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John Dean: Bush has to run for cover behind private attorney over Plame leak

This is explosive. No wonder Dumbya’s giving legalese answers. It’s not a matter of what does he know, it’s why does he need to hide behind a private attorney if he doesn’t know? John Dean, writing on FindLaw:

Recently, the White House acknowledged that President Bush is talking with, and considering hiring, a non-government attorney, James E. Sharp. Sharp is being consulted, and may be retained, regarding the current grand jury investigation of the leak revealing the identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA covert operative.

(Plame is the wife of Bush critic and former ambassador Joe Wilson; I discussed the leak itself in a prior column, and then discussed further developments in the investigation in a follow-up column.)

This action by Bush is a rather stunning and extraordinary development. The President of the United States is potentially hiring a private criminal defense lawyer. Unsurprisingly, the White House is doing all it can to bury the story, providing precious little detail or context for the President’s action.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Bush explained his action by saying, “This is a criminal matter. It’s a serious matter,” but he gave no further specifics. White House officials, too, would not say exactly what prompted Bush to seek the outside advice, or whether he had been asked to appear before the grand jury.

Dean’s conclusion is that Bush has no choice to hire outside counsel in order to ensure attorney-client privilege, ironically because of Ken Starr, who contended in two cases, that there is no such privilege if goverment lawyers are involved in criminal cases. Based on that precedent, Chimpy has to know way more than what he’s publicly stated about the Plame leak — and that any White House flunkies that are aware of what he knows (and when he learned it) will be flipped by prosecutor Fitzgerald.

Burn him.

[As commented oddjob noted, Bush may also be worried about covering up the tracks on the leak, even if he doesn’t know it all, which in itself, still lands him in hot water.]

Also: Raw Story reported that Sharp had shady dealings in the past, and that he’s such a shadowy figure, that when he was retained, our boy Scotty “press punching bag” McClellan was very coy in the announcement:

White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters June 3 that the lawyer’s name was Jim Sharp, but refused even to confirm whether he is James E. Sharp, a Washington attorney.

But the smokescreen around Sharp goes far deeper than that, and perhaps for good reason. The only other president to hire a private attorney for acts committed while president, Richard Nixon, eventually resigned from office.

Sharp long has cloaked himself in secrecy, even taking the unusual move of paying to have his address and telephone number removed from the major Martindale legal directory. He was an assistant district attorney before he came to Washington and has a history of taking on cases with political implications.

Hat tip to DKos diarist AlyoshaKaramazov

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding