Closing arguments have a way of crystallizing the difference between opposing sides. Ted Wells laid it all out in several sentences, paraphrased here by Marcy Wheeler ...
I also told you this was a case about he said she said. Case about different recollections between Libby and some reporters.
There is no charge in this indictment about Libby's conversation with Grossman, Fleischer, Martin -- that's all background evidence. In terms of what you have to decide as jurors, it relates to Libby's conversations with reporters, Set forth in detail in the jury instructions. Those are the charges.
As I've pointed out ad nauseum, it's to the defense advantage to make this case about conversations with reporters, and ONLY about conversations with reporters.
But as the indictment goes, the prosecution aims to charge Libby with lying to investigators about the extent of, or presence of (or absence of, as Libby asserts) knowledge that Mrs. Wilson worked at the CIA, where that knowledge came from an official source. Libby said he had no recollection of having ANY official source for such knowledge, he forgot his talk with Cheney, for example. The only source he remembered, insists he, was reporters (my off the cuff paraphrase).
And so, it is a powerful defense to continue to make this entirely about the reporters, he-said/he-said between reporters and Libby, and to convince the jury that nothing further, nothing outside of the conversations with reporters need be reviewed. The conversations with others? Mere background.
But Ted Wells is wrong. The charges in the indictment are very much, in fact MOSTLY, about conversations with Grossman, Fleischer, Martin, et al. Wells is skillfully manipulating perception. Reporters can be made to appear to be singularly central to the guilty-innocent decision, because Libby's alleged lies came out in the form of his descriptions of his conversations with reporters. The structure of the charges in the indictment (having information ONLY from reporters) reflects Libby's testimony - not the alleged "true facts" as set out by the prosecution.
Wells is impeaching Russert, and will easily plant the thought that Russert could have told Libby. See, again, making the narrative all about the conversation with reporters, and not about whether or not Libby attempted to deliberately mislead investigators to the conclusion that Libby had no recollection of an official basis for knowing Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Wells is setting up a strawman, one that is easy to craft reasonable doubt around.
I'm going to talk you through this, most important testimony in the whole case. The govt's timeline is wrong. Came out on AP wire, by 2:00 on July 11, if you lived in the world of media, you could get access to it, people could call you, talk about it.
The strawman being, that if Russert knew (that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, by reading the Novak piece on the wire on July 11, or by hearing from Mitchell) at the time of the Libby conversations, then Libby's version of the conversation may be correct. Fine, as far as it goes.
But even if Libby's version of the Russert conversation is correct, Libby's denial of recall of all his knowledge via non-reporter channels (unless he honestly forgot all of that) would still amount to an attempt at obstruction.
The opposing sides are arguing two different cases, just as the amateur observers have been since the indictment was handed down. And the grounds of argument at closing, at the end of February 2007? They are exactly the same grounds taken by opposing sides at the end of October, 2005. The defense holds firm that the case is nothing more than he-said she-said between Libby and reporters. The indictment and the prosecution say otherwise.
Parts of Jeffress's closing argument are much much more persuasive than Wells's. He challenges motive, memory, and (not that I agree with the argument as an excuse for lying, but quite a few people do) there's no evidence that Plame was covert. Just the same, he is more focused on what reporters knew (from the rumor mill) than on debunking the evidence adduced from government witnesses. His delivery also has a tendency to cause the listener to think in terms of "Did Libby leak?" rather than "Did Libby lie?" He spends considerable time on memories of Cooper and Miller, again tending to make the case into a he-said she-said between Libby and reporters.
The disconnect between defense and prosecution is real, and it is stark. A trial observer reports an exchange at the courthouse ...
We were released for lunch after Wells's first presentation. In the elevator, a man from the peanut gallery asked my friend and me what we thought of Wells's closing. My friend and I remarked that we thought he did a fantastic job. The guy was utterly perplexed: "But he didn't address all those 8 or 9 people that the Prosecution had listed in his closing!"
The defense did address those 8 or 9 people, but in a tangential way rather than directly. The defense used their imperfect memories to impeach their testimony, and as "memory parallels" to lead the jury to have a reasonable doubt that Libby remembered that Mrs. Wilson worked at the CIA. Neither connection is logically valid.
However, the testimony of one CIA briefer rested entirely on his notes, making his memory irrelevant to the evidence he brought to the trial. And Cathie Martin clearly recalled learning, clearly remembered "Wilson's wife worked at the CIA," and clearly recalled telling Libby this fact. Her memory, while imperfect in other regards, honed in on and retained the "Wilson's wife at the CIA" fact - and that she shared that fact with Libby.
The case soon goes to the jury. Whatever their ultimate conclusion, I bet that the group will break down on exactly the lines described above, where some jurors will be inclined to think in narrow terms of accuracy of accounting for the contents of Libby-reporter conversations. Others will get to the question posed by the indictment - was Libby telling the truth when he insisted that the only memorable contact he had, was his contact with reporters?
March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 March 2009 April 2009