Moment of Reckoning

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Monday, December 10, 2007; 2:25 PM

President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their mouthpieces promised that once former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's legal options were exhausted, they would answer questions about the CIA leak case.

With the announcement this morning that Libby is dropping his appeal, that time has come.

For the record, here's what Cheney said on March 6, the day Libby was convicted by a federal jury of perjury and obstruction of justice: "Since his legal team has announced that he is seeking a new trial and, if necessary, pursuing an appeal, I plan to have no further comment on the merits of this matter until these proceedings are concluded."

And here's what Bush said the following day: "I'm pretty much going to stay out of it until the course -- the case has finally run its final -- the course it's going to take."

On June 5, the day Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison, then-deputy press secretary Dana Perino once again told reporters that the White House would have no comment as long as the legal process was still ongoing.

Q: "When do you consider the process over?"

Perino: "Well, I think when those appeals are exhausted is when it would be over."

Q: "And if Scooter Libby says, 'I'm not going to appeal'?"

Perino: "Well, then we'd have to take that into consideration and I'd have to come back with more reaction."

And, finally, on July 3, one day after Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence (but avoided any substantive discussion of the issues), then-press secretary Tony Snow said 3: "We are not going to make comments in detail until the legal process is over."

Yet, at today's mid-day briefing, an uncomfortable-looking Perino -- literally wringing her hands -- staved off even the most basic questions about the case, saying she hadn't had a chance to talk to Bush since Libby's decision was made public.

"I'm not saying it's unreasonable to ask," she said. "I'm saying I haven't had a chance to talk to the president, so I have nothing to give you."

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