Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Libby Trial: The Credibility Gap

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This post by Pachacutec from a couple of days ago is a really fascinating take on the personalities of Judge Reggie Walton, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and Lead Defense Attorney Ted Wells, as they are revealing themselves in the courtroom during the Libby Trial.

The points I’d like to highlight are a couple of early interactions between Walton, Fitzgerald, and Wells that sum up what I think is happening:
Outside of the presence of the jury, it seems Wells may have lost a minor credibility point or two with the judge, and Walton's opinion matters.
late this week, Walton more or less called bullshit on Wells over a matter of the defense team's ability to review what turned out to be a rather small stack of documents in time to cross examine Cathie Martin. From emptywheel's notes: "Walton: I thought we were talking about reams and reams of documents. With all the lawyer power you got over there I don't think you'll have a problem." D'oh!

Moreover, with even greater animation, Walton declared it would be "suicide" for Libby not to testify in his own defense if he wants to make a case about his faulty memory. That, after all, was the point and the presumption behind all those months of painstaking CIPA hearings.
Let's start with what Reggie Walton said of (Fitzgerald) on the record, outside of the presence of the jury, calling him one of the most scrupulous prosecutors he's ever had before him.
The Libby team went through many months of trying to set up a defense, based on faulty memory, which would allow them to tell a story that is consistent with testimony of the prosecution witnesses – but that still leaves room for reasonable doubt that Libby intentionally lied to the Grand Jury.

Unfortunately for Libby, after the first few witnesses’ testimony – mostly about the intensity of Libby’s interest in Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger - it is clear that Libby will not be able to offer such a story. And it is clear that there is considerable risk in having Libby try to tell it!

Thus, Wells has had to resort to “Plan B,” which is to try to impugn the credibility of ALL of the prosecution witnesses. He is trying to say that Ari Fleischer has an immunity deal and is going to lie to save himself. He is trying to say that everyone at the CIA has a grudge against the OVP and is going to lie to get revenge. Basically, he is trying to say that everyone else is committing perjury in order to wrongfully convict Libby of perjury! And he is trying to find ways of introducing the issue of faulty memory, which he wants to be able to apply to all of the reporters or journalists who may testify for the prosecution (particularly Tim Russert), without Libby’s testimony!

But it seems clear that Judge Walton will have none of it.

By referring to Fitzgerald as “one of the most scrupulous prosecutors he’s ever had before him,” Walton is putting Wells on notice that he does not believe that Fitzgerald would manipulate witnesses just to get a conviction. He is basically saying that he believes Fitzgerald’s witnesses are credible, or Fitzgerald would not rely on them.

By stating the view that it would be “suicide” for Libby not to testify, Walton is sending a message to Wells that Libby is going to have to sleep in the same bed that he has been making for the last few years.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Libby Trial: You Can’t Be Sure Where Lightning Will Strike!

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The two biggest bombshells of the opening day of the Scooter Libby trial were Libby’s signals of intention to “throw Karl Rove under the bus,” and his admission that his boss, Dick Cheney, directed him to “put his neck in the meat grinder.”

In one of the earliest posts I ever wrote on this blog, I speculated that Libby seemed to have chosen to make himself a “lightning rod,” in order to deflect attention from higher profile conspirators like Rove and Cheney.

At the time, this made a lot of sense (to me, at least), because with Fitzgerald’s intense investigation, someone had to be the firewall to prevent Fitz from moving up the chain of command where the political damage would be more widespread. And Libby’s actions were so blatant and obvious that they could only be intentional!

Libby was a perfect candidate because he was high enough in the chain to be trusted to play his role, but not well known enough to be permanently identified with Bush/Cheney/Rove era. Eventually, I posited, Libby would be pardoned and remembered by most of the general public only vaguely, in questions like, “ G. Scooter Liddy - wasn’t he one of those Watergate guys?”

