Archive for Friday, October 28, 2005

Vice presidential aide indicted, resigns

Rove escapes indictment, remains under investigation

October 28, 2005, 11:59 a.m. Updated October 28, 2005, 3:07 p.m.


— The vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., was indicted today on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements in the CIA leak investigation, a politically charged case that casts a harsh light on President Bush's push to war.

Libby, 55, resigned and left the White House.

Karl Rove, Bush's closest adviser, escaped indictment today but remained under investigation, his legal status casting a dark cloud over a White House already in trouble. The U.S. military death toll in Iraq exceeded 2,000 this week, and the president's approval ratings are at the lowest point since he took office in 2001.

Friday's charges stemmed from a two-year investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald into whether Rove, Libby or any other administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame or misled investigators about their involvement.

In the end, Fitzgerald accused Libby of lying about his conversations with reporters, not outing a spy.

"Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true. It was false," the prosecutor said. "He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And he lied about it afterward, under oath, repeatedly."

Libby's indictment is a political embarrassment for the president, paving the way for a possible trial renewing the focus on the administration's faulty rationale for going to war against Iraq - the erroneous assertion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

It could also mean that Cheney, who prizes secrecy, will be called upon as a witness to explain why the administration launched a campaign against Plame's husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson, a critic of the war who questioned Bush's assertion that Iraq had sought nuclear material.

The indictment said the vice president advised Libby that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA but the vice president was not the first administration official to tell him about it.

At a news conference, Fitzgerald said the inquiry was substantially complete, though he added ominously, "It's not over." He declined to comment about Rove's involvement. Asked about Cheney, he said: "I'm not making allegations about anyone not charged in the indictment."

The grand jury indictment charged Libby with one count of obstruction of justice, two of perjury and two of making false statements. If convicted on all five, he could face as much as 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

Democrats suggested the indictment was just the tip of the iceberg. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the case was larger than Libby and "about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the president."

Cheney and several other officials were mentioned by title in the 22-page indictment, but no one besides Libby was charged.

Libby is considered Cheney's alter ego, a chief architect of the war with Iraq. A trial would give the public a rare glimpse into Cheney's influential role in the West Wing and his behind-the-scenes lobbying for war.

Bush ordered U.S. troops to war in March 2003, saying Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program posed a grave and immediate threat to the United States. No such weapons were found.

After the indictment was announced, Libby submitted his resignation to White House chief of staff Andy Card. It was accepted and Libby left the grounds. Card notified Bush.

Cheney issued a statement saying he had accepted Libby's resignation "with deep regret." He added that Libby was entitled to a presumption of innocence in the case and praised his longtime aide as "one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known."

Rove's lawyer said he was told by special prosecutor Fitzgerald's office that investigators would continue their probe into the aide's conduct.

The lack of an indictment against Rove was a mixed outcome for the administration. It keeps in place the president's top adviser, the architect of his political machine whose fingerprints can be found on virtually every policy that emerges from the White House.

But leaving Rove in legal jeopardy keeps Bush and his team working on problems like the Iraq war, a Supreme Court vacancy and slumping poll ratings beneath a dark cloud of uncertainty.

Sen. Edward M Kennedy, D-Mass., said the indictment marked a "signifying a new low since Watergate in terms of openness and honesty in our government." Sen. John Kerry, who ran unsuccessfully against Bush last year, called the case "evidence of White House corruption at the very highest levels."

Hoping to contain the damage, Republicans turned against Libby. Several welcomed his resignation. Others said the legal system should run its course.

"It's time to stop the leaks and spin and turn Washington into one big recovery meeting where people say what they mean and mean what they say," said Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said through a spokesman that the Senate won't investigate the CIA leak.

The indictment alleges that Libby began digging for details about Wilson, Plame's husband and an Iraq war critic, well before the former ambassador went public July 6, 2003, in a newspaper opinion piece with his criticism of the Bush administration's use of faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq's nuclear ambitions.

Libby made his first inquiries about Wilson's travel to Niger in late May 2003 - a trip the government sent him on in early 2002 to check on reports that Saddam was trying to buy uranium - and by June 11 Libby was informed by a CIA official that Wilson's wife worked for the agency and might have sent him on the trip.

