Having it both ways -- or trying to -- at the Libby trial

Libby's lawyers want to question Ari Fleischer's credibility without having the jury wonder about Libby's.

By Tim Grieve
Published January 29, 2007 2:56PM (EST)

The Scooter Libby trial is back under way this morning, and the lawyers for the defendant are trying hard to have it both ways when it comes to what the jury hears about former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Fleischer agreed to testify before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury only after obtaining a grant of immunity from prosecution. Libby's lawyers want to use Fleischer's "deal" with prosecutors to argue that his testimony shouldn't be trusted -- that is, that Fleischer was afraid of prosecution for his role in the Valerie Plame leak and therefore might have sweetened his story about Libby in order to get immunity. At the same time, Libby's lawyers don't want the government to argue -- or the jury to infer -- that Libby might have changed his own story about Plame in order to avoid prosecution.

Judge Reggie Walton clearly isn't going to go for that. He just told Libby lawyer William Jeffress that he could take the issue "off the table" and "go back to square one" by simply refraining from raising any question about Fleischer's credibility. Jeffress' response: "Thank you, your honor, no."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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