Libby Conviction Haunts Cheney

The conviction of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of lying to a grand jury and FBI about outing the identity of a CIA operative linked to the Iraq war is seen by many as diminishing his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney.

Libby Conviction Haunts Cheney

"The trial has been death by 1,000 cuts for Cheney," Scott Reed, a Republican strategist, told the New York Times on Wednesday, March 7.

"It's hurt him inside the administration. It's hurt him with the Congress, and it's hurt his stature around the world because it has shown a lot of the inner workings of the White House. It peeled the bark right off the way they operate."

Libby, who once wielded great authority at the top levels of the Bush administration, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice Tuesday, March 6, after a trial that rocked Washington's political and media elite.

Cheney's former chief of staff, known as Scooter, faces up to 25 years in prison for his role in a scandal centering on the unauthorized disclosure of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.

Plame's husband, former US ambassador to Gabon Joseph Wilson, had accused top Bush aides of outing her name to discredit his criticism of intelligence used to justify the Iraq war.

Wilson was sent to Niger in February 2002 to investigate claims Iraq tried to buy uranium for nuclear bombs but concluded it was doubtful such transfers took place.

The claim still found its way into US President Bush's annual state of the union address a year later, prompting accusations from Wilson that top administration officials have ignored data which contradicted the case for war.

Scapegoat  

 
Many see Libby as the "fall guy". (Reuters)

Cheney, considered by many as the most powerful and most secretive vice president in American history, said he was "very disappointed" to see his former right-hand man found guilty.

"As I have said before, Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service."

Bush, who watched the trial in the Oval Office with his aides Joshua B. Bolten and Dan Bartlett, was also "saddened" for Scooter Libby and his family.

The trial, which painted Cheney as a man immersed in political pushback, has raised many questions about whether Libby was just a scapegoat.

"It was clear that what Scooter was doing in the Wilson case was at Dick's behest," Kenneth L. Adelman, a former Reagan administration official who has been close with both men, told the Times.

"That was clear. It was clear from Dick's notes on the Op-Ed piece that he wanted to go get Wilson. And Scooter's not that type. He's not a vindictive person."

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, also raised the question whether Libby was a scapegoat for his boss.

"I think there is a view in the public that Libby was the fall guy," he said.

The same feeling even found its way to the courthouse.

One of the jurors, Denis Collins, told reporters there was some sympathy for Libby within the jury room.

"We're not saying that we didn't think Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of, but it seemed he was ... the fall guy."

John Q. Barrett, an Iran-contra prosecutor who teaches at St. John's University, said Libby might speak out under the threat of prison.

"Whatever the chips, if he held them and didn't lay them down, this may be the moment to decide."

Bush came under instant pressure from conservatives to pardon his former aide.

"Justice demands that Bush issue a pardon and lower the curtain on an embarrassing drama that shouldn't have lasted beyond its opening act," National Review said within hours of the verdict.

Accountability

Democrats leapt on the verdict as punishment for the White House which twisted intelligence on Iraq to justify the 2003 invasion.

"It's about time someone in the Bush administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics," Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said.

Sen. John F. Kerry, Bush's Democratic challenger in 2004, concurred.

"This verdict brings accountability at last for official deception and the politics of smear and fear," he said.

Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-contra scandals of the 1980s.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that the case was not about the acts of one individual.

"This trial provided a troubling picture of the inner workings of the Bush administration," she said.

"The testimony unmistakably revealed -- at the highest levels of the Bush Administration -- a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq."

Ed Rogers, a Republican lobbyist close to the Bush team, believes the trial will haunt the administration.

"This has been a huge cloud over the White House," he told the Washington Post.

"They're never going to fully recover from this. If you're looking at legacy, this episode gets prominently mentioned in every recap of the Bush administration, much like Iran-contra and Monica Lewinsky."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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