Libby in extremis

Friday, February 16, 2007 11:08 AM

Lawrence O'Donnell, liberal pundit and a regular "McLaughlin Group" panelist, says Irving "Scooter" Libby, right-hand man to Richard Cheney, is going to be found guilty. Well, if Libby is guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice with respect to the investigation of the "outing" of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, then isn't Libby's boss, the Co-President of the United States, Dick Cheney, also guilty? The  logical conclusion is that Cheney must be guilty of taking part in a criminal conspiracy, and that Libby lied to cover up Cheney's involvement as well as his own, and that both Libby and Cheney thought they could get away with it. Otherwise, what is Libby's motivation to lie and obstruct justice?

On the other hand, could it not be argued that the White House has the authority to betray and destroy its own CIA agents? It's not expected, of course, but maybe the President's right to declassify documents includes the right to declassify people. We are living in the era of the Imperial Presidency, don't forget. Anything goes.

On the other hand, if divulging the name of an undercover CIA agent is in fact a felony, then it may also be a crime rising to the level of an impeachable offense for an elected official like the Vice-President. That Dick Cheney assumes he is above the law is not just our problem, but his own. The next question is, was the Imperial President himself in the loop?

Bush is so irrelevant, in my view at least, that the answer could well be no. The CEO of the White House is Dick Cheney, not George Bush. Be that as it may, Bush is nominally in charge. For the good of all the co-conspirators involved, the sooner that Bush Jr. grants Libby a comprehensive Presidential pardon, the better. What is Bush Jr. waiting for? Can you imagine the documents Libby may have stashed away and the embarrassing conversations he could recount with Bush Jr. himself?

The far, far bigger crime is the Iraq war itself. Regrettably, major Democratic luminaries in the Senate and Congress were complicit in that event, and some are currently running for President in 2008. Ergo, the cover-up is universal, and the pardon will be for everybody. No one will ever be prosecuted for any of it.


Libby is Guilty

Lawrence O"Donnell / The Huffington Post / February 15th, 2007

Libby is guilty. And he's going to be found guilty. The jury might not convict him on all counts, but he has no chance of surviving the perjury count that was proved beyond a reasonable doubt with Tim Russert's testimony.

The multi-million dollar defense, which provided no defense at all, did not call Libby to the witness stand for one very simple reason: Libby is very very guilty. Publicly, defense lawyers cling to the text book theory that the defendant has no burden of proof and that no negative inference should ever be taken when a defendant doesn't defend himself on the witness stand. Practically, every defense lawyer knows that the jury desperately wants to hear from the defendant and that the only reason not to put him on the stand is that he is soooo guilty that every answer he gives after his name will eradicate any shred of reasonable doubt.

Think about it. Your whole life is at stake in the outcome of a criminal trial. You're innocent. And you don't testify in your own defense? Around the courthouse when defense lawyers are chatting about their cases, the only question they ask each other is can you put your guy on the stand? Those conversations always assume the defendant is guilty. The question is just about the degree of difficulty in presenting a defense.

Libby's defense gave up before the opening statements in the trial. They always knew Libby was too guilty to put on the witness stand. And they were never going to call the Vice President. Telling the judge that they were going to call Libby and Cheney was just a mirage they were trying to create to misdirect Patrick Fitzgerald's focus. I'd be shocked if Fitzgerald was fooled for even a second.

If Libby called Cheney, it actually would have hurt his defense and been a hostile act to the White House. Cheney would have been humiliated by Fitzgerald's cross-examination and Libby would have forever lost his chief pardon advocate in the White House.

From the start, Libby's hopeless courtroom defense has been about the pardon. Libby has conducted a defense that is very friendly to the White House. He has made it clear to the White House that he had the power to call the Vice President, but, good soldier that he is, he declined to put Cheney through that ordeal.

Last year, I told Keith Olbermann on MSNBC that Libby's highly publicized defense-fund fundraiser was really the first step in the pardon campaign. Libby is a very rich man. He didn't need the defense fund. He needed the public rally with Mary Matalin types walking the virtual red carpet on the way in singing his praises as a great public servant. Fred Thompson, the senator-actor, did a version of this at the trial--showing up, giving "moral" support, then offering his TV prosecutor view of how unfair the Libby prosecution is. Look for the popular TV prosecutor to play an important role in the pardon campaign.

Libby knows more than his lawyers do about the next stage of his legal proceedings. Libby helped obtain the sleaziest pardon that Bill Clinton issued on his way out of the White House. Clinton pardoned Libby's client, the fugitive billionaire Marc Rich, over the unanimous objections of the White House staff. When Cheney hand-delivers Libby's pardon application to President Bush, who is going to object?