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Lewis "Scooter" Libby Found Guilty on Multiple Counts in CIA Leak Case
Aired March 6, 2007 - 11:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And Brian, we are getting word as well from producers in the courtroom that, in fact, yes, the prosecution and the defense are in place. And this was just a couple of minutes ago we got this last note.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
HOLMES: But the prosecution and defense are in place there in the courtroom. So again, we're expecting to hear that verdict at noon.
What can we expect? It is noon now. We're straight up at the noon hour, so really we can expect this at any moment now.
And Brian, what else can you tell us about this -- about this jury? It hasn't been exactly your normal everyday run of the mill jury. An incident or two. And we're also down to 11 jurors as well.
TODD: That's right. It started out with eight women and four men. Most of them very educated people.
We have an MIT graduate on this jury. We had a museum curator on this jury, but that woman was dismissed because she had gotten outside information.
There was a former math teacher who was a member of this jury. There was a former "Washington Post" reporter who we have to point out has not worked for "The Post" in more than 20 years who is a member of this jury. There is a Web architect on this jury.
Seven women, four men. Two African-American women. The rest of the jurors are white. And overall, a very, very educated jury.
There were some concerns before this case and during the jury selection process that, look, this is a Democratic city. Democrats outnumber Republicans here nine to one. Could Scooter Libby get a fair trial?
Those were questions that were seemingly answered after the jury selection process because both sides had satisfaction with the selection of these jurors that everything was at least politically even-keeled with this panel. So they've been very, very serious throughout. No real signs of any fissures or anything between them.
There was one fairly bizarre incident on Valentine's Day where they all came out wearing Valentine's shirts and read a note of thanks to the judge, and said, "This is where our unanimity ends," meaning we're going to look at the evidence independently. One of the jurors didn't wear the shirt. That was actually the juror who ended up being dismissed.
So that was the only sign of drama on this panel.
HOLMES: Yes. And a strange bit of drama it was.
HOLMES: Our Brian Todd, outside the district courthouse for us.
I know you're going to be standing by. And we'll be checking in with you here again.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We also have our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, standing by.
And yes, that really did catch me as very strange, Jeff, with the Valentine's Day shirts and all that. I guess they were trying to bring a bit of lightness to the case.
The other thing that was interesting -- I mean, there's so many things in this case. Judith Miller going to jail, one of the journalists that was involved in this case. Also, we had learned way back, mid- December, I believe it was, that the defense team actually announced that they would call Dick Cheney as a witness when Scooter Libby went to trial.
That ended up never happening. Lewis Libby -- Scooter, as we say -- never took the stand either. A lot of things that we thought were going to happen did not happen in this case.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, that was probably the biggest surprise of the trial, that the defense, Ted Wells, Scooter Libby's really excellent lawyer, opened by saying that Dick Cheney will unquestionably be a witness in this case, that Scooter Libby unquestionably will be -- will take the stand in his own defense. That didn't happen.
I think that if there's a conviction, those promises will be open for second-guessing. But, you know, trials evolve.
The facts come in in ways that everyone doesn't expect. And I think one of the things that was surprising about this case was how efficiently the government tried its case.
You know, this was a long and complex investigation. But the government put its case on in little more than one week. And that's always an advantage, when the prosecution can say to the jury, look, this is a simple case. When you try a case for three, four months, it's very hard to say to the jury this is simple. Why did it take three or four months?
COLLINS: Certainly no comparison to the Anna Nicole Smith case, huh? TOOBIN: No, I think there are no comparisons under any set of circumstances between those cases. And certainly Judge Reggie Walton, whom no one has seen because there were no cameras in the courtroom, he's no Larry Seidlin.
TOOBIN: I mean, he's presided in a very dignified way. He answered the jury's questions, I thought, in a very commonsense, fair manner.
You know, the federal judiciary remains, I think, really the jewel of the American judicial system. The federal judges in our country, really, by and large, do a fabulous job, as do most state judges, but especially federal judges.
TOOBIN: And I think Judge Walton really held up -- held up the reputation of the federal -- of the federal bench.
COLLINS: Certainly. Certainly. Just trying to provide a little laughter. Not a -- not a true comparison.
TOOBIN: Absolutely. Well, you know what? I'm all for laughter at Larry Seidlin's expense. He certainly deserves it.
But, you know, one of the really odd things about this case, Heidi, is just how long these jury deliberations went on. You know, trial lawyers have a rough rule of thumb that says there's often one day of deliberation for each week of trial. So a one-week trial, one day of deliberation.
This trial was 14 days, three weeks. So you'd figure maybe three days of deliberations. We're in the 10th day of deliberation. So this is a jury that obviously took it very seriously.
COLLINS: They did. And you can tell just by the series of questions that we saw going to and from the judge, and all of the clarification that they were asking for pertaining to the counts against Scooter Libby.
COLLINS: We are now finding out count one, Jeffrey -- count one, which was obstruction of justice, he has been found guilty. I repeat, count one, obstruction of justice, Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been found guilty.
Jeffrey, your comments on that?
TOOBIN: It speaks for itself. Very important -- chief of staff of the vice president of the United States found guilty of a very serious felony. That's bad news.
COLLINS: I'm waiting to hear if there's any more. I'm sure they're being announced right now. We have reporters inside the courtroom reporting to our journalists outside of the courtroom, so we are relaying this to you as it happens. We have our Brianna Keilar inside and we have Brian Todd outside.
We are now hearing count two also guilty.
So, so far, Jeffrey, count one, obstruction of justice, and count two, also guilty. Count three, the one that has been so difficult, I believe, for the jurors to clarify, not guilty on count three.
