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March 06, 2007

The Libby Trial

Since I'm operating behind a novocain haze, I'm outsourcing my commentary on the Libby verdict to Kevin Drum. The context here is that the Libby trial was really about the administration's efforts to spin the pre-war intelligence, in this case by smearing Joe Wilson when he cast doubt on Iraq's capabilities. But Libby has actually been convicted of obstructing justice, providing a false statement, and two counts of perjury. These are protective crimes -- they serve to protect others higher in the food chain. So, as Kevin says:

Nobody else lied to the FBI and the grand jury. Only Libby. And that makes it pretty obvious that he was trying to hide the one thing he knew that no one else did: the fact that he learned Valerie Plame Wilson's identity from Dick Cheney.

For some reason, in May 2003 Cheney went ballistic over a couple of anonymous statements Joe Wilson made to Nick Kristof and Walter Pincus, statements that weren't especially damaging to Cheney and could have been challenged pretty easily. It's hard to say why (my longtime guess is here), but the end result was that Cheney ferreted out Plame's identity, passed it along to Libby, and told him to put a full-court press on Wilson. Libby thought it was worth lying about this because it threatened to provide a clue to just how involved Cheney had been in spinning the prewar intelligence on Iraqi nukes. That was the one thing serious enough to make them wildly overreact to a couple of otherwise toothless allegations.

In other words, Libby is going down to protect Cheney. Otherwise, his actions make no sense. Nothing he's been convicted on has to do with outing Valerie Plame -- every count is for obstructing the nation from finding out who did.

March 6, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Libby will remain on bail, stretch out the appeals process and, in all likelihood, walk with a pardon. But the trial record will play a major role in the Wilson civil case, which targets Cheney -- and his enablers -- directly. That's where the real fireworks will be. But even if Libby never serves a day in prison, multiple felony convictions of a senior administration figure will have their impact -- especially in focusing the minds -- and memories -- of witnesses called by congressional investigators. Meanwhile, can't help wondering: Did Libby's PowerPoint slides help convict him? People rely on stories to enliven factual information with resonance and meaning. Packaging too much data as bullet points may confuse your audience. It may also convince them that you are trying to hide behind data, or that you are trying to manipulate them with bullet points because your story doesn't make any sense. Which, come to think of it, was probably true in Libby's case.

Posted by: Madison Guy | Mar 6, 2007 3:08:32 PM

In other words, Libby is going down to protect Cheney.

Maybe. The prosecution argued that Libby was protecting himself.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 6, 2007 3:18:40 PM

Since we have in fact learned that Richard Armitage leaked Plames name, and of course Armitage was hardly working with the administration to discredit Wilson, that sort of blows this whole argument out of the water.

I don't know why Libby lied. It is of course possible that he was trying to protect someone (possibly even himself) who in actuality didn't need any protection.

Of course obstruction of justice and perjury our serious crimes, and I maintain that those who commit such crimes should in fact be punished for them.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Mar 6, 2007 3:27:57 PM

Sandy Berger stole classified documents from the National Archives while preparing for 9/11 commission testimony. He stuffed classified documents in his socks, in his coat and down his pants. He hid these classified documents at a local construction site, went back later, retrieved these top secret classified documents, later destroyed these classified documents and lied about it to federal investigators.

And we are talking about Libby.

What liberal media?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 6, 2007 4:20:15 PM

Let me see if I get this:
1. Wilson lied
2. Armitage leaked

...and for liberals it's all about Cheney?

Would someone please explain to me how the ACTUAL evidence works to implicate Cheney? Evidence..you know...facts.

Some reality-based community. Sheesh.

Posted by: Damn, It's Snowing Again | Mar 6, 2007 4:36:00 PM

In other words, Libby is going down to protect Cheney.

Doesn't make a rat's ass why. If Libby lied, and reluctant jurors unanimously believed that he did, he's a fuckin' liar. Doesn't matter why. Could be to protect others, he could lie about sex. He's still a liar and he broke the law.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 6, 2007 4:39:32 PM

I was about to post a comment to the effect that only the most moronic of true believers didn't already know everything in Ezra's post or Kevin's comment. I was going to add a snarky comment about how the mouth-breathers are still going to insist that Wilson was the guilty party.

