[eDebate] cheny on the stand
Sat May 27 15:35:50 CDT 2006
what an embarassment to the administration -- it's going to look like he led
libby to commit the criminal act...or at least cheney's testimony sends
libby to jail -- ha ha ha ha ha -- his own chief of staff
Filings in CIA Leak Case Paint Cheney as Determined to Counter Critic
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 27, 2006; Page A06
A string of recent court filings in the CIA leak case provide new details of
Vice President Cheney's role at the center of an administration effort to
rebut an outspoken critic of the White House's rationale for the Iraq war in
the summer of 2003. They include his repeated discussions of the issue with
his top aide and his part in a counteroffensive that resulted in the
unmasking of a CIA officer.
The court filings -- by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who charged
Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, with lying in the
CIA leak case -- provide a vivid portrait of the vice president's activity.
Cheney repeatedly questioned Libby about the war critic, former ambassador
Joseph C. Wilson IV; wrote detailed notes about an op-ed article penned by
Wilson; and raised questions about the CIA connections of Wilson's wife,
Cheney -- who helped devise the White House argument that Iraq had an
extensive program to build weapons of mass destruction before the war -- is
described in the filings as upset by Wilson's criticism, which the vice
president saw as a direct assault on his credibility.
Fitzgerald does not describe Cheney's actions as illegal or even improper.
But the filings make it clear that Cheney had a larger role in the effort to
rebut Wilson than was previously known and that his actions could put him in
an uncomfortable place: on the witness stand as a sitting vice president.
Legal experts said Cheney would have a difficult time refusing to testify in
court as part of a trial to determine whether Libby lied or obstructed
justice in the leak probe.
There are, experts said, many precedents for his appearance. In 1876,
President Ulysses S. Grant voluntarily gave a deposition on behalf of an
aide accused of corruption. President Ronald Reagan gave videotaped
testimony in the Iran-contra prosecution of John M. Poindexter and testified
himself. Most recently, President Bill Clinton agreed to testify before a
grand jury investigating the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal.
One lawyer involved in the Libby case, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity because U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton has warned lawyers
about speaking to the media, said Fitzgerald "is doing everything he can to
avoid the sideshow of a constitutional fight over calling a sitting a vice
president to testify."
But Carl W. Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, said
Fitzgerald will call Cheney "if he believes it will be probative or helpful
to the case." If he does, Tobias said, Cheney is likely to resist, arguing
that he should not be forced to testify in a criminal case as a sitting vice
president. The trial is expected to begin early next year.
Neither Libby nor Fitzgerald has asserted that Cheney directed Libby to leak
Plame's name to the news media, and the details of what Cheney told the
prosecutor's office in a June 2004 interview have not been disclosed.
But Fitzgerald went out of his way to say in an April filing that Bush
played no role in the leak of Plame's name. He did not similarly exonerate
So far, Fitzgerald's latest disclosures are not meant to implicate the vice
president so much as they are intended to undermine a key aspect of Libby's
defense -- that Libby was so preoccupied by other matters that he forgot,
rather than lied about, what he told two journalists, Judith Miller of the
New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, regarding Plame.
Instead, Fitzgerald said in his filing on Wednesday night that Cheney's
focus on an array of issues surrounding Wilson's July 2003 column, including
the fact that Plame worked for the CIA, riveted Libby's attention on the
same matters "and what should be done to respond to the accusations it
contained." This was said to have been the context -- "the state of mind of
the Vice President," as Fitzgerald put it -- in which Libby made statements
to reporters at the time and later allegedly lied to investigators about
what he had said in those statements.
"Fitzgerald has to rebut Libby's claim that this was not a big deal," said
Randall D. Eliason, a former chief of the section on public corruption and
government fraud at the U.S. attorney's office in Washington. "The best way
for Fitzgerald to counter this is to show that the vice president himself
was involved in responding to the Wilson article and directing Libby to
respond. It highlights how implausible it is for Libby to say he just forgot
about this incident when he testified."
Fitzgerald's filings also disclosed that part of the anti-Wilson campaign
involved leaking previously classified information from an intelligence
report about Iraq's alleged nuclear ambitions
The spectacle of Cheney testifying in the leak case would be a major
distraction for the White House, at the very least. The potential witness
list is a who's who of the Bush White House, including Karl Rove and former
spokesman Ari Fleischer, along with CIA officials and lesser-known State
But Cheney would certainly attract the most attention. One of the most
powerful vice presidents in history, Cheney has become, over the years, a
symbol of the White House's argument on weapons of mass destruction.
A recent Fitzgerald filing shows that Cheney does not let go of things
lightly, and the column by Wilson -- who was sent to Niger by the CIA to
determine whether Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons materials there -- was no
exception. Cheney clipped it from the newspaper, placed it on his desk,
wrote some sharply critical notes on it, and discussed it over and over with
Libby for days.
Cheney was upset, according to Libby's account in newly disclosed grand jury
testimony, by language in the column that Cheney saw as a direct attack on
his personal credibility.
It was not an imagined slight: Wilson contrasted what Cheney had said about
Iraqi nuclear weapons ambitions earlier that year with what Wilson had said
in a 2002 classified report that he suggested had reached Cheney's office.
Wilson also bluntly accused the administration of twisting intelligence to
exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
Eight days later, columnist Robert D. Novak wrote that two senior
administration officials told him that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA
officer, had put him up to an investigation of Iraq's nuclear-related
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