NPR logo Libby and Cheney Won't Testify in CIA-Leak Trial


Libby and Cheney Won't Testify in CIA-Leak Trial

Hear and read key excerpts or all of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's testimony before the grand jury:

In Depth

Vice President Dick Cheney will not take the stand at the perjury trial for his former chief of staff, defense lawyers announced in court Tuesday. Neither will the defendant himself, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who is accused of perjury and of obstructing a federal investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity.

When U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton asked Libby whether he was sure he did not want to testify, the defendant stood and said, "Yes, your honor."

Putting Libby on the stand would have been a double-edged sword for the defense. As a witness, Libby would have had the opportunity to explain audio recordings in which he allegedly lied to a grand jury about his role in the leak of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. But Libby also would have had to endure undoubtedly harsh cross-examination from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Libby's decision not to testify in his own defense is unusual for someone on trial for perjury. Conventional wisdom holds that a perjury defendant is ill-advised to decline taking the stand in his own defense.

Instead of Libby or Cheney, defense attorneys on Tuesday presented John Hannah, Cheney's current national security adviser and Libby's former deputy, as a sort of surrogate witness for Libby. Defense lawyers noted that while Libby was both chief of staff and national security adviser to the vice president, Hannah is only the latter.

"Is it fair to say Mr. Libby had essentially two full-time jobs?" asked lawyer John Cline.

"From my perspective, yes," said Hannah.

Hannah also testified that Libby had a notoriously bad memory, sometimes parroting back ideas that Hannah had suggested just hours before as though they were new. Hannah went through a list of national security issues that Libby dealt with during the week of the CIA leak to underscore the potential for Libby to have forgotten his conversations with reporters about Valerie Plame amid the crush of other responsibilities.

Under cross-examination, Fitzgerald probed how Libby could have met with then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller to discuss Plame during such a busy week.

"If he gave someone an hour or two during that week, it was something Mr. Libby thought would be important, correct?" Fitzgerald asked. The witness agreed.

The defense expects to rest its case Wednesday, with closing arguments scheduled for Thursday.