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Friday, November 04, 2005

"LIBBYGATE"
Why Scooter Will Skate...
James S. Henry

043004_2Irving Lewis Libby, Jr. was finally arraigned this week, after the Special Prosecutor Patrick "Bulldog" Fitzgerald's two-year investigation. It's always nice to see warmongers twisting in the wind,  but what have we really learned from all of this? 

Unfortunately, the five-count federal indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's 55-year old Chief of Staff did not actually reveal who outed CIA spookette Valerie Pflame.

But at least we do now know "Scooter's" real first name and the origins of his cute little boys' school handle.     050719_rovefitzgerald_vlwidec

Before Big Media's attention was deflected back to bird flu and another contentious Supreme Court nomination, the indictment also produced much speculation about whether Libby would cop a plea; whether "Official A" -- Karl Rove -- or even the Veep himself might eventually be charged; and how long the judicial torments suffered by Libby, Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, and other inner-circle Republicans will persist.

For a few moments, it also appeared that  Patrick "Bulldog" Fitzgerald might finally get down to a few of the really important issues:

  • (1) To what extent did the White House, the Pentagon, its operatives, and its allies in the media and foreign governments conspire to orchestrate the fraudulent case for the Iraq War -- as opposed to just being victims of "faulty intelligence?" (E.g., "Tenet made me do it.")
  • (2) How often were "house journalists" like Judith Miller, Tim Russert, and Bob Novak  -- whose principle skill is trading various kinds of favors with officials in high places -- used as distribution channels for the Administration's agitprop?
  • (3) If they didn't learn Valerie Plame's identity from Libby or Rove, from whom did they learn it?
  • (4) What special interests - energy companies, defense contractors, and several Middle East countries, would-be countries, and religious/ ethnic factions -- helped weave the cobweb of distortions and lies that got us into this War, and have kept us in it long after even Brent Scowcoft and William Odom agree that it is a monumental US strategic blunder?
  • (5) What was the role of these same interests in insuring that so many leading Democrats have been completely supine on the War? And what other wars do they have in store for our sons and daughters?

Alas, the case against Libby & Co. is unlikely to ever reach these issues.  This is not because of Fitzgerald's investigation, which was ably led by FBI agent Jack Eckenrode, known and admired as a straight shooter by this author since 1987. Rather, it is because, as argued below,  Scooter Libby will almost certainly escape scot-free... just like his oldest client, Mark Rich, who's recently been implicated in paying bribes to Saddam Hussein -- post-pardon.  For the incredible story, read on......

THE LIBBY CASE

At first glance, Fitzgerald's 22-page indictment seems like a good start. While perjury and obstruction of justice charges can be tough to prove, Fitzgeral's case looks straightforward. It also has the extra-added attraction of compelling this particular crop of journalists to bite a hand that has fed them handsomely.

031202_vf_valerieplame_1

Fitzgerald displayed a palpable sense of relief that he'd been spared having to prosecute violations of the complex 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, the original basis for his investigation.

That statute would have required him to show not only that officials like Libby and Rove who had security clearances had willfully exposed the identity of a true"covert" agent, but also that these same officials had learned the agent's identity from official sources.

By turning the case into a perjury charge, Fitzgerald avoided having to convince a jury that Pflame was still a covert agent when her identity was disclosed. That wasn't going to be a slam dunk, given that she'd  been driving herself to Langley every day, and that she was at least partly responsible for the decision to send her own husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson IV, on the uranium fact-finding mission to Niger in February 2002.    Bio917aa

There also appears to have been an organized campaign to punish Pflame and her husband, with several officials  leaking her identity to multiple journalists at once, and folks like the curious friend of both Lt. Colonel Larry Franklin and Judith Miller,  Israeli Embassy "political counselor" Naor Gilon, also in the loop. It will  be far easier to for Fitzgerald to prove how Libby learned Plame's identity than to prove that any particular journalist learned it only from him.

ROLL OVER?

Considering the strength of the case, Fitzgerald's unbroken track record of convictions,  and the 30-year sentence that Libby might theoretically face if he doesn't cooperate,  many pundits now expect him to "roll over" and testify against the Veep or Rove.

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However,  the poker-faced Libby has showed no signs of knuckling under.  indeed, he has expressed confidence  that “(A)t the end of this process I will be completely and totally exonerated.” His attorney has indicated that Libby wants a jury trial "to clear his name."

Is  this just typical defendant braggadocio? Or does this  savvy member of the Bush Administration's inner circle, who also held key posts under Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton, spent 16 years as a litigator and partner at leading DC and Philadelphia law firms,  and personally represented big-time felons, know something that the pundits do not?

896257hsmallThe fact is that those who are hoping for a plea bargain here, much less a trial of the Veep, are likely to be disappointed. 

While Fitzgerald has a solid case, Libby -- like his client Marc David (Reich) Rich, the fugitive from 48 felony counts who was pardoned by President Clinton in January 2001, and the six senior officials and convicted felons who were pardoned by President George H.W. Bush in December 1992 --  has a trump card.

He already knows that he will never do a single minute of jail time.

The simple, if inelegant, reason is this: Scooter Libby knows far too much, and not just about "Pflameburn."

Given his background and experience, Libby might well be in a position to bring down the entire Bush Administration on any number of matters, from secret detention centers and CIA "wet jobs" to missing funds in Iraq to Halliburton's no-bid contracts to the hyping of the case for the war. He might also have a few interesting things to say about the shenanigans of the Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan Administrations.

Absent divine intervention, therefore, the fix is in. Libby's gameplan is already clear: he will insist on a jury trial, and will try to delay that as long as possible -- perhaps up to a year, as his counsel recently indicated. That trial will commence during the fall of 2006 -- not before the November 2006 Congressional elections, if Libby has his way. The trial itself will last at least 3-6 months, and there is always a chance that Libby not be convicted. Even if he is, the appeals would take us well into 2008, Bush's last year in office. So even if Libby is convicted, he'll receive a Presidential pardon with minimal jail time.

RICH IRONIES

From this angle, it was indeed ironic to learn late last week,  just as Scooter was about to be indicted, that his 20-year client Marc Rich had been named by Paul Volcker as a leading provider of bribes to Saddam Hussein in the UN Oil-For-Food (OFF) scandal -- for the most part AFTER his January 2001 pardon by President Clinton.

Furthermore,  it also turned out that several other key OFF benefiPardon_rich_1ciaries and Saddam bribers also had close  ties to both Rich and to Halliburton, the Veep's old firm --  including Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, Switzerland's Glencore, and US-based oil companies like Bayoil and Coastal Petroleum.

Fridman_2

The striking thing is how bi-partisan most of these corporate kleptocrats have been.

For example, while Halliburton is closely identified with the Republican Party, Coastal's Oscar Wyatt, Jr., now also under federal indictment, has been a heavy life-long contributor to the Democratic Party. 

Rich's ex-wife Denise, operating out of her New York City condo and her high-hedged mansion in Southampton,  greased the skids for her husband's pardon by contributing over $1 million, becoming one of the largest fundraisers for Bill Clinton's new Presidential library.Wya_wyatt_136x155_2

Alfa Group's Ukrainian-born Mikhail Fridman maintains close ties not only with President Putin and certain leading Moscow mobsters,  but also with the Council on Foreign Relations, where Alfa has recently become a leading contributor.

And when Marc Rich pursued his Presidential pardon, his main legal gun wasn't Scooter,  but Jack Quinn, the Arnold & Porter senior partner who had served as Al Gore's Chief of Staff in the early 1990s.

StorydeniserichclintonsSo, from this angle, Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff has just been trying to keep up.

When we finally sweep clean these Augean stables, we will have to employ a very large, non-partisan broom indeed.

(c) SubmergingMarkets, 2005

November 4, 2005 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

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"LIBBYGATE"
Why Scooter Will Skate...
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