On June 12, 2003, the indictment alleges, Libby heard directly from Cheney that Plame worked for the spy agency.

"Libby was advised by the vice president of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA in the counterproliferation division. Libby understood that the vice president had learned this information from the CIA," Fitzgerald said.

A short time later, Libby began spreading information to reporters, starting with The New York Times' Judith Miller on June 23.

The indictment says a substantial number of people in the White House knew about Plame's CIA status before the publication of Robert Novak's column on July 14, 2003, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Rove's potential legal problems stem in part from the fact that he failed initially to disclose to prosecutors a conversation in which he told Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper that Plame worked for the CIA. Rove says the conversation slipped his mind.


princess 12 years, 7 months ago

Word on the street is that Fitzgerald will be continuing the investigation and that is why Rove has been warned that an incitement may still be on the way for him. Of course, we should know more after the press conference in about 20 minutes.

princess 12 years, 7 months ago

I meant indictment. Stupid spell check.

hottruckinmama 12 years, 7 months ago

good. and hopefully rove and chaney are right behind him!

christie 12 years, 7 months ago

In a time of WAR. Is this treason?

I'd like to see the whole lot of 'em thrown in prison, or sent to Iraq as Privates in the Army. It's their war they led this nation with LIES let THEM go over there now.

These people DISGUST me. On the same page locals mourn the loss of a soldier and these people in their suits and ties LIED to the American people. They're guilty of murder and nothing less.

christie 12 years, 7 months ago

I can't WAIT for November of 2008:


tell_it_like_it_is 12 years, 7 months ago

Oh Happy Day! Now if we can just get the rest of the damn crooks!

avhjmlk 12 years, 7 months ago

Well, true, but if you listened to Fitzgerald's press conference, it seemed he knew enough to be pretty worked up about it, which leads me to believe that there's probably some really undeniable evidence...

Jamesaust 12 years, 7 months ago

Hmmm.....all this over the 'Martha Stewart' law, a/k/a, The False Statements Act (a/k/a, the 'Don't Cooperate' statute)?

A serious enough crime if proven - a couple years per charge (assuming there isn't a pardon from a certain someone in January 2007). But it may prove difficult to prove that when someone says they didn't know something that in fact they really did (and are not confused, or forgetful). Assuming that the prosecutor hasn't recovered real evidence, such as an email where Libby says the equivalent of "yeah, I said I remembered X but really rememered X + Y," the case turns on lying being more probable than not. Don't get me wrong - I suspect there's a lie here but proving that to a unanimous jury is less than a sure thing; not proving that means the guy walks.

Also, quite clear: this is extraordinarily limited, more so than I expected. There is no indictment under the Intelligence Identities Act, which is supposedly the purpose of having a special investigator. In short, there appears to be no 'there there' but rather lies about how one knows that there is no there.

So who are the two sources for the original report? Is there an attempt to "out" or were government officials racking their brains just like the journalists they were talking to as to why such a wacko as this Wilson guy was put in charge of anything? Why again did a prize-winning reporter go to jail over a story never published to protect a source (the indictee) who made clear he did not wish to be protected? Why would the indictee not want to be protected if he knew he had done wrong? Why did the mainstream media pound the table demanding a special prosecutor before they learned that they themselves were mixed up in the mess and began to pooh-pooh the importance of the affair before they learned that their professional journalists did not appear to have behaved so professionally and began to edge away their professional as if they had espied a skunk at a garden party?????

Like all other mindless entertainment, today seems to be the cliffhanger that makes us salivate for answer come the next season of this (un)reality show.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

Fitzgerald dragged most of the White House staff through the grand jury, and that's how he knows what Libby knew, when he knew it, who told him, and whom he told. I suspect he has emails and phone logs, as well.

Redneckgal 12 years, 7 months ago

I think hope and pray that this is the beginning of the end of the awful mistake that we elected. Its just so sad that it didn't happen before we had 2000 dead young people and the ruination of our economy.

Steve Jacob 12 years, 7 months ago

Has Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr been asked THE question? Did Mr. Chaney TELL Libby to leak the info. to the press? I doubt he would tell even if Chaney did. But Mr. Libby just has to stay out of jail until after the 2008 election to be pardoned. Say what you want about that, but Clinton pardoned everyone, so can't complain about that.

tell_it_like_it_is 12 years, 7 months ago

Amen Red..trouble is whoever gets elected next'll spend the first 4 years trying to undo the mess they got us in (if it even CAN be undone)

glockenspiel 12 years, 7 months ago

Im pretty sick of the hate mongering and blind bashing of people just because they have an R or D listed next to their name.

