What’s behind Fleisher’s immunity deal?

Former White House spokesman Ari Fleisher received immunity from prosecution in the investigation of the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame and now defense attorneys for former Vice Presidential chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby want to know why.

Writes Matt Apuzzo of The Associated Press:

Attorneys for former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby want more information about an unusual immunity-from-prosecution deal that government lawyers gave former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in the CIA leak case.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says that in early 2004, as his investigation was heating up into who revealed CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name to reporters, Fleischer stepped forward with an offer to prosecutors: Promise no prosecution and he would help their case.

Fleischer acknowledged being one of the leakers, but he wouldn’t say a word without a promise of immunity.

Prosecutors normally insist on an informal account of what a witness will say before agreeing to such a deal. It’s known in legal circles as a proffer, and Fitzgerald said Thursday that he never got one from Fleischer, who was chief White House spokesman for the first 2 1/2 years of President Bush’s first term.

“I didn’t want to give him immunity. I did so reluctantly,” Fitzgerald said in court Thursday. “I was buying a pig in a poke.”

Defense attorneys are skeptical. Fleischer is expected to testify Monday against Libby, who is accused of lying and obstructing Fitzgerald’s investigation. Attorneys are preparing court documents demanding to know exactly what Fleischer promised in exchange for immunity.

“I’m not sure we’re getting the full story here,” defense attorney William Jeffress said in court.

Once the deal was struck in February 2004, Fleischer revealed that he had discussed Plame with reporters in July 2003, days before leaving his job at the White House. He also said he learned about Plame from Libby, who was the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Fleischer’s testimony is significant because he says he talked to Libby about Plame days before Libby told the FBI he was surprised to learn it from a reporter.

Libby’s attorneys want details about Fleischer’s agreement to cast the defendant as someone who’s pointing fingers to protect himself. Fitzgerald says he doesn’t have to disclose his conversations with Fleischer because they weren’t about specific testimony.

“It wasn’t as if someone said, ‘Here’s what I can give you about Mr. Libby. Is that good enough? You know, will that give us immunity?’ ” Fitzgerald said. “That wasn’t it.”