Bush 'Saddened' by Libby Verdict

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A spokesperson said Tuesday that President Bush respected the jury's guilty verdict in the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and that he was saddened for Libby and his family.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

After the verdicts came down, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stood outside the federal courthouse and spoke to reporters.

Mr. PATRICK FITZGERALD (Special Prosecutor): It's sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who worked in the office of vice president, obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that that had not happened, but it did. And I want to thank the colleagues and investigators behind me, who worked hard to make sure that we brought that to light, and brought it to court, and proved it beyond a reasonable doubt - and we're gratified by the jury's verdict.

BRAND: Fitzgerald also addressed the question of whether more charges would be filed.

Mr. FITZGERALD: I would not expect to see any further charges filed. We're all going back to our day jobs. We see the investigation as inactive.

BRAND: Today at the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perrino recounted President Bush's reaction to the verdict.

Ms. DANA PERRINO (Spokeswoman, White House): He was in the Oval Office. He saw the verdict read on television. He said that he respected the jury's verdict, that he was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family. There is an ongoing criminal proceeding. Our principled stand, of not commenting on ongoing legal investigations, is going to continue.

BRAND: And of course the "he" in that quote was President Bush. We're joined now by NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea. And, Don, the White House has been tight-lipped about this case the whole way through and really that doesn't appear to be changing today.

DON GONYEA: There was an interesting moment in the briefing with - that was Dana Perrino, the deputy press secretary. Tony Snow, the press secretary, was scheduled not do the briefing today. We do not know if he's got the day off or what. So Dana was the one really in the hot seat there. But after repeatedly refusing to say anything else beyond what you just heard in that statement, she said had there been an acquittal today, it would have been a very different conversation we're having right now. A lot would be different, had there been an acquittal.

But I can tell you the White House has not commented on this case since October 28 of 2005. That's the day Scooter Libby stepped down and that's when the president on the south lawn said Scooter has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to his country, and that he served the president and vice president in extraordinary times. Since then they wouldn't - they won't talk about it. And that is absolutely going to continue.

BRAND: And I suppose one of the first questions of reporters asked and tried to get an answer about was whether or not the president would issue a pardon.

GONYEA: First question indeed. It was put in the context of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement. He put out a statement welcoming the verdict and at the end of that short statement, he said now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct.

Dana Perrino was ready for that one. She said she wouldn't talk about a hypothetical. There's been no request for a pardon, that appeals are under way, requests for a new trial. And then she said there's a process for any American to apply for a pardon from any president. So she said those things stand. So - but that question is going to keep coming up.

BRAND: Right. Well, also, we're wondering if this is it for the investigation or is it possible that there will be someone else in the White House, who will be investigated by the special prosecutor and charged?

GONYEA: I wouldn't venture a guess as to what may play out. That's not our role here, but it is certainly not closed. It is quite possible that prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, could - could - you know, take this conviction and now pursue others. I mean there's, you know, one of the things that he said in his closing arguments during the trial is that a cloud hangs over the vice president's office. And clearly there was a lot of discussion about the interaction between Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, and Cheney himself. So a lot of people would be - are watching closely for any signs that Fitzgerald might be doing anything. But again, right now, there's just kind of soaking in this very - for the White House - unwelcome verdict.

BRAND: White House correspondent Don Gonyea, thank you.

GONYEA: A pleasure.

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Libby Convicted of Lying in CIA Leak Case

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Reaction to the Verdict

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I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted Tuesday on three counts of perjury and a fourth count of obstruction of justice in the investigation of the leak of a CIA agent's name.

A federal jury in Washington, D.C., acquitted Libby on an additional count of lying to the FBI.

Libby had little reaction to the verdict, while his wife cried and hugged his defense lawyers. Libby stood expressionless as the jury left the room. The verdict was read on the 10th day of deliberations. Afterward, Libby did not speak to reporters.

The case against Libby stems from an FBI investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

In the summer of 2003, Plame's husband — former ambassador Joseph Wilson — emerged as a leading critic of the White House's justification for the invasion of Iraq. Wilson had publicly described a fact-finding mission he undertook for the CIA, during which he found no evidence that Iraq had attempted to purchase materials to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.

Vice President Cheney, then Libby's boss, was particularly enraged. Cheney told his chief of staff to look for information on Wilson.

Several White House officials leaked the identity of Wilson's wife to reporters, in an attempt to convince them that Wilson was part of a CIA move to distance itself from the White House. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald contended that Libby was one of the officials involved in that effort.

Libby talked about Plame to several reporters — including Judith Miller, then of The New York Times, and Matthew Cooper, then of Time magazine.

Exposing an undercover CIA agent's identity can be a felony. The publication of Plame's name in Robert Novak's syndicated column in July 2003 prompted a formal inquiry.

Libby told FBI investigators that he had learned of Plame's identity from a third journalist, NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert. Russert denied that he and Libby had ever talked about Plame. Libby later said that he had forgotten how he'd first heard of Plame. He acknowledged that he had earlier heard of Plame from Cheney.

No one was charged explicitly for the leak. Instead, Fitzgerald argued that Libby had lied under oath to cover up a political embarrassment. At a press conference after the verdict, juror Denis Collins — a former Washington Post reporter — said the jury found that Libby's account of his conversation with Russert was not credible.

The other White House officials involved in leaking Plame's name — including presidential adviser Karl Rove, former State Department official Richard Armitage and former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer — cooperated with prosecutors and were not charged.

Fitzgerald said that no additional charges would be filed in the probe. That means that Libby — who was not the source for the original column that outed Plame — will be the only one to face trial.

"The results are actually sad," Fitzgerald said. "It's sad that we had a situation where a high-level official person who worked in the office of the vice president obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not happened, but it did."

Libby's lawyers have indicated that they will seek a new trial and, failing that, will appeal. Libby will be allowed to remain free while awaiting sentencing, which is set for June 5.

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