Today, many on the left will be gloating that Vice President Cheney’s “former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted Tuesday of lying and obstructing a leak investigation.” Some on the left — and in the media — will contend that this convictions is proof that Bush Administration officials lied. While others will hope it leads to the imminent indictment of impeachment of the Vice President. But, the prosecutor, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, said he doesn’t “expect to file any further charges.”
Please recall that Libby was convicted not for “outing” a cover CIA agent, but for misleading the grand jury investigating the leak and lying under oath. He was not convicted for lying in making the case for the Iraq War. And as David Frum points out, he wasn’t even the man who “actually did the leaking.”
One thing which Fitzgerald’s investigation did reveal was the clumsy manner in which the White House reacted to Joe Wilson’s accusations. In comments to the news media in the summer of 2003, that Democrat claimed that President Bush lied in his State of the Union address when he said, “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” While the British government stands by its statement, the Administration later stepped back from it, showing in Mark Steyn’s words, “an astonishing political ineptness, and in effect legitimized Wilson’s core grievance.“
Instead of stepping back from this statement, the White House could have made clear that the statement remains true as the British government continues to believe that the one-time Iraqi dictator had indeed sought large quantities of uranium from Africa. And should have answered Wilson’s claims by noting that no one in the White House had ever seen Wilson’s report, challenging him to produce it. You see, Wilson made no written report about his trip to the African nation of Niger, instead having delivered an oral report to CIA officials.
And unlike him, those officials thought his report confirmed, rather than denied, the President’s statement:
Based on what Wilson told them, CIA analysts wrote an intelligence report saying former Prime Minister Mayki “interpreted ‘expanding commercial relations’ to mean that the (Iraqi) delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales.” In fact, the Intelligence Committee report said that “for most analysts” Wilson’s trip to Niger “lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal.”
Had Administration officials simply pointed out the facts, rather than working behind the scenes to discredit Wilson, it likely would have been spared the embarrassment of this investigation — and this verdict.
The Libby verdict is clearly a set back for the Administration, but there are enough questions about the trial that could lead to its being overturned on appeal.
One wonders why Fitzgerald pursued the investigation given that the Justice Department knew, even before his appointment that it was then-deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage who “had told Bob Novak about Mrs Wilson.”
While the left will gloat about Libby’s conviction, at the worst, it shows that the Vice President’s chief of staff lied to federal investigators. And while they may spin his deceptions as being part of some larger conspiracy, they have no evidence to justify such claim.
The Bush Administration has clearly not misled the American people. But, this conviction reminds us — of the clumsy manner in which officials responded to Wilson’s deceptive criticism — and to the investigation of the alleged leak.