Water Man Spouts

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Plame Cases

In the past 48 hours, there have been reports on VP Dick Cheney and Ambassador Joseph Wilson being called upon by defense attorneys to testify during the upcoming criminal trial of disgraced former White House senior official I. Lewis Libby. The media reports have raised a number of questions that are worth our taking a closer look.

{1} Will VP Dick Cheney take the witness stand in the Libby trial?

(a) Possibly. It is also likely that he will attempt to avoid appearing in court in person. The 12-19 Reuters article by James Vicini ("Cheney to be called to testify in CIA leak case") notes: "Defense attorneys did not say whether Cheney would testify in the courtroom or would give videotaped testimony."

Likewise, the LA Times 12-20 article ("Libby’s defense will call Cheney to testify") notes: "The lawyers did not say whether they expected Cheney would appear in court or give his testimony through a deposition, although their statements indicated that they believe the vice president would appear in person and voluntarily without a subpoena."

In the past, I have stated that Cheney would attempt to testify by videotape if Mr. Fitzgerald called upon him to testify. Considering it is the defense calling him, this may well change.

{2} Will Cheney be considered a "hostile witness"?

(a) No. If by chance Ambassador Wilson were to testify, he might be. But VP Cheney is going to try to help Scooter.

{3} What will Cheney say that could possibly help Scooter?

(a) Team Libby is hoping to have Dick reinforce how busy Libby was during the time in question. The defense is attempting to say Libby was so busy, he simply forgot about Valerie Plame’s status. When we think back to Libby’s September 15, 2005 letter to inmate Judith Miller, we see the defense strategy beginning to jell: "You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover – Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work – and life." It is clear that Libby is saying the cluster of OVP/WHIG friends were going to take the position that Scooter and Dick were so concerned with Iraq, terrorists, Iran, and national security, that they paid little attention to Wilson and Plame.

{4} Will Fitzgerald be able to address this issue?

(a) Yes. If we look at page 7 of Mr. Fitzgerald’s Response to Defendant’s Third Motion to Compel Discovery (4-5-06), we read: "Some documents produced to defendant could be characterized as reflecting a plan to discredit, punish, or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson."

More, if we look at Scooter’s March 5, 2004 testimony to the Grand Jury, we find he was asked if the Wilson case "was discussed on a daily basis?"
Libby: Yes, sir.
Q: And was it discussed on multiple occasions each day in fact?
Libby: Yes, sir. ….
Q: And do you recall what it is that the Vice-President said?
Libby: I recall that he was very keen to get the truth out. …He was very keen on that, and said it frequently. Let’s get everything out. …..
Q: And is it fair to say that he had told you back in June, June 12 or before, prior to the Pincus article, that his wife worked in the functional office of the Counterproliferation of the CIA. Correct?
Libby: Yes, sir. ….
Q: And are you telling us under oath that from July 6th to July 14th you never discussed with Vice-President Cheney whether Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA?
Libby: No, no, I’m not saying that. …I had just forgotten it.
It will be interesting to hear VP Cheney explain how a topic that he discussed daily with Libby was of so little significance that Scooter could easily have forgotten it.

{5} What will Tim Russert be questioned about?

(a) First, Libby told both the FBI investigators and the Grand Jury that it was Russert who disclosed Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA employee to him. Russert has made clear that he did not. First, he did not know about Plame until he read the Novak article. But more importantly, he and other NBC/MSNBC employees have a documented record of why Libby had called Russert.

This is best told in Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s book "Hubris," on pages 264-67. Libby and Cheney were furious at Chris Matthews’ reporting on Hardball. Matthews had stated, "It sounds to me (like) a hawk in the vice president’s office, probably from Scooter Libby ‘ had placed the Niger lie in Bush’s State of the Union speech. Libby called Adam Levine to complain; when this failed to get the results he wanted, Libby called Russert to complain. Russert called NBC president Neal Shapiro, who took the complaint as coming from VP Cheney.

Clearly, both Libby and Cheney were active in the operation to discredit Wilson and Plame in the media.

{6} Will the Team Libby strategy to make Scooter appear so overworked change Mr. Fitzgerald’s approach?

(a) No. In the Government’s Response to Defendant’s Motion for Reciprocal Disclosure Under CIPA (11-28-06), Mr. Fitzgerald made clear that he does not intend to contest the fact that Mr. Libby was busy with his work on a variety of other important issues involving national security. Rather, he will prove that the Wilson issue was something that occupied a lot of space in Scooter’s universe, and that he was actively involved in an attempt to discredit him. And Libby lied to investigators about this.