So what do you make of all this? We're getting a graphic together here so we can let our viewers know exactly what's happening, Jeff.
TOOBIN: Well, he's been convicted of one count of obstruction of justice, one count of perjury. That means he is virtually certain to go to prison if this conviction is upheld. So this is very serious business.
COLLINS: Guilty on everything, just to repeat, on everything except for that count three.
Does that say anything, though, to you, Jeffrey, about that particular count?
TOOBIN: Well, it says that it was the weakest count.
TOOBIN: I think all of us who followed the trial thought it was the weakest count. In a way, the fact that the jury did not convict Libby of all the counts will make the verdict that much harder to overturn on appeal, because...
COLLINS: Yes, the false statement count is count three.
TOOBIN: Right, because the appellate court will obviously see that this is a jury that looked very carefully at the evidence, that didn't just walk in there and convict him because they didn't like Republicans or they didn't like President Bush.
TOOBIN: They meticulously went through the evidence, and those kind of verdicts are harder to overturn on appeal than simply an across- the-board set of convictions.
Well, Jeff, we want to get outside the courtroom now to our Brian Todd, who is waiting to give us more information.
Brian, we have one count obstruction of justice, guilty, two counts of perjury -- guilty on both, and one count of making a false statement. Also guilty, but that one count, count three of the false statement, not guilty. Your thoughts and what you're hearing outside courtroom now?
TODD: A pretty devastating verdict for Mr. Libby. As Jeffrey said, he is almost certain to go to prison, at least for a couple of years, on these counts. Especially the obstruction of justice count. That carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.
In that count, Mr. Libby was charged with intentionally misleading the grand jury about when and how he learned information about the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson and about how he divulged information of her identity to members of the media and others.
It also charges that he made misleading statements about conversations that he had with reporters Tim Russert, Matt Cooper and Judith Miller. That is the obstruction of justice count. That is the most serious charge against him.
He has been found guilty on that. That is a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Count two, perjury. This charges that Mr. Libby knowingly made false statements to FBI agents about his conversation with NBC News' Tim Russert. That conversation taking place on or about July 10th of 2003.
That was the conversation in which Libby claims that he heard, for the first time, about the identity of Valerie Plame-Wilson from Tim Russert. Russert directly refuting that testimony in court, saying that he never told Libby about that at all.
It appears now that the jury has found Tim Russert to be a very credible prosecution witness and believed his account of that conversation, finding Lewis "Scooter" Libby guilty on that charge of making false statements to the FBI.
As you and Jeffrey just alluded to, count three, that's another charge of making false statements. He has been found not guilty. That is the one count that these jurors had at least four different questions on over the past couple of days. A count that they clearly were struggling with.
They did not find a preponderance of evidence. They did not find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt in that count. So he has been acquitted of that particular count. That is about the statements that he made to FBI agents about his conversation with "TIME" magazine reporter Matt Cooper in 2003.
Now, these two counts of perjury, counts four and five, one of them has to do with the accusation that Mr. Libby knowingly made false -- a false declaration in court regarding that conversation with Tim Russert. And the last count, five, the perjury count that he has also been found guilty on, that has to do with him being charged with lying to a grand jury under oath about the conversation with Matt Cooper in July of 2003 and about conversations with other reporters. So a very, very serious repudiation of Mr. Libby in this verdict, guilty on four of the five counts. We expect to hear from attorneys on both sides very shortly. But right now really is a -- almost a completely devastating verdict for Mr. Libby in this case.
Brian Todd, live outside of our courtroom.
Brian, excellent job of breaking that down for us.
And just in case you are joining us now -- count one, Lewis "Scooter" Libby found guilty of obstruction of justice. Count two, also found guilty. This was making false statements where he misled the FBI about Tim Russert's conversation, the NBC News anchor.
Count three, found not guilty, also a false statement count saying that he misled the FBI about conversations with Matt Cooper of "TIME" magazine. Counts four and five, guilty on both. Those were perjury counts.
So we will continue, obviously, to follow this story.
Now, just want to make sure that everybody knew that that video that we were showing up against Brian Todd there, file video. Those were not new pictures of Lewis "Scooter" Libby as he was leaving the courtroom today. Just want to make sure we were clear on that.
HOLMES: All right.
And our John King is standing by for us in Washington, D.C.
John, jump in here and -- a complicated case, complicated for a lot of folks maybe to try keep up with. But what this breaks down to is that the man who was the right-hand man for the president's right-hand man, the guy who was right there next to Vice President Dick Cheney, has now been convicted on some very serious charges, some very serious counts. He is guilty.
What does that mean for this administration? What -- what does that say now? What does this administration do?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is yet, T.J., another political blow for a White House that is back on its heels because of the Iraq war. The president's popularity at near record lows. The Iraq war, of course, the major issue in that. Democrats will seize on this to say you have corruption at the highest levels of the Bush White House.
I believe now that you have this verdict in, many will question the defense decision. Why did they not put Scooter Libby on the stand? Why did they not take Vice President Cheney up on his offer to come in and be a defense witness?
Those questions will be asked in the hours and the days ahead as a certain appeal goes forward. But you're exactly right, he was not just Dick Cheney's chief of staff, he was also his national security adviser. So whether you're talking about U.S. policy toward Iraq, U.S. policy toward North Korea, U.S. domestic political concerns, Scooter Libby was one of the top four or five aides in a Bush White House operation, he was the top aide to Vice President Cheney, often compared to Karl Rove is to President Bush as Scooter Libby was to Dick Cheney.
Mr. Cheney, of course, on record praising Scooter Libby, saying he's a man of integrity and public service. The vice president had voiced hope his former top aide would be acquitted of these charges.
