Scooter Libby: Views on the Verdict

Former Dick Cheney aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby stands as a convicted felon tonight. Just hours ago, a federal grand jury found Libby guilty on four of five counts, including obstruction of justice and perjury, in the federal grand-jury case over the possibly politically motivated 2003 outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Not surprisingly, Libby’s attorneys promise an appeal. And just as inevitably, reaction to the verdict comes from all over the map.

From Salon’s Glenn Greenwald:

He has long been one of the most well-connected neoconservatives in the country. Along with Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and Norman Podhoretz, Libby was one of the 25 signatories to the founding statement of Bill Kristol’s empire-embracing Project for a New American Century in 1997. PNAC called for an invasion of Iraq long before the 9/11 attack was seized on as the “justification” for that invasion. When it comes to the political movement that has dominated the American government for the last six years, Scooter Libby was at its very crux, a close intimate of America’s most powerful political officials.

Today’s event sends a potent and unmistakable message, one that is absolutely reverberating in the West Wing: If Libby can be convicted of multiple felonies, then any Bush official who has committed crimes can be as well. Not only are Bush officials subject to the rule of law (their radical theories of executive power to the contrary notwithstanding), they are also vulnerable to legal consequences (the defeatist beliefs of some Bush critics notwithstanding). Having the nation watch this powerful Bush official be declared a criminal — despite having been defended by the best legal team money can buy — resoundingly reaffirms the principle that our highest political officials can and must be held accountable when they break the law.

Will other heads roll? The LA Times’ Jeff Lomonaco says it may be up to Congress to go after anyone suspected of involvement with Libby and the leak. But he notes that the only court others involved may have to face — and that includes one especially high-ranking Bushite — is the court of public opinion.

So what are the consequences of the verdict beyond the obvious legal consequences for Libby himself? The main one, it seems to me, is that given the evidence adduced at the trial and, especially, the way Patrick Fitzgerald raised the stakes in his closing rebuttal (which can now, I believe, be read pretty much in its entirety here—a normally useless joke of a website), the cloud of suspicion that hangs over Vice President Cheney will darken. Fitzgerald suggested Cheney both directed Libby to leak Plame’s CIA identity in July 2003 and countenanced Libby’s expressed intention to mislead investigators in fall 2003 as to Cheney’s own role. Fitzgerald obviously was not going to make the claim stronger than a suggestion, because then he would have opened himself up to the claim that Fitzgerald had not proven that beyond a reasonable doubt, and there was no reason for Fitzgerald to do so. But he also introduced a good deal of evidence, both in witness testimony and in documents, indicating not just that Cheney was deeply involved in responding to Joe Wilson (whose criticism of him apparently infuriated him) but that Cheney was well aware, throughout the relevant period, that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and considered that an important part of the pushback against Wilson. Cheney was of course also Libby’s first source of the information about Plame. Fitzgerald also introduced evidence from Libby’s grand jury testimony itself that Cheney was in a position to know what Libby’s story to investigators would be, and was in a position to know that it was false. And yet he did nothing when Libby recounted it to him before going to talk to investigators, beyond simply taking it in.

Fitzgerald has just said that he does not expect to file any more charges and that the investigation is now inactive, barring any new information. That means that Fitzgerald has no intention of pursuing Cheney himself on any possible charges. Beyond that, however, given his constrained, literal-minded interpretation of the checks on his power (nicely illustrated in Jane Mayer’s seminal New Yorker profile of Cheney’s chief of staff and legal genius David Addington) and his immunity to public opinion, Cheney’s own response to a Libby conviction and the cloud of suspicion over him is likely to be…nothing.

The AP offers a roundup of reaction (via FOX News); this is an excerpt:

Reaction to Tuesday’s conviction of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on charges of lying and obstructing an investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name:

___

“I am very disappointed with the verdict. I am saddened for Scooter and his family. As I have said before, Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service.” _ Vice President Dick Cheney.

___

“I will say 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 are these other guys? I’m not saying we didn’t think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of. It seemed like he was, as Mr. Wells put it, he was the fall guy.” _ Juror Denis Collins, a former Washington Post reporter.

___

“The testimony unmistakably revealed _ at the highest levels of the Bush administration _ a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq.” _ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

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“Now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct.” _ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

From the GOPUSA’S Roger Aronoff (written before the verdict was announced, but its observation that the media are guilty in the Libby case makes for an interesting and relevant opinion):

What we have here are a lot of fuzzy memories, and no damning evidence that Scooter Libby was involved in either a criminal activity to sabotage Joe Wilson, or to commit perjury or obstruct justice in an investigation in which the Special Prosecutor knew from the start who leaked the name to Robert Novak. The jury must be wondering why Scooter Libby was picked to be the scapegoat, not by the Bush Administration, but by the Special Prosecutor….

To Matthews and many journalists covering this trial, the charges against Libby were merely a vehicle to once again claim that the war was based on lies and misrepresentations. This trial was to be their chance to further undermine the Bush Administration.

Interesting take from a commenter at DemocratsSuck.com:

What happened to Libby today is a real crime. The media will run wild with it and a false story from the beginning will go in the history books as proof the Bush administration attacked a poor innocent defenseless woman because her husband exposed the WMD “lie.” I also heard Warner Bros is planning a movie (like All the President’s Men?)! The real scandal is what was Plume — a socialist socialite — and her inept hubby doing monitoring WMD? Of course, the answer is that each were big Clinton fans and that’s what qualified them for their appointments.

Although Democrats are thoroughly immoral and subversive in their manipulation of events, I’m weary of more than six years of Republicans in control of Congress and the White House who nonetheless have let DemoMarxists run the country via the media.

Pro-Bush/pro-war blogger Kevin McCullough of right-wing site TownHall.com isn’t swayed by the verdict — and it must be noted that he is correct about what the jury really said in finding Libby guilty:

It seems ridiculous to have to state this but the conviction of Scooter Libby only means one thing.

In the eyes of the jury it means he lied about what he told prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

It does not mean:

  • That one iota of intelligence was in any way manipulated in the run up to Iraq.
  • That Joe Wilson has been vindicated in any way.
  • That Valerie Plame was “covert”.
  • That the Bush White House had anything to worry about from Wilson/Plame.



Don’t be fooled by all the spinmeisters attempting to turn this into the Watergate of the Bush era. It’s not.

From Gabriel Schoenfeld of the online mag Commentary:

…[W]hen one compares what he was indicted for -— lying to the FBI and to a grand jury -— with what the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate -— the leak of the name of a CIA officer whose covert status has yet to be established and the disclosure of which may therefore not even have been a crime -— one cannot help being appalled that this case ever came to trial. And when one considers that, as we now know, the identity of the real leaker -— Richard Armitage -— was clear to the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald almost as soon as he was assigned the case, the whole affair, involving the hounding of a public servant working tirelessly to protect the country from a second September 11, takes on another coloration altogether: another case of the wanton criminalization of policy disagreements, another case study of a special prosecutor run amok, a terrible injustice. Let the appeals begin.

Another AP react roundup, this one features Bay State Democrats and/or DINOs you be the judge); via the Boston Herald:

“This verdict brings accountability at last for official deception and the politics of smear and fear,” said US Sen. John Kerry. “This trial revealed a no-holds barred White House attack machine aimed at anyone who stood in the way of their march to war with Iraq.”

“While the White House was saying ‘trust us’ to the American people, it simultaneously was saying to the American intelligence community ‘If you tell the truth, we’ll threaten your family.’ This deception is now catching up with them,” said Congressman Edward J. Markey.

… [White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana] Perino said “I would not agree” with any characterization of the verdict as embarrassing for the White House. “I think that any administration that has to go through a prolonged news story that is unpleasant and one that is difficult – when you’re under the constraints and the policy of not commenting on an ongoing criminal matter – that can be very frustrating,” she said.

Massachusetts senior Sen. Edward M. Kennedy demanded that Bush pledge that he will not pardon Libby. “The administration’s contempt for the rule of law is breathtaking. The President Bush should now pledge that he will not pardon Scooter Libby,” said Kennedy.

“This administration misled the American people in the rush to go to war, then exposed a CIA operative in an effort to hide their own mistakes, and through the Vice President’s chief of staff lied to the FBI and a grand jury about those efforts.”

From the editors of National Review Online:

President Bush should pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. The trial that concluded in a guilty verdict on four of five counts conclusively proved only one thing: A White House aide became the target of a politicized prosecution set in motion by bureaucratic infighting and political cowardice. …

Whatever his motivations, Fitzgerald … focused his three-year investigation on Cheney, Libby, and Rove—and not, inexplicably, on others. Not on Armitage. Not on Ari Fleischer, either. The recent trial revealed that the former White House press secretary was granted immunity from prosecution, and that he admitted to telling two reporters about Plame’s employment. Those reporters were never even questioned. Nor did any charges arise from Fleischer’s faulty memory, even though a third reporter (Pincus) testified that Fleischer had told him too about Plame -— something that Fleischer denied under oath.

There should have been no referral, no special counsel, no indictments, and no trial. The “CIA-leak case” has been a travesty. 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. Justice demands that Bush issue a pardon and lower the curtain on an embarrassing drama that shouldn’t have lasted beyond its opening act.

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