jump to navigation

Libby: Bush Aides ‘Trying To Set Me Up’ January 23, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News.
trackback

WASHINGTON (AP)–Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald described for jurors Tuesday a Bush administration effort to beat back early criticism of the Iraq war and accused former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of lying to investigators probing the leak of a CIA operative’s identity.

Libby’s attorney countered by painting a different White House plot, alleging that administration officials sought to blame Libby for the leak to protect Bush political adviser Karl Rove’s own disclosures.

“They’re trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” attorney Theodore Wells said, recalling a conversation between Libby and his former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, as the leak investigation heated up in 2003. “I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.”

As the trial opened with a preview of each side’s position, it was clear that the jury will be tasked with sorting through conflicting statements in a high-profile case that has opened a very public window on the behind-the-scenes Washington practice of leaking sensitive information to the news media.

The investigation began after syndicated columnist Robert Novak revealed that a chief Bush administration critic, Joseph Wilson, was married to CIA operative Valerie Plame. Rove was one of two sources for Novak’s story.

Nobody, including Rove, has been charged with the leak. Libby is accused of lying to investigators and obstructing the probe into the leak.

When the leak investigation was launched, White House officials cleared Rove of wrongdoing but stopped short of doing so for Libby. Libby, who had been asked to counter Wilson’s criticisms, felt betrayed and sought out the vice president, Wells said.

Cheney’s notes from that meeting underscore Libby’s concern, Wells said.

“Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder,” the note said, according to Wells.

The description of the White House infighting was a rare glimpse into the secretive workings of Bush’s inner circle. It also underscores how hectic and stressful the White House had become when the probe was launched.

By pointing the finger at Rove, whom he referred to as “the lifeblood of the Republican party,” Wells sought to cast Libby as a scapegoat.

“He is an innocent man and he has been wrongly and unjustly and unfairly accused,” Wells said.

Using a computerized calendar during opening statement, Fitzgerald cast Libby’s actions much differently. Fitzgerald described a tumultuous week in 2003 when he said the White House was under “direct attack” from Wilson.

Fitzgerald said Libby learned from five people – from Cheney to members of the CIA and State Department – that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA. Libby discussed that fact with reporters and others in the White House, Fitzgerald said.

“But when the FBI and grand jury asked about what the defendant did,” Fitzgerald said, “he made up a story.”

Libby told investigators he learned about Plame from NBC News reporter Tim Russert. But Fitzgerald told jurors that was clearly a lie because Libby had already been discussing the matter inside and outside of the White House.

“You can’t learn something on Thursday that you’re giving out on Monday,” Fitzgerald said.

Libby says he didn’t lie but was simply bogged down by national security issues and couldn’t remember his conversations with New York Times report Judith Miller, Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper and Russert.

Opening statements were expected to continue into Tuesday afternoon. The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: