Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Libby Trial: Guilty

From my "Capital Games" column at www.thenation.com....

Several minutes after noon on Tuesday, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby sat in a crowded Washington court room and somberly watched as the forewoman of the jury in his obstruction of justice trial pronounced the verdict. "Guilty," she said, regarding Count One. She moved on to the other counts and repeated that word three times. The jury had found Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff guilty on four out of five counts. Libby stared straight ahead. He showed no reaction.

Eleven Washingtonians had convicted a former senior Bush White House aide of lying. The case was narrow. It was not about who had leaked classified information outing Valerie Wilson as an undercover CIA officer; it was not about whether the Bush administration had manipulated the prewar intelligence to whip up public support for the invasion of Iraq; it was not about the war. Still, Libby had been on trial for having deliberately misled government investigators to protect himself--and perhaps the vice president--from a criminal inquiry that had come about because the White House had not been straight with the public about the war. In the face of criticism that the administration had hyped the prewar intelligence, the White House in June and July 2003 went on the offensive and mounted a campaign that included passing information to the media about a high-profile critic, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Cheney's office conducted a push-back operation of its own. In this swirl of damage-control and finger-pointing, administration officials leaked Valerie Wilson's CIA identity. And that leak beget the criminal investigation that caused Libby to lie.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald charged that Libby obstructed justice, committed perjury and made false statements when he told FBI agents and the grand jury investigating the leak that he had possessed no official knowledge of Valerie Wilson and her CIA connection in the days before the leak appeared in Robert Novak's July 14, 2003 column. Libby acknowledged to the investigators that Cheney had told him weeks before the leak occurred that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. But Libby claimed that he completely forgot this and that when Meet the Press host Tim Russert told him days before the leak happened that all the reporters in town knew Wilson's wife was CIA, he believed he was learning this information "anew" as gossip. He then, Libby maintained, passed along this scuttlebutt to two reporters--Judith Miller, then of The New York Times, and Matt Cooper, then of Time--only as unconfirmed rumor.

In Libby's telling, he had not disclosed any official and classified information to journalists. (Valerie Wilson's employment with the CIA was classified.) And a government official cannot be prosecuted for sharing chitchat he or she picked up from journalists. Such a story would take Libby (and any official who had passed him information on Valerie Wilson) out of the line of fire. But only if it were true.

Libby's account, Fitzgerald charged, was a cover story designed to remove him and the vice president from a leak investigation that was targeting the White House. At the trial, Fitzgerald methodically presented a series of witnesses who testified that weeks before the leak they had told Libby that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA: Marc Grossman, who had been undersecretary of state for policy in 2003; Robert Grenier, a former top CIA official; and Cathie Martin, who had been Cheney's communications director. Craig Schmall, Libby's CIA briefer at the time, testified that Libby had discussed Valerie Wilson with him. Schmall also testified that after the leak occurred, while he was briefing both Cheney and Libby, they asked him what he thought about the leak scandal. Noting that some commentators had dismissed the leak as "no big deal," Schmall explained that he considered it a "grave danger." He explained to Libby and Cheney that foreign intelligence services could now investigate everyone who had come into contact with Valerie Wilson when she had served overseas. "Those people," he said, "innocent or otherwise, could be harassed...tortured or killed.

Fitzgerald also called Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, as a witness. Fleischer, who had struck an immunity deal with Fitzgerald in return for his testimony, testified that on July 7, 2003--the day after Joseph Wilson published an op-ed piece accusing the White House of having twisted the prewar intelligence--Libby disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA link to him at lunch and said this information was ‚"hush-hush." The conversation Fleischer recalled, was ‚ "odd‚" (Fleischer also testified that he had leaked information to two reporters about Valerie Wilson--although it was unclear whether he had done anything more than egg on these reporters to discover her CIA connection. Later in the trial, Washington Post reporter testified that Fleischer had disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA connection to him.)

