Saturday, October 29, 2005

Morning copy 10.29.2005

Libby indicted

The spin is just starting to wind up, though President George W. Bush seems to be above the fray. One interesting question will be: does "Scooter" Libby seek a plea deal to save face for the White House? It is going to be the trial of the century, or at least a few decades. The Washington Times has the early list of witnesses:

The indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr. sets the stage for an extraordinary Washington drama in which some of the city's best-known journalists, including NBC's Tim Russert, would be prosecution witnesses at a public trial against a one-time powerful White House official.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post covers the press conference from Patrick Fitzgerald with a great quote:

Asked about criticism that he was a partisan on a witch hunt, the man who indicted a sitting White House official for the first time since the 19th century shot back: "One day I read that I was a Republican hack, another day I read that I was a Democratic hack -- and the only thing I did between those two nights was sleep."


But his appearance was as much about answering the charge that will inevitably be lodged against Fitzgerald himself: that he exceeded his charter and brought charges on "technicalities" rather than major crimes.

The prosecutor had prepared his defense well. "That talking point won't fly," he said when a questioner raised the anticipated criticism. "If it is proven that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story . . . that is a very, very serious matter," said Fitzgerald, 44, licking his lips frequently and moving his eyes back and forth across the line of eight cameras. "The truth is the engine of our judicial system, and if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost."

This petty drivel from the Opinion Journal:

If this is a conspiracy to silence Administration critics, it was more daft than deft. The indictment itself contains no evidence of a conspiracy, and Mr. Libby has not been accused of trying to cover up some high crime or misdemeanor by the Bush Administration. The indictment amounts to an allegation that one official lied about what he knew about an underlying "crime" that wasn't committed. And we still don't know who did tell Mr. Novak--presumably, it was the soon-to-be-infamous "Official A" from paragraph 21 of the indictment, although we don't know whether Official A was Mr. Novak's primary source or merely a corroborating one.

What kind of a specious intellectual exercise is this? The man lied to a grand jury about several conversations. It can and will be demonstrated by both journalists and governmental officials, apparently by Libby's own notes as well. Further, it is hard to prove a conspiracy when the central figure -- perhaps The Architect -- lies to a grand jury repeatedly. I hope to never see such a pathetic counter argument to this grave crime, but I am certain that my hopes will be dashed.

Now, this headling in the Los Angeles Times: "Prosecutor Has Built a Strong Case, Experts Say".

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, however, is accused of something far more elaborate. Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald alleges that Libby made up a false story to deceive investigators and then told the lie under oath to the grand jury.

Telling a false story to a federal prosecutor who knows the facts is a sure ticket to an indictment, legal experts said Friday. And, they said, Fitzgerald appears to have built a strong case.

"That's unacceptable. You can't lie, make up conversations that didn't happen and expect you are not going to be charged with a crime," said George Washington University law professor Stephen A. Saltzburg.


Little cautioned it was possible that Russert gave an inaccurate account and that Libby would be vindicated. However, if the allegations are true and Libby made up his story "out of whole cloth," he added, "it is the hubris of a high-ranking government official who doesn't believe it will come out, and if it does, there is deniability. If you want to spread this around, you talk to one reporter and then call another reporter and say this is what I heard. The allegation reads as a vicious, cynical use of the media."


The indictment "is very well wrought," said Stanford University criminal law professor Robert Weisberg. "Fitzgerald made sure that he could establish such a consistent discrepancy between what is now known to be true and what Libby repeatedly said."

The New York Daily News has the best analysts quote:

"Fitzgerald has Scooter's ass in a sling," said Solomon Wisenberg, a former deputy to independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated former President Bill Clinton. "He'd be remiss if he didn't squeeze Libby to get higher-ups involved. Potentially there is more, clearly."

This is another reason why Scooter may plea out of this. Cheney will be under oath en face du Special Counsel.

An overview in the Washington Post about Libby's role in U.S. policy.

