The news in the I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby perjury trial on Tuesday came as court was shutting down because of a slight snowfall in Washington: neither the defendant nor his onetime boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, will testify in the case. Ted Wells, Libby’s lead lawyer, told federal district court Judge Reggie Walton in the afternoon that Team Libby had released Cheney as a potential witness and that Wells had recommended to Libby that they rest their case after the defense calls three minor witnesses on Wednesday (if the judge rules they can appear) and perhaps brings back Meet the Press host Tim Russert. Judge Walton asked Libby if he had accepted his lawyer’s advice and did waive his right to testify. Libby stood up in court and replied, “Yes, sir.”
The trial will end with a whimper, not a bang. The jurors will not hear the defendant defend his statements to the FBI and the grand jury that investigated the leak that outed Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer. They will not hear him claim that he honestly misremembered facts or that his recollections (as opposed to those of all the prosecution witnesses) are accurate. They will not hear Libby maintain that he was the victim of a–take-your-pick–CIA plot, State Department plot, White House plot or NBC News plot (as Wells has variously suggested throughout the trial). They will not hear Cheney vouch for the integrity of the man whom he recently called “one of the most honest men I’ve ever met.”
Libby’s attorneys will argue Libby’s innocence (or lack of guilt) by attacking the credibility of Fitzgerald’s witnesses, by suggesting Libby was too busy to recall accurately such a minor matter as Valerie Wilson’s CIA employment, by maintaining that Libby might have done no worse than confused a couple of phone calls, by contending that because Libby did not leak information on Valerie Wilson to some of the reporters he spoke with, he did not leak it to Judith Miller, then of the New York Times, and Matt Cooper, then of Time.
With the decision not to testify, Libby spares himself the obligation of explaining the convoluted explanation he provided the FBI and grand jury. He told the investigators that although Cheney in early June 2003 had told him that Valerie Wilson worked at the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA, he (Libby) totally forgot this and then on July 11 learned it “anew” when Russert said to him that “all the reporters” knew that Wilson’s wife was a CIA employee. In Libby’s telling, Russert conversation had not reminded him of what Cheney previously told him. Libby essentially claimed he had been struck by total amnesia on this one fact. This was an important point because Libby asserted that when he spoke to Miller and Cooper on July 12, 2003, and mentioned Valerie Wilson and her CIA connection, he was only passing along gossip he had received from Russert–not official (and classified) information he had obtained from Cheney.