March 02, 2008

Karl Rove's America, Part II

Remember Scooter Libby? The guy who was convicted of lying to the feds about his involvement in the Valerie Plame case? The guy who received a pardon from George W. Bush shortly before he was set to begin serving his sentence? The guy who claimed he was a scapegoat to protect Karl Rove? That last part kind of got lost in the trial but that is exactly what Libby's lawyers said they would prove in their opening statements.

Here is a little refresher from a January 23, 2007 article in the New York Times;

  • Mr. Wells (Rove's lawyer) told the jury that the unnamed White House officials wanted to protect Mr. Rove because they believed his survival as President Bush’s political adviser was crucial to the health of the Republican Party.
    Mr. Wells Jr. said his client, known by his nickname, “Scooter” was innocent and that a decision was made that “Scooter Libby was to be sacrificed.”
    It was important to keep Mr. Rove out of trouble, Mr. Wells said, because he was Mr. Bush’s right-hand man and “was most responsible for seeing the Republican Party stayed in office. He had to be protected.”

In fact, Libby's lawyers even stated Vice President Dick Cheney agreed with Libby's belief he was being set up as a scapegoat;

  • But his most startling comment was his assertion that Mr. Libby became enmeshed in legal difficulty because of White House efforts to protect Mr. Rove.
    Mr. Libby, Mr. Wells said, complained to Mr. Cheney that he was being set up as the fall guy. The Vice President supported that view, Mr. Wells said, and wrote a note by hand saying: “Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy who was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others.”
    He offered his interpretation of the note, explaining that “incompetence” was a reference to the fact that the C.I.A. had mistakenly allowed the White House to use inaccurate information in Mr. Bush’s State of the Union speech about Iraq’s efforts to obtain uranium in Africa. The staff official, he said, was Mr. Rove. Mr. Libby had been assigned to speak to reporters to straighten out the confusion from Mr. Bush’s speech, a chore Mr. Cheney likened to sticking his head in the meat grinder.

Opening statements are not evidence but instead an opportunity for a lawyer to provide the jury an outline of what evidence will be presented on behalf of his client. However, every good lawyer knows that if you tell a jury you are going to present evidence you better follow through because the jury is going to be expecting it, especially when you make claims such as Wells did. And, of course, Libby had good lawyers, very good lawyers. Which is why many were surprised when they didn't follow through on presenting evidence to support their theory that Libby was a scapegoat to protect Rove.

So why would Libby's very able legal team not present the evidence on Rove? The answer lies in their opening statement; Karl Rove was so important "he had to be protected." As soon as Libby's lawyers threatened to spill the beans on Rove the pardon was a done deal, all Libby had to do was keep his mouth shut. Just another example of how Karl Rove and his George W. Bush have taken our justice system hostage.

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