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Context of 'February 11, 2007: Cheney Will be Held Accountable on Witness Stand if He Testifies, Observers Say'

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Scott Shane.Scott Shane. [Source: Charlie Rose (.com)]As the perjury and obstruction trial of former White House aide Lewis Libby gets underway (see January 16-23, 2007), the New York Times publishes a profile of Libby that paints him as a relatively nonpartisan figure with a keen intellect, a literary bent, and a driving interest in upholding the nation’s security. Most of the quotes used in the profile are from members of the Libby Legal Defense Trust (see After October 28, 2005 and February 21, 2006). The profile, written by Times reporter Scott Shane, emphasizes Libby’s complex nature, calling him “paradox[ical]” and contrasting his literary aspirations and buttoned-down demeanor with a fondness for tequila shooters and his use of his childhood nickname, “Scooter.” Shane lines up quotes from Libby’s friends and supporters who express their dismay at the charges he faces, and their disbelief that anyone could conceive of his involvement in any sort of criminal enterprise. “I don’t often use the word ‘incomprehensible,’ but this is incomprehensible to me,” says Dennis Ross, a foreign policy expert and the only Democrat on the Defense Trust board. “He’s a lawyer who’s as professional and competent as anyone I know. He’s a friend, and when he says he’s innocent, I believe him. I just can’t account for this case.” Shane writes that Libby’s friends and former colleagues consider the charges, and the conduct of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in prosecuting the case, both “unjust [and] a terrible irony.” Vice President Dick Cheney’s former communications adviser, Mary Matalin, says of Libby, “He’s going to be the poster boy for the criminalization of politics, and he’s not even political.” Matalin notes that Libby was often described as “Cheney’s Cheney,” an “absolutely salient translator” of the ideas and policy initiatives of Cheney, his former boss. But neoconservative Francis Fukuyama, who once worked with Libby in the State Department, says regardless of Libby’s closeness to Cheney, he is not a conservative ideologue. “He never struck me, even knowing him as I do, as an ideologue,” Fukuyama says. “I wouldn’t say I have a particularly good handle on his worldview.” In many ways, Shane notes, Libby was one of the driving forces behind the Iraq war. “Libby didn’t plan the war,” says historian John Prados, one of the few people quoted in the profile who are not close friends or political allies of the former White House aide. “But he did enable the administration to set out on that course. He was the facilitator.” Famed Washington attorney Leonard Garment, who headed a law firm Libby once worked for, calls Libby “reliable, immensely hard working, and guarded.” Garment once represented Richard Nixon during the Watergate investigation (see August 28, 1974). Libby’s friend Jackson Hogen, who describes himself as a liberal Democrat, says that Libby’s wife Harriet is also a Democrat. “She probably cancels his vote every four years,” Hogan says. “It’s a credit to Scooter that he can maintain a friend like me and a wife like her all these years.” Libby’s driving passion, say Matalin and other close friends and colleagues, is the security of the nation. “What animates him is security,” Matalin says. “On 9/12 [the day after the 9/11 attacks], there were but a handful of people who had the strategic grasp of terrorism that he did.” As a person, Hogen says that while Libby “puts up a tough front… there’s a kind human being in there who’s really gotten beat up in this affair.” Shane winds up his profile with a quote from liberal columnist Paul Andersen, who lunched with Libby last summer while Libby was vacationing in Colorado. “I got a feeling for him as a family man, a guy who likes the mountains,” Andersen recalls. “Later, it seemed like he was nursing some serious pain. It seemed a dreadful shame that circumstances can sometimes ruin lives.” [New York Times, 1/17/2007] Author and progressive blogger Marcy Wheeler is contemptuous of the Shane article, writing that it is almost obsequious in its regard for Libby, and notes that Shane’s “profile” of Libby is restricted to those who support him and raise money for his defense fund, including Ross, Fukuyama, and Matalin. Wheeler advises Shane, “[I]f you’re going to do a profile, base it on neutral observers.” Wheeler also speculates that Shane may even be trying to echo the defense’s talking points, observing that at the beginning of a trial that hinges on Libby’s divulging of a CIA official’s covert identity, Shane quotes several people who note how “reserved” Libby is, even quoting one as saying Libby is silent as “a tomb” on security matters. Shane, Wheeler notes, also hits on Libby’s “memory defense” (see January 31, 2006) by quoting several of his friends on his propensity for hard, intense work. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Jackson Hogen, Harriet Libby, Francis Fukuyama, Dennis Ross, Leonard Garment, Scott Shane, New York Times, Paul Andersen, Mary Matalin, Marcy Wheeler, Libby Legal Defense Trust, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, John Prados, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

New York Times reporters Scott Shane and Jim Rutenberg, writing for the Times-owned International Herald Tribune, observe that if Vice President Dick Cheney does choose to testify in the Lewis Libby trial, he may not bolster Libby’s defense as much as he may intend. The reporters write: “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.” Court and legal observers believe that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will be respectful but probing, and will hold Cheney accountable for any misstatements or contradictions. The reporters write, “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.” A former federal prosecutor who knows Fitzgerald says: “If Cheney said anything that’s contradicted in the record, though I think that’s unlikely, Pat will slam him. He’ll do it respectfully, but I have no doubt he’ll do it.” [International Herald Tribune, 2/11/2007]

Entity Tags: Scott Shane, Jim Rutenberg, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The defense for accused perjurer Lewis “Scooter” Libby questions Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, John Hannah, who says he worked very closely with Libby while Libby served as Cheney’s chief of staff. Hannah testifies that Libby has a poor memory (see January 31, 2006), telling defense lawyer John Cline, “On certain things Scooter had an awful memory.” Hannah also says that part of Libby’s job as chief of staff to Cheney was to “push back” on any criticism of the vice president such as that leveled by war critic Joseph Wilson (see July 6, 2003). [New York Times, 2/13/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/13/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] Hannah says of Libby’s memory, “It would often be the case where he was quite good at remembering ideas and concepts and very bad at figuring out how those ideas came to him.” Hannah portrays Libby’s typical workday as, in the words of the Associated Press, “breakneck,” with CIA briefings beginning a long and often hectic workday peppered with top-level meetings. “He was the key person talking about and helping advise the vice president on issues of homeland security,” Hannah testifies. Hannah’s testimony is key to the defense strategy, helping paint Libby as a man consumed with the duties of an intensely stressful job and therefore prone to make mistakes in recollection, especially about issues such as the identity of a CIA official whose husband is publicly criticizing the government. Hannah is also able to introduce some specifics about the national threats Libby worked to prevent, including terrorism and the problems posed by Iran and Pakistan, without subjecting Libby to cross-examination (see February 12, 2007). When Libby tried to remember things during his hectic workday, Hannah testifies, he often was unable to do so completely. [Associated Press, 2/13/2007; New York Times, 2/13/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/13/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/13/2007] Hannah’s attempt to paint Libby as overworked and mnemonically challenged is short-lived, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pins Hannah down in cross-examination. Fitzgerald asks Hannah if it would be accurate to say that because of Libby’s crushing work schedule during the week of July 6, 2003, the former chief of staff would have only spent time on things he considered important. “If he gave something an hour or two that week,” Fitzgerald asks, “it would be something Mr. Libby thought was important, right?” Hannah agrees. The jury is well aware that Libby spent two hours with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8 of that week (see 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003). Both outed CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson and FireDogLake blogger Jane Hamsher will observe, “It was a Perry Mason moment.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 290-291; Associated Press, 2/13/2007; New York Times, 2/13/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/13/2007; Jane Hamsher, 2/13/2007] Former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal, the author of a recent book critical of the Bush administration, calls Hannah “Cheney’s stand-in, but without Cheney’s enormous potential liabilities that might be explored through cross-examination. Hannah’s role was to be the first-person witness to buttress Libby’s memory defense.” [Salon, 2/15/2007]

Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, John Cline, John Hannah, Valerie Plame Wilson, Sidney Blumenthal, Jane Hamsher, Reggie B. Walton, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Judith Miller, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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