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New Libby Filing — A PR Perspective


One point keeps coming across loud and clear to me in this particular filing from Team Libby — this is as much a public relations campaign for Libby and the Bush Administration as it is a vigorous legal defense against criminal charges.  The hand of Barbara Comstock is really apparent in this particular document, I have to say, in the recitation of detailed factual presentations destined for public posting and media and blog dissection — it does give everyone a lot for the public consumption end of things, doesn’t it? 

Reader Immanentize picked up on the same vibe:

I am very surprised at how much the defense is arguing about facts in its filings. In the discovery period, it is normal to have a decent amount of give and take, but not at such a detailed level of fact dispute. For example, one might argue about whether a document produced by the government is relevant to the defense, but rarely would a good defense attorney spell out in detail why factually it was relevant. I know I have given up some defense ideas and arguments to get additional documents from the government, but never like this. And I don’t think it has to do solely with the amount of money Irving has to play with.

It seems to me that the Irving defense team is purposefully arguing out the facts and getting it into the media, rather than the other way around (which is what you suggest). By that I mean, the media is reporting these details (which you rightly describe as unintellible to the uninitiated) because team Libby has sufficient access to get them to do it. I am beginning to think that Libby’s defense is entirely out of court and that his filings are playing to that jury, not the judge in federal court or the unltimate jury of his peers I hope he someday faces. Taken in this light, I see two external defense strategies:

1) Freak out the White House to get the pressure on for a pardon. After reading the recent revelations? that Scooter is really disliked by all and had no natural constituency in the White House (outside of Dick, perhaps, but that seemed more fuctional than close loyalty based) it would be one of my goals to send strong messages that my client should not be forgotten. Nor should he be presumed to be a total team player at this point unledss the team takes one for him.

2) The publicity is having just the effect you describe: if you tried to explain the significance of this to someone who hasn’t paid attention to the case, you are simply going to get some eyes glazing over and a “huh?” This “HUH?” effect is very useful to Libby. Most people have stopped talking about his lies and obvious perjury before the grand jury and are now in a confused muddle about whether he did or did not leak Plames name and if he did whether that was authorized and if it was authorized, by whom….

This is the place Irving Libby would like best to be.

The big question in my mind is: who is really the intended audience for this particular filing — the public at large or George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove?  If it’s the latter, it’s an awfully ballsy step for someone whose former boss is as low in the polls as he has ever been and who is, reportedly, no longer basking in the glory of Bushie’s love. 

And if it’s a veiled threat that a pardon had best be in the offing or Karl Rove and George Bush will have to do their own explaining, let alone that Cheney had best use what little influence he has to strong-arm on Irving’s behalf — one has to wonder a coupla things:  (1)  How much of this particular strategy will have come from Comstock, who is reportedly working the Administration’s interests end of the bargain for Libby? and (2) Has Karl already chartered a bus with Libby’s name on it and, if so, when can we expect it to come driving by?

One other reminder, courtesy of reader Jim Preston:

On the Libby/Fitz Filings. I haven’t read everything yet but it is important to notice the emphatic discussion of “Plame’s name” in the WaPo article this morning. Remember that it is entirely possible to identify Ms. Plame without the use of her “name”. This cute parsing was already performed with considerable aplomb by Karl Rove: “I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name.” Whenever you hear the word “name” in the discussion of the Plame affair, your ears should prick up and you should realize that someone is about to try and play you. Never forget that you have to parse every word that comes out of the administration very carefully. They don’t think you are smart enough to do it, and they are right that not everybody is, but unless you make a serious attempt, there is not even a reasonable discussion going on.

Careful reading of the quotes in the media articles is essential — especially when you are dealing with such slippery parsing of vocabulary.

We certainly live in interesting times, don’t we?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com