Fitzgerald presented three journalists as witnesses who contradicted Libby. Judy Miller claimed Libby had told her about Wilson's wife in three different confidential interviews, beginning with a meeting on June 23, 2003. Matt Cooper testified Libby had confirmed for him the leak about Valerie Wilson he had received from Karl Rove. Russert said there was no way he could have been Libby's source for any information on Valerie Wilson because he knew nothing about her before reading about her in the Novak column.

It was a powerful case. All these witnesses--except Russert--said they had spoken to Libby about Wilson's wife prior to the leak. Three said they had provided Libby information about her. (And Libby had conceded that Cheney had done so, too.) Libby, though, had told the FBI and the grand jury he had known nothing concrete about her at the time of the leak. And his explanation was convoluted: yes, Cheney had told him that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA; but he had forgotten that the vice president had done so; he then heard about her from Russert and believed this was the first time he was learning about her. This defense--I knew, I forgot, I learned it anew and was surprised--was implausible.

Ted Wells, a tall and charismatic attorney leading Libby's defense, tried to convince the jury that these witnesses were unreliable (and all were similarly misremembering similar events that had not happened). He attempted to make the case seem bigger and deeper than it was. It's a twisted, complicated and dark tale, he said during opening arguments, one of conspiracies, bureaucratic infighting, turf wars, backroom deals, terrorist plots (involving nuclear weapons and anthrax) against the United States, and assorted memory lapses, convenient and accidental. Libby merely had engaged in no-harm-intended forgetfulness about a few "snippets" of conversation, Wells insisted. Moreover, Libby had been "set up" as a "sacrificial lamb" in a White House melodrama starring Cheney, who supposedly was defending Libby from a White House effort designed to protect Rove at all costs. "The case is far more complex than what you heard," Wells told the jurors. He suggested that he would bring Cheney to the stand--and Rove and Libby.

But Wells did none of that. He let Cheney off the hook. (Fitzgerald had prepared for a cross-examination that would last hours.) Rove, too, was not called--even though Libby had claimed he had told Rove about his call with Russert right after it happened. If that had been true, testimony from Rove presumably could have corroborated Libby's version of the Russert phone call--and could have blown a big hole in Fitzgerald's case. A sharp-eyed juror could have read Rove's absence from the witness stand as a sign that Libby had lied. And Libby himself stayed mum during the trial. His lawyers decided it would not be useful to place Libby in the position of having to repeat the same rhetorical acrobatics he had performed during his grand jury appearances. The defense ended its presentation without submitting any evidence to support its dramatic contentions that Libby had been set up by the White House, the CIA, the State Department or NBC News.

The jurors did not appear to have much trouble cutting through all the clutter tossed up by Libby's defense. They spent a week reviewing and organizing all the testimony and evidence (on 34 pages of poster-size paper) before assessing whether Fitzgerald had proved his case. They convicted Libby on the single obstruction of justice count, two perjury counts (regarding his testimony to the grand jury) and one false statement count (stemming from an FBI interview). The jury acquitted him on the weakest count in the indictment--a false statement count related to what he had told the FBI about his conversation with Matt Cooper.

Libby said nothing as he left the courtroom. He looked neither resigned nor surprised. Minutes later, he appeared with his lawyers in front of reporters and camera crews outside the courthouse. Wells declared his client was "totally innocent" and that they would continue to fight. He said he would file a motion for a new trial and that if that motion is denied, he will file an appeal. "Mr. Libby will be vindicated," he proclaimed. Libby made no comment.

After Libby and his lawyers walked off, Fitzgerald strode toward the microphones. He noted he was "gratified" by the verdict and explained that he had had no choice but to pursue Libby once he suspected that Cheney's former chief of staff had lied under oath. "It's every prosecutor's duty," he asserted. He declined to say what the verdict and case said--if anything--about the White House and the vice president's office. During the trial, he had declared that Libby's lies had placed a "cloud" over the vice president. Was such a cloud still present? he was asked. Fitzgerald refused to answer the question, but he said that by lying to the grand jury and the FBI, "Mr. Libby had failed to remove that cloud....Sometimes when people tell the truth, clouds disappear. Sometimes they do not."

Fitzgerald defended his decision to subpoena reporters--and to imprison Judy Miller for 85 days--stating that he had to question journalists in order to determine if Libby had lied to the investigators. But he cautioned that other prosecutors ought to be "very careful" when considering whether to chase after journalists as witnesses. He added that he did not expect to file any further charges. His investigation was done.

The trial was not a satisfying end to the leak case. Fitzgerald's mission was not to discover the whole truth of the saga and reveal all to the public (as he pointed out when speaking to reporters today). He was on the hunt for a crime--and for criminals. He ultimately concluded he could not prosecute the leakers--Rove, Libby, and then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage--for having disclosed information regarding Valerie Wilson. (The law prohibiting government officials from intentionally revealing information about clandestine intelligence officials requires a prosecutor to prove the leaker knew the officer was undercover.) So his criminal investigation focused on whether Libby lied. (He also investigated Rove for having possibly lied to the grand jury but ultimately decided not to indict him.) Consequently, only information from his investigation related to the Libby cover-up became public. What else Fitzgerald uncovered remains a secret. And per the rules governing criminal cases, it will stay a secret, he told reporters.

After the verdict was delivered, only one juror, Denis Collins, a Washington Post reporter in the 1980s, spoke to the press. He noted that jurors more than once asked, Why was Libby here, not Rove, not someone else? "Where are these other guys?" he said. The jurors were convinced, he noted, that Libby was guilty as charged (on four of the counts). But the jurors also believed he had been ordered by Cheney to talk to reporters as part of the White House's spin operation. In other words, some White House wrongdoers or conspirators (if not conspirators in the strict legal definition of the word) had gotten off. But there was nothing the jurors could do about this, he said: "It was not a question of who we could punish about going to Iraq." What about the prospect of a presidential pardon? one reporter asked Collins. Will you feel cheated if Bush pardons him? No, Collins replied: "He's been pilloried. We found him guilty." (Conservatives have already started a campaign for a Libby pardon.)

Scooter Libby, once Cheney's top aide and one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, is now a criminal. He is the first White House official convicted of a crime since the Iran-contra scandal that tarred the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush. He is also a symbol of an administration that has lost credibility. How Bush and Cheney misrepresented the case for war and their disingenuous and dishonest post-invasion assertions about the war are more serious matters than the lies of the leak case. But the leak affair represents how this White House has done business and how it has mugged the truth. Libby is not only a fall guy for Cheney; he's a poster-child for the Bush administration. The guilty verdict applies only to Libby, but the guilt extends beyond.

Posted by David Corn at March 6, 2007 06:31 PM


David B. Benson said...

David Corn --- Strictly speaking, assumed innocent until proven guilty.

So I would say that the wrong, even evil, extends far beyond. Far, far beyond.

How do we convince proscutors to take evidence that this wrong and evil is illegal before even more grand juries?

Not to mention the House of Representatives...

capt said...

Poison DUst

Poison DUst tells the story of young soldiers who thought they came home safely from the war, but didn't. Of a veteran's young daughter whose birth defect is strikingly similar to birth defects suffered by many Iraqi children. Of thousands of young vets who are suffering from the symptoms of uranium poisoning, and the thousands more who are likely to find themselves with these ailments in the years to come. Of a government unwilling to admit there might be a problem here. Filmmaker Sue Harris skillfully weaves the stories of these young veterans with scientific explanations of the nature of "DU" and its dangers, including interviews with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, New York Daily News reporter Juan Gonzalez, noted physicist Michio Kaku, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Dr. Helen Caldicott and Major Doug Rokke- the former U.S. Army DU Project head.

Every American who cares about our troops should watch this film. Everyone who cares about the innocent civilians who live in the countries where these weapons are used should watch this film. And everyone who cares about the hatred of Americans that may result from the effects of our government's actions in using these weapons, should watch this film. Is there a cover-up?


*****end of clip*****

A must see for everyone.


capt said...