But much has changed since Libby agreed to be the firewall between Fitzgerald and Cheney and Rove. Among those changes are:

  • The President is now in freefall, and desperately trying to salvage some kind of positive legacy. Dick Cheney is the guy who was pulling the strings that led Bush to the brink of going down in history as the Worst President Ever, so he may no longer have the juice to influence Bush into giving Libby, Cheney’s henchman, a pardon.
  • A civil lawsuit filed by Joe and Valerie Wilson creates additional legal peril that Libby might have to bear alone, if found guilty of criminal charges. Unlike a criminal conviction, the President can’t pardon an award for civil damages.
  • Karl Rove is no longer the untouchable architect of a permanent Republican dynasty! In fact, with a party desperately trying to rid itself of the stench of the last six years, Turdblossom seems a likely candidate to be made to embody all of the negative Republican stereotypes, as he is flushed away in order to try to get a clean start with the American public.

So now we know that Libby no longer wants to be the fall guy! After he set himself up to be a lightning rod to protect the others, Fitzgerald said “OK, I’ll bite. Let’s see how many jolts you’re willing to take for Cheney and Rove?” Apparently, it’s not that many!

Libby now wants to cast himself as a pawn, albeit a hard working, highly influential and important - but extremely forgetful - pawn! For Fitzgerald, who undoubtedly recognized Libby’s initial willingness to sacrifice himself to shield the truth, Libby’s change of heart is a victory in itself.

Fitzgerald was the umpire trying to see what was going on, and Libby threw dust in his eyes. Fitzgerald could see, but not prove, what was going on through the dust, so he indicted Libby for throwing it. Now, Libby seems willing to reveal at least some of what was going on, particularly regarding Cheney and Rove, in order to save himself.

But here is where the baseball analogy falls short! In baseball, there is no instant replay, and the umpire’s initial judgment must stand. However, in a criminal investigation, Fitzgerald can still go back and make the correct call. Hopefully that will mean eventually hearing him say the magic words:

Cheney and Rove, You’re Ooouuuuttttt!!!!!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Damn I Lost the Pool!

I always look forward to Seenos' posts wondering - who will be the last "American Idiot" to stand by GWB and his disastrous administration. Well my favorite has just dropped out of the race. And honestly George - when you lose Toby Keith - it's time to resign.

Can I hear one last FUTK!!!!

Photos of the Day

"I'm the decision maker and I have decided that you are going to give me a sponge bath."
"I know its in there somewhere." George Bush examines X-Rays in hopes of locating his heart.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Libby Trial: Opening Statements

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Before opening statements on Tuesday, there had been some questions about the fact that Prosecutor Fitzgerald was given one hour, while Libby’s lead attorney, Ted Wells, got two hours.

The reason was probably pretty basic: Fitzgerald has a simple case. Remember his baseball analogy during the indictment press conference. Fitzgerald was the umpire trying to see what was happening in the game, and Libby threw dust in his eyes. Thus, his case is simple. Here is the dust. Here is the evidence that Libby threw it.

Wells’ task, on the other hand, is much broader and more complicated. He is trying to say a number of things that will confuse the situation for the jury.

a) Scooter doesn’t remember having dust in his hand.

b) Scooter is an honest, hard working guy who was pushed into a dust cloud to protect someone else.

c) Scooter was so preoccupied with all the complicated things going on in the dugout and in the clubhouse that he didn’t have time to worry about what the umpire was seeing, so why would he throw dust?

All of those arguments take time to set up. Fitzgerald can show the jury a crystal clear glass of water, while Wells has to bring out a bag of dirt, dump it in the water, stir vigorously, and then keep stirring throughout the trial in order to make sure nothing settles.

But this all plays into Fitzgerald’s hands, for a number of reasons:
  • Throughout the trial, Fitzgerald will be seen by the jury as the guy who is trying to help them see things clearly, while Wells will always be the guy trying to confuse them.

  • Fitzgerald’s simple case, based solely on Libby’s lies, has seemed to cause Libby to grow more resentful of feeling like a scapegoat, making him more likely to point fingers and incriminate others as a part of his defense.

  • Fitzgerald has every reason to know what was really going on in the dugout and in the clubhouse, so as Wells trots out all the other “players,” along with the “Manager” (Dick Cheney), to establish what Scooter was so preoccupied with, Fitzgerald will have the opportunity to grill them about what else Scooter, and they, may have been preoccupied with.

When the dust settles, I suspect that Fitzgerald will have more than just enough evidence to show that Scooter threw dust in his eyes. He will be able to show who was doing steroids in the clubhouse, and whether the Manager was coaching his team to slide into home plate with cleats up in order to hurt any opponents of the Bush Administration!

Emptywheel’s summary of Fitzgerald’s opening statement
Emptywheel’s summary of Wells’ opening statement - Part 1, Part 2
MSNBC’s Wrap up.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Libby Trial: Selecting a Jury

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As jury selection continues in the case of U.S. vs Libby, I thought I’d highlight a couple of good sources for anyone who wants to review.

Firedoglake has some amazing live blogging by Pachacutec, who is with the press corps, watching the proceedings on live video monitors. The comments are fascinating, with many notable experts such as Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel), and even Joe Wilson himself, weighing in.

Pach’s daily recaps are a good overview, as are similar ones by David Corn at The Nation

Another interesting read is the official list of questions being asked of potential jurors. Two notable themes in the list are a set of questions about jurors’ feelings about the Bush Administration and Dick Cheney in particular, and a set of questions about their feelings regarding the nature of memory.

Apparently, the Libby team is either hoping that jurors will accept Cheney’s credibility over anyone who testifies against Libby, or they are hoping to use Cheney’s lack of popularity to keep anyone with half a brain off of the jury!

This headline seemed to capture it all:
Libby Seeks Jurors Who Trust Cheney
That's quite a task! From the looks of most polls on approval ratings, they might as well be seeking monkeys who can write computer code, or jockeys who can dunk a basketball, or WMD in Iraq – but hey, they are entitled to their strategery, such as it is!

As for memory, it sounds like the Libby team wants jurors who would believe that it is transient, and that Libby could reasonably “remember” things that are inaccurate.

To me, this question from the official list says the most about the Libby strategy:
Is there anyone who feels that a person could not honestly say something about a matter he or she truly believes to be true when that person several months earlier actually said something totally different about that same matter?
Paraphrased, this question could be shortened to “Can a person honestly believe his own lies?”

An interesting bit of information from Firedoglake had to do with the fact that reporters in the courtroom (there are only two at a time) have said that Libby has been taking copious notes throughout the proceedings. I guess this could either be seen as his meticulous nature, which is at odds with the defense that he carelessly forgot what he told people . . . or he could be trying to set himself up for what I will refer to as “The Memento Defense.”

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Image from Wonkette

Sunday, January 14, 2007


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Sometimes karma is a beautiful thing!

Turns out that with a Marty Schottenheimer team, all you have to do is stay with them until the playoffs . . . and then you can count on them to self destruct!

I guess the Chargers shouldn’t have put so much emphasis on peaking during "Raider Week!"

For those who don’t know and haven’t guessed, Marty Schottenheimer hates the Raiders - a team that he says “will always self destruct in the fourth quarter.” Admittedly, in recent years he’s been right - although most opponents haven’t even had to wait until the fourth quarter!

But consider this:

With 200 regular season wins as an NFL coach of 3 different teams, Schottenheimer is the winningest coach ever not to take a team to the Super Bowl.

And the least winning coach ever to take a team to the Super Bowl?

That would be Bill Callahan, with only 15 regular season wins as an NFL Coach (and now out of the league), who took the Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII.

That’s Bill Callahan – 1, Marty Schottenheimer – 0.

Choke on that, Marty!

Hey Arnold – STFU!

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There’s an old saying in football that even when you are way behind and there is no realistic chance of winning the game, you still want to “give it everything you’ve got.” As a matter of pride, you need to “leave it all on the field.”

Well someone needs to tell Arnold Schwarzenegger that war is not a f--king football game!

