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The Coverup Continues and Only We Can Stop It

It's a slam dunk!

NOTE: Good Morning! Christy will be doing a Libby trial wrap-up with Sam Seder on Air America at about 10:00 a.m. EST. Here's the link: Air America. Those of you with iTunes can also find it in Library: open Radio; Talk/Spoken Word; Air America.

Yesterday a jury of 11 of his peers convicted Scooter Libby of four felonies: giving false statements (lying) to the FBI, two counts of perjury (lying) before a federal Grand Jury and obstructing justice in the investigation into who disclosed the identity of a CIA agent. But the unamimous guilty verdicts by the jurors who actually heard the evidence did not matter to the Administration apologists who simply don't care about the evidence. Unlike Iraq, where the Administration apparently has no "Plan B," their supporters were ready with their response to the verdicts: control the media narrative, bury the obvious accountability moment, obscure the "cloud over Cheney," and more important, discredit the legal process and manipulate the eventual outcome. The coverup is in still on.

Last night those predictable apologists ran to the news programs with a massive disinformation campaign, starting with Fox News declaring the jury was "hopelessly confused" but focusing more on how "unfair" it was to poor Scooter Libby. TRex' late nite post reveals another example of the "poor Libby" theme carried out by the right wing. These were followed by similar attacks on the verdicts on CNN and MSNBC. The apologists were very clear about what they are trying to do. It is a sign of the arrogance and moral depravity of this regime and its supporters that they did this right in front of us. It began with Ed Rogers, who told Hardball's Chris Matthews that "Libby would never lie to anyone" and had been wrongfully convicted of lying. "Justice has not been done," he declared. Putting the lie to the notion that there is no connection between the Libby trial and any "underlying crime," Rogers inisisted that the worst "lie" being perpetrated in America today is the charge that the Administration lied us into a war, so Dick Cheney never had anything to cover up, . . . so Wilson was wrong. And then Rogers smeared Joe Wilson, again. He would be the first of several Bush/Cheney apologists to do that last night.

As Darth Vader once boasted, "the circle is now complete." The case began when the Vice President of the United States and his Chief of Staff (and Assistant to the President) conspired to smear an American Ambassador, Joe Wilson, and to smear his CIA agent wife, Valerie Wilson, both of whom had served their country with honor and courage. The smears were perpetrate to punish both Joe and Valerie, and to intimidate others, for telling the truth about the Administration's complicity in the false claims about WMD. If nothing more had happened, using their offices to smear decent, honorable people would be enough to earn the nation's contempt for Vice President Cheney, Scooter Cheney, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and everyone else who participated in smearing these loyal Americans. But the President's men didn't stop there. They never do.

While they were smearing the Wilsons, Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and others in the White House recklessly shared classified information about Valerie Wilson and then participated in a scheme to expose Valerie Wilson's CIA employment and position. In the process, they either deliberately or recklessly revealed her classified status (which Fitzgerald again asserted was "100 percent certain"), destroyed her career, blew her cover and the cover of anyone else connected with her cover operation. And all of this caused as yet unknown harm (because it's classified) to the nation's intelligence capabilities in the area of nuclear weapons proliferation, one of the most important national security topics of our age. That is why the CIA angrily asked the Justice Department to investigate the outing of one of their agents.

Now Scooter Libby, the man who the President was asked to implement this despicable scheme has been found guilty of lying about his and the Vice President's role in this shameful episode. But instead of showing the slightest remorse, embarassment or responsibility for this sorry chapter, Mr. Libby had his attorneys still proclaiming his innocence, the Vice President joined the defense counsel in expressing disappointment, Karl Rove is hiding, the White House won't comment, the President expressed concern only for Mr. Libby and his family, and the Administration's apologists are still lying and still smearing the Wilsons!

The Administration and their supporters are still trying to punish Joe and Valerie Wilson for telling the truth and still trying to cover up the roles played by the Vice President, Karl Rove and others. Who can blame the juror who noted that Libby seemed the "fall guy" who had done what Cheney directed him to do. As the juror asked, "where's Rove — you know, where are these other guys?" Where indeed.

On PBS NewsHour, Victoria Toensing did her best to continue the diversion but was obviously limited by the presence of Richard Ben-Veniste. Ben-Veniste noted the jury's sympathy for Libby possibly being the "fall guy" for others, including Cheney and Karl Rove. Toensing also noted the juror's "where is Karl Rove" comment, presumably to support the notion that indicting/convicting Libby was not fair. She then tried to restate other elements from her Washington Post hit piece by suggesting that Fitzgerald "had an agenda" and should not have brought the prosecution with so little corroborating evidence. This was just a "he said/she said" case, she repeated, and no one pointed out the trial public record: we know that this argument, at best, applies only to the single count for which Libby was acquitted and that the other four counts had more than ample independent, corroborating evidence. She characterized the smears of the Wilsons as just normal political attacks, which Wilson deserved, and which should not be criminalized. Toensing repeated the "no underlying crime" mantra. Ray Suarez asked her whether lying to a Grand Jury is a serious crime, but she dodged that. Ben-Veniste was simply too polite, and Ray Suarez too poorly informed to ferret out Victoria's calculated misinformation and smears of Fitzgerald and Wilson. It won't stop.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer explored the "fall guy" theme with John Roberts. What does the trial tell us about Dick Cheney, he wondered? The jury had no doubt that Libby was the fall guy for Cheney and others, Robert's concluded, after showing the juror's statements. Roberts said the trial reenforced the image of Cheney as the guy pulling the strings behind the veil of secrecy. The report then noted the Wilson's civil suit and the barriers to its success. Blitzer noted that the civil suit could force Cheney and other to testify, but only if they can get beyond the barrier that Libby was "acting in the performance of his official duties." No one noted that lying to grand juries and obstructing justice are not within the scope of official duties for public officials.

