Cheney Calls Ex-Aide Libby 'Honest'

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The Associated Press
Sunday, January 14, 2007; 11:51 AM

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney called his former chief of staff, who goes on trial this week in the CIA leak case, "one of the more honest men I know" and said Sunday he expects to testify for the defense.

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby faces charges of perjury and obstruction of an investigation into the leak of a CIA officer's identity to reporters.

Cheney would not say whether he would testify in open court or possibly via videotape.

"I have indicated from the very beginning my wholehearted cooperation with the investigation and with whatever legal proceedings emerge out of that. And this will all unfold here in the very near future," he said.

Jury selection is to begin in Washington on Tuesday in a trial that should give the public glimpses of how Bush administration insiders responded to one high-level critic _ former ambassador Joseph Wilson _ who claimed the president and his closest advisers distorted intelligence and lied to push the nation into war with Iraq.

It will be the first time a sitting vice president has testified at a criminal trial, historians say.

Cheney described Libby as "one of the finest individuals I've ever known." Asked in a broadcast interview if Libby is honest, the vice president replied: "I believe he's one of the more honest men I know. He's a good man. And I obviously appreciate very much his service on my staff over the years and have very high regard for him and his family."

Libby's lawyers say the public disclosure of the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, resulted not because of a grand conspiracy, but rather because of political infighting among the CIA, the White House and the State Department over intelligence failures on Iraq.

Libby plans to testify about the other things he had on his mind when Plame was outed and when the FBI questioned him. He says terrorist threats, Middle East tensions, the war in Iraq and emerging nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea and Pakistan overshadowed the Plame issue and clouded his memory about how and when he learned Plame's identity.

Libby's lawyers say they plan to call Cheney, who can bolster claims that Libby had more pressing things on his mind than Plame.

Wilson says the information about his wife was leaked on purpose as retaliation and was part of an effort to silence other critics in the intelligence world.

The special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, spent three years investigating that claim but filed no charges based on the leak itself. He says his work is done except for trying Libby, who resigned after being indicted in October 2005.

Given that Libby probably will be the only official charged in the leak investigation, Cheney said, "I have strong views on the subject. I am likely to be a witness in this trial. It would be inappropriate for me, at this point, shortly before the trial begins, to enter into a public dialogue ... about my views on this issue."

The vice president replied, "That's correct," when asked if nothing he had heard or read would shake his confidence in Libby's integrity.

Cheney was interviewed on "Fox News Sunday."


© 2007 The Associated Press

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