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.
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 Ã¢€” 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.”
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.