Libby Trial: Government Opening Arguments – Assessment

If every single statement made by Patrick Fitgerald in the government’s opening argument, with the exception of the repeated description of Libby’s statements as “lies,” were proven, it strikes me that Libby still could be exonerated.

Libby knew about the Wilson-Plame connection as the source of the Niger trip long before the NYT op-ed and heard it repeatedly. At the point he was talking to the press about that fact, it was quite likely simply background knowledge in his mind.

Furthermore, the fact that Libby repeatedly spoke on background and, in one case, went so far as to hide behind the technically true but misleading “former Hill staffer” label, is hardly evidence of sinister behavior. Wanting to avoid vice presidential fingerprints on a hit piece is rather standard politics, not evidence of illegal intent.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. clarice says:

    And something that questioning of reporters should establish is normal procedure.
    A number of the key articles leading up to the investigation were deliberately falsely sourced (particularly the WaPo piece suggesting one WH official said 2 WH officials told 6 reporters). After at least one revision and tons of accusations against Rove and Libby it turned out to have been made by some low level pressie who didn’t know what he was talking about.
    Just saying–we may all get to see how sausage (political news) is made in this town and perhaps Fitzgerald will learn a thing or two in the process.

  2. bain says:

    Come on, he ‘forgot’ the pushback started before the op-ed? He ‘forgot’ the briefing from the CIA guy? He ‘forgot’ all the pushback he did with the reporters and getting Scottie to deny, deny? And then when he started to pass it around … he ‘forgot’ he and the OVP did all that – and was startled by that info later that week?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Nothing I got from the opening argument had him directly telling the grand jury that he hadn’t learned the information previously, just that he had told various reporters that. Further, he claims to have heard from reporters about Plame’s identity, which he in fact did.

  4. ken says:

    James, what role are you taking here?

    Are you a dispassionate observer, reporting the facts for those of us not there?

    Or are you embracing the conservative ideology that the law applies only to others, like liberals, and using your blog in support of that ideology?

    Seems to me you are doing the latter.

  5. James Joyner says:


    I’m simultaneously live-blogging the trial, giving my best impression of what’s happening, and doing analysis of what it all means. My role isn’t to be dispassionate–I’m a commentator, not a reporter–just fair.

    And I’m not arguing that the law doesn’t apply to Libby, just questioning whether he actually broke it. My very post on the Plame controversy said that, if true, people should be jailed and the president impeached. It turned out that none of the original charges were founded.

  6. bain says:

    It turned out that none of the original charges were founded.

    Still sticking to that? Wells just refuted you.