Libby and Cheney won't take stand

Defense rests in perjury trial of former aide to VP

February 14, 2007|By Richard B. Schmitt | Richard B. Schmitt,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The lawyer for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby said yesterday that he would rest his defense of the former White House aide without calling Libby or his former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, to testify.

The lawyer, Theodore Wells, told a judge that he had advised Libby yesterday not to take the stand in the perjury trial and that Libby had followed his advice.

Wells said he also had told Cheney's lawyer that he did not intend to call the vice president, who was scheduled to testify tomorrow.

Wells said he planned to finish presenting evidence in the case as soon as today.

The decision to not call either Libby or Cheney means an abrupt end to the trial.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he expected closing arguments by the lawyers in the case to be Tuesday, after which the case would go to the jury.

Earlier yesterday, a one-time aide to Libby said Libby periodically demonstrated "an awful memory" and would forget the source of briefings he received on important policy issues.

Testifying for the defense at Libby's perjury trial, John Hannah also said Libby was actively dealing with a broad range of national security issues throughout the time that the government alleges Libby and others were focused on an administration war critic and his wife.

Hannah, who succeeded Libby as Cheney's top national security aide in 2005, is among a series of witnesses that Libby's lawyers are calling in an attempt to show that Libby was concerned with more important matters than CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

Libby is charged with lying to investigators probing how the identity of Plame, an arms proliferation analyst, became public in July 2003. His lawyers contend that weighty affairs of state might have fogged his memory in answering questions about discussions he had with journalists about Wilson's wife.

Hannah testified that Libby was immersed in a host of life-and-death issues, including the war in Iraq, the nuclear threat posed by Iran and potential terror attacks on the U.S.

He also said that Libby, at times, had a famously bad memory.

"On certain things, Scooter just had an awful memory," he said.

The testimony could buttress the defense's view that Libby did not intentionally lie to investigators and a grand jury.

Hannah described how he would share views on an issue with Libby in his office in the morning and meet up with him later in the day when Libby seemed to be taking credit for ideas that Hannah had offered just hours earlier.

"In very excited fashion," Libby would "repeat back to me the analysis and recommendations and have no idea that I had told him that the very same morning," Hannah said.

The scenario played itself out on "times too many to count," he trestified. "It was very striking. He was good at remembering ideas and concepts and arguments, and very bad in figuring out where those arguments may have come from."

He said on occasion he would tell Libby: "Yeah, that is a great idea, because I told you this morning." When confronted, Hannah said, Libby "never" denied that Hannah had given him the information.

Libby was the only person charged in the wake of a three-year federal probe investigating Plame's outing. Wilson accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence in a July 6, 2003, op-ed piece in The New York Times. Eight days later, Plame's name and job were revealed in a column by syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

The trial has revealed that Libby and Cheney were focused on Wilson and discrediting him and some of the claims he had made, which they viewed as unfair or erroneous. Several administration officials acknowledged in testimony Monday that they spoke with reporters about Wilson's wife in June and July 2003.

Hannah and others who worked with Libby are essentially being offered as surrogates to discuss Libby's workload.

But prosecutors are objecting to certain aspects of the testimony, including summaries of classified information Libby saw. Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald told Walton that the summaries were provided to the defense only on the condition that Libby personally testify. He accused Libby's lawyers of pulling "a bait and switch" by seeking to use the information in court without Libby taking the stand.

Hannah is expected to be followed by CIA employees who provided Libby and Cheney with morning intelligence briefings.

Richard B. Schmitt writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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