We are now awaiting official reaction from both the White House and the vice president's office. I was in touch with officials in those offices just moments ago. They said they wanted to take a little time once the verdict was read to digest it, to meet on it. But look for those statements to come out in the relatively near future, not immediately, but quite soon.
HOLMES: Well, we're certainly expecting to hear from prosecutors and defense attorneys, even, hopefully here a short time.
And real quickly for us, if you can, John, remind us, is Libby still relevant in the minds of Americans? The stories out there -- it was a complicated stories. It's been now -- it was 2005 when all these charges first came up. This is the end of it.
But in Americans' minds, do you think -- are they still going to take this and see it as a black mark against the Bush administration, or is this a kind of guy that Americans put in the back of their mind in a case they really didn't understand in the first place?
KING: I don't think the American people understand the details of this case. Here in Washington, everyone knows Valerie Plame, knows Ambassador Wilson, knows Scooter Libby, so it's been a chess game inside Washington, who did what to whom.
But out in the public, what many will tell you in this town is that it plays this way -- they believe -- many Americans now believe they were misled into the war in Iraq. That the administration lied about the intelligence, shaded the intelligence, didn't tell the truth about the intelligence. And so the fact that they -- what the American people believe the plot of this drama was, that someone criticized the administration, Joe Wilson in this case, and the administration reacted aggressively to rebut and, some would say, to smear that man and his wife in the process, that is what will take hold out with the American people.
And hate to say it, they're going to make a movie about this.
HOLMES: All right, John. We've got to jump in here because we've got to go back to our Brian Todd, who has got some news for us.
Brian, outside the courthouse, go ahead.
TODD: T.J., we just found out that sentencing in this case is set for June 5th. June 5th is when the judge will sentence Lewis "Scooter" Libby to some kind of prison term where he could get up to probably now 25 years on all these counts, but likely will not get that much time.
June 5th is the sentencing date. We just found out Lewis "Scooter" Libby, again, convicted on four of the five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice. The only count he was acquitted on was one of making false statements to FBI agents. Sentencing now set for June 5th -- T.J.
HOLMES: All right. Our Brian Todd outside the district courthouse.
Brian, thank you so much.
COLLINS: Want to take an opportunity to get to the White House. Our Suzanne Malveaux standing by now to give us more information coming from there -- or actually maybe no information -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, we expect a briefing about 15 minutes or so from the president secretary, Tony Snow. If there's going to be any kind of response, it will happen very soon. But don't expect a lot for him to say here.
That is because, of course, it's expected that Libby is going to appeal this decision. If that's the case, then certainly the White House will say, we just can't talk about this, it's an ongoing legal proceeding. You also have to remember, as well, there's a civil suit that has been filed against Libby, the vice president, and many others inside this building that has yet to play out. That's another reason the White House can simply say, we're not going to talk very much about this.
So we've heard Vice President Cheney very publicly praise Libby for his work, for his loyalty. But I don't think you're going to hear very much about this case.
Now, just the White House perspective here, if you will. If you step back for a moment, clearly this is not a good thing for them. This is a setback for this administration.
This is a president who ran on his campaign saying that he was going to create a new type of environment in Washington, in the White House, after Clinton's own legal troubles. Clearly, that has not happened. A lot of people in this building, in this administration felt like they really dodged a bullet when Karl Rove, the top political adviser of the president, was not charged in this case. Now they find that Libby is, in fact -- has been charged and found guilty on some of these counts.
There's also another thing that has been happening, too. And that is some speculation, very premature now, whether or not the president would actually pardon Scooter Libby. That is something that he can do up until the very last day when he's in office -- Heidi.
COLLINS: All right.
Suzanne Malveaux, the picture from outside of the White House.
Want to go ahead and bring in Wolf Blitzer now of THE SITUATION ROOM here at CNN and in Washington, D.C.
Wolf, you and I were in your studio several months ago, alongside Ambassador Joe Wilson, who you've interviewed several times on this case, as well as many other players.
Your reaction to this verdict? Guilty, four out of five counts for Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there's no doubt for Ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame-Wilson, this will be vindication. They will be able to suggest that they were right, there was a crime that was committed.
And remember what the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, was saying from day one, once he came out and announced these charges against Scooter Libby. Even though there has been some debate whether or not there was underlying crime that was actually committed by releasing her name to the news media, what he was saying is that by his obstructing justice and committing perjury, his allegation now backed up by these 11 men and women in the jury, he was, in effect -- he was throwing sand in the eyes of the FBI and the investigators...
HOLMES: Wolf, sorry we've got to jump in here. Wolf, I'm sorry. We've got to get back to Brian Todd, outside the courthouse.
Brian, stuff keeps coming in to you. Go ahead and keep updating our viewers.
Go ahead, Brian.
TODD: Well, T.J., we just got word from our producer, Kevin Bonn (ph), inside the courtroom that Mr. Libby's attorney, Ted Wells, has already asked about a possible extension of the sentencing date. A little bit more time so that they can look at a motion for possibly a new trial.
Already looking for possible avenues of appeal. The sentencing, as we said, is set for June 5th. But Mr. Libby's attorneys are already asking for an extension to push that back a little bit so that they can explore avenues of appeals, possibly filing a motion for a new trial.
So that's what we can tell you right now. We should hear from attorneys on both sides very shortly.
COLLINS: OK. Brian, thanks so much for that.
So, once again, want to bring in Wolf Blitzer.
Wolf, that information just coming to us from Brian there about trying to get an extension of that sentencing date already set for June 5th. So we'll see what happens there.
Continue, if you would, with your thoughts about special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald and all of this.
