By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Crime and politics

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, at his news conference yesterday, said that the reason Lewis “Scooter” Libby isn’t being charged directly with exposing Valerie Plame’s status as an undercover CIA operative is that Libby’s alleged lies may have made it impossible to get at the truth.

In his careful way, Fitzgerald said that Libby’s truthful testimony might not have led to his being charged in blowing Plame’s cover — but that, on the other hand, maybe it would have. The relevant excerpt:

FITZGERALD [note: earlier I nonsensically attributed these remarks to “LIBBY”]: Let’s not presume that Mr. Libby is guilty. But let’s assume, for the moment, that the allegations in the indictment are true. If that is true, you cannot figure out the right judgment to make, whether or not you should charge someone with a serious national security crime or walk away from it or recommend any other course of action, if you don’t know the truth.

So I understand your question which is: Well, what if he had told the truth, what would you have done? If he had told the truth, we would have made the judgment based upon those facts. We would have assessed what the accurate information and made a decision.

We have not charged him with a crime. I’m not making an allegation that he violated that statute. What I’m simply saying is one of the harms in obstruction is that you don’t have a clear view of what should be done. And that’s why people ought to walk in, got into the grand jury, you’re going to take an oath, tell us the who, what, when, where and why — straight.

Naturally, the Wall Street Journal editorial page blows right past that distinction with a headline that reads, “Obstruction for What? Libby is charged with lying about a crime that wasn’t committed.” Here’s the lead:

WSJ: Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation took nearly two years, sent a reporter to jail, cost millions of dollars, and preoccupied some of the White House’s senior officials. The fruit it has now borne is the five-count indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff — not for leaking the name of Valerie Plame to Robert Novak, which started this entire “scandal,” but for contradictions between his testimony and the testimony of two or three reporters about what he told them, when he told them, and what words he used.

Given Fitzgerald’s clear statement that Libby’s alleged lies made it impossible to determine whether or not a larger crime had been committed, the Journal editorial amounts to journalistic malpractice. Are you surprised?

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  1. renton

    I dunno, I guess I didn’t get that same bad feeling, at least initially. The whistleblower/mudslinger distinction seems to have been important to Fitzgerald here. And in his press conference, he did remark (don’t quote me here) at how he thought long and hard about calling the journos to testify, and said the last thing he wanted to do was put a reporter in jail. But he said they were eyewitnesses to a crime, and not the noble, whistleblowing type. You can count me in as a participant in the Fitzgerald love-fest, and I guess I simply believe him that their testimony was absolutely necessary in this case, and that he didn’t do it willy-nilly. Plus, as we all know, this ain’t over yet. I think Fitzgerald has bigger fish to fry. I think Rove (um, I mean “Official A”) sang like a birdie at the last minute, and I think this goes a bit higher (dust off your old impeachment headlines, folks). For just a moment yesterday, during that press conference, I thought something right happened in Washington. Something happened without the influence (corruption) of politics; something happened without spin, without the religious right standing behind a curtain. Fitzgerald got up there and laid out a case like he would lay out a case for a bank robber or drug dealer. No more, no less. And the honesty of it all was refreshing. If reporters want privilege, just try to tell me they earned it in this case.

  2. Anonymous

    “If reporters want privilege, just try to tell me they earned it in this case.”AMEN TO THAT

  3. Anonymous

    The minutiae of this is getting talmudic in its complexity. Cracks like “journalistic malpractice” add more heat than light to things. To answer your question, DK, no, your take on this did not surprise me.

  4. Anonymous

    Caught Greater Boston last night. Dan, Six Flags called, “Mr. Six” wants his glasses back.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Oh, God! I broke my glasses, and had to wear a backup pair that I generally use only for running. I’m picking up a new pair next week. I actually considered going blind and letting people think I was wearing contacts.

  6. Anonymous

    Dan, you look much more relaxed when you are not wearing a suit!

  7. Anonymous

    Just kidding Dan. Unlike most folks on TV, you are more interested in substance than style and we, your adoring fans, appreciate that! (Plus, for Halloween, you can go as “Swifty” Lazar or Dame Edna!)

  8. mike_b1

    Anyone remember what the WSJ said in light of the special prosecutors’ findings on Clinton-Lewinsky and Whitewater matters?

  9. Rick in Duxbury

    I’m sure some one will tell us. When they do, the truth then will equal the truth now: a questioner in a grand jury usually has the answers prior to asking the questions. If one chooses to put oneself at risk by being less-than-candid with the grand jury, (s)he deserves the consequences. Some think that Libby had a “Hobson’s Choice” with no good option.If so, he may go to jail based on his beliefs. You may disagree with him but he appears to be motivated by love of country. I’m still looking for the selfless part of Bill’s fellatio.

  10. The Emerson Avenger

    How about some alleged crime and religion for you?Due to the insistence of UU blogger and remarkably shameless censor and “memory hole” operator Philocrites, aka Chris Walton senior editor of the UU WORLD propaganda organ, I took the time to set up the basics for the Emerson Avenger blog. Due to activities mentioned in my first post it may be a few weeks before I can really get it up and running.

  11. mike_b1

    Answer: The WSJ used much of the same reasoning that it now defends the Bush administration with to call for Clinton’s ouster.Libby motivated by “love of country”? Rick, that’s absurd. Love of power, and a willingness to do anything to protect it. Libby committed mutliple felonies, and his lies put the lives of numerous people (Plame, her family and her contacts) at risk (and, some would argue, help tip the country into war). Clinton’lies, if that’s what they were, were about … sex. Scratch that: they were about a Republican party that post-Lincoln has a long, sick history of stopping at nothing to gain power.

  12. Anonymous

    Unlike the Democrats? Why do you think people keep fantasizing about 3rd parties? There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two. Joe Kennedy buying Chicago in ’60 was hardly unique. If you think Wolfowitz turned Libby into a 22 yr. old zombie at Yale, you aren’t paying attention. He may be misguided but he’s entitled to his opinions and responsible for the results of his actions, just like yourself. Given his low profile up to now, however, he appears to be more about substance than style. I don’t recall hearing any B.S. class-warfare rhetoric from Libby in the past. People tend to impute their own motives to others. Some clearly hate Bush far more than they love America, and that’s just sad.

  13. Todd

    Actually, I think the WSJ made a valid point. And other newspapers should be asking the same thing:Was this two-year probe for nothing?As a reminder, two experts on the topic at hand (Victoria Toensing and Bruce Sanford) wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post months ago expressing doubt that the intelligence statute was violated for a variety of reasons.Besides, do you really expect Fitzgerald to say that we wasted two years of his life? Of course not.

  14. Anonymous

    I’m confused by your blog yet again. The first excerpt quoted here is is from…Libby???? Don’t you mean Fitzgerald? or am I missing something here?

  15. neil

    Dan has corrected the attribution of the first excerpt.Todd, as the excerpt illustrates, since the obstruction makes it impossible to prove whether the intelligence statute was violated, the obstruction charge is not “nothing”. It is a coverup–of precisely what we may never know. But a coverup is not nothing.Anonymous, as to hating Bush more than loving America–some people tend to impugn the patriotism of those with whom they disagree, and that’s just sad.

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