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Why Would Libby Lie?
By Dennis Kelleher
Dennis Kelleher is a legislative director for a Democratic senator. He was the deputy staff director and general counsel for the senior Democrat on the Senate Committee on Help, Education, Labor and Pensions and he was a litigation partner at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The views expressed are his own.
A key element in trying to prove a crime is showing why someone might have done something illegal. Lawyers call it proving motive. Evidence of motive is often the critical reason a prosecutor concludes that someone has committed a crime and a jury convicts someone of a crime.
Thus far, motive is the mystery in the CIA agent leak case that has rocked the White House. Why would so many of the most senior and seasoned White House officials, including apparently the vice president, engage in what appears to be a coordinated and comprehensive smear campaign that included the outing of an undercover CIA official? And why would anyone risk committing federal criminal felonies by lying about it?
I. Lewis Libby, as assistant to the president, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney and assistant to the vice president for National Security Affairs, was indisputably one of the most powerful officials in the administration. By all accounts, he is a savvy, experienced and careful lawyer who sweated the details and was prudently risk-averse and wily in the ways of dealing with the media.
He has now resigned in disgrace and is charged with the crimes of obstructing justice by lying to the FBI and the grand jury. Prosecutor Fitzgerald has charged him with these crimes for allegedly falsely testifying that he learned of a CIA agent’s identity from reporters rather than from the vice president and other senior administration officials.
If Libby lied, why would he? The prosecutor unknowingly answered that question at his press conference. He said, if the reporters testified when they were issued subpoenas in August 2004, “we would have been here [holding a press conference] in October 2004 instead of October 2005.