BLITZER: Well, what he was saying from day one is that what Scooter Libby had done was effectively throw sand in the eyes of the referees, of the investigators, and they couldn't determine whether or not there was an initial -- there was an underlying crime committed; namely, releasing the identity of a covert CIA officer. And as a result, they couldn't get anyone convicted on that initial accusation.
BLITZER: But by impeding the investigation, by committing perjury, by lying to the FBI, he, in effect, they allege, was impeding the entire investigation to get to the bottom of this whole ordeal, and as a result, he should face these charges.
He did face the charges. He's convicted on four of the five charges. He's awaiting sentencing now. And he potentially could get, as Brian's been saying, up to 25 years in jail.
COLLINS: Obviously, Wolf, with all of the interviews that you do there in Washington, D.C., where this story is clearly taking place, think this will be seen as quite a surprise?
BLITZER: I think that a lot of people thought he would be convicted. There was so much evidence there pointing to the fact he had been discussing Valerie Plame-Wilson's identity, at least on six, seven, maybe eight occasions before that pivotal conversation he had with Tim Russert of NBC News.
He says he was told by Tim Russert of Valerie Plame's identity. Tim Russert denied that. He said he didn't know anything about Valerie Plame's identity until he read it a day or two later in Robert Novak's column.
And all these other witnesses, including former aides to the vice president, other White House officials, Ari Fleischer, who was then the White House press secretary, as well as other journalists, they were coming forward and saying they had discussed Valerie Plame-Wilson on several occasions in the month leading up to that conversation with Tim Russert. And you add up six, seven, eight witnesses that were disputing his side of the story, and as a result, these 11 men and women of the jury came down hard and said he's guilty.
COLLINS: Yes. And interesting, too, there was so much that came out and so much different controversy about whether or not people actually already knew who Valerie Plame was in the beginning of all this.
BLITZER: Right. He wasn't the first administration official to leak the name of Valerie Plame-Wilson to a reporter. That was Richard Armitage, who was then the deputy secretary of state who told that information to Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post," later told it to Robert Novak, the syndicated columnist.
So he was the first, Armitage. It wasn't Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's problem was -- and the jury believed -- that he actually lied to the FBI, he lied to a federal grand jury when he said he didn't know anything about this. And there were a lot of other witnesses who said he knew a lot about it.
In fact, he and the vice president, that was the allegation, they were directly involved in trying to rebut the charges made by Joe Wilson, the former U.S. ambassador who had become by then a very harsh critic of the administration's policies in Iraq.
COLLINS: And remind me, Wolf, there was also quite a bit of discussion about whether or not her identity was very well known in the circles of Washington, D.C., and the level of covertness that she held.
BLITZER: I can speak as a reporter here in Washington for 30 years. I did not know that Valerie Plame-Wilson was a covert officer. I didn't even know that Joe Wilson was married at the time.
I'm not sure it was all that widely known what she did, what she didn't do. The fact of the matter is, she had been what they call a NOC.
She was not working undercover as a U.S. espionage officer, a CIA clandestine officer working overseas. The CIA had, years earlier, established fake businesses, fake companies for her to go out and recruit spies, foreigners who would help the United States in various capacities. And as a result, she was not working at a U.S. embassy pretending to be a scientific attache or a cultural attache or something else.
BLITZER: She was out there on her own, working as a clandestine officer, pretending to be an energy consultant, a private citizen, when, in fact, she was an employee of the U.S. government. She was a clandestine officer working for the CIA.
BLITZER: And that's very dangerous work. And to release that kind of information obviously not only can compromise her, but can compromise a lot of people who might be working and cooperating with the CIA.
COLLINS: OK. Wolf, thanks so much. We know that you've been following this one for a very long time.
Also want to get back to outside the courtroom. We know that Brianna Keilar, one of our correspondents, has been inside that courthouse. She's standing alongside Brian Todd.
What's happening now, Brianna? What can you tell us about being inside when all this took place?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was very interesting, Heidi, watching Libby walk into the courtroom. He walked in very calmly. He was smiling. There was almost a swagger.
He seemed very relaxed and he was smiling as he sat down at the defense table. But as the charges were read after the jury came in, the first charge -- or the first count, which was guilty, he simply blinked. Then the second count, which obviously was guilty, he blinked a little more emphatically. It seemed as if he was somewhat surprised.
And the next two counts that were read, not guilty and guilty, no real response. And then again, the last count, that sort of emphatic blink, he seemed a little surprised.
The most emotional moment really came from his wife, Harriet Grant. After the date for Mr. Libby's sentencing was announced, she came and she hugged every member of the defense team. And she was teary-eyed.
She actually held on to Ted Wells, the head defender, for quite a while. She kissed him on the cheek. She even kissed him on the shoulder as she was hugging him, and she said, "I love you" to him, actually twice. So she was very much -- that's where you saw the emotion, was with Mr. Libby's wife.
COLLINS: All right, Brianna.
And as we are looking at the bottom of the screen there, we also want to note that Lewis "Scooter" Libby is currently being fingerprinted and photographed right now. Once again, guilty on four of the five counts against him.
We will come back with more coverage. We are awaiting a White House briefing and Tony Snow making some comments.
Also, our Jeffrey Toobin standing by for more legal analysis.
Also, we'll be planning to take any sort of prosecution that comes to the microphone or the defense attorneys.
So stick around, everybody. Much more to come on this story.
COLLINS: Quickly want to take you to this picture live now coming out of that courtroom. You see Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the back walking with his wife, the woman with the scarf around her neck, his two defense attorneys. Not sure if they will be coming directly to the microphones or not, but we do expect some sort of comment from them, as well as the prosecution.
Want to get directly outside that courtroom with our correspondent, Brian Todd.
Brian, what can you tell us?