The New York Times has a story on Libby's advice to fellow staffers:

So cautious is Mr. Libby, a lawyer trained at Columbia University, that he counseled other staff members not to take notes or speak to reporters, two former aides said Friday. But he met periodically with journalists and regularly jotted notes that he kept in a three-ring binder, giving himself the option of tearing out stuff he did not want to keep.

These exceptions to his own meticulous rules of discretion may ultimately come back to haunt Mr. Libby, who resigned Friday after being formally accused of repeatedly lying and obstructing justice during an inquiry into the unmasking of a Central Intelligence Agency officer.

The Washington Post notes the severity of what occurred when Valerie Plame's identity as a covert agent was made known:

There is no indication, according to current and former intelligence officials, that the most dire of consequences -- the risk of anyone's life -- resulted from her outing.

But after Plame's name appeared in Robert D. Novak's column, the CIA informed the Justice Department in a simple questionnaire that the damage was serious enough to warrant an investigation, officials said.

Karl Rove is not out of the woods, yet. His 11th hour dealing is one of the many mysteries still in the case. The Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — As it came down to judgment day this week in the investigation into the exposure of a covert CIA operative, White House advisor Karl Rove braced for a possible indictment. But at the last minute, new information, reevaluation of older evidence and negotiations with Rove's lawyers combined to spare the top White House aide for now, according to sources close to Rove and familiar with the inquiry.

The Right does not have a united front in response to this. Salon's recap:

Anchor Rick Folbaum opened an interview with Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, by playing up the news that Karl Rove wasn't indicted. "How much of a victory is this for the president?" he asked.

"Well, we shouldn't kid ourselves," Kristol responded. "It's not a victory ... [This is] awfully bad for the White House."

Paul Mirengoff, of the conservative blog Powerline, acknowledged the indictment "looks strong on its face" and that the charges against Libby "are serious," though he predicted that the political fallout "is likely to be almost nonexistent." Fellow Powerline blogger and Weekly Standard contributor John Hinderaker added that the Plame affair has proved to be "the anti-Watergate." "It is evident from the indictment itself," he argued, "that administration officials, including Dick Cheney, Ari Fleischer and others, followed President Bush's order to cooperate fully with the Plame investigation. But it's premature to conclude that the administration is out of the woods until we find out what, if anything, happens to Rove."

AND (gotta like the slight dig in this one)

"This is not Watergate or Iran-Contra, but neither is it a trifle," wrote the editors of the National Review Online. "Please spare us the excuses warmed over from Democratic talking points in the 1990s: the prosecutor is out-of-control, there was no underlying crime, etc., etc. It is the responsibility of anyone, especially a public official, to tell the truth to FBI agents and grand juries. If Libby didn't, he should face the consequences."

If Lyndon Johnson were alive, what would he be doing right now to convince Cheney to testify (on national television).


Hamza Hendawi of the AP has this major story from Iraq:

NAJAF, Iraq - Iraq's top Shiite cleric is considering demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops after a democratically elected government takes office next year, according to associates of the Iranian-born cleric.

If the Americans and their coalition partners do not comply, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani would use peaceful means such as mass street protests to step up pressure for a pullout schedule, according to two associates of the cleric.

The Los Angeles Times:

TIKRIT, Iraq — Seeking to lower the visibility of U.S. troops and grant more authority to Iraqi government forces, the American military has now ceded control of 27 of the nation's 109 bases, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

Thousands of U.S. troops have been redeployed in recent months from bases in Najaf, Karbala, Tikrit and other cities, and Iraqis are now in charge of patrol areas that include four districts of Baghdad and the town of Taiji, northeast of the capital.

The South East Asian quake

Not enough has been done for these people. Is it relief fatigue? Americans gave about 50 times the amount of donations to the Tsunami victims, 100 times as much to the Katrina victims. The Los Angeles Times:

The relief operation is short about $120 million for the next five months, Hollingworth said.

The United States and 59 other countries pledged $580 million for additional earthquake relief at a conference in Geneva on Wednesday, but the U.N. has received only 20% of the money it needs immediately to provide emergency shelter, food and other relief before the brutal Himalayan winter isolates hundreds of devastated mountain villages.

And countries often pledge aid that is never delivered, officials pointed out.


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