Fitzgerald investigation: Libby Guilty of Lying


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

March 7, 2007

Libby Guilty of Lying in C.I.A. Leak Case

WASHINGTON, March 6 ‹ I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice 
President Dick Cheney, was convicted on Tuesday of lying to a grand jury and to 
F.B.I. agents investigating the leak of the identity of a C.I.A. operative in 
the summer of 2003 amid a fierce public dispute over the war in Iraq.

Mr. Libby, 56, who once wielded great authority at the top levels of government,
is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since 
the Iran-contra scandals of the 1980s.

The jury rejected Mr. Libby¹s claims of memory lapses, convicting him of four 
felony counts, obstruction of justice, giving false statements to the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation and committing perjury twice before the grand jury. The 
11-member jury acquitted Mr. Libby on an additional count of making false 
statements to the F.B.I.

As the verdict was read aloud by the jury forewoman after nearly 10 days of 
deliberations, Mr. Libby grimaced briefly before resuming his expressionless 
demeanor. His wife, Harriet Grant, sitting a few feet away in the spectator 
section, began shaking visibly and wept briefly before composing herself.

Dana Perino, the deputy White House press secretary, said President Bush watched
the news of the verdict on television in the Oval Office. She said Mr. Bush 
respected the jury¹s verdict but ³was saddened for Scooter Libby and his 
family,² using Mr. Libby¹s nickname.

Mr. Cheney had a similar reaction. ³As I have said before, Scooter has served 
our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public 
service,² he said.

The verdict meant the end of a nearly four-year investigation into the leak of 
the identity of the Central Intelligence Agency officer, Valerie Wilson. The 
inquiry raised fundamental questions about the reasons for invading Iraq, 
exposed some of the unseen influence of Mr. Cheney¹s office and changed the 
landscape of relations between journalists and official sources, as many of 
Washington¹s prominent political reporters were forced to testify in a criminal 

Mr. Libby¹s chief lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., said he would file papers 
asking the judge to grant a new trial. If that fails, Mr. Wells told reporters, 
he will appeal the verdict to the federal appeals court. He said Mr. Libby was 
³totally innocent and that he did not do anything wrong.²

Mr. Libby, standing at his side, made no comment. Prosecutors had charged that 
Mr. Libby had lied when he swore that he had not discussed the identity of Ms. 
Wilson in the summer of 2003 with two reporters, Judith Miller, formerly of The 
New York Times, and Matthew Cooper, formerly of Time magazine.

The prosecution also said Mr. Libby concocted a story that he learned of Ms. 
Wilson¹s identity in a conversation with Tim Russert of NBC News on July 10 or 
11 in 2003 to hide the fact that he had already learned about her identity from 
several fellow administration officials.

One of the 11 jurors who spoke publicly after the verdict said that there was 
great sympathy for Mr. Libby in the jury room, but that the case presented by 
the prosecution was overwhelming.

Judge Reggie B. Walton, who presided over the four weeks of testimony and 
presentation of evidence, set sentencing for June 5. Under complicated 
sentencing guidelines that are no longer mandatory, Judge Walton has wide 
discretion in setting a prison term.

But lawyers not involved in the case who are experienced in the issue of 
sentencing calculated that under the guidelines, Mr. Libby might be sentenced to
20 to 27 months.

Judge Walton allowed Mr. Libby to remain free on bail. The defense¹s plans to 
ask for a retrial and then appeal the verdict mean that it would be many months 
before Mr. Libby would be required to go to prison. It also would provide a 
window for Mr. Bush to pardon Mr. Libby, an issue about which the White House 
has been silent but one that quickly became a topic of speculation.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, issued a statement calling 
on Mr. Bush to promise that he would not ³pardon Libby for his criminal 

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, said that while gratified by the verdict,
³it¹s sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who 
worked in the Office of Vice President, obstructed justice and lied under oath.²

In remarks to reporters outside the courthouse, Mr. Fitzgerald also addressed at
length the criticism of his decision to prosecute Mr. Libby on charges of lying 
to investigators while not charging anybody with leaking Ms. Wilson¹s name to 

Ms. Wilson¹s name first appeared in a column by Robert Novak on July 14, 2003, 
just days after The New York Times published an Op-Ed article by her husband, 
Joseph C. Wilson IV.

In his article, Mr. Wilson asserted that the Bush White House had willfully 
distorted intelligence about Iraq¹s efforts to acquire uranium in Africa to 
bolster the case for going to war.

Testimony at the trial showed that Mr. Wilson¹s criticisms had alarmed and 
angered Bush administration officials because they amounted to a direct attack 
on what had been the principal reason for invading Iraq: the claim that Saddam 
Hussein had an active program of developing unconventional weapons.

Critics said Ms. Wilson¹s identity as a C.I.A. officer was leaked to punish her 
husband for his criticisms.

At the time Mr. Fitzgerald was named special prosecutor in the leak inquiry, 
investigators had already learned that Mr. Novak¹s sources were Richard L. 
Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, and Karl Rove, the president¹s chief 
political adviser.

In remarks to reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Fitzgerald said he nonetheless had no 
choice but to seek an indictment when he took over the investigation in December
2003, because he also had information that Mr. Libby had told a false story to 
the F.B.I. and to the grand jury about his conversation with Mr. Russert.

³It¹s inconceivable that any responsible prosecutor would walk away from the 
facts that we saw in December 2003 and say, ŒThere¹s nothing here, move on,¹ ² 
Mr. Fitzgerald said.

³We cannot tolerate perjury,² he said. ³The truth is what drives our judicial 
system. If people don¹t come forward and tell the truth, we have no hope of 
making the judicial system work.²

Mr. Fitzgerald also faced criticism for forcing several reporters to testify 
about their confidential conversations with officials by threatening to have 
them jailed for contempt.

In the case of Ms. Miller, then of The Times, he had her jailed for 85 days 
until she agreed to testify before the grand jury.

Previous leak investigations had ended in failure after reporters refused to 
cooperate with officials, saying they needed to protect sources to do their 

But Mr. Fitzgerald¹s tactics, with the support of the courts, changed the 
landscape of reporter-source relations in the capital and elsewhere.

³You could not bring this case without talking to reporters,² Mr. Fitzgerald 
said. He said any prosecutors should regard the act of forcing reporters to 
discuss their conversations with sources as ³a last resort in unusual 

This case fit that description he said because the reporters were witnesses to 
Mr. Libby¹s crimes, and ³we do not think that what Mr. Libby was telling 
reporters was whistle-blowing.²

Mr. Wilson, who has frequently expressed outrage over the leak of the identity 
of his wife, who is also known as Valerie Plame, said Tuesday that he thought 
the news media had behaved badly in the whole episode.

³I think one of the subplots in this whole trial was how the press was used and 
abused by this administration,² Mr. Wilson said in a conference call with 

He said reporters had been used to deceive people about the reasons for going to
war and then to harm his wife¹s career by blowing her cover.

The convictions were based on Mr. Libby¹s statements to the grand jury about his
conversations with Mr. Russert and Mr. Cooper, as well as Mr. Libby¹s statements
to the F.B.I. about Mr. Russert.

The jury acquitted Mr. Libby on one count charging him with making a false 
statement to the bureau about his conversation with Mr. Cooper.

Kirby D. Behre, a Washington lawyer and sentencing expert, said the sentencing 
guidelines suggested a term of about two years, whether Mr. Libby had been 
convicted on one or all five counts.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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