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Scooter Libby Resigns After Indictment

The long-awaited shoe has finally dropped in the Plame affair, with Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby indicted and submitting his resignation.

Cheney Adviser Resigns After Indictment (AP)

The vice president’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., was indicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements in the CIA leak investigation, a politically charged case that casts a harsh light on President Bush’s push to war. Libby, 55, resigned and left the White House.

Karl Rove, Bush’s closest adviser, escaped indictment Friday but remained under investigation, his legal status casting a dark cloud over a White House already in trouble. The U.S. military death toll in Iraq exceeded 2,000 this week, and the president’s approval ratings are at the lowest point since he took office in 2001.

Friday’s charges stemmed from a two-year investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald into whether Rove, Libby or any other administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame or misled investigators about their involvement.

In the end, Fitzgerald accused Libby of lying about his conversations with reporters, not outing a spy. “Mr. Libby’s story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true. It was false,” the prosecutor said. “He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And he lied about it afterward, under oath, repeatedly.”

Libby’s indictment is a political embarrassment for the president, paving the way for a possible trial renewing the focus on the administration’s faulty rationale for going to war against Iraq — the erroneous assertion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

It could also mean that Cheney, who prizes secrecy, will be called upon as a witness to explain why the administration launched a campaign against Plame’s husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson, a critic of the war who questioned Bush’s assertion that Iraq had sought nuclear material. The indictment said the vice president advised Libby that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA but the vice president was not the first administration official to tell him about it.

At a news conference, Fitzgerald said the inquiry was substantially complete, though he added ominously, “It’s not over.” He declined to comment about Rove’s involvement. Asked about Cheney, he said: “I’m not making allegations about anyone not charged in the indictment.”

Cheney Adviser Indicted in CIA Leak Probe – Vice President Accepts I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby’s Resignation ‘With Deep Regret’ (WaPo)

A federal grand jury today indicted Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, after a two-year investigation into the leak of a CIA agent’s identity but spared — at least for now –President Bush’s top political strategist, Karl Rove. Libby was indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The five-count indictment charged that he gave misleading information to the grand jury, allegedly lying about information he discussed with three news reporters. It alleged that he committed perjury before the grand jury in March 2004 and that he also lied to FBI agents investigating the case.

Shortly after the indictment was announced, Libby resigned his White House positions. Cheney said in a statement that he accepted Libby’s resignation “with deep regret.” He called his aide “one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known” and said he “has given many years of his life to public service and has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction.” Cheney added that Libby is presumed innocent until proven guilty and that “it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the charges or on any facts relating to the proceeding.”

Leaving aside the AP’s continued insistence that no WMD were found in Iraq, which is untrue, this is indeed embarrassing to the administration. If it can be proven that Libby lied before the grand jury, let alone repeatedly, he should be punished. One would think the president and vice president would have become aware of that fact at some point well before now and fired him.

That said, I’m troubled by the continued dragging out of this matter, especially Fitzgerald’s unwillingness to clear Rove and Cheney in the matter. He’s had plenty of time to either issue indictments or close the matter by now.

Much more troubling, though, is this from later in the WaPo piece:

A press release issued by the special counsel’s office said that before Plame’s name appeared in the press in July 2003, her CIA employment was classified and that her affiliation with the agency “was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community.” It said that disclosing such information “has the potential to damage the national security” by preventing the person from operating covertly in the future, compromising intelligence-gathering and endangering CIA employees and those who deal with them. However, the indictment does not charge Libby with the original alleged offense that the grand jury set out to investigate: illegally revealing the identity of a covert agent in violation of a 1982 federal law.

It is outrageous to imply that Libby violated the law and endangered an intelligence agent while at the same time admitting that evidence does not exist for the former and the latter is simply laughable.

WaPo has the full text of the U.S. v. Libby Indictment.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. The Questions Not Asked

    During the press conference this afternoon, US Prosecutor Fitzgerald emphasized that no one knew that Valerie Wilson/Plame worked for the FBI and that her cover has been blown. He said that she needed that cover and the blowing of that cover has harmed…

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  2. joe says:

    Citations please and not Rush for your claim that weapons of mass destruction were found. So far there were a couple of shells and dual purpose equipment that was known.

    I wish to tell you guys that Stalism is not the way to go, your belief that if you repeat a lie it becomes truth leads to a loser society. You gained nothing from your claims tat the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi except to undermine the values of those who wanted to be in your in group.

    If weapons of mass destruction were found they’d be in every speech by the president. If you follow the logic of your delusion he and the Republican congress are part of the coverup.

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  3. odograph says:

    One would think the president and vice president would have become aware of that fact at some point well before now and fired him.

    Agreed. A little more common ground to share between us before our next discussion 😉

    (BTW, in the televised press conference a reporter referred to Mr. Fitzgerald as being “leak free” and Mr. Fitzgerald then explained that while it was a felony for prosecutors and federal investigators to leak info, witnesses who were questioned are free to do so. This might confirm my earlier suspicion that we were seeing “defensive leaks” from (broadly speaking) the Whitehouse. Also, Mr. Fitzgerald he had asked some witnesses to keep their testimony private. This might explain why some beleaguered reporters (Tim Russet?) don’t talk … they are actually doing the right thing. This request has not been lifted yet.)

