at an NBC studio in Washington, DC. People Magazine reported that Wall Street Journal bureau chief Jerry Seib was a guest on The Tim Russert Show that day, but it is unclear from the People article if Mr. Seib actually witnessed the collapse. Russert reportedly collapsed while "recording voice overs" for Meet the Press, but no eye-witnesses (studio staff/engineers) to the event were quoted in the press initially; however, they began to emerge over time. Still, very little information has been provided by people at the studio where Russert collapsed. My research indicates that Alan Etter was one of the first people to see Russert unconscious at the studio, but Mr. Etter was not an eye-witness to the collapse. Mr. Etter works for D.C. Fire and Rescue and reportedly responded to an emergency call at the offices of WRC-TV where the Washington, D.C. bureau of NBC News is housed, where Russert was bureau chief. According to Jill Lawrence with USA Today, Mr. Etter found Russert "in a small office, so small he almost spilled out of the room. A person with him was trying to breathe for him, using a rescue breathing mask, but wasn't doing chest compressions which are now known to be vital for saving lives." Ms. Lawrence did not identify the person with the breathing mask. Russert reportedly collapsed at 1:40 pm, according to Lawrence, was treated by paramedics approximately four minutes later, was taken to Sibley Hospital at 2:07, arrived at 2:23 pm, and was immediately pronounced dead at the hospital, according to Lawrence. Ms. Lawrence also wrote: "The paramedics on the scene shocked Russert's heart three times to try to restart it, but he did not respond."(1)
The previously cited People Magazine article by Alex Tresniowski is less credible than others because it identifies 13 people as authors of the three-page article; however, Mr. Tresniowski appears to be the lead writer. The article cites two additional people as eye-witnesses to Russert's collapse. They are Wall Street Journal bureau chief Jerry Seib and Betsy Fischer, whom Mr. Tresniowski identified as executive producer of Meet the Press. It is unclear from Mr. Tresniowski's description if Mr. Seib actually witnessed the collapse, but Ms. Fischer was definitely there, according to Tresniowski, who described Russert's death as follows:
There are some serious logistic problems with Mr. Tresniowski's description of Russert's death. First, Mr. Tresniowski indicates that Russert collapsed in the morning, but most accounts claim he collapsed in the afternoon and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. As previously stated, Jill Lawrence, of USA Today, wrote that Russert collapsed at 1:40 pm and was pronounced dead at Sibley Hospital shortly arriving there by ambulance at 2:23 pm. Mr. Tresniowski claims Russert arrived at "9 am...entered a recording booth," then collapsed. Perhaps Mr. Tresniowski was in a hurry when he wrote the article and neglected to state that four hours and 40 minutes elapsed from the time Russert entered the studio at 9 am and the time he entered the recording booth and collapsed at 1:40 pm. Regardless of what Mr. Tresniowski intended to write, his actual statements give the definite impression that Russert died in the morning.
I have already mentioned a second problem with Mr. Tresniowski's description of Russert's death where Tresniowski claims that Russert went to his son Luke's Georgetown apartment in the morning to meet a cable technician, but Tresniowski also says Russert was video taping a show in the morning. (See Point 6 for a description of Russert's meeting with the cable technician, according to Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz and Mr. Tresniowski.)
A third problem is Mr. Tresniowski indicated that a guest had arrived for The Tim Russert Show. That guest, according to Mr. Tresniowski, was Wall Street Journal bureau chief Jerry Seib. Virtually every news account I have read indicates that Russert was doing voice overs for Meet the Press when he collapsed. Had he been video taping a video segment, as Mr. Tresniowski indicates, there would have been all kinds of witnesses when he collapsed. Besides guest(s), there would have been camera people, audio people, lighting people, a director, the list goes on. If we are to believe Mr. Tresniowski's version of events, where are these people?
Normally eye-witnesses, doctors, nurses, and the general public are quite willing to tell reporters what they observed when a famous person dies, and reporters are usually anxious to get a tip on any big story. When reporters clam up, or give explanations that make little sense, it's usually a red flag signaling a cover-up. This is not an absolute rule, but when a major celebrity dies in the middle of the day, at his office, it is quite unusual to have as few eye-witnesses as we have with Russert's death. So far we have two eye-witness accounts, but they conflict with other reports. Mr. Alan Etter of D.C. Fire and Rescue was a third witness, but he arrived after the fact and did not see the actual collapse.
 There is a disparity regarding what Russert was actually doing at the studio when he collapsed. Most accounts claim he was doing voice overs for Meet the Press. People Magazine indicates he was video taping The Tim Russert Show. This may seem like a small point, but it drives home the issue of apparent secrecy surrounding Russert's death. We really do not know what Mr. Russert was doing in the studio when he collapsed. Some accounts indicate that he collapsed in the morning while video taping The Tim Russert Show. Other accounts claim he collapsed in the afternoon while doing voice overs for Meet the Press.
 Mr. Russert was an enemy of the Bush Administration because
his testimony helped convict Scooter Libby. Mr. Russert was
called to testify against Scooter Libby by Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. His testimony on February 7, 2007 ultimately helped convict Libby on four
counts of perjury related to White House harassment of Joe Wilson, which
included leaking to the press that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent/operative.
 Karl Rove and President Bush were certainly angry about Russertís
June 1st, 2008 Meet the Press interview where former Bush press secretary
Scott McClellan indicated that Bush should have fired Rove for his
involvement in the Joseph Wilson harassment case. On June
1, 2008, twelve days before Mr. Russertís sudden death, Russert interviewed
former Bush press secretary, Scott McClellan, who indicated that Karl Rove
lied and perhaps committed perjury in the
Joseph Wilson harassment case, and should have been fired by Bush. McClellan
also provided compelling eye-witness testimony that Bush himself harassed
Wilson by releasing selective portions of classified intelligence documents
as a means of discrediting Wilson. Bush reportedly admitted to McClellan
that he had performed this unethical deed, according to McClellan. (To read
the full Meet the Press transcript from June 1, 2008,
(1) "NBC's Tim Russert dead at 58," by Jill Lawrence, USA Today June 14,
(2) People Magazine, June 30, 2008 edition, but it was actually released to the public on June 20, 2008. Reference "A Good Life: Behind the TV newsman's bulldog facade was a man of faith who loved his wife and son above all;" pages 46 through 51. (Actual text of article is approximately three pages.) 13 people are credited as authors of the article. They are Alex Tresniowski, Frank Swertlow, Mark Dagostino, Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, Nicole Weisensee Egan, Susan Keating, Diane Herbst, Sharon Cotiar, Kristen Mascia, Kathy Ehrich Dowd, Silvia Sansoni, Diane Clehane, Robin L. Flanigan. Mr. Alex Tresniowski appears to be the lead writer. (The article has his name at the end, followed by "Reported by," then twelve more names are listed.) A preliminary version of the article is show here: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20207591,00.html
(3) "Journalist Revitalized Washington Talk Shows,"
by Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, June 14, 2008; A01