Libby Found Guilty On Four Counts

Vice President's Former Aide Guilty in CIA Leak Trial


March 6, 2007 — -- Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff is now a convicted felon.

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been found guilty of four of five charges in the CIA leak case stemming from a three-year investigation and trial that revealed the innermost workings of the top levels at the Bush White House.

A jury found Libby guilty of charges claiming he lied to the FBI and a grand jury, and obstructed justice.

The former White House aide faces as many as 25 years in prison and fines up to $1 million.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino said that President Bush was in the Oval Office and watched reports on the verdict on television.

Perino acknowledged that the President respected the jury's verdict although he is saddened for Scooter Libby and his family.

Libby's wife held back tears in the courtroom as the verdict was read, but outside the courthouse, Libby's defense team was defiant.

Ted Wells, Libby's lead attorney, told reporters gathered outside, "We are very disappointed in the verdict of the jurors," adding later, "We intend to file a motion for a new trial and, if that is denied, we will appeal the conviction and we have every confidence that, ultimately, Mr. Libby will be vindicated."

Wells insisted Libby is "totally innocent" and that "he did not do anything wrong."

Patrick Fitzgerald, the lead federal prosecutor on the case, countered simply, "The jury was obviously convinced beyond a reasonable doubt."

Fitzgerald said it was "sad" that a "high level official in the vice president's office lied."

Jury Convinced Libby Lied

The jury of seven women and four men concluded Libby lied to FBI agents and a grand jury throughout the course of the investigation into the leaked identity of Valerie Plame, a one time undercover CIA operative.

Prosecutors argued Libby helped lead a campaign to refute and discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.

The defense countered by attacking the credibility of key prosecution witnesses and citing Libby's spotty memory as the cause for any discrepancy in his statements, but the jury was not convinced.

Wilson's criticism of the administration's case for war against Iraq came to a head in July of 2003, when he wrote a blistering opinion piece in the New York Times.

In the article, Wilson stated bluntly, "Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

On a conference call with reporters, Wilson said, "We take great comfort that this is a nation of law and no citizens are above the law."

Wilson said President Bush and Vice President Cheney owe the country a greater explanation for what happened in this issue and that they should share what they told the prosecution during the investigation of the case.

"There is no longer any excuse for the president and vice president to hide behind an ongoing trial," Wilson said.

Wilson announced plans to pursue a civil trial against Cheney, Libby and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Following the trial, juror Denis Collins, a former Washington Post writer, told reporters there was a "tremendous amount of sympathy" for Libby and that most of the jury thought, "He was the fall guy."

Collins described, "The belief of the jury was that he was tasked by the Vice President to go and talk with reporters."

Cheney's Role Central to Case, Pardon Rumors Swirl

Libby did not take the stand during his trial, but did acknowledge to a grand jury in March of 2004 that Wilson's article angered Cheney, saying, "I'm sure he was upset. I don't recall the conversation all that clearly, but I'm sure he was upset."

Libby also told the grand jury that Cheney asked him to personally handle the matter with the press, instead of delegating the task to public affairs staff.

Just eight days after Wilson's article appeared, columnist Robert Novak outed Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA officer. Libby was not said to be responsible for that disclosure, but was soon caught up in the FBI Leak investigation, started in September of 2003.

Juror Denis Collins said many on the jury were asking rhetorically, 'Where's Rove, where's Cheney?', as the Libby trial continued.

Colins admitted, "Hearing from Cheney, I think it would have been interesting, I'm not sure what it would have done."

One former Cheney senior aide told ABC News, "It's a very sad day. It's outrageous. The President ought to pardon (Libby) by sundown."

Democrats in Washington, however, pounced on the verdict as a symbol of larger corruption within the White House and demanded the President refuse to pardon Libby.

Shortly after the verdict was read, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., released an e-mail statement saying, "I welcome the jury's verdict. It's about time someone in the Bush Administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics."

Red quickly added, "Lewis Libby has been convicted of perjury, but his trial revealed deeper truths about Vice President Cheney's role in this sordid affair. Now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., concurred, "Today's guilty verdicts are not solely about the acts of one individual. This trial provided a troubling picture of the inner workings of the Bush Administration. The testimony unmistakably revealed - at the highest levels of the Bush Administration - a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq."

A White House spokesperson called talked of a pardon "wildly hypothetical".

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald resisted commenting on Vice President Cheney's role instead relying on his closing statement in which he said there was a "cloud" over the White House.

After the trial, Fitzgerald said, "There was a cloud there, not caused by us...sometimes when people tell the truth clouds disappear."

Fitzgerald, a Chicago-based U.S. attorney, said of his team, "We're all going back to our day jobs," indicating, "I do not expect to file any further charges."

The CIA leak investigation toppled Libby from the upper echelons of the Washington power structure, forcing him to resign from the Bush administration when he received the only indictment in the case on October 28, 2005.

Summing up the case, Fitzgerald concluded, "At the end of the day, I think we got a very fair jury."

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