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Vice President Dick Cheney's Former Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison

Vice President Dick Cheney's Former Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/06/1415230

Libby was sentenced for lying to federal prosecutors about his role in the CIA leak case. As President Bush refuses to rule out pardoning Libby, we speak to investigative journalist Murray Waas, who has just published the new book "United States v. I Lewis Libby." [includes rush transcript - partial]

 


Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been sentenced to thirty months in prison for lying to federal prosecutors about his role in the CIA leak case. A jury convicted Libby in March on four felony counts of making false statements to the FBI, lying to a grand jury and obstructing a probe into the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. Administration officials outed Plame after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, publicly challenged the Bush administration's case for going to war on Iraq.

Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal nearly two decades ago. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton handed down the sentence and a two-hundred fifty-thousand dollar fine. An appeal hearing has been set for next week but Judge Walton says he's unlikely to reverse his decision. Libby could wind up in jail by the end of next month.

The ruling immediately put the spotlight on President Bush. The president has not ruled out granting Libby a pardon. At their debate in New Hampshire, four Republican presidential candidates said they would not pardon Libby. The leading candidates -- Arizona Senator John McCain, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said they would consider a pardon if elected.

Meanwhile in a statement Joe and Valerie Wilson said they are grateful: “justice has been served.” They go on to say: “That [Libby] would knowingly lie, perjure himself and obstruct a legitimate criminal investigation is incomprehensible. It is our hope that he will now cooperate with Special Counsel Fitzgerald in his efforts to get to the truth. As Mr. Fitzgerald has said, a cloud remains over the Vice President. Every official in this administration must be held accountable for their actions.”

  • Murray Waas, veteran investigative reporter with the National Journal who has covered the Libby case extensively. He has just come out with a new book -- “The United States v. I. Lewis Libby.”

 

AMY GOODMAN: Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, has been sentenced to thirty months in prison for lying to federal prosecutors about his role in the CIA leak case. A jury convicted Libby in March on four felony counts of making false statements to the FBI, lying to a grand jury and obstructing a probe into the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. Administration officials outed Plame after her husband, former US Ambassador Joe Wilson, publicly challenged the Bush administration's case for going to war with Iraq.

Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal nearly two decades ago. On Tuesday, US District Judge Reggie Walton handed down the sentence and a $250,000 fine. An appeal hearing has been set for next week, but Judge Walton says he's unlikely to reverse his decision. Libby could wind up in jail by the end of next month.

The ruling immediately put the spotlight on President Bush. The President has not ruled out granting Libby a pardon. At their debate in New Hampshire, four Republican presidential candidates said they would not pardon Libby. The leading candidates -- Arizona Senator John McCain, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani -- said they would consider a pardon if elected.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Joe and Valerie Wilson said they are grateful “justice has been served.” They go on to say, “That [Libby] would knowingly lie, perjure himself and obstruct a legitimate criminal investigation is incomprehensible. It is our hope that he will now cooperate with Special Counsel Fitzgerald in his efforts to get to the truth. As Mr. Fitzgerald has said, a cloud remains over the Vice President. Every official in this administration must be held accountable for their actions,” they wrote.

Murray Waas is a veteran investigative reporter. He’s with the National Journal. He has covered the Libby case extensively. He has just come out with a new book, The United States v. I. Lewis Libby. Late yesterday, I spoke to Murray Waas in Washington, D.C., to get his reaction to the Libby sentencing.

    MURRAY WAAS: Well, I think the judge today sent out what he thought was a strong message with a tough sentence. It was a little extraordinary that he sentenced Scooter Libby to a term of incarceration much, much longer than the probation office recommended and sided with the prosecutor. So we’ve now heard the jury render a verdict, and now we’ve heard the judge mete out his sentencing, and with it, a message, I think, I believe.

    AMY GOODMAN: What do you think that message is?

    MURRAY WAAS: Well, Judge Walton, the judge, is kind of an interesting guy, because he’s a conservative Republican, or he was before he was on the bench. He was appointed by Ronald Reagan. He had been a drug czar official in the Reagan administration. And you could kind of sense during the trial, but you found out today, because of the long sentence he gave Libby, that -- and from his comments and from his response to the special prosecutor's comments, Pat Fitzgerald, that government officials can't lie with impunity to a grand jury, they can't lie to the FBI, and they can't obstruct justice.