But Snowy has beaten me to the punch.

Snowy, in the real world, when somebody's Chief of Staff is disseminating a smear job to the press to take down a political enemy, he's doing so with the knowledge and direction of his boss. You've seen the memos with Cheney's handwriting, haven't you?

In approximately 21 months, outgoing President Bush will pardon Libby and that will "prove" to the True Believers that no crime ever happened.

Posted by: RickD | Mar 6, 2007 4:49:18 PM

For Toke's information:
news [nooz, nyooz] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun (usually used with a singular verb)
1. a report of a recent event; intelligence; information: His family has had no news of his whereabouts for months.
2. the presentation of a report on recent or new events in a newspaper or other periodical or on radio or television.
3. such reports taken collectively; information reported: There's good news tonight.
4. a person, thing, or event considered as a choice subject for journalistic treatment; newsworthy material. Compare copy (def. 5).
5. newspaper.
6. newscast.
[Origin: 1425–75; late ME newis, pl. of newe new thing, novelty (see new); on the model of MF noveles (pl. of novele), or ML nova (pl. of novum); see novel2]

Italics mine.

Toke, if you want, there are plenty of Web sites out there still devoting thousands of characters to Clinton's scandals. Or at least, to how they were so serious that somehow, Bush still hasn't managed to fix things yet. And when Clinton was president, there were plenty of books about his nefarious crimes in the seventies. But for the rest of us who are willing to deal with the real world, Clinton hasn't been president for over six years, Sandy Berger did his dirty deed over three years ago, and a member of the administration of George W. Bush was convicted four hours ago of crimes that we can't be sure are just the tip of the iceberg, but it's the kind of crimes that are extra specially likely to be. You're a joke.

Posted by: Cyrus | Mar 6, 2007 4:51:02 PM

Shorter Cyrus: Time wounds all heals.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 6, 2007 4:53:32 PM

Shorter Cyrus: Time wounds all heals.

Posted by: Fred Jones

Oh, I wasn't trying to make any general point other than explaining to Toke why the news media would spend more time on an event today than an event three years ago. Since, apparently, he honestly had no idea. I assume he just didn't know what the word "news" meant.

Posted by: Cyrus | Mar 6, 2007 4:56:56 PM

cyrus,
this story(LibbY) has run non stop on chris mathews, keith olberman show and has been a mainstay on all the nightly news. Sandy Berglar (a former national security advisor) got a brief mention after his guilty plea. He destroyed classified National Archive documents and lied to federal investigators.

Scooter Libby lied to federal investigators investigating a non-crime.

Even a partisan hack who claims to be as smart as you claim to be should recognize the difference.

One is Martha Stewart, the other could be treasonous.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 6, 2007 5:09:01 PM

And both happened about three years ago. Full disclosure of what all Berger did came out recently.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 6, 2007 5:10:21 PM

Snowy, in the real world, when somebody's Chief of Staff is disseminating a smear job to the press to take down a political enemy, he's doing so with the knowledge and direction of his boss. You've seen the memos with Cheney's handwriting, haven't you?

Rick, this doesn't support the claim that Libby went down to protect Cheney. Again, the prosecution theory, which the jury apparently agreed with, was that Libby lied to defend himself.

Full disclosure of what all Berger did came out recently.

And it was fully covered in the press. You might complain that liberals don't care as much as they should, but the press covered it.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 6, 2007 5:18:54 PM

Welcome back, Ezra; hope you're feeling better soon. I tried to wear out Fred and Toke for you, but they're having an especially energetic day, as you can see.

Re: this thread's actual topic, Patrick Fitzgerald is an extraordinary prosecutor, certainly according to everything I've read, and I don't just read liberal blogs, if that was going to be the next "comment". I believe he followed the law.

And for what it's worth I agree with you, Ezra: it's a total fall-guy scenario to protect Cheney. If Cheney were to be brought to trial and put under oath, he'd eventually be facing all manner of questions about the lead-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq. One can be fairly certain there is a potent resistance to that ever happening.

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 6, 2007 5:23:02 PM

Ah, the reality deniers come out in force....

After the appeals court gets a shot at the Libby perjury and obstruction of justice CONVICTIONS, we then get to see what the court does with a sentence for Libby's CRIMES - unless preempted by a Bush pardon.

It looks like the max Libby could get is in the 20-30 year range, more likely five or less. Five sounds like a good number to me, since he decided, for whatever reason, to take the rap for a much wider conspiracy to obstruct justice (violation of the law forbidding the outing of intelligence agents).

Fitz and the jury did their job. Another stone in the Bush castle has been undermined. That's good enough for me for now. Five or so government lawyers defeated the combined efforts of a dozen or more of the highest paid attorneys in DC from four leading law firms - so Libby got the best defense money can buy. It just wasnt enough to overcome the truth.

Oh, let's not forget that Scooter is also a defendent in a civil suit brought by the Wilsons. That jury will operate without hindrance of a pardon. Hang 'um high! How about $50 million as punishment?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Mar 6, 2007 5:26:34 PM

Here it goes again!

B-b-b-b-b-b-but Sandy Berger!

This isn't a discussion. It's a distraction so Toke can get his rocks off having people follow his stupid rabbit trails away from the real subject.

It's why Fred always brings up an immigrant's status, or Amanda Marcotte. All they want to do is derail the conversation. And there's no way to "win" these stupid little arguments, because Toke and Fred don't actually have a premise to begin with.

"You liberals are hypocrites because this post about Scooter Libby doesn't say anything about Sandy Berger."

"You liberals are hypocrites because you got upset at Ann Coulter without mentioning (insert liberal or supposed liberal who said something bad)."

Toke, if you're so upset about Sandy Berger, go talk to Alberto Gonzalez or someone else at the Department of Justice. Prosecuting him is their responsibility, not ours.

And really, people, we do not have to mention every single instance of someone lying to prosecutors or saying a bad word when we're talking about a completely different person who did it. Just how far back are we supposed to go with this?

"Sure you're mad at George Bush for waging pre-emptive war, but what about the Pelopponesian War, huh? Athens was all liberal and stuff but they launched pre-emptive attacks against both the Pelopponesian coast and Syracuse! What about Athens, huh? Yeah, that's right. Pre-emptive war isn't so bad when it's your side doing it. That'll teach you liberals to forget about Athens!"

If we're not talking about Sandy Berger in a comment thread about Scooter Libby it's because the thread isn't about Sandy Berger. If we don't talk about Bill Maher in a thread about Ann Coulter, it's because the thread isn't about Bill Maher. It's not because liberals give a pass to their own side, or because anyone's a hypocrite. It's not a sign that liberals need to be more accomodating or open to conservative criticism. It's just because certain things are about certain things.

When Toke shows up and is on-topic I'll probably faint or go into a seizure.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 6, 2007 5:43:57 PM

And for what it's worth I agree with you, Ezra: it's a total fall-guy scenario to protect Cheney. If Cheney were to be brought to trial and put under oath, he'd eventually be facing all manner of questions about the lead-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq. One can be fairly certain there is a potent resistance to that ever happening.

Well, it's possible, but this is very weak evidence. Actually, it's not really evidence at all, just a possible motive. If you read the prosecution arguments, they make a very persuasive case that Libby lied to cover his own fanny, not Cheney's. He had gotten the White House to deny that he had anything to do with the leak, he had reason to think he might have committed a crime, and he was told that anyone involved in the leak would be fired. Thus the story he learned of the info from the press rather than vice versa. The prosecution apparently didn't find evidence to support the fall guy theory so they could include it in their arguments, and prosecutors typically use every straw they can grasp at. If there is any evidence, this would be a good place to mention it.

When Toke shows up and is on-topic I'll probably faint or go into a seizure.

