Fitzgerald closing in on Cheney


Richard Moore

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    Cheney's Role Dominates Closing Arguments at Libby Trial
    By Jason Leopold
    t r u t h o u t | Report
    Friday 23 February 2007

It was the defense attorney representing I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby who first told
jurors during closing arguments in the perjury and obstruction-of-justice trial 
Tuesday that the government believes Vice President Dick Cheney told Libby to 
leak the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to a New York 
Times reporter in July 2003 to undermine the credibility of her husband, a 
critic of the Iraq War.

Additional information about what the prosecution believes Cheney's role in the 
leak may have been surfaced in closing arguments this week. The jury enters its 
fourth full day of deliberations Monday to decide whether Libby is guilty or 
innocent of five felonies. Libby's attorney, Theodore Wells, told jurors that 
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his deputy have been attempting to 
build a case of conspiracy against the vice president and Libby and that the 
prosecution believes Libby may have lied to federal investigators and a grand 
jury to protect Cheney.

At issue is whether a set of talking points Cheney dictated in July 2003, that 
the vice president's former chief of staff was instructed to discuss with the 
media, included information about Plame. The discussions with the media were 
supposed to be centered around Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson,
and the fact that he accused the White House of misrepresenting intelligence 
related to Iraq's attempts to acquire uranium from Niger, according to testimony
by Cathie Martin, Cheney's former communications director.

Wilson had traveled to Niger in February 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq 
was trying to acquire uranium to build an atomic bomb. He reported back to the 
CIA that the allegations were baseless. But, the claims were cited as fact in 
President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address. Wilson spent months 
criticizing the White House's use of the Niger claims in background interviews 
with reporters before publishing an opinion column in the New York Times on July
6, 2003, saying he was the special envoy who was sent to Niger to check out the 
intelligence. He asserted that the administration knowingly misled the public 
and Congress into war. Wilson's criticisms set off a chain of events that 
eventually led to the exposing of his wife's identity.

During the trial, Martin testified that she was present when Cheney dictated 
talking points about Wilson, but Wells said in his closing arguments that there 
was a clear implication by the prosecution that Martin may not have been privy 
to some of the private conversations that took place between Cheney and Libby 
regarding Plame.

"Now, I think the government, through its questions, really tried to put a cloud
over Vice President Cheney," Libby's attorney Theodore Wells told jurors 
Tuesday, according to a transcript of the closing arguments obtained by 
Truthout. "During their questioning of Martin, the prosecutors questioned Ms. 
Martin: 'Well, you weren't with Mr. Libby and the vice president all the time. 
Some things could have happened when you weren't there.' And the clear 
suggestion by the questions were, well, maybe there was some kind of 
skullduggery, some kind of scheme between Libby and the vice president going on 
in private, but that's unfair."

Rebutting the defense's assertion that Cheney was not behind the leak, 
Fitzgerald told jurors, "You know what? [Wells] said something here that we're 
trying to put a cloud on the vice president. We'll talk straight. There is a 
cloud over the vice president. He sent Libby off to [meet with former New York 
Times reporter] Judith Miller at the St. Regis Hotel. At that meeting, the two 
hour meeting, the defendant talked about the wife [Plame]. We didn't put that 
cloud there. That cloud remains because the defendant obstructed justice and 
lied about what happened."

Fitzgerald's impassioned presentation to the jury Tuesday suggests that he 
strongly believes Cheney instructed Libby to leak Plame's identity to Miller in 
July 2003. "If you think that the vice president and the defendant 'Scooter' 
Libby weren't talking about [Plame] during the week where the vice president 
writes that [Plame] sent [Wilson] on a junket, in [Wilson's] July 6 column, the 
vice president moves the number one talking point, 'not clear who authorized 
[Wilson's Niger trip], if you think that's a coincidence, well, that makes no 
sense," Fitzgerald told jurors.

Prior to Fitzgerald's rebuttal, Wells had told jurors that Libby's meeting with 
Miller came at the behest of President Bush, for the sole purpose of providing 
her with information from the highly classified National Intelligence Estimate 
about Iraq's nuclear ambitions. The leak of the NIE to Miller was aimed at 
beating back Wilson's criticism of the administration's use of prewar 
intelligence - not to disclose Plame's identity.

"The reason he took two hours to have lunch with Ms. Miller is that Mr. Libby 
understood that the vice president of the United States had directed him to go 
meet with Ms. Miller and that the president, President Bush, was behind it too,"
Wells said. "Not to say anything about Valerie [Plame] Wilson, but to discuss 
with Judith Miller, of the New York Times, information that President Bush had 
privately, lawfully declassified concerning the National Intelligence 
Estimate.... Now this is basically a secret mission that three people in the 
world know, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and 'Scooter' Libby. Because 
he goes and does what he is asked to do by the president and the vice president 
and meets with [Miller] for two hours."

But Fitzgerald fired back, telling jurors there may have been a discussion 
between Cheney and Libby shortly before the Miller meeting in which Cheney and 
Libby discussed whether to disclose Plame's identity to Miller. Furthermore, 
Fitzgerald told the jury that Cheney rewrote the talking points on July 8, 2003,
the day Libby met with Miller, during a meeting he had with Libby and Martin, 
and that the number one issue for the vice president became who was responsible 
for sending Wilson on his trip to Niger.

"The vice president picked Judith Miller for a reason," Fitzgerald told the 
jury. "They went to the St. Regis Hotel for two hours for a reason. The best way
to get a story out is to leak an exclusive. That's one of the times [July 8, 
2003], the defendant shared the employment of Wilson's wife [Plame] with the CIA
with Judith Miller. There was a focus of who sent Wilson [to Niger]. There was 
an obsession of Wilson. They felt the wife was responsible."

"The first time in his government career Mr. Libby ever heard anyone talk about 
declassifying something privately for the president to the vice president, and 
then given to Miller," Fitzgerald added. "Whatever is going on between the vice 
president and the defendant, that cloud was there. That's not something that we 
put there. That cloud is something we just can't pretend isn't there."

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