Friday, October 28, 2005
UPDATE: Indictment here.
UPDATE (1:20 pm): Spewing in real time: I note that the stock market rally has sustained itself in the minutes following the announcement of the Libby indictment. May I suggest that this is exogenous support for my contention that the Bush administration has so far "beat expectations" on the Fitzgerald investigation. Of course, the actual political damage may unfold in the weeks and months ahead as more Americans learn who Scooter Libby is, and the run-up to the Iraq war is parsed in greater detail.
Following Tom Maguire's "better wrong than gutless" principle, I hereby make a few predictions. First, the fact that the indictment does not name any underlying offense will substantially diminish the ultimate impact on the Bush presidency. Indeed, it may even revive the idea that once again a special prosecutor has ginned up a secondary or tertiary offense in what is properly a political fight. After Walsh and Starr, will the public -- beyond the usual partisans -- much care about obstruction and perjury? I think not.
Second, the fact that there is no charge for the underlying offense guts the sanctimonious and largely untrue accusation that the Bush administration undermined national security by outing Valerie Plame. The CIA has managed to do a lot of damage in this bureaucratic fight, but people will soon be asking Cardinalpark's question: why are we not outraged that the CIA was deliberately undermining the policies of an elected president? Langley may ultimately emerge from this case much the worse for wear.
Third, the absence of an underlying offense will make it much easier for Bush to pardon Libby, perhaps even before January 19, 2009.
Fourth, liberals who thought that perjury was a trivial procedural detail in 1998 will be full of outrage today. Conservatives who then believed that perjury was right there in the 7th or 8th circle of Hell will now characterize it as "driving 56."
UPDATE: I have now read the indictment. The five counts all surround one basic theme: that Scooter told federal agents and the grand jury that he had learned that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA from reporters, when in fact he had learned it from the Vice President, an officer at the CIA, and various other officials before he spoke to reporters. In particularly, Libby is alleged to have lied about his conversations with Tim Russert and Matt Cooper. Judith Miller barely surfaces, and somebody smarter than I am -- or with more time -- will have to piece together her role.
While the indictment makes Libby look like a fool, I detect no previously unexploded bombshells. I therefore stand by the political predictions offered above.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a round-up here, Glenn Reynolds rounds up links here, and Gateway Pundit crashes the left's party here.
I agree that it's weak and lame that Fitzgerald didn't have a case on the critical charge. What a Lord Jeff he is. And I don't get the obstruction charge if there's no underlying leak case. What justice is he obstructing?
However, we shouldn't let Libby off the hook. If he perjured himself, he should be punished both for the illegality and for malpractice. He's a lawyer for Chrissakes! What a putz. You would think these guys would have learned from Clinton and Martha that they shouldn't mess with a prosecutor with an unlimited budget.
Having said that, the case for which Fitzgerald has just rung Libby up better be good. If it's not, then he's guilty of being like Ronnie Earle down in Texas. Just another racketeering mafiosi prosecutor. He better have a great case. It better be open and shut.
My prediction. Libby wins a clean sweep. Fitzgerald ruins a promising career chasing ghosts. We win the war in Iraq. Republicans retain control of both houses next year and win the Presidency in 2008. We have a war with Iran.
In other words, a tempest in a teapot.
ps - if he subsequently charges Rove with leaking, all bets are off.
I thought perjury was against the law. Perjury is perjury even if you're lying about something that isn't illegal. Even ignoring the question of why Libby would lie if he hadn't done anything wrong, they found enough evidence to suggest that he did lie. Why is it wrong to bring him up on charges for it?
Back in the day when the Republicans were screwing Clinton they way they say the Democrats are screwing them today, a lot of people saw that proceeding for what it was — making a President explain a blowjob.
Many today know that this is much more substantive and enatils not just the supposed crime, but why that crime may have been committed. It involves the war and to many people including myself that's much more important. That's why I care whether Libby lied or not.
Read the complaint. Fitzgerald looks like he has Libby cold on blatant lies; lies he made up because he was worried about being outted as the leaker -- which I am not clear as to whether that was illegal or not from this indictment.