In a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos, Arnold showed his command of world politics.
"I think we should give it everything," Schwarzenegger responded when asked in a pre-taped television interview whether he supported Bush's plan to send an additional 21,000 troops. "We should give it everything in order to be victorious."

In the interview, . . . Schwarzenegger said he does not want the U.S. to "pull out of this war as losers."
Great! Arnold wants to “give it everything we’ve got!” 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and Arnold wants to send another 21,000 and “leave them all on the (battle) field” - in order to avoid having to pull out as a loser.

I’ve got an idea! If we are going to give it everything we’ve got, how about giving Arnold? He’s supposed to be the God-Damned Terminator! Let’s “give” Arnold, and let him haul his brittle-boned, narcissistic, bad acting, steroid ridden, flabby ass to Iraq to show us how not to pull out as a loser!

And while were giving it everything we’ve got, let’s give Chuck Norris to Iraq too!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Bush Surge – In a Nutshell!

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That is - the Bush/McCain/Lieberman Surge Escalation – in a nutshell!

And if he doesn’t actually have enough troops for a “Surge,” will he have to downgrade his strategy to a "Trickle?"

Or a "Leak?"

Let’s just go all the way, and call it what it what it undoubtedly will be, a "Piss" strategy, as in:

Pissing away more American lives!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Who’s Pointing the Finger Now?

Why is it that the people who often find their way into positions that allow them to loudly and publicly condemn others are often secretly involved in the activities they are condemning?

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Take Mark Foley, the head of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, who gave fiery speeches calling for tougher laws to protect children from internet predators, but who was actually using instant messaging to set up dates with underage congressional pages.

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Or Ted Haggard, the preacher of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, who frequently proclaimed the evils of a homosexual lifestyle from the pulpit, while carrying on a series of methamphetamine-fueled trysts with a gay prostitute.

Both of these men worked very hard to achieve highly successful careers that allowed them to talk about, think about, and obsess about something in themselves that they were trying to keep hidden from public view. Their public scorn for their own secret behavior allowed them each to live out a hypocritical lie, until each was eventually discovered.

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So what does this suggest about NBC Dateline’s Chris Hansen? As a correspondent for NBC for 14 years, Hansen has recently become a household name as host of the popular “To Catch a Predator” series, where he moves from town to town luring potential sexual predators to houses where they are arrested - but not before he can shame them in front of his camera crew!

Now let me be clear - I have no problem with a carefully run police sting operation designed to arrest these people.

But why does it have to be done with the sanctimonious Hansen and his camera crew crouching behind the drapes, and then running out to show everyone in America how much these alleged predators look like their friends and neighbors?

It’s bad enough that we are being conditioned to suspect anyone who looks different from us, or doesn’t share our religious beliefs, of being a potential terrorist. Do we need to fear that our co-workers, schoolmates, neighbors, and even relatives, are sexual predators too?

Of course we don’t want our children exposed to real predators! So, by all means, catch those individuals and prosecute them to the full extent of the law!

But don’t turn the process into a TV reality show, so that the same people who secretly dream of becoming an “American Idol,” or of “Dancing With the Stars,” can secretly dream of watching their neighbor being frog-marched to jail!

And please give Chris Hansen something else to obsess over for a while! I’m really starting to wonder about that guy!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bush's New Plan - Different From His Old Plan - But Probably Not His Last Plan!

The BBC is reporting that President Bush is nearly ready to announce his new strategy in Iraq. According to an administration source Bush is planning a speech to the nation centered around the theme - "Sacrifice".

You know what that means - despite our collective weariness after the holidays ........................


Bush Finally Attends a Funeral With a Flag Draped Coffin!

He should have had to attend 3000 of these.

Monday, January 01, 2007

What I Was Going to Say About Saddam’s Execution . . .

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. . . was something to the effect of captioning this photo, “One down, one to go!”

But after reading Hunter’s brilliant “Requiem for a Bastard,” I’ve changed my mind.