Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Scooter Libby Guilty -- Now it gets interesting

After 10 days of deliberations the jury in the Scooter Libby trial came back today and Libby was convicted on four counts including lying to the FBI, perjury, and obstructing justice.

I followed the case from afar, mainly from watching David Schuster's great reports on MSNBC's Hardball news program. And while it was disappointing that neither Libby nor Vice President Dick Cheney testified in the case so we could get a true picture of what was going on in the Vice President's office when this whole scandal was developing, it seems like a just verdict. Libby's explanation that he had so many other important things on his mind that he forgot he was once told that Valerie Plame was a undercover CIA operative wasn't very believable. Especially given the testimony which showed how obsessed both Libby and (more importantly) Vice President Cheney were with discrediting Plame's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson.

If there's one person I wouldn't want to have my credibility held up against, it would be NBC's Tim Russert and that's what Libby tried to do. Russert is pretty credible and when he says he learned Plame's name from Libby, it's very believable. As one of the jurors said afterwards, even if they believed Libby did have a bad memory (which they believed he did) he was told about Plame at least 9 times before his conversation with Russert where Libby claimed he learned about Plame for the first time (or, it was the first time he remembered learning about her name). That's hard to fight your way out of.

This is a big conviction and an important one when one considers how the Iraq War was sold to the American people and how desperate at least some in the Administration were to sell the war and discredit anyone who dared speak either against the war plan or against the evidence which was used to create the need for the war (which we now know was bogus, and with any investigation would have been proven bogus back then). Whether one was for or against the war at the start (or are for or against our continued operations in Iraq) it is scary to consider the tactics used to sell the war when it started.

And now, Scooter Libby is facing 25-years in jail for his role in the entire fiasco (though, of course, he wasn't convicted of leaking Plame's name, but for lying about it afterwards, which just goes to show, it's always the cover-up which kills you). So, the question becomes, what will his sentence be (it will surely be a number of years in jail most likely) and will Libby turn on the administration to save himself? As Chris Matthews on Hardball has continually speculated, if Libby was convicted (and now he has been) it would be in his best personal interest to talk to the prosecutors and say what he knows about the disclosure of Plame's identity. If he was told by Vice President Cheney to lie to reporters or leak Plame's name, now that he is facing years in prison, it would be the time to bargain for a reduced sentence in exchange for that testimony. So far, Libby has been very loyal to the administration and there's no indication this will change now that he faces time in jail, but, how far does loyalty go? The jury itself, in comments made by a jury member afterwards, felt Libby was the fall-guy for Karl Rove and perhaps even the Vice President. It was even indicated that some jurors were upset that they had to convict Libby because they believed he wasn't the mastermind behind the whole operation, but he did lie and obstruct justice. Given that, I don't know how Libby could continue to stay quiet if there is a deal to be made. Either way, I'm sure there are some very worried people in Washington right now, and it should be a very interesting few months before sentencing in June.

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