Water Man Spouts

Thursday, April 13, 2006

All the Vice President's He-Men

During a February 24, 2006 pretrial hearing, Judge Reggie Walton adjusted the scheduling for three important motions in the Scooter Libby case. He moved the date for Team Libby to file their Third Motion to Compel Discovery from March 3 to March 17 (Document 68-1); for Fitzgerald's Government's Response from March 20 to April 5 (Document 80); and Team Libby's Reply Memorandum from March 27 to April 12.
Fitzgerald's Response, which mentioned Libby's grand jury testimony linking President Bush and Vice President Cheney to the leaking of the pre-war National Intelligence Estimate, had created what Libby's attorneys call "an avalanche of media interest" in the case. Where many believed that having Libby's case scheduled for 2007 would keep it from impacting Washington politics, the pre-trial motions clearly showed the potential to do significant damage to both Bush and Cheney.
Hence, those interested in the case were interested in what the Libby Reply would hold. Though it is primarily in regard to CIPA (Classified Information Procedures Act) issues, dealing with what information Libby is entitled to to prepare his defense, the defense document and exhibits raise many interesting related issues. Let's start by looking at information about Bush and Cheney.
As noted, Team Libby takes note of Fitzgerald's mentioning the role of the president and vice president in leaking the NIE. "In other words," they write, "the government has effectively conceded that the case extends far beyond Mr. Libby..." As we will see, Libby will attempt to focus attention on people as far away from himself and Cheney as possible, even if it risks involving the president. "If the press stories surrounding the government's NIE disclosure illustrates anything, it is that thins case is factually complex and that the government's notion that it involves only Mr. Libby and the OVP is a fairy tale." (pages 2-3)
On pages 20-21, they note "that the President through the Vice President authorized the disclosure" of parts of the NIE. They note that Fitzgerald calls this "unique in (Mr. Libby's) recollection." They note this indicates "that the highest officials in the Executive Branch took unusual steps to counter Mr. Wilson's criticism..."
However, as evidence that Scooter and Cheney did not consider Ms. Wilson significant, they note that "...the Vice President's direction that Mr. Libby speak to the press, the rarity of 'on the record' statements by Mr. Libby -- has nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Wilson's wife." (page 17)
True to Dick Cheney's endorsement of Scooter as a great and noble American hero, Team Libby is willing to help redirect Mr. Fitzgerald in his search for those who "could be 'characterized as reflecting a possible attempt or plan to discredit or punish Mr. Wilson or Ms. Wilson'." (page 10) Let's look at some people that Team Libby hints may be the true villains, rather than Dick Cheney and his trusty Scooter.
The first is former CIA Director George Tenet. Although Fitzgerald's Response stated that he had no plans to call Tenet, Team Libby calls him "a likely witness." As today's Washington Post article by R, Jeffery Smith notes, Libby expresses some suspicions of Tenet and the Agency: "...to the extent that Director Tenet was involved in the creation of the referral documents, or actively pushed the DOJ to investigate the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity, the referral documents would show that the bias against Mr. Libby reached the highest levels of the CIA and did not simply represent the complaints of lower-ranking employees." (page 24) That darned CIA was just looking to blame everything on St. Scooter.
Another White House official of interest to Team Libby is Karl Rove. In their Motion to Compel, they had stated Karl would be a "key witness" in Fitzgerald's case. In his response, Fitzgerald noted he had no plans to call Rove at Libby's trial. (see page 15 of Document 80) Team Libby responds by saying this "does not diminish his importance in this case," and again request discovery information as they may call him to testify. They note that "Rule 16 compels disclosure of such documents even if Mr. Rove remains a subject of a continuing grand jury investigation." (pages 15-16)
Team Libby also continues to be focused on both Marc Grossman and Ari Fleischer. They contend that Grossman may be prone to lying about conversations with Scooter regarding Plame, because of his loyalty to the State Department in general, and Dick Armitage specifically. (pages 12-13) But Fleischer gets even harsher treatment: they note that "...Mr. Fleischer may have learned about Ms. Wilson's identity from someone at the State Department or the CIA"; that they want to question him "about whether he saw the report on Air Force One, whether he recognized that it contained classified information, and whether he communicated its contents to anyone else"; and to explore the "likely ... key role" Ari played in "orchestrating and implementing the Administration's strategy for rebutting Mr. Wilson's claims."(pages 14-15) Other details regarding Fleischer were included in a sealed Declaration filed by defense attorney Teddy Wells yesterday.
They also are considering calling Joseph Wilson "as a hostile witness" and examine details of his trip to Niger and the role his wife may have played. They also want to be prepared to examine his findings as reported to the CIA, and to the media.
Team Libby notes that Fitzgerald "pretends that Mr. Wilson's wife was a part of the response Mr. Libby was instructed to make to Mr. Wilson's false claims..." (page 17) While this is nonsense -- Mr. Fitzgerald's documents do not state Libby was instructed to expose Plame, and Joseph Wilson's claims were anything but "false" -- Team Libby goes on to outline their need to show that it was others who expose Plame. "The defense intends to show the jury that the controversy over intelligence failures ... led certain officials within the White House, the State Department, and the CIA to point fingers at one another. This bureaucratic infighting provides necessary context ..." for the "administration's strategies for countering Mr. Wilson's Criticism." (pages 16 & 21)
In conclusion, it almost appears that Libby is inclined to be willing to tattle on others, including Fleischer and Rove. It is important to recall that he was close to making a deal with Fitzgerald before the October, 2005 indictments, but refused to accept an extended incarceration as part of the deal. Perhaps with his legal team making it clear that he will likely be convicted, and that the door is being closed on some of the issues for appeal, Scooter will reconsider his options. Because, in the end, they are correct in saying this isn't a "fairy tale."


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