Tuesday, March 06, 2007

 

Special: Scooter Libby GUILTY

After ten days of deliberation, jurors returned guilty verdicts on four of five counts of obstruction and perjury in the CIA leak case which centered on the exposing of then-undercover agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has not brought indictments in the case against anyone, though Libby was tried separately for various lies to prosecutors, the FBI and the grand jury enpaneled for the original investigation in the fall of 2003.

Libby is free on appeal but could face fines up to $250,000 on each guilty count and 10 years in prison for obstruction and up to 5 years for each of the other three counts. It is doubtful that Libby's attorneys will find sufficient grounds for appeal. Though the trial was highly publicized, there was little for the defense to argue as Libby's accounts were roundly disavowed by government witnesses which included various members of the Washington media and the administration.

With the verdict now in his pocket, Fitzgerald is free to reactivate his investigation with fresh subpoenas and a new grand jury. Fitzgerald said outside the courthouse on Tuesday that he does not expect to reopen the investigation "unless new information" comes to light. Information that emerged from the trial had pointed the finger directly at the office of the Vice President, Dick Cheney, to the point that Fitzgerald said there was a "cloud" over the VP's office in his closing statement.

Trial transcripts will now be widely disseminated and Congress could take matters into its hands, demanding further hearings on the matter. There's plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest that not only Cheney, but presidential advisor Karl Rove and president Bush himself were aware of Plame's identity, ostensibly tried to smear her husband Joseph Wilson and either originated the leak and/or may have conducted a cover-up to keep facts from Fitzgerald.

Congressional investigations should follow, but whether the current Democratic Congress has the will to pursue the matter is a matter of considerable conjecture. When Nancy Pelosi said before the elections of November 2006 that "impeachment is off the table" should Democrats win a majority - which they did - it signaled to many that the party would not pursue an attack strategy against the current administration.

Since then, the president has defied Congress and the will of the people in sending more troops to Iraq and only former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has admitted to revealing Plame's identity to reporters. There remains nobody formally charged with "outing" Valerie Plame, an act some on the liberal side of the debate equate with treason.

A congressional response will be quick, possibly today. Some loudmouth grandstander like Joe Biden could grab the baton and run with it. We'll see.

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