The Fall Guy

Back in my day, when we had a big political scandal it would bring down the ENTIRE ADMINISTRATION -- sorry, lately my left hand lurches toward the Caps Lock key whenever politics comes up -- and you'd see everyone in the White House marched off to the hoosegow, and I mean everyone, from the Chief of Staff to the Vice President to the Attorney General to the Chief of Protocol to the First Lady to the White House Pastry Chef. We jailed the dog. Only the president would go free, but he'd be humiliated and exiled to New Jersey. It would be a white-glove housecleaning. But now? One guy goes down. It's like they picked the shortest dude in the building and said You Lose, Sucker.

In fact that's pretty much what juror Denis Collins said:

"I will say that there was a tremendous amount of sympathy for Mr. Libby on the jury. It was said a number of times, 'What are we doing with this guy here? Where's Rove, where's -- you know, where are these other guys?'

We're not saying that we didn't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of but that it seemed like he was -- to put it in Mr. Wells' point, he was the fall guy."

My guess is that the civil trial will be wilder and woollier. Can't say I can picture the narrative arc of Joe and Valerie's movie. First Act, Second Act, sure, but what's Act Three? I think we're still waiting for Act Three, aren't we?

But let's turn this over to the experts (who actually followed the trial closely and have strong opinions about it).

Firedoglake blogged every minute of the trial and has much praise for how Fitzgerald handled the case. David Corn was in on the story from the beginning. The editors of National Review demand a presidential pardon for Libby ("A good man has paid a very heavy price for the Left's fevers, the media's scandal-mongering, and President Bush's failure to unify his own administration"). Lots of reader comments rolling in on the Dan Balz story. Many links at PajamasMedia.

Ted Wells, Libby's defense attorney: "We intend to file a motion for a new trial. And if that is denied, we will appeal the conviction. And we have every confidence that ultimately Mr. Libby will be vindicated."

Here's an emailed statement from Obama: "The conviction today underscores what happens when our foreign and national security policies are subverted by politics and ideology. Leaks and innuendo in pursuit of a flawed policy lead to shameful episodes such as this. It should never happen again."


Denise said...

That Libby juror had it right: where's Karl Rove?

From Americablog, pretty genius. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDaRFf7Cd6M


Saladin said...

Pardons all around. Happy days are here again. Blah, blah, blah

David B. Benson said...

Saladin --- Now what what?

Saladin said...

Mr. Benson, he's guilty, will wonders never cease? Now what? A pardon, or, maybe a ken lay departure? I must admit, the latter wouldn't break my heart. You KNOW he has some grist for the mill, and I'll bet it's extremely unpleasant should it come out, for bushco that is. I, for one, would love to know just how close he was to abramoff, and what he might know about the casino boat debacle. Oh the beans he could spill, and we can't have that, not in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Saladin said...

"U.S. soldiers went to their deaths in Iraq thinking that they were avenging 9/11, when Iraq had nothing to do with it. . . . They died for the president's own agenda, which had nothing to do with the war on terrorism."

- Richard Clarke
Oh, the webs these neocons have weaved, in their corrupt desire to deceive.

Anonymous said...

Denise: LMFAO

Gerald said...

How Much More Harm Can Hitler Do

Gerald said...

Americans still regard themselves as the salt of the earth. But the rest of the world no longer sees Americans that way. When citizens of other countries turn their eyes toward America, they see evil.


Gerald said...

From Tom Engelhardt's article of March 7, 2007, "The Last Hot-Button Issue for Hitlers's Administration!"

This is hot-button blackmail. Little could be more painful than a parent, any parent, outliving a child, or believing that a child had his or her life cut off at a young age and in vain. To use such natural parental emotions, as well as those that come from having your children (or siblings or wife or husband) away at war and in constant danger of injury or death, is the last refuge of a political scoundrel. It amounts to mobilizing the prestige of anxious or grieving parents in a program of national emotional blackmail. It effectively musters support for the president's ongoing Iraq policy by separating the military from the war it is fighting and by declaring non-support for the war taboo, if you act on it.

