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Context of 'January 23, 2007: Prosecution Complains that Defense Is Misleading Jury'

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February 3, 2006: Libby Trial Date Set

Judge Reggie Walton orders a preliminary date set for Lewis Libby’s trial on perjury and obstruction charges (see October 28, 2005). Walton orders the date set for January 8, 2007. The rather lengthy delay is, in part, due to one of Libby’s lawyers, Theodore Wells, having another trial already set for the fall of 2006. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald does not oppose the scheduling. [MSNBC, 2/3/2006; FireDogLake, 2/3/2006] “We are very happy with the trial date set by Judge Walton,” Wells says. “The January 8, 2007, date will permit us the time we need to prepare Mr. Libby’s defense. The defense will show that Mr. Libby is totally innocent, that he has not done anything wrong, and he looks forward to being totally vindicated by a jury.” [New York Times, 2/3/2006] Walton originally wanted the trial to happen in September 2006, but it was delayed because of Wells’s scheduling conflicts. [New York Times, 2/3/2006; Washington Note, 2/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Theodore Wells, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Reggie B. Walton

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Judge Reggie Walton holds a hearing to discuss numerous issues surrounding the upcoming Lewis Libby trial. One of the key areas of discussion is the involvement and expected testimony of White House political strategist Karl Rove (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, October 8, 2003, October 15, 2004, October 14, 2005, and April 26, 2006). The Libby defense team wants to compel the disclosure of a raft of classified White House and CIA documents concerning Rove’s actions in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak, but special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, saying he does not intend to call Rove as a witness, is refusing to ask the White House for those documents (see After October 28, 2005, January 31, 2006, February 6, 2006, and (February 16, 2006)). Fitzgerald admits to being legally compelled to turn over any material he has on witnesses he intends to call, but will not agree to go after material regarding witnesses he does not intend to call, especially when that material may prove to be to the defense’s benefit. For Libby, lawyer Theodore Wells says he intends to call Rove as a witness, and he wants Fitzgerald to battle with the White House for documents pertaining to Rove’s involvement in the leak. Fitzgerald retorts, as he has before, that the material Wells and his team are asking for is not germane to a perjury defense. In the process, Wells falsely claims that a legal precedent exists for forcing a government prosecution to seek evidence the defense wants, and Walton is briefly taken in by his deception before learning that Wells is misrepresenting the case law. Fitzgerald says flatly: “I’m responsible for the government’s case… and turning over my obligations. I am not responsible for preparing the defense case. And the case law, and Your Honor cited it. It is material defined by the indictment and the government’s case in chief. You just can’t say I’m going to call 20 witnesses so give me everything about them. We then would have effectively open-file discovery or beyond that and I don’t agree with that reading of the law.” The conversation, especially on Fitzgerald’s part, is circumspect, with all parties well aware that the hearing is being held in open court. However, Walton is somewhat testy with Wells during one exchange. Referring to Wells’s stated intention to introduce former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s classified CIA report on the Iraq-Niger uranium claims (see March 4-5, 2002), Walton says, “I don’t see how this is relevant to the case.” Any focus on Wilson’s report would turn the trial into an inquiry on “statements the president made in the State of the Union (see Mid-January 2003 and 9:01 pm January 28, 2003). You want to try the legitimacy of us going to war.” [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/5/2006 pdf file; Bloomberg, 5/5/2006; Marcy Wheeler, 6/15/2006]
Defense: Libby Small Part of Larger White House Operation - Wells makes a statement that indicates he and his fellow attorneys intend to try to prove that Libby was indeed a small part of a much larger White House operation. He says: “It wasn’t just him [Libby]. He was involved in what was a multi-agency response. It was [sic] Office of the Vice President. It was the Office of the President.” Former prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith calls Wells’s statement a “‘Hello, Karl’ moment,” and notes that Wells is trying to go in at least two different directions: Libby’s memory is demonstrably faulty (see January 31, 2006) and he is being made into a White House scapegoat. Smith observes, “Team Libby is going to have a very tough time indeed if they are going to play such substantially adverse ends of the spectrum against each other at trial in order to raise reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds.” [Christy Hardin Smith, 5/12/2006]
Author: Defense May Not Intend to Call Rove, Maneuvering for Materials Instead? - Author and blogger Marcy Wheeler, who is closely following the case, will later write that she is not at all sure that Libby’s lawyers really intend to call Rove as a defense witness. “But they seem awfully interested in getting all the materials relating, presumably, to Rove’s conversation with [columnist Robert] Novak (see July 14, 2003). They sure seem interested in knowing what Rove said, and whether they can make certain arguments without Rove refuting those arguments.” [Marcy Wheeler, 6/15/2006]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Christy Hardin Smith, Bush administration (43), Joseph C. Wilson, Theodore Wells, Reggie B. Walton, Marcy Wheeler, Executive Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The jury is excused from sitting in the Lewis Libby trial until some issues between the prosecution and defense are resolved. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald claims that defense attorney Theodore Wells misled the jury during his opening statement (see January 23, 2007) by saying that the only way he could lose the case was if the jury let its feelings about the Iraq war cloud its collective judgment. Judge Reggie Walton seems unconcerned about Fitzgerald’s complaint. Fitzgerald also complains that Wells twice told the jury that the defense is restricted in what it can and cannot say about classified matters, but the government prosecutors have similar restrictions that the jury is not aware of. Walton is unhappy about the possibility that the jury may believe the defense is unable to make its case. Wells says, “I didn’t do anything intentionally,” but merely met Fitzgerald’s case on the merits. Walton retorts that “[s]ometimes it’s impossible to un-ring the bell once it’s been rung.” Fitzgerald wants the comments to be struck from the record, but Walton does not issue a ruling. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Theodore Wells, Reggie B. Walton

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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