Prosecutor Defends Authority in Libby Case
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald yesterday disputed the claim of Vice President Cheney's former top aide that the prosecutor lacks legal authority to indict him in the CIA leak investigation.
Fitzgerald opposed I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's request that a judge dismiss the five-count indictment against him in the Valerie Plame affair. In court papers, the prosecutor argued that being allowed to operate outside any control of the Justice Department is constitutional and in accordance with federal law.
The prosecutor, who is investigating the disclosure of Plame's CIA undercover status, is not supervised by the Justice Department and is not required to inform anyone at the department about the investigation's progress.
In a court filing in February, Libby's attorneys said that only Congress could approve such an arrangement.
"The attorney general may delegate powers, but he may not abdicate responsibility," the lawyers wrote.
Yesterday, Fitzgerald replied that the attorney general has been granted broad legal authority by Congress "to delegate any of his functions to other offices of the Department of Justice."
Fitzgerald is the U.S. attorney in Chicago. He was appointed in December 2003 by then-Deputy Attorney general James B. Comey. John D. Ashcroft, the attorney general at the time, recused himself from the matter because of a conflict.
Fitzgerald obtained an indictment of Libby on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI.