Friday, March 02, 2007

The Libby jury: Hung or hung up?

As the Libby jury deliberates for the umpteenth day (seems like it, anyway), I wonder if it's because they're hung--unable to reach a unanimous decision--or they're still in the process of evaluating the evidence and the law. After ten-plus days, one would think the former, because as complicated as the defense sought to make the trial, the issue of Libby's lying vel non about the source of his information about Valerie Plame seems clear-cut. Either he was deliberately deceiving the FBI and grand jury about when/how he learned about Plame, or he was simply "mis-remembering" his source. This is not a multi-person, multi-event crime, but just one man's actions, with a simple premise, both legal and factual.

It occurred to me this morning, as I was searching for news of the status of the jury's deliberations, that the reason it wasn't readily available in the headlines of the day is that the verdict isn't really very important as a legal matter. Everybody probably believes Scooter fibbed to cover up his boss's avid wish to tarnish Joe Wilson, so a jury's agreement isn't much news, nor would its inability to agree be newsworthy, really. The fact of Cheney's immersion in the leaking/smearing process is out--and everybody's yawning over it.

But there is another facet to the story. If Libby is convicted of several counts, he could face a long prison sentence. Not that he'd be sentenced to a long term, but he'd face it, no doubt. Given that prospect, he might be offered--by Fitzgerald or by the trial judge--a less harsh sentence if he'd recant on his fiction and tell the truth about Cheney's involvement, in detail, in not just the Plame matter, but in the fabrication of the Niger/Yellowcake evidence and the inclusion of famous 18-word reference to it in Bush's speech to Congress. Such revelations could very well trigger a Congressional inquiry (leading to impeachment, maybe). To me, that's what's interesting about the Libby trial's outcome: the prospect of creation of mini-John Dean, testifying truthfully about his boss's sustained, deliberate illegality. A great way for this administration to limp to conclusion, and a guarantee that the neocons are driven from power.

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