ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Lawyers made their closing arguments today in the trial of Lewis Libby. He's the former vice presidential aid accused of perjury in connection with the leak of a CIA agent's identity.
Over the past four weeks, the prosecution has presented evidence that Libby lied to the FBI and a grand jury when he said he did not leak the agent's identity. The defense has tried to persuade the jury that Libby didn't lie. He just forgot.
NPR's Nina Totenberg is with us from the federal courthouse here in Washington. And Nina, tell us please about the gist of the prosecution's closing arguments.
NINA TOTENBERG: Well, prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg opened by telling the jury that this is a case about lying. He said there are nine witnesses who testified that in a one-month period they had discussions with Scooter Libby about Valerie Wilson. She's, of course, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, and she worked for the CIA. And it was the leak of the information about her employment that led to this investigation.
Nine witnesses, he said, and you can't just get rid of those nine witnesses. He went over them one by one, seeming to focus on a few to sort of conjure up interesting details. Like the number three guy at the CIA being pulled out of a meeting on June 11th by Scooter Libby, to find out more about Joseph and Valerie Wilson.
Or Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, having lunch the day after Wilson went public with his accusations that the administration was twisting intelligence to justify the war. And in that luncheon, Libby telling Fleisher that it's very hush-hush, this is on the QT, but Ambassador Wilson's wife works for the CIA.
So he tried to amass that kind of a record to put in front of the jury to show that there is no question in the prosecution's mind that Libby lied.
BLOCK: Mm-hmm. Now, before we get to the defense closing arguments, how would you describe the presentation from the prosecution? Were there dramatic flourishes or was it pretty much a matter of connection with (unintelligible)?
TOTENBERG: Why don't we talk about that at the end, Melissa?
TOTENBERG: Because it really - this is a day that heated up as the day wore on. It started out with Peter Zeidenberg, very matter of fact, and then we moved on to the defense.
And the defense said that this is a question of memory. That Mr. Libby was not the main - that he hadn't leaked any information. That, as the jury had heard, Robert Novak's column, which was the first impetus for this investigation -Robert Novak was leaked to by Richard Armitage, then the deputy secretary of state. And that the information about Mrs. Wilson was confirmed by Karl Rove.
So that there was no motive to lie and defense lawyer Wells said this was - the wheels were coming off the administration during this period of time. It was a time of high stress. There were 100,000 young men and women on the ground. And the fact that Scooter Libby would not remember details of conversations is not surprising.
That the prosecution's main witness, Tim Russert, has no notes of his conversation, and that Russert had a bad memory himself. And that Wells and his co-counsel William Jeffers looked at the jury in various points and said you know what it's like when you forget conversations. Use your common sense. It's madness to bring a perjury charge against this man for this.
BLOCK: Now, the defense in opening statements, I believe, had raised the notion that part of their defense would be that Lewis Libby was a scapegoat. He was essentially a fall guy to protect Karl Rove. Did that come up in closings as well?
TOTENBERG: Well, Ted Wells, in a very emotional closing, said don't sacrifice Scooter Libby. Why is he being treated differently than the people who did leak? Don't sacrifice Scooter Libby just because you disagree with the policy on Iraq or you don't like the Bush administration. This is a good man, a man with a wife and two children. And Wells said he's been under my protection for the last month. I give him to you now. Just give him back to me. And then he broke into tears.
Fitzgerald the prosecutor - Patrick Fitzgerald - then took over in the rebuttal and his close was equally impassioned but without any tears. It was - he said there was a cloud over the White House and the vice president's office.
Don't you think the grand jury and the American public deserved a straight answer about who leaked classified information and whether it was done intentionally? But Mr. Libby said I'm going to tell a story to make this go away. He stole the truth from the judicial system. Give the truth back.
BLOCK: Hmm. Now, if Lewis Libby is in fact found guilty, what sentence could he face, Nina?
TOTENBERG: Well, you know, these sentences are all very theoretical, because you add - I think if I recall accurately it's something in theory like 30 years. But it - in practice if he were found guilty it wouldn't be anything like that.
BLOCK: Ok. Nina thanks very much. NPR's Nina Totenberg at the federal courthouse in Washington.