The most disturbing aspect of news coverage was the number of guests who either advocated a pardon for Libby or even if they opposed it, assumed, as John Dean did on Countdown, that a pardon was inevitable if not imminent. On four different shows, I counted five or six analysts who hoped or assumed it would happen and none who said it was not likely, though there was mention of the Democratic leaders' opposition to any pardon.

In contrast, on CBS News, at least Bob Schieffer asked, "why would Scooter Libby lie?" Schieffer concluded that Libby must not have wanted anything about the Vice President's role to come out, adding that this will hurt not only the Vice President but the whole Administration. Arianna Huffington, appearing on Scarborough, spoke clearly about how dangerous this situation is; MSNBCs David Schuster did his usual excellent job on the facts, and Howard Fineman noted that the underlying story was about Iraq and Dick Cheney's role in selling it.

But the main theme was still about a pardon. On the second round of Hardball, Ed Rogers was missing, but the National Review's David Rivkin pushed the NRO argument that Libby should be pardoned immediately. He argued that the trial would hurt a free press (unlike NRO's call for prosecuting the New York Times and Washington Post, for exposing Administration lawlessness) and was unfair to Libby, so why wait. Ben-Veniste at least said Libby was carrying out Cheney's "dirty business," but Rivkin denied there was any "dirty business" to carry out. Rivkin repeated the standard apologist line that there was no underlying crime and Valerie was not covert and "everyone knows that" — three falsehoods in one sentence. Then Rivkin smeared Wilson again, claiming Wilson misrepresented that Cheney sent Wilson. He also used the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report to continue the lie that Wilson partly validated the Niger claims. As readers here know, that lie has been thoroughly exposed and discredited by eRiposte and others.

Lies never die with these people. The guilty verdicts changed nothing for them. All of the lies that have been repeatedly discredited are still being told by the Administration's supporters without shame and too often without response. The cover up continues and is in full force. Libby is still the fire wall to protect Cheney and others, and the apologists and neocons are working very hard to make sure he stays the firewall. The strategy now seems to create a dominant view that a pardon is not only fair to poor fallguy Scooter Libby but inevitable. So there's no reason to wait.

But if that's true, then why hurry? Libby can still appeal, and the appeal may remove the guilty verdict from his record. In the meantime, he remains free. So why press the case for an immediate pardon? The most likely explanation I can think of is that the Administration's supporters may be very worried about Mrs. Libby. If she is uncertain about a pardon or its timing, she has much to lose. This is a critical time for the Libbys, and they have a choice to make. By clamoring for a pardon, those who are continuing to cover up or excuse the crimes of this Administration are working very hard to ensure that he makes the choice that continues the firewall and the cover up. This is a sorry, shameful business.

Yesterday's jury verdict was an important victory for American justice, but only if Libby's conviction leads to further investigations and is not negated. And this story is connected to the continuing horrors of the war, the exploding scandal of disgraceful conditions facing returning veterans, the suspicious firing of US Attorneys (watch TPM) and every other story we've been following about the duplicity and extreme lawlessness of this regime. If the American people have had enough of this lawlessness and the horrors it has created and justified, they — we — need to demand that Congress investigate every aspect of this matter and every story that connects to it, and then demand more indictments and prosecutions. Andrew Sullivan sums up the argument as well as any:

Something is rotten in the heart of Washington; and it lies in the vice-president's office. The salience of this case is obvious. What it is really about – what it has always been about – is whether this administration deliberately misled the American people about WMD intelligence before the war. The risks Cheney took to attack Wilson, the insane over-reaction that otherwise very smart men in this administration engaged in to rebut a relatively trivial issue: all this strongly implies the fact they were terrified that the full details of their pre-war WMD knowledge would come out. Fitzgerald could smell this. He was right to pursue it, and to prove that a brilliant, intelligent, sane man like Libby would risk jail to protect his bosses. What was he really trying to hide? We now need a Congressional investigation to find out more, to subpoena Cheney and, if he won't cooperate, consider impeaching him.

Patrick Fitzgerald and his team have done all that they could have done, given the continuing coverup. Jane, Christy and Marcy and the wonderful crew at Plamehouse did everything they could. And Joe and Valerie Wilson continue to do everything they can do. Now they all need our help. It will take a lot of pushing from all of us, because many, perhaps a majority in Congress are at least negligent, if not complicit in the true underlying crime of misleading the country into war. But holding up that mirror is the only way this coverup and the crimes behind it will end.

UPDATE: True to form, the Washington Post editorial page continues the deceitful attack on the Libby trial.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley