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October 28, 2005
Fitzmas Drizzles One Solid Indictment

I've had an opportunity to read through the indictment of Scooter Libby while waiting at the clinic with the First Mate. As I predicted, Libby resigned as soon as the indictment was made public:

Friday's charges stemmed from a two-year investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald into whether Rove, Libby or any other administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame or misled investigators about their involvement.

In the end, Fitzgerald accused Libby of a cover-up lying about his conversations with reporters. He was not charged with outing a spy.

"Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true. It was false," the prosecutor said. "He was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And he lied about it afterward, under oath, repeatedly." ...

Libby, 55, resigned and left the White House.

In this case, it looks like Libby lied for fear of getting caught up in a political scandal, or he didn't understand that he had not committed a crime until the FBI showed up to interview him. If the indictment has its information correct, Libby acted foolishly in trying to spin a story about how he learned of Wilson's wife. Perhaps he thought everyone else would stonewall Fitzgerald and the FBI, too, but it looks like he was very much mistaken.

What this does show is that (a) Fitzgerald can't make a case for conspiracy to out a covert agent, mostly because (b) he can't prove that anyone knew of Plame's status at the CIA. In fact, he doesn't bother in the indictment to establish that Plame fully qualified under the statute that originally started the investigation, just that her status was "classified". In his press conference, live-blogged by Michelle Malkin, Fitzgerald went out of his way to emphasize that he had indicted no one on the original reason for the investigation.

So where does this leave us?

It leaves us with one very foolish senior administration staffer who apparently decided to even up the playing field as Joe Wilson leaked information to whomever would print his anonymous allegations. Part of that came from the misreporting done by Nicholas Krystof and Walter Pincus, both of whom implied or stated categorically that Dic Cheney had ordered Wilson to go to Niger, when the entire idea came from inside the CIA and was mostly orchestrated by Wilson's wife. It doesn't leave us with some vast conspiracy by the administration to punish Plame for her husband's big mouth (and serial falsehoods).

Lying to FBI agents and grand juries will get one in a lot of trouble, and five counts make it difficult to argue that he simply got misunderstood. He deserves a fair trial before anyone judges him, but if the indictment truly describes what happened, the VP is better off without him.

Of course, one wonders what Libby might prepare for a defense. He may turn around and tell prosecutors that he was ordered to find this information on behalf of Cheney. However, Libby hasn't done that so far, despite apparently having been given a chance to explain himself. More likely he will argue the timeline of events with Fitzgerald and try to recast what he knew when, and how.

In my inexpert opinion, having gone down to this level of detail to get an indictment against Libby but not producing any other indictments, I doubt Fitzgerald has anything left in the holster. It also shows that Fitzgerald didn't feel particularly pressured to come up with indictments or to avoid them -- in other words, it looks like he did his job. While the prosecution of Libby proceeds, more indictments may result as more evidence gets uncovered, but it looks like absent of some unforeseen epiphany, this is as much as Fitzgerald will produce.

A mighty thin Fitzmas indeed. Anyone celebrating this as more significant than the fruits of stupidity needs to develop more outside interests, like philately or cycling.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 28, 2005 3:00 PM

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» You Will Like It, Like It, Like It on Your Table, from Blunderford
... aka Scooter Libby to the members of his crime family, but I have faith in this Fitzgerald. He's going after Rove for bigger stuff & he will be sent down the river. Then, only Bush and Cheney to go. How many have to get sent to jail before someone... [Read More]

Tracked on October 28, 2005 4:40 PM

» Quick shots from Small Town Veteran
... and Captain Ed and Michelle Malkin are handling the Plamegate thing so I won't have to. ... [Read More]

Tracked on October 28, 2005 5:10 PM

» Scooter-gate Indictment: initial reactions from The Unalienable Right
First, its important to recognize that these indictments are for actions relating to the investigation, none of them address any underlying crime. The left and the MSM will continue to spin this as being about outing Valerie Plame to discredit Joe Wi... [Read More]

Tracked on October 28, 2005 5:15 PM

» The Great Unraveling from CommonSenseDesk
Is it possible that the house of cards is crumbling? We all know what happens when you grab that one thread and the whole sweater ends up on the floor in a mess. The NYTs report is here. The Moose [Read More]

Tracked on October 28, 2005 5:51 PM

» Preemptive Strike of Limited Blogation from NIF
Today's dose of NIF - News, Interesting & Funny ... Friday's are good, not so much for Scooter [Read More]

Tracked on October 28, 2005 6:33 PM

» Half Full? Half Empty? from The Kudzu Files
The indictment of Scooter Libbey today seems to have left many people somewhere between confused and underwhelmed. What you might have expected to see would be, on the left, a certain amount of jubilation that the Bush Administration has taken... [Read More]

Tracked on October 29, 2005 8:31 AM

» Fitzmas Fizzles from Hard Starboard
Yesterday Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald on two counts each of perjury and making false statements to the FBI and one count of obstruction of justice. If convicted ... [Read More]

Tracked on October 29, 2005 2:35 PM

» Valerie Plame Outed? from Mover Mike
So what did "everyone know" about Valerie Plame and the CIA?

Here's a shot of Who's Who from Wizbang:


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Tracked on October 29, 2005 8:20 PM

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