Not long after posting my previous piece on Karl Rove and Plamegate, a reader sent me a link to this National Journal piece on the hullabaloo. As I read it, i realized how little attention I had paid to the testimony of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff. Perhaps because I was so fascinated by the Bush-haters’s demonizing of Karl Rove, I focused more on that good man’s role in all this than in other aspects of the case.
As I read the National Journal piece and recalled some other things I had read (and heard) about Libby, something smelled kind of fishy. It just seemed odd, particularly Libby’s relationship with reporter Judith Miller. Not only that. Several articles have noted contradictions between Libby’s testimony and that of other reporters (including Ms. Miller) with whom he had spoken.
While the New York Times and others on the left seem optimistic that recent comments from special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald heighten “the expectation that he intends to bring indictments” (as the Times puts it), I think this expectation is merely wish-fulfillment — predicting the outcome of the investigation that they most desire. To me, however, it seems far from clear that Fitzgerald intends to indict anyone. The Times itself reports that “Mr. Fitzgerald has repeatedly told lawyers in the case that he has not made up his mind about criminal charges.”
This morning on Fox News, Fred Barnes said that Fitzgerald’s present indecision suggests that there is “no overpowering evidence of wrongdoing.”
Barnes is basically right on this one. I would, however, add one wrinkle related to Libby. As I said above, something doesn’t smell right about Mr. Libby’s activities in this case. He had this unusual relationship with Ms. Miller and his testimony is at odds with that of others. Perhaps, Mr. Fitzgerald, more familiar with the testimony than I (or any other lawyer, or reporter, commentator or blogger for that matter) has had a similar feeling about Mr. Libby. He too senses something is “not right,” but is not sure that Mr. Libby has done anything illegal. He may not know what to make of all this.
Or it maybe as I wondered yesterday that Fitzgerald “has information of which I am not aware.” Perhaps he has some incriminating evidence which he has been able to keep from the media.
Unless he has such information, Fitzgerald seems left only with indicting officials for their misdeeds in the course of the investigation. In Slate, Jacob Weisberg observes that “after two years of digging, no evidence has emerged that anyone who worked for Bush and talked to reporters about Plame—namely Rove or Scooter Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff—knew she was undercover.” And that
absence of evidence that you’ve broken a law [could] just become . . . an invitation to develop a case based on other possible crimes, especially those committed in the course of defending yourself, like obstruction of justice and making false statements. Call witnesses back enough times and you can usually come up with something. Special prosecutors never give up, because saying no crime was committed, after investing years and tens of millions of public dollars, counts as abject failure.
Perhaps, Fitzgerald has not, as Fred Barnes put it, found any “overpowering evidence of wrongdoing,” but, after spending so much time on the case feels he needs to bring an indictment.
From all I’ve heard (and read) about Fitzgerald, he seems to be a better man than that, not one who would bring an indictment for the sake of bringing an indictment — just to make this whole mission seem worthwhile. Perhaps, the lawyers (and others) on his staff, some of whom have been leaking tidbits from the investigation to the media, are more eager than he to bring indictments. Perhaps some of them have axes to grind with the Administration.
Or perhaps Fitzgerald would like to bring an indictment, but is not sure that he could prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
We don’t know why he hasn’t made up his mind. From what I’ve read, it seems pretty clear that Fred Barnes is right–there is not much evidence of wrongdoing. Still, something sure smells fishy about Mr. Libby’s role in all this. He may not have broken any laws, but it sure seems he has done something wrong.
Even if his chief of staff is not indicted, the Vice President may well be wise to seek a new top aide.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
Mr. Wilson . . . said that Mr. Cheney authorized his trip to Niger and therefore the vice president knew that it was false to claim Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. Based on the accounts of reporters Ms. Miller and Matthew Cooper, it appears that if there was a mention of Mr. Wilson’s wife by Messrs. Rove or Libby, it was an effort not to burn an official at the Central Intelligence Agency but to correct Mr. Wilson’s own misstatement about Mr. Cheney’s knowledge of his secret mission.