There is "a lot of evidence" that Vice President Dick Cheney gave false statements to the FBI during its investigation of the Valerie Plame leak affair, says former White House attorney John Dean.
Dean told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann that Cheney attained "something of a record" by refusing to answer or claiming to not recall the answer to 72 questions posed by the FBI during a May, 2004, interview.
"If you'll recall, former Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman did 150 'I don't recalls' during his three days before the Senate Watergate committee," Dean said. "This is 72 in less than three hours, that's right up there."
The comparison is striking, because Haldeman served 18 months in prison for conspiracy and obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal.
"There's a lot of evidence that [Cheney] gave a number of false statements to federal officials, which is clearly a federal offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, and it could well be obstruction of justice," Dean said on MSNBC's Countdown Monday night.
Dean added that "it's not clear why Fitzgerald did not aggressively pursue this," referring to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted the Plame leak case.
Last month, a federal judge ruled that the FBI cannot keep secret the 2004 interview with Cheney. The investigation that the interview was a part of led to the prosecution of Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, over the leaking of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame's identity to the public, after her husband, Joseph Wilson, questioned the accuracy of some of the Bush administration's "intelligence" about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Libby was never convicted of leaking Plame's identity, but he was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in relation to the case. President George W. Bush commuted Libby's sentence in 2007. It has since been reported that Cheney pressured Bush to pardon Libby.
As Olbermann noted, during the interview, Cheney said he "could not recall telling Libby Plame's identity, Libby reminding him of this fact later on, or that Libby had leaked Plame's name to reporters, but did remember that he wanted [White House] spokesman Scott McClellan to tell reporters Libby had not leaked Plame's name. He admitted he learned Plame's name well before Libby, from CIA Director George Tenet."
To Dean, Cheney's insistence that Libby be pardoned suggests that Libby was the fall guy for Cheney in the investigation.
"It clearly shows in this testimony, as well as in all his other actions, that Libby fell on his sword for his boss," Dean told Olbermann. "His boss obviously felt an obligation and wanted to maintain that relationship of confidentiality."
Dean said that Cheney is safe from prosecution, because "he has now gotten himself beyond the statute of limitations."
Dean should know a thing or two about obstruction of justice. As White House counsel in the Nixon administration, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison for obstruction of the Watergate investigation. His sentence was reduced to four months after he testified against other Nixon White House staffers, including Haldeman.
This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Nov. 2, 2009.