By RICHARD POWELSON
Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, best known now as the district attorney on NBC’s popular Law & Order drama series, is working with the legal defense fund trying to raise $5 million or more to aid the indicted former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Lewis "Scooter" Libby, facing trial in January, was indicted in October on five felony counts involving obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements about the leak of a CIA operative’s identity to reporters.
Thompson, R-Tenn., is among 27 prominent Republicans and Bush Administration supporters on the advisory committee for the Libby Legal Defense Trust, which runs the Web site of www.scooterlibby.com.
Barbara Comstock, an attorney and spokesperson for the trust, said the fund so far has raised about $2 million toward $5 million or more that may be needed. The group plans to raise "whatever amount of money we need . . . to have the good defense that he deserves," she said.
Thompson, a senator for eight years through 2002, knows Libby from serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee and dealing with top White House staff, she said. Libby also was Cheney’s national security adviser.
Thompson also had White House contacts from agreeing to President Bush’s request to aid Supreme Court nominee John Roberts in meetings with senators last summer and early fall before the Senate agreed to approve him.
Comstock said she reached out to Thompson to aid the Libby effort and he agreed. "He was very interested in this because he is a former prosecutor, formerly on the Intelligence Committee, served on the Governmental Affairs Committee (as chairman). I think he really had a sense about the sort of the unfairness of this whole situation," she said.
Thompson could not be reached for comment during two days of calls to his staff.
The list of advisory committee members is helpful in fund-raising, she said, and the committee members to varying degrees also are helping directly with attracting donations.
The chairman of the committee is Mel Sembler, former U.S. ambassador to Italy from 2001-2005, former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, and current board chairman at Sembler Co., a real estate and shopping center development company.
Others on the committee include Steve Forbes, editor of Forbes magazine and former presidential candidate; Jack Kemp, former vice presidential candidate, member of Congress and U.S. secretary of housing and urban development; former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick; former CIA director James Woolsey; and Fred Malek, a major investor in Northwest Airlines, former Marriott Hotels president and 1992 re-election campaign manager for President George H.W. Bush.
"We thought we have a good representation of sort of a diverse and widely respected group of people" who know the professional work in which Libby was involved, Comstock said. "We are confident he will be fully exonerated."
(E-mail powelsonr(at)shns.com or visit www.shns.com.)