    There were four convictions for obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to investigators. And the argument seemed, in part, to be that because of his government service, he shouldn't serve any time, and Judge Walton disagreed with that, said no to that, and did practically just the opposite. In effect, I think the news today was that he tried to send not only the defendant a message, but he wanted to send the people in government or other people who are thinking of doing what Scooter Libby did a message: don't do that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why don't you go through for us again, Murray, why you think what Scooter Libby did was so egregious? Go through. Start from the beginning.

    MURRAY WAAS: I don't want to say I think it’s egregious, but I’ll tell you, he was convicted by a jury and he was sentenced today by the judge -- pending appeal, of course -- but what he was accused of doing was lying to the FBI, lying to -- committing perjury before a grand jury and obstructing justice to cover up his role and also the role of perhaps others, including Vice President Cheney, in leaking the name and leaking information about the covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. And essentially, the trial showed -- and what the jury found is that he engaged in those actions to cover up his role and other people in the Bush administration in leaking Plame's name. And so, that, I guess, is at the core of what the case was about.

    AMY GOODMAN: You write in the introduction to the court transcript in the book, The United States v. I. Lewis Libby, the last compartment. Talk about late in the morning of July 12, 2003, Vice President Cheney and Scooter Libby together in Virginia and exactly what transpired, as you understand it.

    MURRAY WAAS: Well, on July 12th, the Vice President, Scooter Libby, they were involved in this damage control effort to discredit Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame's husband. Joe Wilson was an ambassador who had made claims that the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence to go to war, and Joe Wilson went to the African country of Niger to investigate allegations that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium to build an atomic weapon. And Wilson came back and found that that wasn't the case, but that intelligence information still ended up being cited again and again and including in the President's State of the Union speech to make the case to go to war. So on July 12th, they’re involved in an effort to discredit Wilson, to blunt his allegations. They’re working actively in a damage control mood. They’re pressuring the director -- the then-director of the CIA, George Tenet, to take blame, to kind of fall on the sword, in effect. And Scooter Libby and Vice President Cheney and their families go to the Norfolk Naval Base to christen the USS Reagan, and on the way home they discuss at length how to control the scandal.

    And so, the Vice President and Scooter Libby sit alone, and it’s kind of -- so it’s figured -- they sit alone in a compartment in the plane, and it’s kind of literally a compartment of the plane, but it’s also figuratively a compartment of the plane, where only Scooter Libby and only Dick Cheney will know ’til the end of time what transpired between them. But essentially what happens is the Vice President dictates to Scooter Libby talking points, things he wants Libby to say to reporters to discredit Wilson and to make the administration look good. The only thing that Scooter Libby doesn't admit -- Scooter Libby, when he gets off the plane, then calls reporters, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judy Miller, and tells them about Plame's covert CIA status. So everything else that Scooter Libby told Matt Cooper, everything he told Judy Miller, those things were things that Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby agreed that Dick Cheney told him to say. But on the issue of Valerie Plame --

    AMY GOODMAN: And you know about those talking points -- Murray, you know about the talking points that Cheney dictated, because…?

    MURRAY WAAS: Because they’re, in effect, a public record now, because during the trial they were entered into evidence. And so, the Vice President was actively -- before July 12th, he was instructing Scooter Libby to talk to specific reporters, to provide them with specific information. Vice President Cheney was involved -- was in charge of the effort, in effect, and Scooter Libby, as his aide, was carrying out, to a large degree, what the Vice President wanted done.

    The only thing that went beyond, purportedly, the Vice President would say what he wanted done was the naming of Valerie Plame, but everything else he wanted done. So I guess at the end of the day what's interesting is, after being directed to talk to specific reporters, after being directed to tell them specific things, Scooter Libby also tells them about Valerie Plame. But according to Scooter Libby, everybody is lying, and he didn't tell them about Valerie Plame in the way that he did. And according to Libby and the Vice President, they didn’t collude to do that. So it’s just that one little fact, which all of the sudden Scooter Libby, who’s the loyal staff man who’s taking orders from the Vice President, who’s doing exactly what he says, veers off and acts like a freelancer and a loose cannon.

AMY GOODMAN: Murray Waas, investigative reporter, author of the new book, The United States v. I. Scooter Libby. We’ll be back with him in a minute

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