NYT: Cheney expected to make 'historic appearance' on witness stand at CIA leak trial
Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to make a "historic appearance" on the witness stand at the trial for his former aide, I. Lewis Libby, who is accused of obstructing justice and lying to officials investigating the Bush Administration's alleged "outing" of a CIA officer, Monday's New York Times reports.
"One witness has dominated the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. without even showing up in the courtroom," Scott Shane and Jim Rutenberg write for the Times.
The article continues, "Day after day, the jury has heard accounts of the actions of Vice President Dick Cheney, watched as his handwritten notes were displayed on a giant screen, heard how he directed leaks to the press and ordered the White House to publicly defend Libby, his top aide and close confidante."
"Now, as the defense phase of the perjury trial begins, Cheney is expected to make an historic appearance on the witness stand," the Times reports. "It is an act of loyalty that carries considerable risk for Cheney."
Law professor Peter Shane tells the Times that it could make "great theater," because whatever the vice president testifies to would then become "fair game" for the prosecution to use against him on cross-examination.
"If Cheney makes a statement that conflicts with the public record — and nearly every witness so far has done so at least once — it could prove embarrassing for him and for the administration," Shane and Rutenberg write.
A former federal prosecutor, described by the paper as one who "knows" Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald personally, says, "If Cheney said anything that's contradicted in the record, though I think that's unlikely, Pat will slam him." The Times' source adds that Fitzgerald will "do it respectfully, but I have no doubt he'll do it."
In addition, a sidebar story, written by David Johnston, takes "a look back at instances when presidents or vice presidents were called to testify."
"Mr. Cheney’s testimony as a courtroom witness for his former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., would break with one of the closest historical parallels, when former President Ronald Reagan testified in 1990 via videotape as a defense witness in the trial of his former national security adviser, John M. Poindexter," Johnston writes.
"The Reagan videotape offered an insight into the unpredictability of criminal trials," Johnston continues. "His appearance seemed to have little direct impact on the trial, but it created a permanent historical record of his failing memory, which would have been preserved through a printed transcript had he appeared as a live witness but would not have caused the same impact as the widely broadcast videotape."
Excerpts from article:
If he testifies, Cheney will bring to the jurors the awesome authority of his office and could attest to Libby's character as policy adviser and family man, to his crushing workload and dedication to keeping the country safe. That could give extra heft to Libby's defense against the charge that he lied to the FBI and grand jury: that he was so occupied with important matters of state, he did not accurately remember conversations from July 2003.
But the first 10 days of testimony has already exposed some of the long-hidden workings of Cheney's extraordinary vice presidency, revealing how deeply the vice president himself was engaged during 2003 in managing public relations as the administration's case for war came under attack.
Under cross-examination by Patrick Fitzgerald, a veteran prosecutor who is likely to be deferential but dogged with questions, the vice president may be forced to describe in uncomfortable detail how he directed the counterattack on Joseph Wilson 4th, the former ambassador who accused the administration of twisting pre-war intelligence.
FULL ARTICLE CAN BE READ AT THIS LINK or AT NY TIMES WEBSITE
Excerpts from Johnston's article:
If he testifies as expected, Dick Cheney would be the first sitting vice president, at least in modern times, to appear as a witness in a criminal trial. And if he testifies in court, he may also be the first to give live testimony in defense of a subordinate’s actions on his behalf, legal historians said.
The showing of the tape had unforeseen consequences for Mr. Reagan and his legacy. It created a record of Mr. Reagan as a former head of state unable to grasp the facts about the most serious crisis of his presidency, in the unforgiving setting of a criminal trial. That imagery seemed to foreshadow his disclosure in 1994 that he had Alzheimer’s disease.
“You just could not have seen all that coming,” Mr. Olson said. “But in a live situation it might have been worse.” Had Mr. Reagan appeared in court, Mr. Olson said, it might have been more difficult for him to interject on his client’s behalf and might not have permitted Mr. Reagan to take the rest breaks he was granted during the deposition.
FULL JOHNSTON ARTICLE CAN BE READ AT THIS LINK