Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers To Senate Intelligence Panel
All the major papers are speculating about indictments coming down today in the Novak-Plame-Libby-Rove affair, with most focused on Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. The most interesting, and damning, piece comes from National Journal.
Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.
Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration’s case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney’s office — and Libby in particular — pushed to be included in Powell’s speech, the sources said.
The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president’s office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.
Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community. In April 2004, the Intelligence Committee released a report that concluded that “much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency for inclusion in Secretary Powell’s [United Nation’s] speech was overstated, misleading, or incorrect.”
Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee say that their investigation was hampered by the refusal of the White House to turn over key documents, although Republicans said the documents were not as central to the investigation. In addition to withholding drafts of Powell’s speech — which included passages written by Libby — the administration also refused to turn over to the committee contents of the president’s morning intelligence briefings on Iraq, sources say. These documents, known as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, are a written summary of intelligence information and analysis provided by the CIA to the president.
An administration spokesperson said that the White House was justified in turning down the document demand from the Senate, saying that the papers reflected “deliberative discussions” among “executive branch principals” and were thus covered under longstanding precedent and executive privilege rules. Throughout the president’s five years in office, the Bush administration has been consistently adamant about not turning internal documents over to Congress and other outside bodies.
At the same time, however, administration officials said in interviews that they cannot recall another instance in which Cheney and Libby played such direct personal roles in denying foreign policy papers to a congressional committee, and that in doing so they overruled White House staff and lawyers who advised that the materials should be turned over to the Senate panel.
Most, if not all, of this can be explained by the administration’s nearly obsessive impulse to declare executive privilege on virtually any work product. Still, this does not look good.
Regardless, it’s clear that people on one or both sides of the case are violating the law in these leaks to the press. My guess is that won’t be investigated.
Lawyers in the C.I.A. leak case said Thursday that they expected I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, to be indicted on Friday, charged with making false statements to the grand jury. Karl Rove, President Bush’s senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, will not be charged on Friday, but will remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case said. As a result, they said, the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, was likely to extend the term of the federal grand jury beyond its scheduled expiration on Friday.
As rumors coursed through the capital, Mr. Fitzgerald gave no public signal of how he intended to proceed, further intensifying the anxiety that has gripped the White House and left partisans on both sides of the political aisle holding their breath. Mr. Fitzgerald’s preparations for a Friday announcement were shrouded in secrecy, but advanced amid a flurry of behind-the-scenes discussions that left open the possibility of last-minute surprises. As the clock ticked down on the grand jury, people involved in the investigation did not rule out the disclosure of previously unknown aspects of the case.
White House officials said their presumption was that Mr. Libby would resign if indicted, and he and Mr. Rove took steps to expand their legal teams in preparation for a possible court battle.
Among the many unresolved mysteries is whether anyone in addition to Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove might be charged and in particular whether Mr. Fitzgerald would name the source who first provided the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer to Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist. Mr. Novak identified the officer in a column published July 14, 2003.
Decision Expected Today in CIA Leak Inquiry (WaPo, A1)
The White House, District Court officials and two potential targets of the CIA leak investigation were making preparations yesterday for the possible announcement of indictments by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald today, according to several sources familiar with the investigation. Two sources said I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, was shopping for a white-collar criminal lawyer amid expectations of those close to the case that he might be indicted for providing false statements or other charges. At the same time, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove began assembling a public relations team in the event that he is indicted. The New York Times reported last night that Rove would not be charged today but would remain under investigation.
At the White House, aides scrambled to put the finishing touches on a political strategy to respond to the fallout from any criminal charges, including the likelihood of staff changes. A Republican consultant with close White House ties said Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. had canceled at least two trips in the past week and had met with Bush over the weekend to focus on how to react to the grand jury’s decisions. “These will be very, very dark days for the White House,” the consultant quoted Card as saying.
The federal grand jury investigating the CIA leak case prepared for a final day of deliberations as a special prosecutor huddled with his legal team Thursday about whether to seek indictments against administration figures for leaking the name of a covert operative.
Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald was expected to announce today the results of his 22-month investigation, and there were growing expectations that one or more administration figures would be charged with wrongdoing. The grand jury was expected to meet this morning, with an announcement by Fitzgerald expected about midday. Other than being spotted getting a shoeshine at a barbershop near his Washington office, Fitzgerald made no other public appearances.
The White House Ã¢€” and lawyers for White House advisors Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Ã¢€” braced for the possibility of indictments, although there were signs that Fitzgerald was keeping them guessing to the bitter end. People close to the investigation said that, as of Thursday afternoon, Rove had received no notice that he was going to be indicted. Some observers took that as a sign that the longtime Bush strategist might emerge from the investigation without being charged. But others said that Fitzgerald might be waiting until today to alert those being charged to reduce the chances of last-minute leaks about his intentions.
A bit late for that, I’m afraid.
A rather different take here:
With Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald poised to bring charges today against at least one Bush administration official in the CIA-leak investigation, White House officials were told the probe may not be over.
Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser and deputy White House chief of staff, was informed yesterday evening that he may not be charged today but remains in legal jeopardy, according to a person briefed on the matter. Mr. Fitzgerald, who meets with jurors this morning, has zeroed in on potential wrongdoing by I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and is likely to charge Mr. Libby at least with making false statements. The testimony of reporters who have been witnesses in the case has contradicted Mr. Libby’s public statements.
Mr. Fitzgerald appeared still to be pondering whether to charge Mr. Rove and has notified the political strategist that he remains under investigation.
It would be amusing, indeed, if no indictments came down after all the speculation.
Regardless, though, these investigations all take on the character of an NCAA recruiting violations case, dragging onfor far, far too long with the process itself being the punishment. In both, reputations are damaged and much time and effort have to be devoted by those under scrutiny defending themselves publically from leaks and sheer idle speculation. I don’t blame Fitzgerald for this; it seems to be the nature of the beast, though.
Update (0758): Steven Taylor adds:
Of course, if Libby (or anyone else) did lie to the grand jury, thatÃ¢€™s a crime, and is problematic. Still, there is something wrong with creating a situation in which the mechanism by which the conditions for committing the crime were artificially created in the first place. In this, it would appear that if indictments are handed down they will be for crimes that would not have existed if the grand jury had not existed.
Quite true. That doesn’t make such a crime less serious but it is a bizarre circumstance to have the state essentially create a situation wherein a crime may be committed. That’s especially true when the process drags on for over two years and witnesses are called repeatedly.