TODD: Well, they're coming to the microphones right now. I have to say, I'm a little bit surprised that Mr. Libby is speaking. We didn't think that he would necessarily speak if he was convicted. But here he comes with his defense attorney, Ted Wells. He is the tall gentleman on camera right who is going to take the lead here.
He's about to speak. Why don't we just listen to him? TED WELLS, LIBBY'S ATTORNEY: We are very disappointed in the verdict of the jurors. This jury deliberated for approximately 10 days. Despite our disappointment in the jurors' verdict, we believe in the American justice system and we believe in the jury system.
We intend to file a motion for new trial. And if that is denied, we will appeal the conviction. And we have every confidence that ultimately Mr. Libby will be vindicated.
We believe, as we said at the time of his indictment, that he is totally innocent, totally innocent, and that he did not do anything wrong. And we intend to keep fighting to establish his innocence.
That is all we will have to say at this time.
QUESTION: Mr. Libby...
QUESTION: Mr. Libby are you willing to go to prison to protect Vice President Cheney?
COLLINS: There you have it.
Brian and Brianna still standing by for us outside that courtroom.
Ted Wells saying, extremely disappointed, they're going to file a motion for new trial. If that doesn't happen, they will be appealing the conviction. And they say that Libby will be vindicated. Obviously they believe emphatically that he is totally innocent.
TODD: Right, Heidi. Mr. Wells has been supremely confident throughout this case and has seemingly, at least to our mind, various observations during the trial, seemed to connect fairly well with this jury. But obviously, they certainly did not take a lot of his arguments and a lot of what Mr. Libby had claimed in his defense to be true. They repudiated that testimony or those claims in court. Mr. Libby of course did not testify but they repudiated those arguments pretty solidly today with this verdict. Mr. Wells very, very disappointed in this obviously, says he will keep fighting. They will file a motion for a new trial. If that fails, they will appeal this case. One point of clarification on the June 5 sentencing, what I just got some clarification from our producer Paul Corson (ph), saying that June 5 is apparently the date for the pre-sentencing report. Paul said that he did not hear that there was going to be a definite date for sentencing. But a pre-sentencing report will be on June 5 and we did report earlier that Mr. Wells had asked for a bit of an extension there so that they could file a motion for new trial and just indicated their intention to do that.
COLLINS: All right Brian I want to get to Wolf Blitzer standing by now with some information about Vice President Dick Cheney. Wolf did he have anything to say?
BLITZER: Well, our congressional producer Ted Barrett (ph) managed to catch up with him up on Capitol Hill just moments ago to try to get some reaction from the vice president. He ran up to him. The vice president kept on walking, did not say anything at all when asked about his reaction to Lewis "Scooter" Libby, his former top aide, being convicted on four of five charges, obstruction of justice, perjury. He was acquitted on one charge of lying to the FBI.
When I interviewed the vice president at the end of January, I asked him about this at the time. He really didn't want to discuss the case at all. He thought he might be a witness. He did not think it was appropriate that he discussed it. But as he has said on many occasions, he has only the highest, highest regards for Lewis "Scooter" Libby and in fact, I'll read to you what he said. He is an extraordinarily talented individual. He is a capable individual. He's a good friend and he didn't want to go beyond that. At that time, he thought it was a real possibility he would be called as a witness on behalf of "Scooter" Libby. The vice president was not called. Libby did not testify in his own behalf either. As Brian Todd and others have been suggesting, there's going to be some second- guessing of Ted Wells, the attorney for "Scooter" Libby, whether or not that was wise to avoid testimony by either the vice president or Libby himself. Others are saying that under tough cross examination from Patrick Fitzgerald and other Federal prosecutors, their case might even have been compounded, made worse under that kind of cross examination. So that's going to be a question that legal analysts are going to be able to discuss for sometime down the road. Heidi.
COLLINS: Yeah, there's no question about that. I'll sure we'll continue to talk about that as this unfolds even further today, whether or not you stand up for yourself if you clearly want to tell your story, being innocent, as Lewis "Scooter" Libby never did do, along side Vice President Dick Cheney who we originally thought were going to be testifying in this case and neither one did. TJ.
HOLMES: Jeffrey Toobin has been with us, standing by still. Jeffrey, we hear, now, the defense wants to file a motion for a new trial. If that is denied, they will go with an appeal to this conviction. Take us through, what are the chances of either one of those happening and the grounds for either one of those happening?
TOOBIN: Well, most appeals fail. It's important to remember. The vast majority of criminal convictions are upheld on appeal. But there are, really two factors at work here. There is the appeal. But there's also the claw. And that's going to be important, the calendar. Because the time for presidential pardons of controversial people is in the lame duck period after a president is leaving office. So the real issue here is can "Scooter" Libby extend his time outside of prison long enough to get to that lame duck period when he might actually get a pardon. So let's do the math a little bit. He's apparently going to be sentenced in June.
HOLMES: All right.
TOOBIN: Post-trial motions will probably keep going through most of the summer. His appeal probably won't even begin until the fall. In the -- an appeal probably takes three or four months to be resolved. That will take us into January, February, March of 2008. If, like most defendants, he loses, he could, then, go for a circ petition. He could ask the Supreme Court to get involved in the case. That really might take him up to November 2008. So it is possible that he will be out of prison pending sentencing during his appeal. Enough time for President Bush, then, to pardon him, following the presidential election in 2008, before he leaves office in January, 2009. Those are the kind of calculations that a lot of people are going to be doing now. And they're going to be -- and, certainly, Libby's defense team will do everything they can and it's even started today to slow this process down so that a pardon after the election becomes a possibility.
