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Libby's Indictment: A Window Into the White House Cesspool

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Message Bernard Weiner
With Scooter Libby's indictment, the first shoe has been dropped in the Plamegate criminal case. Whether there will be other shoes is problematic.

Fitzgerald says the case is almost wrapped up, but that Rove is still not out of the woods yet. The fact that Rove and Cheney weren't also indicted Friday is disappointing, to be sure -- they are the real movers and shakers in the Bush Administration -- but we don't know what's going on behind the scenes.

Is Rove working out a plea bargain that will be announced in a few days? Could Fitzgerald simply not have all the ammo he needed by October 28 to bring charges against Rove and Cheney, but is rounding up that last-minute evidence? Did Fitzgerald present charge(s) to the Grand Jury against suspects other than Libby but the panel wouldn't indict? We simply don't know at this point (I'm writing this the same day as the indictment); maybe the inevitable leaks will help us understand more as the story unfolds.

What is clear is that Libby seems to have been caught redhanded concocting a false story and, under oath, sticking to those coverup lies in both his FBI interrogations and Grand Jury testimony. A definite no-no.


If Libby goes to trial, you can bet that the potential witness list will include Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Hadley, Rice, maybe Bush, and a whole host of high-ranking neo-con underlings (Wurmser, Hanna, Feith, et al.). Libby -- and Cheney and Rove -- definitely would not want that to happen. Testifying under oath in a criminal trial is a lot different than leaking your spin to the media, and you could wind up in the slammer easily on perjury charges.

Since Libby is Cheney's alter-ego (Rove = Bush), you know that Libby wasn't a solo cowboy in revealing Plame's identity; after all, as the indictment makes clear, Libby heard about Plame from Cheney. The ball of lies Libby concocted seemed designed to deflect attention away from his closest associates, so there is no way Libby would go to trial and put them in perjury-jeopardy by having them testify.

In short, this case is not going to court. As I see it, Libby has two options:

1. Libby cops a plea to one of the charges, and no trial takes place.

2. Bush pardons Libby "pre-emptively" before a trial begins. (Remember that Bush's father pre-emptively pardoned Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger before he even was charged, thus protecting Bush Sr.'s own liability in the Iran-Contra scandal. Like father like son?)

I suppose Libby could decide to go to trial; he falls on the sword and takes the sole blame, and every other endangered Administration witness called takes the Fifth. Bush then pardons Libby. But in all three instances, we find out little or nothing.


Is Fitzgerald essentially closing up shop by charging only Libby, or could there be more indictments to come?

Fitzgerald, without giving anything away, said that if he needed to employ a grand jury for future indictments, he would do so. But he gave no indication in his press conference that he had anything major working. (But, earlier, he apparently told Rove that though he would not be indicted on Friday, the investigation is still open. Who knows, maybe he just wants to keep Rove in legal, and emotional, limbo while he finishes off the case.)

Any hope that Fitzgerald's probe would somehow touch openly on Administration manipulation of lies to take the country to war in Iraq was quashed by the Special Counsel at his news conference. He made it plain that his investigation would not go there, even though the "context," as Fitzgerald put it, certainly involved the Administration's selling of that war. But there was no mention by the Special Counsel of the role of the White House Iraq Group in the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson; Libby and Rove were key members of that group.

As is clear, Libby's actions are inextricably linked to the struggle to promote the attack on Iraq; after all, Ambassador Joseph Wilson's opposition to the war, which set off the Administrations' anger, involved the Bush cabal's lies about alleged Iraqi nuclear activity.

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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
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