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Deal Or No Deal


IANAL* but . . .

Re plea deals and pardons,

Libby would have been much better served if that much vaunted poor memory of his had kicked in a lot sooner, say when he was talking with the FBI and testifying before the Grand Jury. Instead he tried to play it too smart thinking no one would ever call him on it. It might have worked, what with a compliant and stenographic press and an ally in Attorney General John Ashcroft shepherding any investigation. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Through a series of events unanticipated by Libby a tough, straightshooting prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was put on the case and the “lie and laugh at the saps” strategy went out the window.

At this point Libby could have and probably should have done a Rove.

He should have read the tea leaves, realized it doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing, and gone back to the Grand Jury as many times as necessary and blabbed his heart out. He could have cleared his previous “faulty” Grand Jury testimony that way. This would have eliminated the 2 Grand Jury related perjury charges eventually leveled against him as well as vitiating any charge of obstruction. Lying to the FBI would still have been out there but with a good attorney and his revised Grand Jury testimony, I can't help but think that this could have been finessed. After all, would Fitzgerald really have wanted to impeach testimony that would have provided the strongest and most direct link to the logical focus of his investigation Vice President Dick Cheney? I don’t think so.

Of course, as we all know, Scooter chose to stick to his lies and protect his boss. Now some say that after his conviction, they have some sympathy for him, that he was a fall guy, a scapegoat. I beg to differ. Libby was after George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove the most important and powerful person in the White House –which means the country which means the world. He was the point man on lying us into a disastrous war and destroying our civil liberties.

Scooter Libby is not a nice man. He is not a confused man. He is not the victim. We are.

Scooter Libby was the Chief of Staff to the most powerful and arrogant Vice President in our history, someone who is regularly described as the Prince of Darkness and Darth Cheney. You can not work for someone like that and be just some poor dumb slug. You have to be an active and willing participant, a facilitator. You have to believe. And Scooter does believe, not in the oafish Bush, but in his boss and in the fear, threat filled world he inhabits.

Still even at this point, a deal with Fitzgerald was possible.

Fitzgerald is a good prosecutor and he had a solid case, but he still had to get a jury to buy it. There is a degree of uncertainty in even the best cases, a stubborn juror, an unexpected development or snag. Both Fitzgerald and Libby had reasons to deal, but in the end, I think the price was just too high for Scooter. Once indicted, I just can’t see Fitzgerald letting Libby off without pleading to at least one of the Russert counts and holding the other perjury charges and obstruction over him to ensure cooperation. In such a situation, I think that Scooter felt he had nothing to lose by going to trial and maybe something to gain. Best case scenario, he could get off on all counts. More likely, he would get hit with the Russert counts but lose most of the others at trial or on appeal. In the end, he would still be facing a few years in a minimum security federal facility.

Maybe he imagines on using the time to write a book, possibly something with a horny New York Times reporter, aspens, and a bear. In any case, he will be a martyr to the cause and, no doubt, once out he hopes to live on wingnut welfare for the rest of his days.

A deal before sentencing is still possible but with a conviction in hand Fitzgerald has a much stronger hand and Libby, a much weaker one. At the moment, I think Scooter is still committed to seeing this whole process through to the bitter end. But that may change. In the coming months, the reality of a few years in stir may begin to sink in for Scooter. His wife, children, and freedom may begin to exert pressure on him to deal with Fitzgerald for a lighter sentence. And keep in mind that sentence may not be just a couple of years.

If in June, there is no deal and Judge Walton comes back with a sentence of 7-10 years, Scooter may have even more reason to do considerable rethinking of his position. Playing the martyr is a lot different from actually being the martyr, especially when the appeals process doesn’t look promising.

Now I am sure that many of you are saying that this increases the likelihood of a pardon waiting out there, that there is already a deal cut but it isn’t with Fitzgerald but with Bush and Cheney. Well, Bush is an unpredictable idiot so there is always that possibility but I will tell you why I think it’s not likely.

Bush is an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of guy. He has a track record of being loyal to his people only for as long as they work for him (or until he dumps them). So why would he exactly care what happens to Libby? Scooter is long gone from the White House and Scooter was never Bush’s man anyway. His master was Dick Cheney. The trial made this especially clear.

Libby’s defense team only envisioned calling Cheney as long as they thought this would help Scooter’s case, and by extension continue his protection of the Vice President. This was not the same tack they took with the President’s office where they claimed they were going to throw Rove under the bus. They never made good on the claim but they did make it. So somehow I don’t think Libby’s “protect the Vice President but not the President” strategy is going to persuade Bush into a pardon. Nor do I think that there is any blackmail out there to coerce Bush into granting such a pardon. He after all gets advice from a “higher father” and believes that history, not Scooter Libby, will vindicate him.

*"I Am Not A Lawyer"

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