Libby’s last chance


A former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney will have a last chance to convince a jury he is not guilty of perjury on Tuesday as a trial that has exposed the inner workings of the White House draws to a close.

In four weeks of testimony, jurors have heard about the Bush administration’s efforts to rebut an Iraq war critic shortly after the war began in 2003.

But they never heard direct testimony from defendant Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff, or his former boss.

Libby is charged with lying to investigators trying to determine who exposed CIA analyst Valerie Plame after her husband accused the White House of twisting intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear ambitions in the run-up to the invasion.

Libby’s lawyers say he did not lie to the FBI and a grand jury intentionally, but simply misremembered his conversations about Plame at a time he was swamped by national security matters.

Attorneys are due to make their closing arguments in the case at federal court in Washington.

A parade of government officials and high-profile journalists, testifying for the prosecution, described how Libby sought information on Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, and passed it along to journalists weeks before he says he learned about her.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald even sent one journalist, Judith Miller of The New York Times, to jail for 85 days before she agreed to testify.

Nobody has been charged with intentionally blowing Plame’s cover.

Libby and Cheney were both expected to testify for the defense, but lawyers abruptly wrapped up their defense after fewer than three days of testimony.

They called no witnesses to bolster their assertion that Libby had been sacrificed to protect other White House employees deemed more valuable, like political guru Karl Rove.

Legal analysts say Libby’s lawyers focused less on creating a coherent defense than undermining the government’s case.

While that strategy probably won’t win a clean acquittal, it could prevent the jury from reaching a unanimous decision and force a mistrial, they said.

“Everyone thinks the government has the edge, but we had some good points scored by the defense,” said Scott Fredricksen, a former government lawyer. “This is not in the bank by any means.”

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited

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