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  4. Anderson says:

    It is outrageous to imply that Libby violated the law and endangered an intelligence agent while at the same time admitting that evidence does not exist for the former and the latter is simply laughable.

    Sigh. JJ, you seem a little touchy on this, but let me try:

    The IIPA criminalizes a very specific kind of disclosure about a very specific kind of agent.

    One’s status can be classified without the disclosure of same’s being a crime under the IIPA.

    Thus, Libby may have blown an agent’s cover without violating the IIPA.

    If it wasn’t a crime, why not come clean in the first place? Possibly the congenital arrogance typical of this Administration (& its predecessor, etc.). Or possibly because Libby feared an Espionage Act prosecution.

    Kevin Drum notes Fitzgerald saying an Act prosecution would’ve been too tricky. That might not have been the case had Libby spilled his guts.

    So Libby shied away from the frying pan and fell into the fire.

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  5. White House fears indictment for Libby

    White House officials braced for the possibility that Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide would be

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  6. Herb says:

    As I watched Fitzgerld today in his marathon news conf. I saw a typical prosecutor that was defeated in his charge of proving the “Outing” of Plame and turning to an “anything” charge to vindicate his existance as a special prosecutor.
    I have never seen or heard of any prosecutor ever admiting he was wrong or made a mistake even when there was ample evidence to show he was wrong or made an error.

    To think that after 22 months and several millions of dollars, Fitzgerld had nothing but a last ditch indictment to save his own rear end in his attempt to “save face”. This entire fiasco reinforces my thoughts that we have people who call themselves Americans, doing every low down dirty trick in the books to bring down our government in any way possible. There is a warped mentality in the US that “bringing down our Government” is a sport that is played for the amusement of the feeding frenzy media and the oposition party.

    It is sad indeed that those partaking in this sport give no thought to the damage and reprocussions to America brought on by their selfish desires.

    To all those who say ” This is in the name of Justice and the enforcement of the law” I simply say BS. Fitzgerld did not have a news confrence today, He was giving an Audition

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  7. odograph says:

    I saw a typical prosecutor that was defeated in his charge of proving the “Outing” of Plame and turning to an “anything” charge to vindicate his existance as a special prosecutor.

    This contradicts what Mr. Fitzgerald said himself.

    I think he walked a very clear and rational line, based on the facts available – and the case that can currently be made.

    I honestly think you’d do better by trying to understand him, than by disregarding his statements.

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  8. Anderson says:

    Odograph, don’t waste your time. All I’m awaiting from Herb is proof that Fitzgerald’s in with the Freemasons, or the Elders of Zion, or the Illuminati.

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  9. […] Scooter Libby Resigns After Indictment. […]

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  10. Herb says:

    Odo:

    Aparantly you did not read past the first paragraph. I put Fitzgerld in the same class as every prosecutor I have ever seen or heard. Every prosecutor I have ever seen is a self centered, selfish, ego maniac who only serves himself for the furtherance of his own perverted intrest.

    Did you honestly expect Fitzgerld to say anything to the contrary. If you did, then you are a damned fool

    And Anderson, You and your lefty loony friends must be in your full glory. Your kind “just can’t get over it” Gore and Kerry LOST, and thats it. Your snide remarks are a joy for everyones ears, to bad that only your extremist friends listen. As I see your comments, you are one of those that I mention in the 3rd and 4th paragraph that would glory with the downfall of our government.

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  11. odograph says:

    I can’t find it in the on-line archives (they seem to include the main statement but not Q&A), but one good moment from Mr. Fitzgerald was when he talked as “the light of justice” or something.

    I’ve been going on about something similar in the last couple days – truth in a democracy.

    Basically Herb, remember the words “Truth, Justice, and the American Way?”

    … you don’t sound like you’re for us. Us truth, justice, and democracy loving Americans, that is.

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  12. odograph says:

    Sorry “truth as the light…”

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  13. Herb says:

    Odo:

    You have a point, but what I have seen of prosecutors in my lifetime, “Truth, Justice and the American Way” to a prosecutor is “Their Way or the Highway”.

    Just how many times have you seen prosecutors withold evidense, lie, and pull underhanded tricks in order to get an indictement or a conviction? And, How many times have you seen prosecutors make every attempt to keep someone in prison that was proven innocent with DNA or other unrefutable evidense
    Prosecutors have only one ambition, that is to further thier own agendas and to hell with anyone, And, remember, they are LAWYERS. Do you trust lawyers?

    Every prosecutor I have ever seen or heard of live by their own rule, “That you are Guilty until proven innocent”. That is certainly Not the American way, nor truthful, and definitely not Justice.

    I really hope that you don’t suscribe to the un American and underhanded ethics of prosecutors.

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