“With a proceeding against Mr. Libby pending, the prosecutorial function has been served. It is now for the courts and a jury, with the presumption of innocence intact, to settle the question of guilt or innocence. The judicial process will run its course, but the larger message remains: the system has worked.”
– Robert W. Ray, “Justice from the Inside Out,” New York Times, Op Ed, A35, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2005
These words, obviously composed in advance of the indictment of Cheney Chief of Staff Louis Libby by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald last Friday, tell it all. Written by a former independent counsel who succeeded Kenneth Starr – and who, while unethically taking steps to run for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey, took a dive in prosecuting Bill and Hillary Clinton for crimes ranging from Whitewater to Filegate based on his “assessment” that a black District of Columbia jury would never convict them – this underscores how Washington really works.
Much as was true during the Clinton presidency, only mid- to lower-level officials, like Libby, are sacrificially served up on the alter of “Lady Justice,” while the higher ups – those who can make or break the political ambitions of prosecutors like Ray and Fitzgerald – get off scot-free.
A review of the evidence and just simple logic would tell anyone with minimal intelligence quotient that Libby did not commit perjury and obstruction of justice by lying about the source of his information that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA agent to protect only himself. An experienced and skilled lawyer who specializes in national security matters, and the ways of Washington, Libby was willing to take a risk to also protect his boss, the vice president of the United States, who had – it now turns out – revealed Plame’s name to him based on intelligence he received from then-CIA Director George Tenet.
The not-too-transparent motive in outing Valerie Plame, and revealing that it was she, the wife of Joe Wilson, who had arranged for her husband to go to Niger (resulting in Mr. Wilson viciously attacking the Bush administration for its false claims that Saddam Hussein was cooperating with the Niger government to create and amass weapons of mass destruction) was to show that there was a sinister motive to the Wilson’s actions. It is logical, then, that Dick Cheney, the architect of the administration’s Iraq policy, likely instructed Libby to leak Plame’s name to the press to discredit her husband’s criticism that the administration manufactured claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify going to war in Iraq.
It is also logical to assume that Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s political guru and then-Deputy White House chief of staff, also was involved in the apparent conspiracy. Evidence obtained before the grand jury by Fitzpatrick reveals, at a minimum, that Rove leaked to the press that Joe Wilson’s wife, a CIA operative, was responsible for sending her husband to Niger on the agency’s “fact-finding” mission.
Combined with the Vice President Cheney’s involvement, this creates a presumption that both the offices of the president and vice president of the United States were involved in outing a covert CIA agent to the public to cover their “political derrieres” against charges that they had lied to the American people about the administration’s reasons for going to war in Iraq.
Indeed, the administration’s “defensiveness” and reaction, while not ethical or proper, was understandable under the circumstances. Joe Wilson’s venomous rhetoric had touched a nerve. And, while President Bush had either willfully or through negligence provided false information about the Niger connection in a State of the Union speech months earlier, the executive obviously believed that its intentions were good in moving to oust Saddam Hussein in any event. Libby, Cheney, Rove and company must have also felt justified in outing Plame, however inappropriate.
On the Monday before the indictment of last Friday, the New York Times reported that the Bush White House was prepared to conduct a smear campaign against Fitzgerald if his then-likely indictments reached too high a level in the administration. This threat, while a crime in and of itself (indeed, while chairman of Judicial Watch I filed a lawsuit over similar smear tactics for Congressman Bob Barr, a House impeachment manager who was attacked by Larry Flynt and James Carville to impede the Monica Lewinsky proceedings – it is illegal to interfere in any way with the duties of a government official) was obviously not lost on Fitzgerald, a young career prosecutor who somehow, no doubt through political connections, had “miraculously” come to be appointed by Republican President George W. Bush to become U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The administration’s threat was a warning that if Fitzgerald’s indictments reached too high, that his political future – and future appointment(s) to other high posts, such as a judgeship – would be cast to the wind.
Originally, it was leaked by Fitzgerald that he would likely announce his indictments on Wednesday of last week. However, after appearing before the grand jury on that day, Fitzgerald’s office was strangely silent. The next day, Bush White House Counsel Harriet Miers’ announced that she was withdrawing her nomination to the Supreme Court. This “resignation” was obviously not Miers’ idea. She was being asked to walk the plank for her client, W. himself – who needed to shore up his conservative political base, which had by and large vehemently opposed her nomination – before the political hit of CIA leak indictments came down.
The timing of this was apparent. Fitzgerald had delayed his indictments to give the Bush administration the chance to prepare for the political fallout, thereby attempting to “ingratiate” himself with the Republican establishment and trying to minimize the chances that he would fall victim to its threatened smear campaign. By announcing the Libby indictment on Friday, Fitzgerald had also done another good turn for the Bush White House – this is the slowest news day of the week, when most Americans are planning their weekend activities and are out at Happy Hour and dining that evening, rather than watching TV cable-news shows.
And, sure enough – and as I had been predicting to friends for several weeks – when the indictment of Libby came down on Friday, neither Vice President Dick Cheney nor Karl Rove were charged. In a face-saving gesture, Fitzgerald claimed that the investigation is “ongoing,” but no one with any knowledge of how Washington works at its highest levels believes that any indictments will ever issue for Cheney and Rove.
Libby, in the vein of G. Gordon Liddy in Watergate and Oliver North in Iran-Contra, will take the heat, plead out to a lesser offense and/or be pardoned when W. leaves office (ala Regan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in Iran-Contra – W.’s dad, President George H.W. Bush, issued this pardon) and will also go on to become a “hero” in conservative circles for his swallowing the cyanide capsule.
And, much like a disingenuous version of King Solomon, Fitzgerald will have split the proverbial baby in two, offering up a pound of flesh to Democrats and a leftist press eager for blood, while preserving his standing with the Republican elite, who can get him his next political appointment.
After taking relatively minor hits on the Sunday talk-show circuit, the Bush White House, following through on the timed Miers’ “resignation,” named Third District Circuit Judge Samuel Alito as its new nominee to the Supreme Court, thereby relegating the Libby indictment to “old news.” Not coincidentally, Alito comes from a circuit that is home to liberal Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, whose support W. will need to get the conservative jurist through confirmation proceedings and onto the floor of the U.S. Senate for a vote.
During my 10 years as founder and chairman of Judicial Watch, I had seen similar scenarios played out time in and time out by a Clinton administration whose corruption makes the current administration look like Boy Scouts. While is ironic that the Bush administration learned from its predecessor how to manipulate prosecutors and the media, it is also understandable. Each successive administration learns from the previous one. Lets just hope that, unlike the Clinton administration, we have seen the last of scandal in the Bush administration, however remote a proposition.
As for Fitzgerald, he is sitting pretty as the new darling of the leftist press and the savior of the Republican Party, all rolled into one. Just another Washington political Kabuki dance, where the American people are left to watch dumbfounded from the sidelines, as justice is perverted yet again.