Watergate II : Libby trial will bring in Cheney


Richard Moore

    If Libby's case goes to trial, Addington and Hannah are
    only two of the many White House officials -- including
    Cheney himself -- who could be forced to testify about how
    they handled intelligence, dealt with the media and built
    the argument for the Iraq war, according to people close
    to the case.

Again, the indictment appears to be a well set trap.
    The aide said a trial would be "mostly contained" to
    Cheney's office, adding that most senior Cheney aides
    "will have to testify." 

Only "mostly" contained? - very encouraging.



Trial Could Pit Libby's Interests Against Bush's 

By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig 
Washington Post Staff Writers 
Tuesday, November 1, 2005; A02 

Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, is expected to plead not guilty to
charges that he lied and obstructed justice in the CIA
leak probe when he is arraigned Thursday, setting the
stage for a possible courtroom fight in which Libby's
interests could collide with those of the Bush White
House, according to several Republican officials.

Libby, who was charged with five felonies, is putting the
finishing touches on a new legal and public relations
team. It will argue in court and in public that he is
guilty of nothing more than having a foggy memory and a
hectic schedule, according to people close to him. He is
scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court before Judge
Reggie B. Walton.

As Libby prepared for a court battle, Cheney made plans
for life without his closest adviser. Cheney yesterday
named longtime counsel David Addington as his new chief of
staff and John Hannah as national security adviser. Both
were questioned in the Libby indictment.

If Libby's case goes to trial, Addington and Hannah are
only two of the many White House officials -- including
Cheney himself -- who could be forced to testify about how
they handled intelligence, dealt with the media and built
the argument for the Iraq war, according to people close
to the case. Republicans worry that Libby's court fight
will force President Bush to deal with the prospect of top
officials testifying and embarrassing disclosures of how
the White House operates and treats critics.

It is also possible, they note, that Libby will strike a
plea agreement and avert a public trial.

"Obviously, the best thing for the Republican Party is to
have this all end as quickly as possible," said former
representative Vin Weber (R-Minn.), a close White House
adviser. "But at the end of the day, you cannot ask a guy
who all of us think is an upstanding and honorable guy to
give up his legal rights."

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald initially set out to
determine whether any administration official had
illegally disclosed the identity of undercover CIA
operative Valerie Plame as part of an effort to discredit
her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson
had harshly criticized the administration's use of
intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. After a
22-month investigation, a federal grand jury charged Libby
with lying and obstructing justice during the probe.

Criminal defense lawyers say Cheney would probably be
called as a witness in any trial, to verify and recount
the conversation he had with Libby on June 12, 2003. At
that time, Cheney allegedly told Libby that Plame worked
in the CIA's Counterproliferation Division.

A senior White House adviser, speaking on the condition of
anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic, said the Bush
team believes it dodged a bullet when Fitzgerald charged
only Libby on Friday and then pointedly said in his news
conference that the indictment should not be read as a
condemnation of the war or its run-up.

The aide said a trial would be "mostly contained" to
Cheney's office, adding that most senior Cheney aides
"will have to testify." Still, a number of White House
aides will probably be summoned to testify, which could be
a political and practical distraction for Bush well into
2006, another person close to the White House said.

The senior adviser said the situation will become a much
bigger problem if Rove is indicted.

Fitzgerald appeared prepared to indict Rove heading into
last week for making false statements, according to three
people close to the probe. But that changed during a
private meeting last Tuesday between Fitzgerald and Rove's
attorney, Robert Luskin. It's not clear precisely what
happened in that meeting, but two sources briefed on it
said Luskin discussed new information that gave Fitzgerald

That evening, Fitzgerald's investigative team called Adam
Levine, a member of the White House communications team at
the time of the leak. An investigator questioned Levine
about an e-mail Rove had sent Levine on July 11, 2003 --
the same day Rove discussed Plame with Time magazine
reporter Matthew Cooper, according to Dan French, Levine's

The e-mail, which did not mention Plame, ended with Rove
telling Levine to come see him. The investigator wanted
details of that conversation, which took place within an
hour or so of the Cooper-Rove chat, according to a person
familiar with the situation. Levine told investigators
they did not discuss Plame.

Part of Rove's defense has been that he was very busy man
who simply forgot to tell investigators about his
conversation with Cooper. If the e-mail "was exculpatory
at all, it was most likely a small piece of a much larger
mosaic of information," French said.

A source familiar with the discussion between Rove and
Fitzgerald said the Tuesday meeting was about a lot more
than "just an e-mail from Levine." He would not elaborate.

Rove remains a focus of the CIA leak probe. He has told
friends it is possible he still will be indicted for
providing false statements to the grand jury.

"Everyone thinks it is over for Karl and they are wrong,"
a source close to Rove said. The strategist's legal and
political advisers "by no means think the part of the
investigation concerning Karl is closed."

Cooper's attorney, Dick Sauber, said Fitzgerald certainly
meant it when he told Luskin last week that Rove remains
in legal jeopardy and under investigation. "It wouldn't
surprise me knowing how careful he is and how much he
doesn't want to be seen as trigger-happy, that he is going
through each of those things [that Rove presented] and
seeing if they can be verified or not," Sauber said.

"But no prosecutor wants to be embarrassed in court by
something he didn't know. And no prosecutor, especially
Pat Fitzgerald, wants to be seen as unfair -- especially
in this kind of matter with so much at stake."

Yesterday, Wilson delivered a speech in which he said Rove
should lose his job regardless of whether he knowingly
used Plame's name or revealed her CIA connection. "This is
a firing offense," he said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan rejected that idea
and said Rove was at work, engaged in meetings and
enjoying Bush's full confidence. McClellan said the White
House will not comment on the leak because the
investigation is ongoing and it does not want to prejudice
the Libby case.

McClellan, who famously told reporters and the public in
2003 that Libby and Rove had assured him they had no roles
in the leak, also defended his own credibility. McClellan
said he wishes he could say more, but that he is confident
he has been honest and forthcoming. People close to the
investigation said Libby and Rove misled the White House

Fitzgerald's original grand jury was released from service
Friday, after its term expired. Courthouse officials said
he is likely to "borrow" a grand jury already convened to
investigate additional crimes if needed, and could wrap up
his investigation in less than two weeks. It is not
uncommon for a prosecutor to quickly present his case to a
new grand jury and ask for an indictment, they said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company 

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