Though shalt not mess with the prosecutor in a grand jury.
"Scooter told federal agents and the grand jury that he had learned that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA from reporters, when in fact he had learned it from the Vice President..."
I'm naive, but here goes: If the VP told Libby that Wilson's wife worked for CIA and then knew that Libby was telling the world that he had heard it first from reports, then the VP knew Libby was lying.
Why didn't the VP make Libby recant or fire him? What am I missing?
Keep in mind that a new grand jury will be impaneled so that they can lean on Libby to tell the truth.
This ain't over. The investigation continues--only now a senior administration official has been busted for serious criminal offenses.
Last Anonymous Guy: Telling "the world" is not a crime -- presumably these guys bob and weave vs. the press all the time. Cheney may not have known what Libby told federal agents or the grand jury, which is the basis for the charge.
As a liberal Democrat, I think that it's a mistake for Democrats to invest too much political strategy in scandals. If the Libby indictment doesn't go much further than what we've seen today then I think your political predictions will be accurate regardless of whether Libby is convicted or acquitted.
The one caveat I would make is that prosecutors frequently indict for perjury or obstruction when the perjury or obstruction prevented them from obtaining evidence to indict on an underlying crime. The perjury/obstruction charge in effect operates as a surrogate for the real charge. It can also be used to pressure the defendant to cooperate with the prosecution, although obviously the credibility of the defendant as a witness is pretty severely damaged.
Be that as it may, if this goes the way of the latter point, the political damage is not over yet. If it goes the former way, the political damage probably will be pretty limited.
As a conservative, I respect the law even when it is politically inconvenient. Please don't paint with too broad a brush. If Libby lied he should be punished. And, we all should have seen Clinton frog marched. No one is above the law.
Cheney broke no laws by telling Libby about Plame and he has no obligation to learn where Libby first got his information. In fact, Cheney may not even have known what Libby told the grand jury.
If Libby's notes about his meeting with Cheney prove him (Libby) a liar, then he is indeed toast. The Libby said/reporter said stuff should never fly.
Next point: Perjury and obstruction are just as serious in 2005 as they were in 1998.
Bob Woodward says the CIA has done a damage assessment, and the damage of Plame's "outing" was minimal. If the Dems try to make this a national security matter, they may wish they hadn't.
I find it amusing for liberals be begin drawing parallels between Libby and Clinton
"lying is lying, perjury is perjury".
Yeah, I agree. And Libby resigned 'cause he was "in the wrong". Seems like one of the two did the most honorable thing he could after breaking the law. Hint: it wasn't Clinton.
Too bad ole Bill couldn't be as honorable as 'Scooter' Libby.
What the rabid left now must do is convince an indifferent world that this indictment shakes the very foundations of the Bush Admin.
they then have to convince the world that this indictment is tantamount to an admission that bush lied/kids died.
they are really going to struggle with this. let's face it, this guy is a member of the VP's staff. How many American's even know where the VP"s office is?
this is just not the block buster the left was hoping for.
Well, "Ol' Bill" got away with it didn't he. How did that happen? Hmmm.. After all he merely got a hummer in the Oval Office.
"Honorable" Scooter potentially lied about a cover-up that outed a CIA agent who's husband found fault in Bush's "unintentional" use of bad intelligence that led to a war where thousands of people have died and are dying.
Not quite comparable in my book. Is it in yours? Regardless, the political convenience and inconvience of upholding laws depends on what side of the fence you're on. You're on the losing side today. Enjoy.
Just curious: Did anyone listen to Fitzgerald when, in response to a question specifically asking why Libby was not indicted for an underlying crime, he made the point that, from a prosecutor's point of view, as long as the public interest is served, what crime the defendant is convicted of, as long as the crime took place and the interests of justice are served?
I'm not in the position to be able to claim that I can accurately parse Mr. Fitzgerald's words, but that certainly sounded to me that he was suggesting that, 1. Fitzgerald, because Libby had lied, does not have the evidence to prosecute him under the 1982 unlawful disclosure law, 2. but Fitzgerald believes that Libby probably did break that law, and *knows* that Libby broke the law with regard to the five charges he faces now, and 3. if Fitzgerald can convict Libby on this indictment, Libby goes to jail, and ultimately, through this imperfect solution, the interests of the public and of justice are served.
