Jury selection begins today in the Libby trial. Pachacutec will be on the scene to report for us today — in the courtroom, watching the proceedings, and taking note of how things move forward as the jury of peers that will sit in judgment of Scooter Libby is selected.
That's right, boys and girls, it's Libby time.
While we're waiting for some on scene reporting, I thought a recap of some of the Libby news from the last few days would be of interest for everyone.
– First off, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft will be answering questions live on the WaPo this afternoon at 2 pm ET. You can submit questions prior to the chat, so please do — I'm sure you can all think of some great questions which need answering about the Cheney cabal's conduct.
– Speaking of Vice President Cheney, if you haven't read Murray Waas' superb piece on the Libby case, Cheney's role in pressing Libby to get the word out on former Amb. Joe Wilson, and the looming questions about Libby's plausibility in the story that he wove on two separate occasions for FBI agents, and then later on two other separate occasions for the grand jury…and whether that constituted an attempt to obstruct and thwart a federal criminal investigation into the heart of this scandal. But Murray says it better:
In a further possible attempt to protect Cheney, Libby also testified to the grand jury that he did not believe he had discussed that Plame worked for the CIA with Cheney during the critical period that Libby was leaking such information to the press — and didn't discuss it with the vice president until after syndicated columnist Robert Novak first disclosed on July 14 that Plame was a CIA "operative."
It would be significant that Cheney and Libby only discussed Plame's CIA employment after the July 14 Novak column because instead of discussing a highly classified secret, the information would then have been considered public information, and not illegal, because Novak had disclosed it in his column.
While questioning Libby during grand jury testimony, prosecutors were incredulous regarding Libby's claims that he and Cheney had not discussed Plame's CIA employment during the critical July 6 to July 14 period. They also expressed skepticism that Libby had supposedly forgotten — even though Libby's own written notes indicated otherwise — that Cheney had told him that Plame worked for the CIA much earlier, on either June 11 or June 12. They were also disbelieving of Libby's claims that even though Libby and Cheney met several times every day after Wilson's July 6 column appeared, the two men did not discuss Plame during the subsequent eight days, not until Novak's column appeared. And finally, prosecutors were disbelieving when Libby claimed that he was simply passing on a rumor to Cheney that he had purportedly learned from Tim Russert that Plame was a CIA officer.
Libby even mused before the grand jury that Cheney may have scribbled his comments about Plame working for the CIA and having been involved in selecting her husband for his "pro bono" mission to Niger only after Novak's column appeared on July 14, eight days after Wilson's own column appeared in the New York Times.
Exasperated prosecutors indicated during more than one of Libby's grand jury appearances that these claims by Libby seemed implausible.
Here's a piece of advice for anyone who will be taking the stand in the trial: any attempt to lie stands out like a sore thumb — every bead of sweat, every twitch, every blink, every smirky mouth movement…everything…the jury will see all of it. Tell the truth, or you will end up staring at your name on a perjury indictment as well. I'm just saying… Emptywheel has some further thoughts on Murray's piece as well — great read.
– And speaking of Murray, he'll be doing some reporting for C&L during week 3 of the Libby trial. Sweet!
– The NYTimes had a few interesting thoughts on the upcoming trial:
Whatever the nature of Mr. Cheney’s remarks, if he testifies, the very fact of his appearance would underscore how the trial has created a deeply uncomfortable moment for the White House. It is a problem not only because a former official faces serious charges, but also because the subject is connected closely with how the administration may have used flawed intelligence about Iraq to justify going to war….
Mr. Libby also testified that he learned of Ms. Wilson’s identity from a third journalist, Tim Russert of NBC News, but Mr. Russert is expected to testify that that is false. Prosecutors have said that Mr. Libby learned of Ms. Wilson’s identity from administration officials including Mr. Cheney.
Looming over the proceedings is speculation that Mr. Libby would be a plausible if not likely recipient of a presidential pardon if convicted….
The judge in the case, Reggie M. Walton of Federal District Court in Washington, has so far weighed in on the side of the government in narrowing the issues to whether Mr. Libby’s statements to investigators and the grand jury violated the law.
Yep, just your every day, garden variety criminal case. Of course, the players are a bit on the high end of the power scale. And the motive behind all the action may have been covering the ass of the President and Vice President of the United States for lying the nation into a war of their own choosing. But, yep, just a criminal trial for five felony counts.
– The WaPo sums it up thusly:
When Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff goes on trial Tuesday on charges of lying about the disclosure of a CIA officer's identity, members of Washington's government and media elite will be answering some embarrassing questions as well.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's case will put on display the secret strategizing of an administration that cherry-picked information to justify war in Iraq and reporters who traded freely in gossip and protected their own interests as they worked on one of the big Washington stories of 2003.
The estimated six-week trial will pit current and former Bush administration officials against one another and, if Cheney is called as expected, will mark the first time that a sitting vice president has testified in a criminal case. It also will force the media into painful territory, with as many as 10 journalists called to testify for or against an official who was, for some of them, a confidential source….
U.S. v. Libby boils down to two drastically different versions of the same events in the spring and summer of 2003. The government alleges that Libby was involved in a concerted White House effort to discredit Plame's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had publicly accused the Bush administration of twisting information he provided on Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Wilson led a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger a year earlier and found no grounds for claims that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium there.
Eight days after Wilson went public with his claims, Plame's identity as a CIA officer appeared in Novak's column.
The defense says that neither Libby nor the White House sought to retaliate against Wilson and that Libby misspoke to investigators looking into the disclosure because he was overwhelmed by a crush of national security and other matters. He has said he had no motive to lie about the details or timing of conversations he had with reporters.
The case has largely played out in below-the-radar court hearings as prosecutors and defense lawyers have mapped the boundaries of the trial. Despite speculation at cocktail parties and in law-firm lunchrooms that Bush would pardon Libby to avoid the spectacle of a trial, the date has arrived.
Well, pass the popcorn, momma, we've got ourselves a public trial. (And, really, shouldn't everyone just take the time to sit down and read eRiposte about the Niger forgeries right now — if you haven't, you are missing out on some fantastic sleuthing and you just know there will be a quiz at some point on this…)
– According to CBS News, Libby's defense trust has raised more than $3 million dollars. It's good to have friends who invested heavily in Halliburton, isn't it?
– Speaking of Halliburton (and all roads really do seem to lead to Cheney, don't they, in this case?), Bloomberg speculates that the trial will put the spotlight on the role that the Vice President and his office played in the run up to the Iraq mess. Gee, while it would have been nice had these questions been asked prior to the start of the occupation, it's nice to see some of them finally seeing ink.
More as we get it throughout the day today.
(Photo was sent to me by KathrynInMA — thought this one was adorable.)