Judge Reggie Walton, the presiding judge in the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has finished his jury instructions. Now, after a short recess, the jury has been brought back to hear the opening statement of Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, special counsel in the Valerie Plame case, hero to liberal bloggers and Plamegate obsessives everywhere, the subject of his very own "Fitzmas" carols.
We can't see Fitzgerald as he gives his opening statement -- here in the media room at the U.S. District Court, we get a closed-circuit feed that does not include a view of the jury, and Fitzgerald appears to be standing close enough to the jury that the cameras do not cover him. But from what we can hear, and from what we can see of the exhibits he presents to the jury, he appears to be giving a masterful performance.
Much as he did on Oct. 28, 2005, when he held a press conference to announce Libby's indictment, Fitzgerald has been telling a story this morning. In fact, he even began, as many reporters do, with a little color: "It's Sunday, July 6, 2003, the last day of a three-day Fourth of July weekend," Fitzgerald said. "The fireworks are over, except a different kind of fireworks are about to begin ... The page opposite the editorial page, there is a column by a man named by Joseph Wilson ... In this column, he made an explosive charge ... Mr. Wilson made a direct attack on the White House credibility, an attack on the Office of the Vice President in particular." Fitzgerald then laid out how the White House, and specifically Dick Cheney's office, was hit by this and responded to it.
In a PowerPoint presentation that accompanies his opening arguments, Fitzgerald has set forth Libby's part in that response, hitting each part separately -- the conversations about Wilson's wife with the vice president; with two CIA employees; with an employee at the State Department; with David Addington, now Libby's replacement in Cheney's office; with the public affairs person for Cheney; and with reporters Judy Miller, Matt Cooper and Tim Russert -- and then returning to these conversations when he brings in what he says are Libby's false statements to the grand jury and the FBI.
In all, Fitzgerald is alleging that Libby had 11 separate conversations about Wilson's wife over the month between June 11 and July 12, 2003. And still, Fitzgerald says, Libby maintained to the grand jury that he was "taken aback" when, on July 10, Tim Russert asked him if he had heard that Wilson's wife was employed at the CIA and said that many reporters were discussing it. That, Fitzgerald says, will be proved false when Russert himself comes to court to testify and says he "knows of one journalist who didn't know that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA -- Tim Russert."
Fitzgerald has now finished his opening statement, and Ted Wells, Libby's lawyer, is making his side's opening argument.