The Scooter Libby Headline for Day One
There's been lots of blogging coverage of Scooter Libby's first day of trial. In addition to those I mentioned in earlier posts, Christy at Firedoglake who was in the real (not media) courtroom posts this wrap-up.
As to Ted Wells' opening argument, I'm a bit surprised he chose to go after Rove so hard. It leads me to believe Rove won't be a witness. If Libby were to call him, surely he'd be a hostile witness after today's opening. I don't think Ted Wells wants to go mano - a - mano with Rove, not with Fitz backing Rove and Rove not impeachable on grounds he got a deal. There's no evidence Fitzgerald gave Rove anything for his multiple grand jury appearances.
Until today, Wells had a clean defense: Libby forgot and didn't intend to mislead investigators or the grand jury. Wilson's wife was just a speck in the grand scheme of things. Now, he's put Libby in the midst of an alleged frame-up. That's going to be a tough sell to the jury. But, given the Judge's refusal to allow a decent instruction on the principles of memory, maybe Wells needed a backup defense.
But that's not the headline for today. The real headline is much bigger and with far graver consequences to Libby. More below the fold.
The big news in today's proceeding happened during Fitzgerald's opening argument. Think Progress caught it right away from MSNBC's David Schuster.
“Scooter Libby destroyed a note from Vice President Cheney about their conversations and about how Vice President Cheney wanted the Wilson matter handled.”
The timing is important: According to Fitzgerald, Libby destroyed the document the day before his first interview by FBI investigators.
If this is true, Libby's memory defense is DOA. You can't claim "oops, I forgot" after you destroy evidence. Just ask Martha Stewart.
From the transcript of Shuster's report:
During opening arguments in the case against Scooter Libby, prosecutors outlined evidence about Vice President Cheney’s role in the leak of CIA operative Valerie Wilson that is new and will astound a number of people, even those who have been following this case. The prosecutors said the evidence will make it clear that the very first government official who told Scooter Libby about Valerie Wilson, the wife of a critic and the fact that she was working at the CIA, the very first person who told him that was Vice Ppresident Cheney. The prosecutor said the evidence will also show Vice President Cheney himself directed Scooter Libby to essentially go around protocol and deal with the press and handle press himself, that Scooter Libby should be the one talking to the press to try to beat back the criticism of administration critic Joe Wilson.
Prosecutors also revealed today that Vice President Cheney himself wrote out for Scooter Libby what Scooter Libby should say in a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. It was during that conversation when Scooter Libby provided confirmation to Cooper that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA. In addition, there were some blockbuster revelations this morning about Scooter Libby’s actions before he testified to the FBI about the original leak. According to prosecutors, the evidence will show that Scooter Libby destroyed a note from Vice President Cheney about their conversations and about how Vice President Cheney wanted the Wilson matter handled. (my emphasis.)
There was other information that came out about Vice President Cheney. The prosecutors talked about the State of the Union speech where the president made a false claim about reasons for war with Iraq — the idea that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. When that came out, and the white house was trying to figure out who should take responsibility, according to prosecutors, Vice President Cheney repeatedly urged the Director of the CIA George Tenet to take full responsibility and that no blame whatsoever should land on the president or Office of the Vice President.
Crooks and Liars has the video of Shuster's later report in which he says the meaning of Fitz's statement that Libby "wiped out" the Cheney note to Libby isn't clear. As in, maybe he meant Libby forgot the note the day before his FBI interview? I'm skeptical. I think in context, "wiped out" means "destroyed."
The question I'm left with is, what was the document Libby allegedly destroyed? A hand-written note from Cheney? An e-mail?
Whatever it was, Libby's lawyers got it in discovery. Does anyone who was at the opening know if Wells addressed it in his opening statements?
Update: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff thinks it's more likely now Rove will be called by Libby's lawyers. I still don't think so. It's easier for Libby to attack someone the jury doesn't get to hear from. Also, Libby's issue isn't who Rove told, but whether the White House decided to make Libby the sacrificial lamb in order to protect Rove. Rove isn't the best witness for that.
Update: John Dickerson at Slate has an interesting wrap-up of the opening arguments, particularly as to Wells' style and contrast between Wells and Fitzgerald.
|< Defense Attorney Challenges Replacement of U.S. Attorneys | State of the Union Open Thread >|