On Tuesday, March 6, 2007, coming on the 10th day of deliberation, the verdict against former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby is official: Guilty.
Of the five counts levied against him, including obstruction, perjury and lying to the FBI during the investigation into the leak to the press of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity, four went against Libby. In many cases, leaking of an under-cover CIA operative’s name is a federal offense.
Although conventional wisdom allowed for the possibility of one or two negative verdicts against Libby, few predicted such a resounding chorus of “guilty.”
In a tug or war reminiscent of “he said, she said” contests, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald charged Libby with two counts of perjury, two counts of lying to the FBI and one count of obstruction of justice. Fitzgerald contended the defendant knowingly discussed Plame’s name with reporters in a potential breech of national security. He did so not by accident, but by careful design at the urging of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Many hold Libby, in June and July 2003 was asked by his boss, Dick Cheney to bolster by any means necessary the rationale for the invasion of Iraq.
As one blogger observed, “Talking-points rationale for the evil-doings in Iraq included the charge that Iraq was on the verge of having a nuclear weapon via enriched uranium and “yellow cake” from Niger. CIA agent Valerie Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson was dispatched to Niger to verify the yellow cake claims cited by President George W. Bush during his State of the Union address in 2003.
“Upon reporting that the Niger assertions had the substance of cotton candy, Wilson was allegedly discredited by Vice President Cheney’s operatives as they fought to manage all negative stories regarding a “Mission Accomplished” that continues, according to a majority of Americans, to sink in a quagmire of untruths.”
The administration’s motivation to establish a firm contact between Saddam Hussein and the enriched uranium in Niger was undercut by the report of Joe Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame. Libby suggested that Plame, in an attempt to embarrass the White House, contrived her husband’s mission to Niger. Joe Wilson, a former ambassador, indeed had been an outspoken critic of the war, even prior to the invasion of Iraq. Nevertheless his findings in Niger have been borne out.
As attempts at news media manipulation surfaced, the prosecution suggested Libby lied to a grand jury in an attempt to exonerate himself.
According to Libby’s lead defense attorney Theodore Wells, Libby learned about Plame from Cheney, “forgot about it, then learned it again a month later from NBC newsman Tim Russert.” Libby characterized his involvement as mere chatter and gossip, a few innocuous remarks.
Tim Russert, moderator of MEET THE PRESS, NBC’s esteemed Sunday morning political news and analysis show, is among the journalists questioned during the trial. In the end, one assumes it was Russert whom the jury believed.
Reportedly Libby had little reaction when the verdict was read. Theodore Wells, however, stated they were “very disappointed” with the verdict.
With four guilty charges against him, Libby faces up to 30 years in prison. Most legal experts predict a much lighter sentence to be followed, some suggest, by a presidential pardon. In the meantime the defense will ask the court for a new trial on April 13.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton presided over the case and will issue sentencing on June 5, 2007.