The Times runs a book promo for their very own Peter Baker, whose topic is the Bush-Cheney relationship. We are teased with a section on the Libby pardon:
The Final Insult in the Bush-Cheney Marriage
By Peter Baker
In the final days of his presidency, George W. Bush sat behind his desk in the Oval Office, chewing gum and staring into the distance as two White House lawyers briefed him on the possible last-minute pardon of I. Lewis Libby.
“Do you think he did it?” Bush asked.
“Yeah,” one of the lawyers said. “I think he did it.”
Hmm, if you have lost the in-house lawyers...
In March 2007, Libby, who had served as Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, was convicted of lying to federal officials who were investigating the leak of the identity of a C.I.A. officer. For the past two months Cheney had been pushing the president to grant Libby a full pardon before they left office. He would not let it go. ...
Troubled by the decision hanging over him, Bush had asked the White House lawyers to re-examine the case to see if a pardon was justified. Fred Fielding, the White House counsel, and his deputy, William Burck, pored over trial transcripts and studied evidence that Libby’s lawyers had raised in his defense. Their conclusion was that the jury had ample reason to find Libby guilty.
“If I were on that jury,” Burck told Bush, “I would probably have agreed with them. You have to follow the law, and the law says if you say something that is untrue, knowingly, to a federal official in the context of a grand jury investigation and it is material to their investigation, that’s a crime.”
I thought he would be convicted as well, and I even thought the odds were good that he deliberately lied to investigators. But other points were raised by the Cheney side to which I am very sympathetic.
... Cheney’s lobbying campaign on behalf of Scooter Libby had become deeply disconcerting to the president. To Cheney, it was a simple matter of justice. As he saw it, Libby had been pursued by an unprincipled prosecutor bent on damaging the White House. Neither Libby nor anyone else had been charged with the actual leak that precipitated the investigation, only with not testifying truthfully about how he learned about Wilson’s identity. Years later, it would be revealed that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, knew from nearly the start that Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s deputy, was the original source of the leak, not Libby. Cheney believed that Fitzgerald’s relentless investigation in spite of this fact was proof that Cheney was the real target, and that Libby was caught in the cross-fire. Libby had loyally served his country, Cheney argued, only to be made into a criminal. And Powell and Armitage stayed quiet as it happened. “The Powell-Armitage thing was such a sense of betrayal,” Cheney’s daughter Liz told me. “They sat there and watched their colleagues in the White House — Scooter and everyone else — go through the ordeal of the investigation, and all that time they both knew Armitage was the leaker.” Armitage and Powell said they were simply following investigators’ instructions to keep silent.
Well, yes. Fitzgerald was brought in as Special Counsel in the same time frame with the overturning of the Yoo torture memo and the uprising about the surveillance program, so it is fair to consider that Fitzgerald was just one more weapon in the Justice Department war with Dick Cheney [Leak promoter David Corn eventually discovered this as well]. (Fitzgerald's effort to investigate the extent of the Plame leaks from the State Department could not have been more desultory - his gumshoes completely missed the Armitage leak to Bob Woodward. Later the AP put the puzzle pieces together by the Sherlock Holmesian technique of checking Armitage's calendar. But since I think Fitzgerald was investigating Cheney, not the Plame leak, move on).
We get speculation on Libby's motive:
“All right,” the president said when the lawyers concluded their assessment. “So why do you think he did it? Do you think he was protecting the vice president?”
“I don’t think he was protecting the vice president,” Burck said.
Burck figured that Libby assumed his account would never be contradicted, because prosecutors could not force reporters to violate vows of confidentiality to their sources. “I think also that Libby was concerned,” Burck said. “Because he took to heart what you said back then: that you would fire anybody that you knew was involved in this. I just think he didn’t think it was worth falling on the sword.”
Bush did not seem convinced. “I think he still thinks he was protecting Cheney,” the president said. If that was the case, then Cheney was seeking forgiveness for the man who had sacrificed himself on his behalf.
Interesting. I was with Bush on this one.
Let's close with two stories on the light side:
A few weeks before Barack Obama’s inauguration, [Bush chief of staff] Joshua Bolten invited all of his predecessors to his office in the West Wing to meet with his successor, Rahm Emanuel. Thirteen of the living 16 men to have served as chief of staff attended, including Cheney, who was Gerald Ford’s top assistant. They went around the table one by one, offering advice. When Cheney’s turn came up, a devilish look crossed his face. “Whatever you do,” he said, “make sure you’ve got the vice president under control.”
And more from Cheney:
...Inauguration Day, Cheney showed up in a wheelchair, explaining that he had thrown his back out packing boxes at the vice-presidential mansion over the weekend. “Joe, this is how you’re liable to look when your term is up,” Cheney joked to his successor, Joseph Biden.
So it was wasn't all waterboarding and invading - Cheney had time for some jokes, too.
MAYBE IF HE'D REMEMBERED MORE: Cheney had Hillary-esque memory of his role in the Plame debacle. I sure don't remember him demanding to be called for the defense at the trial.