Lewis Libby Pleads Not Guilty
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JEFFREY BROWN: Today’s arraignment was just the beginning of what promises to be a long legal drama. Carol Leonnig has been covering the CIA leak case for the Washington Post and was in the courtroom this morning.
So, Carol, Lewis Libby pleaded “not guilty.” Describe the scene for us.
CAROL LEONNIG: Well, it’s hard to imagine an arraignment, a first court appearance more atypical than Lewis Libby’s. The typical event is a person is indicted, they hope up in court. They plead guilty or not guilty, usually not guilty. A judge decides whether or not they can be released on bond or their own recognizance and it’s over.
But Mr. Libby’s arraignment, because of the intense media interest was scheduled to be in the ceremonial courtroom, which holds hundreds of people and is usually reserved for special events and very important national security court hearings and oral arguments. It’s very unusual to have an arraignment, a very pedestrian kind of court appearance there. But the room was packed.
JEFFREY BROWN: Mr. Libby himself said very little, right?
CAROL LEONNIG: He did. I think all told, he uttered three different lines. One was, “With respect, your honor, I plead not guilty.” He stood when the judge asked him if he was willing to waive his right to a speedy trial. You know, everyone is allowed when they are a defendant in a criminal case to have a speedy trial so they are not jailed or held or under a cloud for an extensive period of time. Mr. Libby rose to say he was willing to waive that. And he said nothing as he exited the courtroom after being processed by the U.S. marshals, fingerprinted, photographed, and after signing several forms promising to stay in his current residence.
JEFFREY BROWN: So was anything said by the lawyers, by the judges that give you some hint of what’s to come in terms of the strategy of either side or the complexity of this case?
CAROL LEONNIG: Well, absolutely; excellent question, Jeff. First of all, the most important signal were the two men essentially on the arms of Mr. Libby as he entered court today. We learned that Ted Wells and Bill Jeffress, two of the most prominent criminal defense white collar lawyers, and really trial litigators that you could hire, they were his new lawyers. Both of them have very extensive reputations in this field. And that’s a real show of strength on Mr. Libby’s part.
It signals, if not his intention, his wish to tell everyone that he is going to fight this in trial. And that’s what his lawyer, Ted Wells said as he left court. As well, inside the courtroom, to answer your larger question about the complexity of the case as well, Bill Jeffress raised concerns with the judge that there are going to be some First Amendment issues.
Criminal defense lawyers that I spoke with today said that they believe the defense in this case is going to challenge the credibility of reporters who are witnesses, likely witnesses in the case such as Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper, New York Times reporter Judy Miller whose accounts of their conversations with Mr. Libby are so diametrically opposed to Mr. Libby’s own version, and clearly, Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor believes the reporters, but Mr. Jeffress bringing up the First Amendment issues, and his expectation of protracted litigation was a signal to many that he will seek extensive notes, phone logs, records, source information about these reporters, and from these reporters, and that they will likely resist that and it will delay this case.
JEFFREY BROWN: What about the prosecution, did the special counsel Fitzgerald lead the case in court as he has the investigation?
CAROL LEONNIG: He did. He was flanked by his Justice Department public integrity lawyer and deputy counsel Pete Zeidenberg and other another attorney Kathleen Keating. He is joined by his FBI agent from Philadelphia; he’s been the lead FBI person for him on the case. But he spoke and he did the talking and he also warned of a complexity and a wrinkle in this case, which is basically the issue at the center of the investigation: classified material. He warned that the lawyers for the defense of Mr. Libby are going to have to get security clearances to even read the evidence that the government has against him.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now finally, I wanted to ask you about Karl Rove, because you co-wrote a piece in the Washington Post today in which you talked about some new indications of potential liability, legal liability against Mr. Rove, some new developments. Tell us about that.
CAROL LEONNIG: Well, for a while now we have been warned at — the reporters working on this story — warned at the Post about not to underestimate the exacting language of Patrick Fitzgerald; that he’s a man who, when you listen to what he says, means what he’s talking about. And he has said repeatedly to Rove’s attorney, without any feign, without any sleight of hand that Mr. Rove remains under investigation and continues to be in jeopardy of facing criminal charges.
We don’t know the likelihood; we don’t make odds on this. But we know it continues. And a sign of that that we learned yesterday afternoon was that Fitzgerald has made an inquiry of an attorney for Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about conversations that Rove and Cooper had. And as I’m sure you know, Jeff, well from watching this case, Rove is reported to be the original source for Cooper reporting on Wilson’s wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame.
JEFFREY BROWN: Is there any indication of when there might be further action on Rove one way or the other?
CAROL LEONNIG: I wish I could tell you and I can’t.
JEFFREY BROWN: Okay, Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post, thanks again.
CAROL LEONNIG: Thank you.