Don't tempt him.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 6, 2007 5:50:14 PM

The jury foreman that made the initial statements in front of the press said that the jury felt that Libby was set up as a fall guy.
The testimony in the trial showed that Cheney knew about Plame before the leak and instructed Libby to talk to certain media figures about it. The testimony also showed that Rove knew all of this as well.

Posted by: sprocket | Mar 6, 2007 6:18:49 PM

Sprocket, what did the juror mean? Did he mean that Libby lied to protect Cheney? Or did he mean that Libby is the one who's going to jail, but the underlying offense that led to all this was ordered by or in the service of others? The former is what has been alleged in this thread, without any evidence. The latter is uncontroversially true in some sense or other.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 6, 2007 6:35:12 PM

Stephen and other apologists don't want Berger brought up for God knows what reason other than he's a Democrat.
Here's the deal. If you lie, and you are convicted, you should go down. Doesn't matter if it's Libby, Clinton or Berger. It's against the law. What part of that don't you understand? Why the nuance? It's ILLEGAL!

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 6, 2007 6:50:13 PM

"The jury foreman that made the initial statements in front of the press said that the jury felt that Libby was set up as a fall guy.
The testimony in the trial showed that Cheney knew about Plame before the leak and instructed Libby to talk to certain media figures about it. The testimony also showed that Rove knew all of this as well."

The jury foreman also said he didn't understand why Rove and some others weren't on trial. The jury was also told by the judge that whether Plame was covert or whether any laws were broken(none were) by disclosing that Valerie Plame got her husband sent on the trip to Niger didn't matter, the trial was about whether Scooter Libby lied to federal investigators. That's it.

If the trial was about whether Scooter Libby lied to federal investigators, and I assume the jury foreman knew what the trial was about, why does he think Libby was a fall guy? Did Rove lie to federal investigators and frame Libby? Is that what the jury foreman meant?

I hope that is not too complex for you. I am a little stoned and maybe some of you aren't, so I guess I have an advantage.


Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 6, 2007 7:21:07 PM

Jeez people, it isn't that complicated. The jury found the man guilty and then said that it looked like a bigger consipiracy to them, and that bigger government officials seemed involved. You guys are tripping over each other to try to make the medicine go down easier.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070306/ap_on_go_pr_wh/cia_leak_jury

Posted by: Chowchowchow | Mar 6, 2007 7:42:47 PM

It's against the law. What part of that don't you understand? Why the nuance? It's ILLEGAL!

I am a little stoned

Fred and "Toke" have a little disagreement on law and order.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 6, 2007 7:44:48 PM

Here's the deal. If you lie, and you are convicted, you should go down. Doesn't matter if it's Libby, Clinton or Berger. It's against the law. What part of that don't you understand? Why the nuance? It's ILLEGAL!

Calm down, sport. What "nuance?" Is this what you're reduced to, Fred, randomly inserting words from 2004 anti-Kerry emails? I never said that anyone who is convicted should not "go down."

I said that Sandy Berger isn't part of the conversation. Bringing him up doesn't make Scooter Libby any less guilty. Trying to find fault with us for not mentioning Sandy Berger in a conversation about Scooter Libby is stupid.

How about you try to develop some positive principles for being a conservative instead of just being an anti-liberal. As much as I get frustrated by the conservative movement and its members, it's had no effect whatsoever on me being a liberal. I'm a political liberal because I believe in certain things, not because I just hate conservatives so damn much. But all your comments here are always just about how liberals are so bad and so wrong. It's a shame how opposition to other people is the thing that motivates you.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 6, 2007 7:52:40 PM

"The jury found the man guilty and then said that it looked like a bigger consipiracy to them, and that bigger government officials seemed involved. You guys are tripping over each other to try to make the medicine go down easier."

Well, if Plame wasn't entitled to covert status or protection, what crime would Rove or Cheney be guilty of? There is no evidence of a conspiracy.

Plame wasn't entitled to classified status.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 6, 2007 8:12:13 PM

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