Federal Prosecutors May Call Cheney to Testify

Prosecutors may call Vice President Dick Cheney to testify at the trial of his former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, according to court filings in the CIA leak case. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on why prosecutors might want Cheney as a witness.

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In Washington Vice President Dick Cheney may be asked to testify against his former chief of staff. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in connection with the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. In the latest court filing, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says he's not ruled out calling the vice president as a witness.

NPR's Ari Shapiro has more on why the vice president might be useful to prosecutors.

ARI SHAPIRO reporting:

The question at the center of the case is this, when Lewis Libby told federal investigators in the Grand Jury that he did not leak the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, did he lie or was he just misremembering?

Prosecutors may use the vice president to convince a jury that Libby lied. The prosecution is trying to demonstrate that before reporters learned Plame's identity, the vice president's office was singularly focused on her husband, Joseph Wilson. Wilson criticized the administration's Iraq intelligence in a New York Times op ed and according to this filing that made Cheney angry.

Libby told the Grand Jury, "I recall that he was very keen to get the truth out. He wanted to get all the facts out about what he had or hadn't done what the facts were or were not. He was very keen on that and said it repeatedly. Let's get everything out."

Tom Debaggio is a former U.S. Attorney.

Mr. TOM DEBAGGIO (Former U.S. Attorney): It's a common sense argument. Your boss says I'm very concerned about this and I want the facts to get out. I want something to be done. Well, as a subordinate you obviously do what your boss says. You get the facts out. You carry out his wishes.

SHAPIRO: Suddenly Libby's alleged crimes have a motive.

Mr. DEBAGGIO: Libby's accused of talking to reporters and revealing a certain name at a certain time and this puts it in context. This says he had meetings with his superior, the vice president of United States, the vice president had a desire to get the facts out and then it naturally would flow, according to the prosecution's case, that then Libby went out and had these conversations. So it is connecting the dots.

SHAPIRO: But Libby is not charged with leaking, he's charged with lying about the leak. Former federal prosecutor Josh Berman says the prosecutor's account in this filing also makes it harder for Libby to argue that the sequence of events simply slipped his mind.

Mr. JOSH BERMAN (Former federal prosecutor): At the end of the day, if the vice president sat down in a meeting with his underling Libby and had a specific conversation and was referencing a specific article and was putting handwritten notes on a piece of paper, it creates the atmosphere of, well that's not a meeting that could easily be misremembered.

SHAPIRO: In a filing earlier this month, prosecutors released a copy of Wilson's New York Times op ed with Cheney's handwritten notes jotted in the margin.

Scott Frederickson is a former federal prosecutor and he says the vice president's office is becoming the spindle around which this entire case revolves and that can't make the White House happy.

Mr. SCOTT FREDERICKSON (Former federal prosecutor): Regardless of whether he's called by the prosecution or the defense, it puts what appears to be the administration's policy of going out to rebut the op ed piece by Joe Wilson, it puts it squarely front and center in the middle of a trial. So it's an uncomfortable situation for the administration.

SHAPIRO: With the trial slated to begin early next year, they may be in an uncomfortable situation for a while.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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