Scooter pleads not guilty

A smiling Libby appeared in court Thursday and vowed he will fight the perjury charges. Meanwhile, Washington buzzed: Is Karl Rove next?

Topics:

When the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years is standing 10 feet away from the guy who is trying to throw him in jail for 30 years, it is a tad awkward.

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was standing with his four attorneys at a table in the front of a federal courtroom in Washington Thursday morning, accused of lying to the FBI and a grand jury. Libby has a broken foot and propped his metal crutches against a table. He seemed able to stand with no problem.

When special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald entered the room and stood just paces apart from Libby, both men seemed to avoid eye contact. Even when Fitzgerald walked directly in front of Libby to take his own seat on the other side of the courtroom, neither man raised his head to look the other in the eye.

If Libby was nervous or wanted to throttle Fitzgerald, he didn’t show it. Before the proceedings began this morning he talked amiably with his defense team and even laughed quietly at what must have been a very funny joke, given the circumstances of the United States of America v. Lewis Libby.

Libby hobbled on crutches to a dais and faced Judge Reggie B. Walton, a Bush appointee. He spoke just 11 words when asked if he wanted to make a plea. “Yes, I do. With respect, your honor, I plead not guilty.” Not guilty, that is, to two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements, and one count of obstruction of justice.

The whole thing took about 10 minutes and could be the only news on the case for a while. Libby waived his right for a speedy trial. Much of the information that Fitzgerald generated during the 22-month inquiry is classified. He and Libby’s defense team agreed it would take weeks to get security clearances for Libby’s lawyers, allowing them to comb through the material. Judge Walton set the next hearing on the case for Feb. 3. Fitzgerald estimated that it would then take two weeks to present the government’s case against Cheney’s closest aid.

Libby has beefed up his defense team with well-known criminal trial lawyers Ted Wells and William Jeffress. Not surprisingly, Wells told reporters outside the courthouse that a jury would clear Libby’s good name. “In pleading not guilty, he has declared to the world that he is innocent,” said Wells. Libby “has declared that he intends to fight the charges in the indictment” and wants to “clear his good name.”



The case may hinge on Fitzgerald’s ability to prove that Libby was lying, as opposed to suffering a memory lapse. That will not be easy. “It is tough to prove perjury,” said Louis Michael Seidman, a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center. “There is very little way of knowing how strong the case is. People’s memories vary about what was said, and you have to prove that the perjury is deliberate and did not just involve a failure of memory.”

It is unclear how much, if any, of the juicy data on intelligence prior to the war in Iraq might come out during a trial. Fitzgerald has said that the indictment against Libby is not designed to put the rationale for war in Iraq on trial.

Libby is accused of lying about how he learned classified information about a CIA operative, Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson has famously alleged that the White House should have known that its claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa to build a nuclear weapon was bogus. The White House fired back and in the process Valerie Wilson’s cover at the CIA was blown in the press.

Libby resigned when he was indicted last week. Meanwhile, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has been identified by many in the press as “Official A.” The indictment states that “Official A” discussed Valerie Wilson with columnist Robert Novak, who first exposed her as a CIA operative. Rove wasn’t indicted and reports suggested that he got off the hook when his attorneys gave Fitzgerald a last-minute flurry of information.

But on Thursday the Washington Post indicated that Rove may still face charges. The paper reported that Fitzgerald this week talked with an attorney for Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about his client’s conversations with Rove before and after Valerie Wilson’s CIA status became publicly known. The Post said Fitzgerald is still considering charging Rove with making false statements. The paper cites sources close to Rove who said they expect to know within weeks whether the most powerful aide in the White House will also have to stand awkwardly in a courtroom, just feet away from Fitzgerald.

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>