Plamegate. Scooter Libby Chief of Staff to the Vice President was convicted on March 6, 2007 on two counts of perjury before the Grand Jury and one count each of obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. Placing political payback (against an individual and an agency) above national security, the Vice President’s office orchestrated the outing of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, her cover company Brewster Jennings, other agents which had used this same cover, and her contacts. All this was done in retaliation for an op-ed in the New York Times on July 6, 2003 written by her husband ambassador Joe Wilson. In it, he publicly debunked the "16 words" in Bush’s January 28, 2003 State of the Union which claimed that Saddam Hussein had sought to obtain uranium from Africa (Niger). This undercut the argument that Iraq posed an imminent nuclear threat and showed that the Bush Administration had known this was so in advance of the war. Wilson had been sent to Niger to investigate this charge in February 2002 at the request of the CIA and had reported nearly a year before its use in the SOTU that it was false. After several attempts by among others Karl Rove to pitch Plame’s identity to the media, on July 14, 2003, Valerie Plame was outed in a column by Robert Novak In his closing argument at the Libby trial, Patrick Fitzgerald detailed Cheney’s guiding hand in the conspiracy behind the outing and spoke of a "cloud" over the Vice President. That cloud remains.
On June 5, 2007, Scooter Libby received a preliminary sentence of 30 months in federal prison, with a 2-year term of supervised release following the completion of that sentence, a $250,000 fine, and a requirement of 400 hours of community service. This was confirmed June 14 and bail during appeal was denied. Scooter’s defense solicited letters on his behalf from Washington’s conservative elite. These praised his legal expertise and national security credentials and were likely counterproductive since they made clear he was well aware of the legal ramifications of lying to a grand jury and the security implications of outing a CIA agent. A group of conservative attorneys led by Robert Bork also filed an unsuccessful, last minute amicus brief questioning the legitimacy of Patrick Fitzgerald’s appointment as prosecutor. It called the appointment a "close" question although its rationale depended upon a lone Supreme Court dissent in a case that was not closely decided and its effect would be to prevent independent investigations of high US officials. On July 2, 2007, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit unanimously denied Libby’s appeal. Hours later George Bush commuted Libby’s sentence eliminating any jail time. This is an Administration that believes it is outside the law and acts accordingly. It is not so much that they have contempt for the law. Rather they have contempt for us. The cloud that was over Cheney now covers Bush as well.
A civil suit filed by Valerie Plame was dismissed on July 19, 2007 by judge John D. Bates who ruled that, while Plame’s complaint had merit, the court did not have jurisdiction. It was dismissed again on appeal on August 12, 2008 on procedural grounds.
On December 10, 2007, Libby’s lawyers announced that they were dropping his appeal. This is all part of a legal strategy to stonewall and run out the clock. Since Libby had his sentence commuted rather than receiving a pardon, he could continue to assert a 5th Amendment privilege if he were summoned to give testimony before Congress. Beginning an appeal gave a patina of credence to such a contention. However, to go forward with the appeal once this point had been made would have been expensive and unnecessary. The last thing Scooter wanted was a successful appeal since this could have resulted in a retrial and another conviction, very likely after Bush had left office. At that point Scooter would have no one to commute his sentence or pardon him and he could have faced real jail time. This was not the object of the exercise.