Libby and charges

Give that man a medal!

Scooter Libby, the vice-president's chief of staff, was indicted today on obstruction of justice, making a false statement, and perjury. According to the Special Counsel in charge of the investigation, Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby told the grand jury "a compelling story" about when and how he had learned the identity of CIA agent Valerie Wilson (nee Plame) — only thing is, the story was a pack of lies.

Libby and Fitzgerald
Libby and his nemesis Fitzgerald

The Republican spinmeisters were quick to point out that a person is "innocent until proven guilty" blah, blah, blah. But if Fitzgerald lays out proof to a jury for the charges he made today, he will be very hard for Libby to squirm off the hook.

Libby tendered his resignation to his bosses, Vice-President Dick Cheney and President George W Bush, who accepted it "with regret."

There are a lot of tantalizing questions hanging out there:

• Why did Libby, himself a lawyer who knows well the dangers of telling a fairy tale to a grand jury, do it anyway?

• Who is "Official A," the senior White House official who told Libby that he had talked to Robert Novak, the columnist who actually published Valerie Wilson's name and CIA status?

• What did Karl Rove's lawyer say at the last minute that caused Fitzgerald to not file an indictment against him today as well? He was going to, they say.

Tony Auth
Tony Auth

Fitzgerald clearly isn't done yet. He said so in his press conference. My theory is that he brought charges, in addition to nailing Libby today, because he wants to demonstrate to one and all that he means business and smoke out others or shake loose proof on the underlying crimes and/or conspiracy. I suspect there is another, perhaps even bigger, shoe still to drop.

But at the same time, Fitzgerald's restraint — both in the indictment itself and in his press-conference performance — neatly innoculates him from the inevitable attempts that will follow to portray him as a "zealous prosecutor" run amok. And his pre-emptive defense against the "technicalities" argument floated earlier by administration surrogates like Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) was masterful:

[I]f it is proven that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on, and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.

And I'd say this: I think people might not understand this. We, as prosecutors and FBI agents, have to deal with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury all the time. The Department of Justice charges those statutes all the time.

When I was in New York working as a prosecutor, we brought those cases because we realized that the truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost. [emphasis added]
Bush leaves town

Meanwhile, W did what he always does when trouble's brewing — he got out of town.

The medal? You thought I was talking about Fitzgerald, didn't you? Well that's who should get a medal, but you know who Bush will probably give a medal to, don't you? Libby, of course! It's how he rewards people who screw up royally, but are loyal.

Pat Oliphant
Pat Oliphant (Click image to enlarge)

Although it looks like Karl Rove is off the hook, at least for the moment, I think he should keep looking over his shoulder. And if Bush knew what was good for him, he would lance the boil by booting Rove out the door too. That way he might have a chance a rescuing his second term. But I'm not holding my breath.