In The Spotlight
For those of you awaiting the liveblogging, court has been delayed until 2:30 pm ET. In the meantime, I thought you all might enjoy this. — CHS
Sidney Blumenthal has an illuminating article at Salon about the Libby trial, including some very intriguing thoughts on behind-the-scenes efforts to get Libby to take himself off the hot seat and to put his former boss, Dick Cheney, into the spotlight where these Libby allies feel Cheney belongs.
Throughout the anxious months before the trial of United States v. I. Lewis Libby, one of Scooter Libby's old mentors, a prominent Washington attorney and Republican with experience going back to the Watergate scandal and with intimate ties to neoconservatives, implored him repeatedly to stop covering up for Vice President Cheney and to cut a deal with the special prosecutor. Yet another distinguished Washington lawyer and personal friend of Libby's, privy to the mentor's counsel, reinforced his urgent advice and offered to provide Libby with introductions to former prosecutors who might help guide him. But Libby rebuffed them. He refused to listen. He insisted on the trial.
This Tuesday, Theodore Wells, Libby's chief defense lawyer, abruptly announced that neither Cheney nor Libby would testify on his behalf. In effect, the defense was resting. Did his own lawyers mistrust Libby on the stand? Would he lie and prompt another count of indictment? Would Cheney, indisputably the director of the campaign against former ambassador Joseph Wilson, be stepping into a perjury trap or open the door to conspiracy charges implicit from the beginning? Those questions, along with their testimony, remain moot.
According to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby's case amounts to an attempt at "jury nullification." Libby is charged with five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about where he learned the identity of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame (Wilson's wife) and to whom he spread that information. Fitzgerald presented two government officials, former CIA officer Robert Grenier and State Department official Marc Grossman, who swore they were the first to inform Libby. Libby was in pursuit of that information, Fitzgerald further revealed through testimony from past and present Bush administration officials, because the vice president had tasked him to find and spread it. And Libby also passed on the information to Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, to get him to pass it on to the press. Two reporters, Matt Cooper (then at Time magazine) and Judith Miller (then at the New York Times), testified that Libby had conveyed to them the information about Plame. NBC's Tim Russert testified that he did not first inform Libby about her, as Libby had told the grand jury. Fitzgerald's prosecution was well honed, unadorned and a straight arrow.
Libby's defense was the legal equivalent of the fog of war. He sought to obfuscate the clarity of the prosecution's case by raising irrelevant issues, turning the jury's attention away from the charges themselves and creating doubt by getting witnesses to admit small lapses of memory, thereby underlining Libby's memory defense. So Libby's lawyers highlighted Cooper's incomplete note taking, whether Miller raised the issue of writing a piece based on Libby's information, and whether Russert followed strict journalistic protocol when he spoke freely to the FBI. Libby's team also summoned a parade of reporters to relate that Libby had not dropped Plame's name with them. By demonstrating a negative, Libby sought to dispute a positive. The intent to sow confusion among the jurors in order to raise a shadow of a doubt and produce an acquittal partly depended on their ignorance of Washington anthropology. (emphasis mine)
While Sidney does not reveal the identity of the Republican mentor of Libby's, it does make for some interesting inside-baseball speculation, doesn't it? If you have not read Sidney's entire article, please do so. Blumenthal's inside knowledge of the ins and outs of Washington's power players is invaluable, and this particular piece is a roadmap to the fissures within the neocon kingdom. The fact that some high-level players in the Republican party were willing to throw Cheney to the prosecutorial wolves? Now THAT is truly an interesting piece of information. Let the speculation as to who these folks are begin…