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Washington Post fact-checker gives Plame three Pinocchios for Libby claim

The Washington Post "Fact Checker" column gave former CIA operative and current Democratic New Mexico congressional candidate Valerie Plame three "Pinocchios" for her claim that former George W. Bush administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby leaked her identity. 

Plame blamed Libby for the leak in a campaign ad released Monday, but according to the Post's fact-check, there is no evidence he disclosed her role to columnist Robert Novak.

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Novak wrote the piece that reported that Plame, identified as a CIA operative, suggested sending her husband, Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonDemocrats raise alarm about new US human rights priorities Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez defeats Valerie Plame in New Mexico primary Trump campaign launches new fundraising program with House Republicans MORE, to Niger to look into a report that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium in Africa. The claim that Hussein was going after uranium in Africa was used to justify the Iraq War, making Wilson and Plame key figures in the story of how the war came about.

The fact-check column in the Post concluded that the source identifying Plame for Novak's column was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and that Novak confirmed it with White House aide Karl RoveKarl Christian RoveNewt Gingrich: Albert Hunt's wrong about Republicans' responses The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden set for dueling town halls amid battleground blitz Wireless industry calls on Trump to oppose efforts to nationalize 5G amid Pentagon push MORE and a CIA spokesman. 

Armitage himself has said he may have been the leaker, the Post's fact-check column noted. The column is written by Glenn Kessler, who notes that he was a defense witness in Libby's trial and offered testimony.

However, the Post said it gave Plame three rather than the full four "Pinocchios" for the claim due to "possible seeding of the leak" by Libby.

Libby spoke to Time magazine's Matthew Cooper about the situation and said he understood that Plame had recommended her husband for the Niger trip. But Cooper appeared to have already had that information by the time he talked to Libby. 

The new campaign ad for Plame points the finger squarely at Libby for her identity being blown.

"I was an undercover CIA operative. My assignment was preventing rogue states and terrorists from getting nuclear weapons. You name a hot spot, I lived it," she said in the ad, with images of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and North Korea appearing.

"Then Dick Cheney’s chief of staff took revenge against my husband and leaked my identity. His name: Scooter Libby. Guess who pardoned him last year?" Plame says as an image of President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE appears. 

Trump pardoned Libby last year. Libby was convicted of perjury and lying to the FBI during its investigation but was not charged with leaking Plame's name. 

The Post does acknowledge that the Bush administration was eager to discredit Wilson, who at the time Plame's identity was revealed was criticizing the administration's failed search to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 

"One can possibly draw a fuzzy line from Libby’s inquiries about Wilson’s role, the subsequent State Department report and Libby’s conversations with administration officials to the eventual leak of Plame’s name," the fact-checker said. 

A Plame campaign spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

She is running for the seat held by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D), who is running for Senate.