'There is a cloud over the White House;' Not just Libby, prosecutor accuses 'them'
Published: Wednesday February 21, 2007
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While rebutting the closing argument by the defense at I. Lewis Libby's trial, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spoke of a "dark cloud over the White House," due to the alleged obstruction of justice by the former White House aide. At the Washington Post's website, columnist Dan Froomkin points out that for the first time, as many have speculated, the prosecutor wasn't just accusing Libby, he was also referring to "them."

According to Froomkin, Fitzgerald "at long last made it quite clear that the depth of Vice President Cheney's role in the leaking of the identity of a CIA operative is one of the central mysteries that Libby's alleged lies prevented investigators from resolving."

"There is a cloud over the vice president . . . And that cloud remains because this defendant obstructed justice," Fitzgerald said. "There is a cloud over the White House. Don't you think the FBI and the grand jury and the American people are entitled to straight answers?"

Froomkin continues, "After literally years of keeping his public pronouncements about the case to an absolute minimum, Fitzgerald yesterday finally let slip a bit of the speculation that many of us have long suspected has lurked just beneath the surface of his investigation. Suddenly it wasn't just the defendant alone, it was 'they' who decided to tell reporters about Wilson's wife working for the CIA. 'To them,' Fitzgerald said, 'she wasn't a person, she was an argument.'"

"And it was pretty clear who 'they' was: Libby and his boss, Cheney," Froomkin writes.

At the New York Sun, Josh Gerstein wrote on Wednesday that Bush had been "chided" by Fitzgerald.

"Broadening his attack on the White House, Mr. Fitzgerald took a shot at President Bush, indirectly criticizing him for not firing officials implicated in the leaks about the CIA officer, Valerie Plame," Gerstein wrote. "The prosecutor noted that in 2003 the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, said Mr. Bush would immediately dismiss anyone involved in leaking Ms. Plame's identity."

Froomkin called attention to Gerstein's article in his column.

"Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun, who was sitting right next to me in court yesterday, was possibly the only print reporter to lead with the big news: 'The special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, Patrick Fitzgerald, is suggesting in his strongest terms yet that Vice President Cheney was involved in an effort to unmask a CIA operative married to an administration critic,'" Froomkin wrote.

Excerpts from New York Sun article:


"Any sane person would think, based on what McClellan said in October 2003, that any person involved in this would be fired," Mr. Fitzgerald said.

The prosecutor's clear implication was that Mr. Bush failed to keep his word. Mr. Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, is still working at the White House despite having served as a source for two press accounts about Ms. Plame. A State Department official who leaked Ms. Plame's identity at least twice, Richard Armitage, resigned at the end of 2004. Mr. Libby, who quit after being indicted, has conceded discussing the CIA staffer with a Time magazine reporter, Matthew Cooper.


The White House has steadfastly refused to comment on the case. Mr. Cheney was traveling in Japan yesterday. Asked about the new aspersions cast on the vice president, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, Megan McGinn, said he would have no comment while the matter is before the courts.

Mr. Fitzgerald's pregnant statements yesterday about Messrs. Bush and Cheney may have been intended to bolster the chance of convicting Mr. Libby by tying him to the unpopular political figures atop the executive branch. Another possibility is that the closing statements offered the prosecutor who has headed the investigation for more than three years his last clear opportunity to opine on the actions of the president and the vice president in the case. While prosecutors appointed under the independent counsel law were permitted to file reports on their findings, there is no such provision for Mr. Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney who was appointed by the Justice Department after senior officials there recused themselves because of the political sensitivity of the case.