HOLMES: Are you telling me essentially he just needs to hold on in hopes of getting that pardon? He could actually stretch this thing out and do we have any reason to think that certainly the president would give him that pardon?
TOOBIN: Well, we don't know. His father, the first President Bush, pardoned several people involved in the Iran-contra affair during that lame duck period after November 1992, before President Clinton was inaugurated in January 1993. President Clinton issued a number of very controversial pardons, including of the fugitive Marc Rich (ph) during that period after the Gore/Bush election and before he left office in 2001. So certainly that timing is going to be very important. And even today, remember, I mean, we just heard it from Brian Todd, even today we heard that Ted Wells was trying to delay the sentencing past June. So the running down the clock is going to be a big -- a big strategy of the defense here.
HOLMES: All right, Jeffrey. We appreciate it. If we get to November 2008 and Libby hasn't spent a day in jail, we will cue up this tape and say you called it from the jump.
TOOBIN: All right, let's mark the tape.
HOLMES: All right, thanks Jeffrey.
COLLINS: Want to get back to our two correspondents on the ground outside the courthouse there as we watch these live pictures. We're anticipating special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald coming to the microphone. Brianna Keilar and Brian Todd are outside that courtroom now.
TODD: Heidi, we do have some news to report. We're told that the defense attorneys have asked in court just after the verdict was read to meet with the jurors. This is apparently a common occurrence after a criminal trial. The defense can meet with jurors if they would like to. The jurors, it's up to the jurors to decide whether they want to do that. They're deciding it right now. Right now, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is coming to the mike. He is a victorious attorney.
PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: ... and returned a verdict of guilty on four of the counts. The jury was obviously convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had lied and obstructed justice in a serious matter.
The results are actually sad. It's sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who worked in the Office of Vice President, obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not happened. But it did. And I want to thank the colleagues and investigators behind me who worked hard to make sure that we brought that to light and brought it to court and proved it beyond a reasonable doubt. And we're gratified by the jury's verdict and thankful for their service.
And we'll take questions.
QUESTION: You've received a lot of criticism in the last couple months, because Rich Armitage had come forward and said he was the first leaker, that you knew that at the beginning.
Do you think this now justifies your investigation? And what do you have to say to those critics?
FITZGERALD: I would say this: It's not the verdict that justifies the investigation, it's the facts.
If people would step back and look at what happened here, when the investigation began in the fall of 2003, and then when it got appointed to the special counsel at the end of December 2003, what is now clear is what we knew at that time.
By that point in time, we knew Mr. Libby had told a story that what he had told reporters had come not from other government officials but from reporter Tim Russert.
It's also now public that by that point in time the FBI had learned that, in fact, Tim Russert did not tell Mr. Libby that information. In fact, Tim Russert didn't know it. Tim Russert could not have told him.
And for us, as investigators and prosecutors, to take a case where a high-level official is telling a story that the basis of his information wasn't from government officials but came from a reporter, the reporter had told us that was not true, other officials had told us the information came from them, we could not walk away from that.
And to me, it's inconceivable that any responsible prosecutor would walk away from the facts that we saw in December 2003 and say, "There's nothing here; move along, folks."
And one responsibility we have as prosecutors is we cannot always explain what we do, why we charge or why we don't charge. But at the end of the day, if we look you in the eye and say, "We made a decision: Charges are not appropriate," we have to feel comfortable ourselves that that's the case.
And none of us on the team can walk away from what we knew in December 2003 and walk away from that.
And so we've brought charges, we went to trial and we've proved the case. So we think the facts justify themselves.
QUESTION: Is part of the reason you cannot walk away from this case the seriousness of the lies, in the sense that the information concealed the role of the vice president?
FITZGERALD: Well, I will just say this: Any lie under oath is serious. Any prosecutor would tell you -- in my days in New York, in my current days in Chicago -- that we cannot tolerate perjury.
The truth is what drives our judicial system. If people don't come forward and tell the truth, we have no hope of making the judicial system work.
If someone knowingly tells a lie under oath during any investigation, it's every prosecutor's duty to respond by investigating and proving that if you can.
And so that's a serious matter in any case. It's obviously a serious matter in a case here where there's a national security investigation.
So the nature of any person telling a lie under oath to a grand jury is a serious problem. Having someone, a high-level official do that under oath in a national security investigation is something that can never be acceptable. And that just made it mandatory that we pursue it.
QUESTION: You made several references in this trial, especially in the closing, to Vice President Cheney and that the FBI, the grand jury, deserved to know the truth from Scooter Libby about the vice president.
Is there still information about Vice President Cheney that you do not know?
And secondly, do you believe the vice president was truthful in his testimony to you?
FITZGERALD: We don't comment -- we try and treat everyone the same under our legal system.
No one's above the law, no one gets less protection than the law.
And so I want to make clear that we don't talk about people not on trial. And that's not a negative comment about anyone. And we apply the same rules to the vice president.
Our comments, in summation, were directed to responding to an argument by the defense that they fairly made. We fairly responded. And our point was that Mr. Libby did not tell the truth to the system. And when someone doesn't tell the truth to the system, everyone suffers.
The legal system suffers, because we don't know what the actual facts are. And, frankly, lots of other people suffer since, when you don't know what the truth is, people draw all sorts of conclusions.
So all we'll say that Mr. Libby, by lying and obstructing justice, harmed the system. And that was something serious. And that's the point we made to the jury, and obviously the jury agreed factually.
QUESTION: But in your summation, you said that there was a cloud over the vice president and there was a cloud over the White House. Do you think that cloud still remains after this verdict?
FITZGERALD: What I'll say is this: I said what I said in court. I'm not going to add to it or subtract from it.
What was said in court was a defense argument made that we put a cloud over the White House, as if, one, we were inventing something or, two, making something up, in order to convince the jury that they ought to convict.
And I think in any case where you feel that someone's making an argument that you are inventing something or improperly casting a cloud on someone, you respond.
And we responded fairly and honestly by saying there was a cloud there caused by -- not caused by us. And by Mr. Libby obstructing justice and lying about what happened, he had failed to remove the cloud.
And sometimes when people tell the truth, clouds disappear. And sometimes they don't. But when you don't know what's happening, that's a problem.
And so the fact that there was a cloud over anyone was not our doing. It was the facts of the case. It was the facts of the case. It was aggravated by Mr. Libby telling falsehoods.
And that's what we said. We're not going to add to that or subtract to that. That's what we said in court, and that's the context in which we said it.
QUESTION: Sir, is your investigation over now, now that this trial's over? Now that you have this verdict, is this investigation -- is your special counsel investigation over?
FITZGERALD: I would say this: I do not expect to file any further charges. Basically, the investigation was inactive prior to the trial. I would not expect to see any further charges filed. We're all going back to our day jobs.
If information comes to light or new information comes to us that would warrant us taking some action, we'll, of course, do that.
But I would not create the expectation that any of us will be doing further investigation at this point. We see the investigation as inactive.
QUESTION: Will you make public the complete account of your investigation, including the testimony of many to public officials, Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove and others, whose accounts were not reveled in this trial?
FITZGERALD: Well, my short answer is no.
I am not an independent counsel. The independent counsel statute -- many people may not appreciate -- doesn't exist anymore.
And what was different about an independent counsel from a regular prosecutor was that independent counsels would issue reports. They would either file charges or not file charges, and then they'd give a lengthy explanation of what they found.
That is different than what ordinary prosecutors do. We file charges, and then we're obliged to prove them, or we don't file charges.
And there has been criticism of whether independent counsels should be filing reports because sometimes you say things about people that you're not prepared to prove in court. And that was, I think, an appropriate criticism of it.
Whatever you think of the independent counsel statute, it doesn't exist. I am not an independent counsel. I am bound by the laws of grand jury secrecy. We're bound by the laws that we don't talk about people who have not been charged. So we are not going to be opening up our file drawers, handing them over to you guys to write newspaper articles or magazine articles or books, whatever you want to do. That's not the system.
And part of that, I think we ought to appreciate as citizens, is fair. If you want people to come in and tell the truth, and you tell them, "If you talk to us, there's grand jury secrecy, there are protections for you," we have to live by our word. And we gave our word to have people talk to us. And unless we've going to file charges or it becomes public, as it does at a trial, that's it.
QUESTION: Pat, how will you feel if a pardon is granted in this case?
FITZGERALD: I'm not going to comment on things that have not happened.
QUESTION: And what about an appeal in which you are asked to bring the case again or a new trial, how would you feel about that?
FITZGERALD: OK. An appeal where we're asked to bring the case again is different than an appeal where we're required to do so.
FITZGERALD: If we're required to do so, I would not be happy about that.
Obviously, when we announced the case, we announced that we would go to trial, if necessary, and seek to prove it. And we did not predict an outcome, out of respect for the process and out of respect for the jury. We obviously feel confident that we think the trial was a fair trial. We think it was an appropriate trial and that we think the jury's verdict should stand.
We also understand the defense will likely pursue an appeal. And out of respect for the appellate process, we're not going to predict how three judges who have not been selected will rule on an appeal not yet filed based upon arguments not yet made.
So we will respond appropriately. And we're confident in how the trial went forward, but we're going to respect the appellate process by not predicting an outcome.
QUESTION: Does Mr. Libby have an opportunity to get a downward departure (ph) in sentencing from you, if he provides additional information?
FITZGERALD: We're not going to comment about anything. Mr. Libby is like any other defendant: If his counsel or he wish to pursue any options, they can contact us. But we're going to treat him like any other defendant and not commenting on that.
FITZGERALD: I don't know what range it is offhand. I did not spend time looking at the guidelines book. And we do think that Judge Walton will hear the government's position on sentencing when we file papers before him. So I'm not going to predict what the guidelines will be.
QUESTION: Did you get worried after 10 days of going on so much, and they were asking some questions about the charges, and what charges were made? Did you get worried?
FITZGERALD: Of course I got worried.
Lawyers are paid to worry -- or some paid more than others. We're paid to worry. And when a jury goes out, because there's nothing we can do, we just sit around worrying about things that we have no control over.
So you do your best on both sides, and you have no idea what's going on, so you just wait for the verdict.
QUESTION: And a question about Vice President Cheney not testifying -- the (inaudible) hearings were predicated on the idea that Libby would testify. Some of the questions in voir dire were predicated on Mr. Cheney testifying.
Can you tell us a little bit, the public a little bit about your reaction when both those things proved not to be the case?
QUESTION: Can you say whether you think they shaped jury selection or the defense's knowledge of your case?
FITZGERALD: Well, what I can say is that -- obviously, the jury selection, there was extensive questioning by the parties and the judge as to whether or not the possible appearance of the vice president as a witness might affect how the jurors perceive the case and whether they could be fair. So, obviously, it affected jury selection.
But beyond that, lawyers make decisions at trial on both sides as to whether or not to call witnesses.
And the reason I said I couldn't answer is we have our own reactions, but the bottom line is we have to try the case in court. And so if a witness shows up, you're prepared to deal with a witness. If a witness doesn't show up, you move on to the next thing.
And I'm not going to -- we have a tough enough time trying to figure out what we're doing at our table and what's coming next. So I think it affected the trial at the voir dire process, but at the end of the day, I think we've got a very fair jury.
QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, a follow-on: The indictment says that Mr. Libby originally learned the identity of Ms. Plame from the vice president, who had gotten it from someone -- presumably someone in the CIA.
QUESTION: Do you know about that transaction between the person in the CIA and the vice president, how that came about, why that was important to your indictment?
FITZGERALD: I won't say anything beyond what was said in the trial about -- from Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony about what he understood in the note. And the only relevance to that point was to show that Mr. Libby had the information he gave out from an official source and understood that the vice president had it from an official source, not a reporter. So that was the relevance of it, and I don't know if there's anything beyond that from the trial record.
QUESTION: Why is it important that the CIA was the person (inaudible)?
FITZGERALD: Well, it'd be a very different case if the vice president learned it from Mr. Russert back in June and then told Mr. Libby. If he was passing on a reporter's rumor, that would be very different than if he was passing on official information.
So the contention we made was that Mr. Libby learned it from a number of officials, first learning it from the vice president. And what was important to establish was that the vice president learned it from official channels, so that Mr. Libby had an understanding that this was all official information, which is very different than saying it was a rumor he heard from a reporter.
QUESTION: Do you regret at all about giving Ari Fleischer immunity? FITZGERALD: We think we made an appropriate decision. And I have no regret.
QUESTION: If Congress chooses to investigate the leak -- the Plame leak, will you cooperate with them? Will you make your records available to Congress?
FITZGERALD: If Congress does something or not -- I'm not going to predict or say what they would do -- we will do what's appropriate. I've not had a parallel investigation. We'll do what's appropriate.
QUESTION: Can you say in what ways do you believe the investigation -- not the trial but the investigation -- changed the nature of how reporters deal with official sources and their promises of -- their pledges of confidentiality?
FITZGERALD: I will say this: It's probably -- you know, reporters can tell us how it's affecting things.
I think what people ought to understand is what was unique about this case.
What was unique about this case that's different than many other cases is that the reporters involved here were not just people who got whistleblowing tips.
FITZGERALD: We do not think that what Mr. Libby was telling reporters was whistleblowing.
Secondly, they were not reporting something that would not otherwise be heard. They actually were potential eyewitnesses to a crime. If someone is passing out classified information to a reporter, that's different.
And I think what people have to understand here is if the mission that you're given is to find out whether the law has been broken, and you've been told that the story that the person gave to the FBI is false, that the information came from officials and not reporters, but their claim is that they told reporters the information and they made sure to tell the reporters that they knew it came from other reporters and they didn't know if it's true, you could not ever bring a case without talking to the reporters. That would be irresponsible, because if the reporters came in and said, "That's actually what he said," you would be charging someone who was innocent.
And so, by placing the information behind reporters, there was no choice but to find out from the reporters what that information was. In a situation where the person had already disclosed the confidences and waived the confidences, we think that was the appropriate way to proceed.
We are not saying that we shouldn't be very careful, that we shouldn't have attorney general guidelines, that we shouldn't follow attorney general guidelines, that resorting to questioning reporters should be a last resort in the very unusual case.
But I think what we have -- I think what people should realize is that we never take that off the table. And there are times when government informants -- we have confidential relationships that we have to breach, and that's something that we have to recognize. We can't just say that this will never, ever happen, that we'll never, ever ask a reporter about a source. And this was a case where it was appropriate.
QUESTION: Was there clear evidence in the trial that the information about her was indeed classified?
FITZGERALD: The trial evidence -- the judge made a ruling that we were not going to try the case about whether the information was classified.
I can tell you, on the face of the indictment, it states that her relationship with the CIA was classified. And I have 100 percent confidence in that information, and we would not plead it in an indictment. Well, we didn't make it an issue at the trial, because the issue is whether or not Mr. Libby perjured himself under oath. There is not doubt that her relationship with the CIA was classified. And that's just a fact.
QUESTION: (inaudible) this case and your investigation doesn't necessarily become a paradigm for future (inaudible) investigations? Or do you think it will encourage others, given the success you've had here?
FITZGERALD: I think people can look -- should look to any case for, sort of, you know, for developments. But I think there's a danger in reading too much into it. I think people ought to look at the law, look at the facts, and then I think you have to be careful in applying them to other cases.
So if it's made clear what the circumstances were in this case, I think people will look to this case. But we're not -- I think people ought to look at it as what it is: a particular set of facts where reporters were eyewitnesses to potential crime. And reporters, if they did not testify, we could never get to the bottom of the questions here.
And that's what was key. If we did not question reporters, we could not answer the question of whether or not a lie was told. And in fact, talking to reporters proved the lie. And that's a very unusual circumstance, so I would just caution people to view it in context.
STAFF: OK, thank you very much.
FITZGERALD: OK, thank you.
COLLINS: So there you have it, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald answering a number of questions regarding the case of "Scooter" Lewis Libby. We know now, found guilty, four of five counts in the CIA leak perjury trial. I want to go ahead and while Patrick Fitzgerald was speaking, we did have an opportunity to hear from Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino in for Tony Snow today. Let's go ahead and listen to that sound from the White House briefing.
DANA PERINO, DEP. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SEC: ...so that he respected the jury's verdict. That he was saddened for "Scooter" Libby and his family. And that the White House direction from here on out -- and I know that there's going to be a lot of disappointment with this, but there is an ongoing criminal proceeding. "Scooter" Libby's attorneys just announced they're going to ask for a new trial and that they are going to -- failing that they would appeal the verdict. And so our principle stand of not commenting on an ongoing legal investigation is going to continue. I know that's going --
COLLINS: Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino there. Also, want to take you directly now to some of the jurors at the microphones. Let's listen to what they have to say.
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