MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
A federal jury today convicted Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. Lewis Scooter Libby was found guilty of four counts of lying under oath and obstructing the investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
Jurors acquitted Libby on one count of making false statements. Libby's lawyers say they'll ask for a new trial. And failing that, they will appeal the conviction. We'll hear from two of the key players in this story and from the White House. First, to NPR's Ari Shapiro, who was in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
ARI SHAPIRO: Over a month of testimony, the jury heard from some of the country's most prominent journalists and government officials. According to juror Denis Collins, by the time the panel worked through all of that testimony, their opinion of the case had little to do with the outcome.
Mr. DENIS COLLINS (Former Juror): You just came to this conclusion that, wow, okay. Here it is right before us.
SHAPIRO: Guilty of obstructing justice, making false statements to the FBI and committing perjury before grand jury. Libby's sat expressionless as the foreperson read the verdict in court. His wife, who'd sat in the front row watching the trial everyday, cried silently. Defense lawyer Ted Wells said he's very disappointed in the verdict.
Mr. TED WELLS (Attorney for Lewis Libby): We intend to file a motion for a new trial. And if that is denied, we will appeal the conviction. And we have every confidence that ultimately Mr. Libby will be vindicated.
SHAPIRO: As for his client's reaction…
Unidentified Man #1: Mr. Libby, are you willing to…
Unidentified Man #2: Mr. Libby…
SHAPIRO: Libby would not comment. By convicting Libby on four of the five counts, the jury rejected the defense team's argument that the defendant suffered from innocent memory lapses. Instead, they endorsed the prosecution's claim that Libby tried to mislead investigators by lying under oath.
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said today that he is gratified by the jury's decision. He defended his choice to pursue this case even though no one was charged with the underlying crime of leaking a CIA agent's identity.
Mr. PATRICK FITZGERALD (Federal Prosecutor, Department of Justice): The nature of any person telling a lie under oath to a grand jury is a serious problem. Having someone, a high-level official do that under oath in a national security investigation is something that can never be acceptable. And that just made it mandatory that we pursue it.
SHAPIRO: Fitzgerald said he considers the investigation closed and does not expect any further charges to be filed. The crimes Libby was convicted of today centered on his account of conversations he had with two journalists. Tim Russert of NBC News and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine.
Libby said he learned Plame's identity from Russert, and he denied leaking her identity to Cooper. Both journalists testified at the trial that Libby's account was fiction. Juror Denis Collins said the jury believed that Libby had a bad memory but the testimony was just too overwhelming to buy into a story.
Mr. COLLINS: It was just very hard to believe that - how he can remember it on a Tuesday and then forget it on a Thursday, and then remember two days later.
SHAPIRO: Collins said the jury liked Libby. He came across as sympathetic.
Mr. COLLINS: It was said a number of times, what are we doing with this guy here? Where's Rove? Where's, you know, where are these other guys? We're not saying that we don't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found guilty of. But that it seemed like he was, to put it in Mr. Wells' point of view, he was the fall guy.
SHAPIRO: Rove is Karl Rove, the other White House aide who leaked Libby's identity to reporters. He was never charged with a crime, nor was Libby's boss, Dick Cheney. Although Collins said…
Mr. COLLINS: The belief the jury was that he was tasked by the vice president to go and talk to reporters.
SHAPIRO: Over the course of the trial, it became clear that Libby's conversations with reporters were part of a White House strategy to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Wilson publicly disputed part of the White House's justification for the Iraq war and the White House responded by quietly telling reporters that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Experts are divided on what Libby's ultimate sentence could be. He is scheduled to find out in early June, and he remains free until then.
Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.