Libby Attempts to Bring Bush onto the Bus

Team Libby told the jury in opening argument that the White House initially threw Scooter Libby "under the bus" in an attempt to shield Karl Rove. They did this by having then-White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan initially clear Rove but not Libby.

Then, according to Libby, Vice President Cheney intervened on Scooter's behalf and directed McClellan to also clear Libby. According to White House Press Conference tapes, McClellan did so. The jury has now heard portions of those tapes.

How does Bush enter into this? Jason Leopold and Mark Ash write at Truthout that Ted Wells' purpose in bringing a handwritten note of Cheney's before the jury while David Addington was on the stand was not only to show Libby was upset about Rove being cleared but not him, but also to show how the Veep scratched out "this pres" from his note to McClellan. Read Team Libby's way, the note in original form would read:

"not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy this Pres. asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others." The words "this Pres." were crossed out and replaced with "that was," but are still clearly legible in the document.

As to the meat grinder comment,

The reference to "the meat grinder" was understood to be the Washington press corps, Wells said. The "protect one staffer" reference, Wells said, was White House Political Adviser Karl Rove, whose own role in the leak and the attacks on Wilson are well documented.

Bush has always said he didn't know about any of his officials' plan to attack Joe Wilson.

....Cheney's notes, which were introduced into evidence Tuesday during Libby's perjury and obstruction-of-justice trial, call into question the truthfulness of President Bush's vehement denials about his prior knowledge of the attacks against Wilson. The revelation that Bush may have known all along that there was an effort by members of his office to discredit the former ambassador begs the question: Was the president also aware that senior members of his administration compromised Valerie Plame's undercover role with the CIA?

Leopold and Ash write that Wells is trying to link Cheney's note to the 250 pages of missing emails (background here). They write:

Moreover, Wells insinuated Tuesday that Cheney's note [seemingly] implicating President Bush in the discrediting of Wilson was one of the 250 pages of emails and documents the White House failed to turn over to investigators who had been probing the leak for more than two years.

Wells insinuated that Cheney's note, because it contained a reference to "this Pres." may have been an explosive piece of evidence that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who at the time of the leak was White House counsel, withheld from investigators, citing executive privilege. Addington told Wells that when subpoenas were first issued by the Justice Department in the fall of 2003, demanding documents and emails relating to Wilson and Plame be preserved, he was given Cheney's notes and immediately recognized the importance of what the vice president had written. Addington said he immediately entered into a "discussion" with Gonzales and Terry O'Donnell, Cheney's counsel, about the note, but Addington did not say whether it was turned over to investigators in the early days of the probe.

Fitz argues that McClellan's acceding to Cheney's demand to clear Libby shows that contrary to Wells' argument in opening statements, Libby wasn't thrown under the bus.

Mr. Fitzgerald has alleged that Mr. Libby was involved in helping craft Mr. McClellan's language. But he noted that the statement publicly clearing Mr. Libby also put him in a private bind: Mr. Libby was concerned that he had leaked classified information about Ms. Plame, so he set out to construct a story that would insulate him from being charged with that crime, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

"He has got to tell a story consistent with what the White House has told the world," Mr. Fitzgerald said Thursday. "He is locked in with his feet planted in cement."

Judge Walton has been doing his utmost to be fair to Libby, but Fitzgerald's argument makes a lot of sense. Truthout concludes,

Wells's line of questioning is an attempt to shift the blame for the leak squarely onto the shoulders of the White House - a tactic aimed at confusing the jury - and will likely unravel because it has nothing to do with the perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges at the heart of the case against Libby. Still, Tuesday's testimony implicating President Bush may be the most important fact that has emerged from the trial thus far.

I would just note that Tuesday's testimony implicating Bush is not a "fact." It's Team Libby's interpretation of what Cheney meant when he crossed out "this pres." It remains to be seen whether Cheney will back up this interpretation.

Update: LA Times on how Libby's defense clashes with the White House position.

Christy at Firedoglake recaps the week at the trial.

Update: Rory O'Connor, live-blogging for MediaBloggers, has a good account of FBI Agent Bonds' testimony yesterday about Libby's statements to FBI agents in the fall of 2003.

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    It never ceases to amaze me that.... (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by A Citizen on Fri Feb 02, 2007 at 11:09:36 AM EST
    ...we, by we I mean everyone MSM, citizens, ReichWing, are still whistllng by the graveyard.

    It seems clear that the President and his men outed a CIA spy whose network was working to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.


    All anybody wants to talk about is trivial issues of who told PumpkinHad what and when.

    The President and his men are traitors in time of war. They should be marched to the gallows and hung until they are dead.

    Libby Trial (none / 0) (#2)
    by mjvpi on Fri Feb 02, 2007 at 03:40:18 PM EST
    Go back to Mr. Fitzgerald's first press conference. This trial is not about the big picture. It is about Mr. Libby's actions during the investigation. Congress is where the other stuff needs to be looked at.

    Servant and Master (none / 0) (#3)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Fri Feb 02, 2007 at 04:18:04 PM EST
    I saw 'this Pres' saying he didn't know anything and we wouldn't find the leakers.
    I also saw the pic of Karl sitting in front of the airplane wheel.

    I can't believe he didn't know. I must believe he lied to the GJ or this would all be over now. His troubles always get 'fixed'.

    Bush is in this - just as Scooter follows Cheney, Karl and W are servant and Master.

    Defraud by "honest services"? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Screwloose on Sat Feb 03, 2007 at 08:22:39 AM EST
    What's the DC Circuit's view on whether fraud may be committed under an "honest services" theory?

    Can [executive] branch officials disseminate a known lie [WMD], after it's known to them to be a lie, to the the [legislative] branch and the public [electorate, taxpayers, soldiers, etc.] in order to remain in office and continue an illegal act or acts [homicides, etc.], which benefits them [affiliates, etc.], directly or indirectly, tangibly or intangibly?

    "We're lying to you for your own good," when it's really "We're lying to you for OUR own good," - - who as the chief law enforcement officers in the executive branch still thinks like that after Nixon and Clinton, and doesn't know it's committing an act of fraud, a crime, in a democracy?


    more DC Cir. law question (none / 0) (#5)
    by Screwloose on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 10:53:56 AM EST
    And, is there specific performance of an oral contract for a pardon?

    more DC Cir. law question (none / 0) (#6)
    by Screwloose on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 12:20:01 PM EST
    How better to guarantee transparency in our system of checks and balances among three co-equal branches of government than trial by a jury in a public courtroom? Hard to imagine a more classic example of detrimental reliance than Libby.