Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Libby Verdict: Guilty on Four Out of Five Counts

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

The Libby trial verdict is in:

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted Tuesday of lying and obstructing a leak investigation that reached into the highest levels of the Bush administration.

Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-1980s. The case brought new attention to the Bush administration's much-criticized handling of weapons of mass destruction intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The verdict culminated a nearly four-year investigation into how CIA official Valerie Plame's name was leaked to reporters in 2003. The trial revealed how top members of the administration were eager to discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the administration of doctoring prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Think Progress breaks down the individual verdicts:

Count 1 - Obstruction of Justice: Libby intentionally deceived the grand jury about how he learned, and “disclosed to the media,” information about Valerie Plame Wilson’s employment by the CIA.

Count 2 - Making a False Statement: Libby intentionally gave FBI agents false information about a conversation he had with NBC’s Tim Russert regarding Valerie Plame Wilson, who is married to Joseph Wilson.

Count 4 - Perjury: Libby knowingly provided false testimony in court about a conversation he had with Russert.

Count 5 - Perjury: Libby knowingly provided false testimony in court about his conversation with reporters regarding Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA employment.

Jane Hamsher, who has been covering this case at Firedoglake from the start, had a chance to speak with one of the jurors just after the verdict:

It was cold as hell outside the Prettyman Courthouse when Patrick Fitzgerald was giving his statement and answering questions, and as I was shifting back and forth from one foot to the other I saw the courthouse's Sheldon Snook talking with Dennis Colins, the juror who had formerly worked with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. I went over and started chatting and got to talk to him by myself for about 7 or 8 minutes before David Schuster came barrelling up to ask him if he wanted to be on Hardball, and then he was deluged. Sheldon eventually pulled him up to the microphones and he took questions for the cameras.

He was a very thoughtful guy who said the jury was very serious and took their responsibility very seriously, and that there were many tears at the end. I told him I ran a blog largely populated by people who were fascinated by the case and wondered if the jury had become likewise involved in mapping out the details (I didn't use the word "Plameologist" but I'm sure they'll hear it soon). He said that this was true and that the first thing they did was fill out 34 or so of the huge "post it" pads (2' x 3') with names, dates and details. Where have I heard that before?

Anyway, I asked him about the juror who was dismissed, if she was happy to be out of there. He said no, they liked her and he thought she was sorry to be gone. He said the other jurors may want to talk to the press at some point but for now they did not want to be identified. He was very impressed with how methodical they were and he used the word "dispassionate" to describe their deliberations. He said they deliberated for a whole week before they reached a verdict on any of the charges.

He eventually got dragged before the cameras and said that there was a lot of compassion on the jury for Libby, that they felt he was the"fallguy," and they wanted to know where Karl Rove was in all of this. He was loathe to answer questions about Dick Cheney beyond the fact that Libby was obviously doing whatever he did at Cheney's behest, and the Cheney notes on the Wilson July 6 article seemed especially damning. He wouldn't say whether testimony by Cheney would have helped Libby or not, and seemed unwilling to discuss anything that they were not tasked with deliberating.

He did say that Hannah's testimony totally screwed Libby, and I got a chuckle out of that. At the same time Hannah was talking about how bad Libby's memory was, he also claimed that Libby had an incredible grasp of detail, and the jury believed he just would not have forgotten so much in the way that the defense was trying to claim. They found Russert to be a credible witness but thought there was enough reasonable doubt in the Cooper false statement charge (he said/he said) for "someone" to assume reasonable doubt. It appears there was only one holdout on Count Three that kept Libby from a 5 count grand slam.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Libby could get as little as 18 months in prison, or as much as 25 years, but the lower end of that range is far more likely. The sentencing is on June 5, and Libby is free until then.

Nancy Pelosi has a brief statement about the verdict posted at The Gavel:

Today’s guilty verdicts are not solely about the acts of one individual.

This trial provided a troubling picture of the inner workings of the Bush Administration. The testimony unmistakably revealed – at the highest levels of the Bush Administration – a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq.

Put another way, that putrid odor does not originate with Libby:

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.

Media Matters rebuts the probable right-wing talking points about the verdict.

Are right-wingers predictable or what? Here is Myth Number One, courtesy of Gaius:

I think it is wrong to prosecute someone when the underlying crime that supposedly occurred to set the entire investigation in motion has never been proved to have occurred. (I felt the same way about the Martha Stewart matter.) I think the people who will be cheering this verdict might want to step back and think about how this kind of precedent will be used against one of their own in the future.

And it will. Bet on it.

Via Maha, who asks, Is that a threat? And what precedent?

... This is hardly the first “obstruction of justice” verdict handed down by an American jury. Libby was also found guilty of perjury and giving a false statement.

As Patrick Fitzgerald explained when the indictments were announced, Libby’s obstructions prevented the prosecution from determining whether the alleged leak violated federal law. The rightie blogger quoted above seems to think that it’s OK if someone suspected of a crime is caught lies to law enforcement or a grand jury or otherwise obstructs the investigation. Huh?

Tim F. at Balloon Juice advises us to expect the pardon before Bush leaves office.

No comments: