Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Libby a "Scapegoat" Says Defense

Libby's well-connected defense fund is getting its money's worth by deflecting blame from the Office of the Vice President.

I. Lewis Libby Jr., the vice president's former chief of staff, was made a scapegoat by White House officials to protect the president's longtime political adviser, Karl Rove, Mr. Libby's lawyer asserted in his opening statement on Tuesday. ...

The statement by the lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., was the first indication that Mr. Libby, who is facing five felony counts of lying to investigators, would seek to deflect some of the blame onto his former White House colleagues. ...

Until Tuesday, Mr. Libby's defense on perjury and obstruction of justice charges was that he might simply have remembered incorrectly events he had described to a grand jury and to F.B.I. agents. But Mr. Wells told the jury that White House officials, whom he did not name, wanted to protect Mr. Rove because they believed his survival as President Bush's chief political adviser was crucial to the health of the Republican Party.

Mr. Wells said that his client was innocent and that a decision was made that "Scooter Libby was to be sacrificed," referring to Mr. Libby by his nickname. It was important to keep Mr. Rove out of trouble, Mr. Wells said, because he was Mr. Bush's right-hand man and "was most responsible for seeing the Republican Party stayed in office." ...

If Mr. Libby and his lawyers press their strategy of blaming the White House, it could prove risky, possibly even jeopardizing chances of a presidential pardon for Mr. Libby if he is convicted.

Libby, Wells said, told Cheney he feared "people in the White House are trying to set me up." Wells then showed the jury the text of a note Cheney had jotted that said: "Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

Wells said: "That one person was Karl Rove. He was viewed as a political genius. . . . He had to be protected. The person who was to be sacrificed was Scooter Libby." According to Wells, the vice president tried to persuade White House colleagues to publicly clear Libby's name as the source of the leak.

Dick Cheney's fingerprints are all over the smear campaign against Ms. Plame.

His modus operandi has always involved behind-the-scenes attacks on enemies and other similar skullduggery.

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