I'm not claiming to see into Fitzgerald's mind, but that would appear to fit the facts as we know them now.
Hey Honest Partisan:
Good for you. I like your style. It belies your handle.
As much as the Bush haters would like this to spell doom, it doesn't. And it shouldn't. Just like the Clinton circumstances.
It is not good for our country, regardless of your party, to have a weakened President. Clinton might have taken care of Osama and Saddam in 1998 if he hadn't gotten the wag the dog accusations after the Lewinsky thing broke. Instead, he was too politically weak.
Dear Mr. TigerHawk:
Is it possible that for some reason Mr. Libby wants to go to trial? Could there be a reason why he wants to compel certain people (reporters, CIA personnel, others) to testify in public at a criminal trial?
The only other possible explanation for Mr. Libby's inexplicable and avoidable behavior before the authorities and the grand jury is that his brain has turned to mush. And if that proves to be the case, that is a scary fact to contemplate when considering someone at the center of executive power.
Moral: If called before a grand jury, exercise options  or .  tell the truth, or  say nothing at all, citing the Fifth as your response to each question even vaguely relating. Yeah,  will likely get you contempt citations...option  variant is to not show up at all, which means either book a quick flight to a non-extraditable locale, or pack your toothbrush for your upcoming all-expenses-paid vacation at Club Fed.
DO NOT try to tap dance with the prosecutor from the stand when there are living witnesses who can and will honestly contradict you. It's just plain dumb. Really really dumb.
Regarding "I'm disappointed that Patrick Fitzgerald resorted to derivative offenses when he could not prove a substantive crime." I am too. Especially because people are now justifying the outing of a spy in a "Ref didn't see it, Game On!" type way. Someone did out a spy and I'd prefer to see someone charged for that, but when all is said and done if the person/persons responsible go to jail, I'm cool with whatever manner they go.
Maybe it was prophetic when Fitzgerald was compared to Eliott Ness. Ness never got Capone on a "real crime" either.
I think, Lanky, that Peter UK is correct -- I believe the facts are such that Plame is not either a spy or "covert" under the statute, and was not for the requisite period before 2003. There was some concern that she had been betrayed by Aldrich Ames, and even so had not served overseas in any capacity for years. She probably was not a spy.
Hey, it could be that the worst consequence is Plame gets hounded/idolized by reporters for a bit. If so, whatever.
Or it could be that she had some serious contacts in Middle East weapons proliferation. Those contacts might be compromised. It could be that other people who worked at that CIA front company (which was exposed) also became compromised, or had their contacts compromised. The first thing we do with terrorists is follow the money trail. Foreign counter-espionage will do the same thing. It's not like the CIA is going to tell us who their spies and contacts are, and even they might not know if counter-intel is tracking down our people based on released information.
So what's the damage? I don't know and you don't know. On the plus side, you can blow this off without any risk of ever being proven wrong. However, that's a bit of a callous towards our foreign assets, especially for a blog so dedicated to national security. Even without specifics, how are we supposed to get good intel if spies and contacts know politicians could blow their cover?
You've stated your opinion, and you're entitled to it. You're also entitled to rethink it. I can't support the "no foul" argument, and I don't think one can without invoking some partisan cause. Objectively, compromising an intel asset or former asset is just plain wrong, irregardless of who does it or why. (Note: wrong doesn't necessarily equate to legally criminal.) If you want to argue that the means justify your ends, that's fine- but you have to then make that argument.
Peter: A spy acting as a diplomatic envoy does not blow cover by marrying the ambassador she's stationed with. There's a small pool of Americans over there and people get together. Neither does her working at the CIA later betray her, since it was 1.not common knowledge, 2. it didn't betray the CIA front company, and 3. wives of ambassadors can easily get other government jobs. Even with knowledge that she worked at the CIA, foreign governments wouldn't know she was working on WMD, which is a somewhat important detail.