Big surprise. No matter, the exposure of a trial is going to damage the whole Administration, and he knows it. (AP):

The lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney’s former top aide is outlining a possible criminal defense that is a time-honored tradition in Washington scandals: A busy official immersed in important duties cannot reasonably be expected to remember details of long-ago conversations.

Friday’s indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby alleges that as Cheney’s chief of staff he lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, a nominee of President Bush in 2001.

Libby, who resigned as soon as the indictment was handed up, was operating amid “the hectic rush of issues and events at a busy time for our government,” according to a statement released by his attorney, Joseph Tate.

“We are quite distressed the special counsel (Patrick Fitzgerald) has now sought to pursue alleged inconsistencies in Mr. Libby’s recollection and those of others and to charge such inconsistencies as false statements,” Tate continued.

As lawyers, we recognize that a person’s recollection and memory of events will not always match those of other people, particularly when they are asked to testify months after the events occurred.”

The lack-of-memory defense has worked with varying degrees of success in controversies from Iran-Contra to Whitewater.

Only one person went to prison in the Iran-Contra affair, although several people pleaded guilty to making false statements. President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, were cleared in the Whitewater investigation of fraudulent land deals in Arkansas, a subject well-suited to a lack-of-memory defense. The land deals took place a decade before they came under criminal investigation.

Tate referred to another possible line of defense, saying that “for five years, through difficult times, Mr. Libby has done his best to serve our country.” That argument worked in the administration of President George H.W. Bush in 1992, though not in court.

Bush pardoned those in government who had been implicated in the Iran-Contra criminal investigation. Among others, the pardons went to former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, whose trial was scuttled.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding