Libby 'Told a Dumb Lie,' Prosecutor Says in Closing Argument

By Carol D. Leonnig and Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff lied to investigators about his role in leaking a CIA officer's identity in order to keep his job and protect the White House from political embarrassment, prosecutors told jurors yesterday in the closing arguments of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's perjury trial.

Pointing to a courtroom screen showing eight witnesses who contradicted Libby, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald said it was no coincidence that Bush administration colleagues and reporters recalled Libby as intensely focused on undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame early in the summer of 2003, as her husband was publicly challenging the White House's rationale for going to war in Iraq.

"This is something important, something he was focused on, something he was angry about," Fitzgerald said. "He had a motive to lie, and . . . he stole the truth from the justice system."

Libby "told a dumb lie and got caught" when leak investigators refused to go away, Fitzgerald said. He added that Libby's lies had "left a cloud over the vice president" because Cheney's role in the leak remained unclear.

But two defense attorneys argued that Libby was a harried and hardworking public servant who was guilty only of forgetfulness about a relatively insignificant matter given his pressure-cooker job.

In impassioned, and at times disjointed arguments, the defense lawyers drew attention to numerous witnesses who had faulty or questionable memories and conflicting recollections. They said it was unfair to assume that the witnesses had made honest mistakes but that Libby's untruths were deliberate.

"If you're not sure, that's not guilty," said attorney Theodore Wells Jr. "It's impossible to say with any degree of certainty that Mr. Libby is engaged in intentional lying."

Libby is charged with five felonies: two counts of lying to FBI agents, two counts of perjuring himself in grand jury testimony and one count of obstructing the federal probe into whether Bush administration officials illegally leaked classified information by disclosing Plame's identity to reporters.

They say Libby lied when he told investigators he learned about Plame from NBC's Tim Russert and passed it along as unconfirmed gossip.

Libby has pleaded not guilty, contending he inaccurately remembered conversations that he recounted to FBI agents and a grand jury. No one is charged with the leak itself.

The 12-member jury will receive instructions from presiding U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton early today about how to weigh the high-profile case against Libby. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations before noon.

Plame is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, whose accusations in 2003 that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to justify the war with Iraq set in motion events leading to the leak of his wife's name in a syndicated column by Robert Novak. Wilson's claims infuriated Cheney and others in the White House, and Cheney deputized Libby to contact reporters and rebut Wilson's claims.

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