In their 12-4-06 Reply in Support of (their) Motion for Reciprocal Disclosure, Team Libby makes clear that they are frustrated that Mr. Fitzgerald will not attempt to say the Wilson matter was of greater significance to Scooter than the national security issues. Mr. Fitzgerald did not fall into that trap.

{7} Why is Ambassador Wilson attempting to avoid testifying at Libby’s trial?

(a) Team Libby is attempting to distract attention from the charges against Scooter. On October 28, 2005 he was indicted on five counts of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements to federal investigators. He is not on trial for exposing a CIA agent’s identity. The trial is not about the infamous "16 words" in Bush’s State of the Union address. The war in Iraq is not on trial. And nothing that Wilson has said or done bears any direct relationship to the trial of Scooter Libby.

This issue was addressed in part during the May 5, 2006 pre-trial motion hearing. When attorney Wells told the Court that he planned to discuss Wilson’s trip to Niger and similar issues during the trial, Judge Walton responded, "I don’t know if I’d let that in. …. I don’t see how that has anything to do with this case." When Wells continued to speak about Wilson, Judge Walton asked, "How does that have anything to do with whether Mr. Libby made the statements to these various people?"

Judge Walton asked Mr. Fitzgerald about the Niger trip, and about the the INR report? Mr. Fitzgerald responds, "But we are not going down the road of trying the case of whether or not Mr. Wilson is right or Mr. Libby right or whose view of this. It is simply whether or not Mr. Libby told the truth."

{8} Where does the Wilson civil trial stand?

(a) On 12-17, Aaron Kinney of the MediaNews Staff had an article posted on Contra Costa Times, titled "Burlingame attorney prepares for CIA leak case." He noted that last week, high-profile attroney Joe "Crotchett picked up a 5-inch thick binder that he had just received from the denfendants in the case. It contained motions to dismiss the lawsuit based on executive privilege. Leaning forward in his chair, Cotchett assessed the magnitude of the case. ‘It’s going to be the case of the next year,’ Cotchett said. ‘It’s going to be the case that everyone watches because it involves fundamental constitutional issues. It goes right to the heart of our national security’."

That is the court case where it will be appropriate for Ambassador Wilson to testify in. And he might also be an important witness in Congressional investigations.

{9} Is there any evidence that any democrats in Congress might be interested in VP Cheney’s role in the Plame Scandal?

(a) Yes, there certainly is. The Nation’s blog had a 12-19 essay by John Nichols, the author of the important new book "The Genius of Impeachment: The Founder’s Cure for Royalism." His essay is titled, "If Cheney’s Talking, He Should Talk to Congress." He points out that the VP’s testimony might open doors to something that all progressive democrats should support.

"A little more than a year ago, three key members of the House (John Conyers, Henry Waxman, and Maurice Hinchey) sent a letter to the Vice President’a office in which they asked the (sic) Cheney to ‘make yourself available to appear before Congress to explain the details and reasons for yur office’s involvement – and your personal involvement – in the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative’."

At the time, VP Cheney regarded Congressional attempts to provide oversight with utter contempt. He may find that things are going to change starting in January.

{10} Can we expect Conyers, Waxman, and/or Hinchey to examine the OVP’s role in the Plame scandal?

(a) Nichols quoted Hinchey as saying, "We are going to do everything we can to force this administration and this Congress to face up to the truth and to face up to their responsibility under the Constitution. … The people who wrote the Constitution that set up this government knew what they were doing. They knew what would happen if you let a regime go its own way without oversight. That’s why they set up the system of checks and balances. This Congress has shunned its responsibility, tossed its obligations under the Constitution aside – allowing the administration to do whatever it chooses, even to the point of looking aside when the administration lies to Congress and violates federal laws. That’s got to stop. We cannot have a monolithic government. We have to restore some of the balance, where the legislative branch is part of the process. And we think that one way to do this is by asking the vice president, in light of the questions that have arisen with regards to his actions, to come to Congress and answer the questions that are on the minds of the American people and their representatives."

I would suggest that people write to representative Maurice Hinchey at his Ithaca Office (123 S. Cayuga Street; #201; Ithaca, NY, 14850) and to request that John Conyers, Henery Waxman, and he make sure that VP Cheney comes to meet with Congress about his role in the Plame Scandal.


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