The cloud over the White House

Patrick Fitzgerald on the case Scooter Libby's jurors won't get to decide.

Published February 22, 2007 2:16PM (EST)

As jurors enter their second day of deliberations in the Scooter Libby trial, it seems appropriate to circle back to the case they won't get to decide.

The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin was in court for closing arguments earlier this week, and he was rightly struck by what Patrick Fitzgerald had to say. By lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice, Fitzgerald charged, Libby prevented investigators from learning the whole truth about how the White House outed Valerie Plame. And at the center of that story, Fitzgerald suggested, sits Dick Cheney.

"There is a cloud over the vice president," Fitzgerald said. "And that cloud remains because this defendant obstructed justice."

It was Cheney, Fitzgerald said, who scribbled White House talking points into the margins of Joseph Wilson's New York Times Op-Ed. It was Cheney, Fitzgerald said, who sent Libby to meet with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. And it was Cheney, Fitzgerald said, with whom Libby talked about the Plame case even after the Justice Department's investigation into it had begun. Libby was "not supposed to be talking to other people," Fitzgerald said. "The only person he told is the vice president ... Think about that."

The cloud may be centered over the dour countenance of the vice president, but Fitzgerald said its shadow is larger than that. He said that there is "a cloud over the White House" now, and he asked jurors whether they don't think that "the grand jury and the American people are entitled to straight answers."

And that cloud? Fitzgerald plainly thinks it extends over George W. Bush, too. As Josh Gerstein reports in the New York Sun, Fitzgerald went out of his way during his closing argument to note that the White House had promised that the president would fire anyone who was involved in the Plame leak. He didn't. Karl Rove is still on the White House payroll, and Libby resigned only after he found himself under indictment.

By Tim Grieve

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

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