A jury of eight women and four men has gone into deliberation in the perjury trial of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The jury must reach a unanimous verdict on the five counts against Libby.
In the closing arguments of the month-long perjury and obstruction of justice trial of the former White House adviser, prosecutors said Libby knowingly lied in the 2003 CIA investigation over the leaked identity of officer Valerie Wilson because he feared criminal charges and losing his job.
Formerly the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby told agents he had learned Wilson's identity from Cheney, forgot it, and learned it a month later from NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert.
The defense argued that a Libby conviction would be unfair, citing the spotty memories of those who took the witness stand and casting doubt on the prosecution's case that Libby lied.
While Libby is not charged with leaking Valerie Wilson's CIA employment, he has been the only individual charged in the investigation, which was launched after her name was published by columnist Robert Novak.
Prosecutors Paint Libby as 'Not Credible'
Squaring off before the defense one final time in the trial, Deputy Special Counsel Peter Zeidenberg portrayed Libby as consumed with finding out as much as he could about Valerie Wilson's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, an outspoken Iraq War critic who openly criticized the Bush administration for using faulty prewar intelligence leading into the war in Iraq.
"It's simply not credible to believe he would forget this information about Wilson's wife," Zeidenberg said. "It's ludicrous."
Using a flow chart, Zeidenberg illustrated the line of Bush administration officials who testified to disclosing Valerie Wilson's identity to Libby, and others, like then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and New York Times journalist Judith Miller, who said they learned Wilson's identity from Libby.
Zeidenberg detailed Libby's conversations with nine individuals, including Cheney, as well as senior CIA and State Department officials, about CIA employee Valerie Wilson, and charges that Liddy lied to the FBI and a federal grand jury when he said that he first learned her identity from Russert.
Zeidenberg told the jury, "Consider how amazingly sharp and clear that is. … He can remember a conversation with Karl Rove but he can't remember one out of nine other conversations he had because it was a trivial matter."
The prosecution also played several sections of Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony about his conversations with Russert, where he allegedly committed perjury.
Zeidenberg said of Libby, "This is the story he came up with, and he had to maintain that."
Defense Goes After Witness Credibility
The defense attempted to dismiss the core of the government's case by questioning Russert's credibility.
Libby defense attorney Theodore Wells focused on a stipulation the government agreed to which focused on a Nov. 24, 2003, FBI report by FBI agent Jack Eckenrode, which noted, "Russert does not recall stating to Mr Libby anything about the wife … although he could not rule out the possibility he had such an exchange … Russert was at a loss to remember it."
Wells then focused on what reasonable doubt means for the jury. "If you believe Mr. Russert beyond a reasonable doubt, my client's life will be destroyed. … That stipulation is a reasonable doubt."
Wells called Libby's conversations with government officials "background" and asked the jury to consider that the government has not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The defense ended their closing argument noting that Libby had "one of the highest stress jobs in the country", referencing the time period in 2003 when Libby was preoccupied with national security intelligence.
Wells became passionate and emotional, almost in tears in his closing, asking the jury to be fair to Libby: "This is a man with a wife and two kids...I gave him to you, just give him back to me."
The Prosecution's Rebuttal
In his rebuttal, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald discredited the defense argument that Libby didn't consider Ambassador Wilson or his wife important by referencing separate notes Libby exchanged with a CIA briefer and Vice President Cheney that indicated otherwise.
Fitzgerald used a clipping of Ambassador Wilson's New York Times op-ed which Vice President Cheney wrote a handwritten note on to show that Libby thought it was an important issue. "His boss thought it was important," Fitzgerald said.
In an impassioned closing, Fitzgerald said of Libby, "There is no conspiracy...no memory problem...he had a motive to lie."
"He made up a story and he stuck to it: Aren't the FBI, the grand jury and the American people entitled to an explanation?" Fitzgerald asked the jury.
Fitzgerald closed saying: "[Libby] obstructed justice he took the truth from the judicial system."
Jury deliberation begins Wednesday.