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Defense Lawyers to Fight Libby's Conviction

Lewis "Scooter" Libby walks past reporters after Tuesday's verdict.
Alex Wong
/
Getty Images
Lewis "Scooter" Libby walks past reporters after Tuesday's verdict.

Guilty on four out of five counts. That was the verdict in the perjury trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The verdict capped a Washington scandal that began four years ago. The drama exposed the unsavory workings of the White House PR machine and the Washington media. It encompassed President Bush's justification for the Iraq war and the exposure of an undercover CIA agent.

At the end of all that, Libby was convicted of lying under oath to a grand jury and FBI agents about his role in the affair.

"It's sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who worked in the office of the vice president, obstructed justice and lied under oath," said Patrick Fitzgerald, the lead prosecutor on the case. "We wish that had not happened, but it did."

Fitzgerald said he was gratified by the jury's verdict, and he does not expect to file any more charges in the CIA leak investigation.

Defense lawyer Ted Wells said he is disappointed in the outcome. He plans to file a motion for a new trial. And if that's declined, he said he'll appeal the conviction.

"We believe, as we said at the time of his indictment, that he is totally innocent," Wells said. "Totally innocent."

Libby did not speak outside the courthouse. Nor did he visibly react when the jury announced the verdict in court. His wife cried silently in the front row as the foreperson read out, "guilty ... guilty ... guilty ..." to all but one of the counts.

Juror Denis Collins said the jury had a tremendous amount of sympathy for Libby, but ultimately could not believe that his lies under oath were simply memory lapses, as the defense claimed.

The undercover agent who was exposed was Valerie Plame. Her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had publicly criticized the Bush administration's justification for war with Iraq.

It became clear during the trial that the White House decided to respond to Ambassador Wilson's charges by quietly telling reporters that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative.

It can be a crime to leak an undercover CIA agent's identity, but no one was charged with that offense. Prosecutor Fitzgerald said that does not diminish the seriousness of Libby's crimes.

President Bush expressed sadness for Libby and his family. Vice President Cheney, Libby's onetime boss, said he was very disappointed with the verdict and praised Libby's work as a public servant. Both men refused to comment further because of pending appeals.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.