Its a CIA leak. It doesn't warrant a death penalty.

There are positive things going on in Iraq. Whether or not to go to war was decided 2 and a half years ago when a MAJORITY of Americans supported it. Although it hasn't gone as smooth as we had hoped, the only option we have now is to stay positive and ride this thing through. That isn't possible unless people quit bitching and start looking into the positives that are being ignored by the media that care of nothing but their ratings.

As for this CIA leak, I would have liked to see Bush fire Libby before it got to this point. As for Rove, we'll have to wait and see. I kind of wonder how Bush would function if he lost the other 90% of his brain...I mean Karl Rove....

avhjmlk 12 years, 7 months ago

I'm sorry. That idea totally scares the pants off of me.

redjayj 12 years, 7 months ago

It is not "just" a CIA leak. It was treason. To out an agent during a time of war and putting her life in danger was treason and unpatriotic as anything I've heard in a long time. It also put any contact she had overseas in danger. Anyone who tries to justify that is a idiot.

hottruckinmama 12 years, 7 months ago

i hope we NEVER have another bush in the white house.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

The media aren't hiding anything in Iraq. They just can't get outside the green zone unless they're accompanied by a military convoy.

glockenspiel 12 years, 7 months ago


It is not "just" a CIA leak.

Nice quote. I used exactly 1 "just" in my post and it wasn't placed before "a CIA leak."

Treason? No. Fricken Stupid? Yes.

Jamesaust 12 years, 7 months ago

Busy day - not much time to check on events.

Still, the basic questions raised by looking at the indictment (thank goodness for the internet) remain. How again does Libby - an attorney, experienced government hand, and by every account a screwed operator - lie under oath in circumstances where it is inevitable that others will contradict him, including the NYT reporter who he releases from any obligation to protect him?

Indeed, why lie rather than just invoke one's fifth amendment right? This right is of course the right not to be forced to provide the evidence necessary to charge one with a crime, which is precisely what Libby has done. Someone reminds me that Bush early on ordered everyone to cooperate with the investigation. True, but who in their right mind risks a criminal sentence to please the boss? No doubt Bush would then have to fire him but so what?

It does also seem that Karl Rove is off the hook, regardless of the efforts to make a point that the investigation is ongoing. Look, everyone has been interviewed, documents have been gathered, read, and parsed for their implications, people have been reinterviewed and then interviewed again for good measure. The only additional information that is coming out here is if Libby (a) knows something more, and (b) chooses to volunteer this information. Its unclear to me why (b) would occur - what can be offerred? Can anyone seriously believe that G.W., given a long history of intense (I'd even say blind) loyalty to those loyal to him, will fail to pardon him? No, except for a lightning strike, things are done.

We'll see if a jury can be convinced that there is a lie here. Again, I'm assuming that there is but beyond a doubt is a high standard and it only takes one Doubting Thomas on the jury.

I note also that item 11 in the First Count of the Indictment further proves the lie (one among many) that Wilson continues to put forward, that is, that his wife had nothing to do with his being retained to investigate the Niger allegations. The scandal in 2003 that the VP was upset about were rumors that he was responsible for this goofball being their emissary. The CIA briefer speaks about Wilson's wife because she is associated with Wilson's retention. So, we still are left with the more plausible explanation: that the identification of his wife as working for the CIA was roundabout and not within the Intelligence Act's requirement of knowing, wilfull, and malicious "outing," which may explain why no indictment for this was made.

And, I suppose I can't say this too much, if Libby really is guilty, that is a serious crime - doubly so for a government official. The fifth amendment is there to protect one's interests; lying really is obstructing justice.

Boxcar_Bobby85 12 years, 7 months ago

I'm not about to get in the middle of this battle, but I do think it's perfectly appropriate and effective to compare current events to relevant historical events. Arminius has done just that, and quite effectively. Why don't you defend the Clinton lies instead of dismissing this method as somehow illegitimate, So when is it okay to lie to a Grand Jury?

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