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A Lurid Look Behind the Curtain
"Wells did not identify the officials who might have been involved. But he set the stage for a broad attack on some witnesses the government plans to call, saying they were not credible.
"One of them, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, had initially asserted his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in the case and had agreed to cooperate with federal investigators only after being granted immunity, Wells said."
Fleischer's grant of immunity bears further scrutiny.
Michael Isikoff writes for Newsweek: "It was the last thing the White House needed at a time when President Bush is already on the defensive over Iraq: a circular firing squad in a federal courtroom in which the president's men -- and Vice President Dick Cheney's -- are all shooting at each other. . . .
"Libby, it was widely thought by legal experts, was going to be the good soldier. He would play it safe at his trial in order to preserve his options; mainly, if convicted, to seek a presidential pardon before Bush leaves office.
"But no sooner did he start his opening statement Tuesday morning than defense lawyer Ted Wells shocked the courtroom and all but tossed the 'pardon strategy' out the window."
That, Isikoff said, "raised the prospect that the Libby trial will now turn into a horror show for the White House, forcing current and former top aides to testify against each other and revealing an administration that has been in turmoil over the Iraq war for more than three years."
John Dickerson writes for Slate: "The notion that Rove set up a colleague and that other White House officials worked to shield Bush's boy genius is a Democratic revenge fantasy come to life. How will the White House respond to such a charge from Libby, whom both the president and vice president have lauded in the highest terms? White House officials are likely to continue to play peekaboo -- refusing to talk about the case though it's underway, except when it serves administration interests."
Dickerson also writes: "To explain why Libby would be motivated to lie, Fitzgerald offered two main arguments. The first was that White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan had told the press that anyone involved in the business would be fired. If Libby was found to be the leaker, he'd lose his job, or at least cause a massive public embarrassment for the administration.
"The second motivation, Fitzgerald explained, was that Libby had promised Vice President Cheney he wasn't involved, and on that promise Cheney had gone to bat for him. In the October 2003 press swarm over the CIA leak, Libby asked Vice President Cheney to help clear his name in the press. Scott McClellan had told reporters Karl Rove was not involved in the leaking but had stopped there. Libby wanted McClellan to say specifically that Libby had also been cleared. He asked Cheney to make that happen. Cheney did, and in a subsequent briefing, McClellan said Libby was not involved in the affair."
Here are summaries of the opening arguments.
It's a real shame no one is buying and Web-publishing the full trial transcripts. In the absence of that, Firedoglake's live-blogging of the trial is becoming essential reading.