It indeed does turn the troops in a wasteful and wasted invasion and war, ordered by a wasteful, thoughtless administration of gamblers and schemers who had no hesitation about spilling other people's blood, into hostages. Realistically, for an administration that was, until now, unfazed by the crisis at Walter Reed, this is nothing but building your politics on the backs of the dead, the maimed, and the psychologically distraught or destroyed.

As the Iranians in 1979 took American diplomats hostage, so in 2007 the top officials of the Bush administration, including the president and vice president, have taken our troops hostage and made them stand-ins and convenient excuses for failed policies for which they must continue to die. Someone should break out those yellow ribbons. Our troops need to be released, without a further cent of ransom being paid, and brought home as soon as possible.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

If the Chimperor pardons Libby before the 2008 elections, that pardon will be hung around the neck of every GOP candidate. :)

Bush and Cheney and every Oedipus-imitating neoconservative inside and outside the government, including their media allies, should be stripped of all power and sent to the Hague, convicted of war crimes, put into suspended animation, and shot off into deep space in a DY-100. [OK, who gets that reference?] :)

If we, the sane, ever regain control of our country, we must use the anti-trust laws to disassemble the Corporate McMedia, and restore the Fairness Doctrine and expand it to cable as well as broadcast media. Selah.

From the swamps of Arkansas, IBW

capt said...

SS Botany Bay - sleeper ship.

capt said...

Hardball's pattern of misinformation and imbalance on CIA leak case

In recent months on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, coverage of the investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame has offered a clear pattern of misinformation by host Chris Matthews and his guests. Further, on numerous occasions, Hardball's panels of guests who discussed the issue have skewed right -- solely composed of Republicans, prominent conservatives, and journalists or political figures with no public partisan or ideological affiliation; only one arguably skewed left (the head of a nonpartisan professional organization was paired with a columnist frequently presented on PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer as the liberal of two panelists). Media Matters for America has reviewed Hardball segments devoted to the leak investigation since the July 2 revelation that Karl Rove was Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper's source in the Plame matter. Below, we have documented the show's panels that had a conservative slant, as well as the torrent of falsehoods and misinformation dished up by Matthews and his guests.


capt said...

Burn in Hell, Mr. President

When the shit hit the fan over release of Plame's name, Bush promised the American people that "anyone connected with this affair would be gone" from the White House.

Time for Bush to deliver on that promise:

He should fire Karl Rove.

He should take the steps necessary to remove Vice President Dick Cheney from office.

And then he should resign as President.

It is past time to purge the White House of the cancers that infect the body politic.

If Bush had one shred of honor, one ounce of decency or even one micron of honesty, he would do so.

But he doesn't. So we are left with hoping that someone else can step forward to take the necessary steps to remove his lying, criminal ass from an office you never deserved and dishonor by your very presence.

I know the chances for such are slim…too slim given the cowardice of Congress and a system designed to protect crooks like George W. Bush. I can only take salvation in the fact that, on some day in the distant future, Bush's time will run out and he will meet his maker.

On that day, he will receive the eternal damnation he deserves - because not even God will be able to forgive the many sins of the 43rd President of the United States.


*****end of clip*****

I am certain the MSM will be asking pResident Bunnypants to make good on his word. For sure.


Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

Cap--it occurs to me that we'd be better off under Khan than under Bu$hco; Khan was ruthless, but not gratuitously cruel or bloodthirsty ["there were no massacres under his rule"]. Also, Khan was highly intelligent, which is more than can be said for Bush or Cheney/

capt said...



No doubt!

I hope all watched the link from Denise - very funny!


capt said...

Here it is again:


Or just click HERE

Might not be for a slow connection but



Saladin said...

Yep, that was good.

capt said...

German Bishops Accused of Anti-Semitism

The visit by German Catholic bishops to Israel and the Palestinian territories had exceeded expectations -- until some of the bishops compared the situation of the Palestinians to the Warsaw Ghetto. The comments have enraged the Jewish community in Germany -- now the Church is rushing to apologize.

Comments by Germany's Catholic bishops during a pilgrimage to Israel and the Palestinian territories have sparked fury among the Jewish community in Germany, who have accused the bishops of making anti-Semitic remarks. The Church is scrambling to diffuse the row.

The members of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference spent last week in the Holy Land. While the trip went well for the most part, remarks by two of the bishops have led to a row in Germany.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the bishop of Eichstätt, Gregor Maria Hanke, remarked during a visit to Bethlehem, "This morning in Yad Vashem the photos of the inhuman Warsaw Ghetto, and this evening we travel to the ghetto in Ramallah. That makes you angry." The Bishop of Augsburg Walter Mixa then remarked that it was a "ghetto-like" situation and that it was "almost racism."


capt said...

Libby Guilty of Lying in CIA Leak Case

I. Lewis Libby Jr. is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandals of the 1980s.

I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted on Tuesday of lying to a grand jury and to F.B.I. agents investigating the leak of the identity of a C.I.A. operative in the summer of 2003 amid a fierce public dispute over the war in Iraq.

Mr. Libby, 56, who once wielded great authority at the top levels of government, is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandals of the 1980s.

The jury rejected Mr. Libby's claims of memory lapses, convicting him of four felony counts, obstruction of justice, giving false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and committing perjury twice before the grand jury. The 11-member jury acquitted Mr. Libby on an additional count of making false statements to the F.B.I.

As the verdict was read aloud by the jury forewoman after nearly 10 days of deliberations, Mr. Libby grimaced briefly before resuming his expressionless demeanor. His wife, Harriet Grant, sitting a few feet away in the spectator section, began shaking visibly and wept briefly before composing herself.

Dana Perino, the deputy White House press secretary, said President Bush watched the news of the verdict on television in the Oval Office. She said Mr. Bush respected the jury's verdict but "was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family," using Mr. Libby's nickname.

Mr. Cheney had a similar reaction. "As I have said before, Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service," he said.


*****end of clip*****

Seems Busheney have already laid the groundwork for the pardon. NEXT!


Saladin said...

US refuses to join UN rights council, citing its actions against Israel
Published: Tuesday March 6, 2007
Raw story

The United States will not seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, senior officials said Tuesday, asserting the body had lost its credibility with repeated attacks on Israel and a failure to confront other rights abusers.

"While we continue to remain very engaged on the issue on human rights within the UN system, whether that is the General Assembly or the Security Council, we do not plan this year to run for the human rights council," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns linked the decision to remain off the year-old council to the 47-member panel's stance on Israel, which he said had "discredited" the body.

"It spent the entire year slamming Israel -- four separate hearings by the Human Rights Council of the UN on Israel, but not against Burma, and not against Zimbabwe, and not against North Korea and not against Iran," Burns told a congressional hearing.

The council was created over the objections of the United States, which said there were insufficient safeguards to prevent human rights-abusing nations from dominating the group. It's members are chosen from among UN states each year.

McCormack did not rule out having Washington run for a seat on the council in future.

"If we do come to the day when we decide to run for the Human Rights Council, it will have gotten to the point where it is a credible institution and that we could, in fact, lend our diplomatic weight to the council as a participant," he said.
Translation: when the whole planet is willing to bow down to Israel's every desire, we will join. Until then, we will continue slaughtering Muslims until Israel achieves complete regional hegemony.

Gerald said...

Nazi America refuses to join UN Human Rights Council. Why you ask? Because Nazi America is the leader in abusing the human rights of humanity. Nazi America has a death and torture school at Fort Benning, Georgia. Nazi America is the most evil empire that human history has ever produced. We are a totally evil empire.

German bishops compare the treatment of Palestinians in Nazi Israel to the treatment of Poles by the Nazis in Warsaw. Finally, my religion has some backbone to stand up against man's inhumanity to man!!! Nazi Israel's goal is to genocide the Palestinians, the Syrians, and the Lebanese. That is a fact!!!!!

capt said...

new thread!