There's a talking point that the more complicit or credulous among the press corps are propagating: It suggests Libby is a really nice (or really clever) man because of the work he did getting Marc Rich pardoned. In placing the Rich pardon at the center of pre-trial coverage, though, I suspect Libby's team wants to suggest that Libby's indictment was direct retaliation for the work Libby did to get Rich a pardon.
This point is made explicitly in the WSJ's recent opinion piece.
As it happens, Messrs. Fitzgerald and Libby had crossed legal paths before. Before he joined the Bush Administration, Mr. Libby had, for a number of years in the 1980s and 1990s, been a lawyer for Marc Rich. Mr. Rich is the oil trader and financier who fled to Switzerland in 1983, just ahead of his indictment for tax-evasion by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Bill Clinton pardoned Mr. Rich in 2001, and so the feds never did get their man. The pardon so infuriated Justice lawyers who had worked on the case that the Southern District promptly launched an investigation into whether the pardon had been "proper." One former prosecutor we spoke to described the Rich case as "the single most rancorous case in the history of the Southern District."
Two of the prosecutors who worked on the Rich case over the years were none other than Mr. Fitzgerald and James Comey, who while Deputy Attorney General appointed Mr. Fitzgerald to investigate the Plame leak. Mr. Fitzgerald worked in the Southern District for five years starting in 1988, at the same time that Mr. Libby was developing a legal theory of Mr. Rich's innocence in a bid to get the charges dropped. The prosecutors never did accept the argument, but Leonard Garment, who brought Mr. Libby onto the case in 1985, says that he believes Mr. Libby's legal work helped set the stage for Mr. Rich's eventual pardon.
Whereas the NYT simply uses the Rich pardon to highlight how clever and selfless Libby is.
Between government stints, Mr. Libby practiced law with the firm of Leonard Garment, counsel to President Richard M. Nixon. Mr. Garment remembers him as “reliable, immensely hard working and guarded.”
Presented with the seemingly intractable tax problems of a fugitive commodities trader, Marc Rich, Mr. Libby “went off for a year and worked on it, closeted with his own intellect,” Mr. Garment said.
He emerged with a creative analysis, Mr. Garment added, that would ultimately help persuade President Bill Clinton to pardon Mr. Rich, an act that Republicans criticized because Mr. Rich’s former wife, Denise, was a Democratic donor.
As a lawyer and an aide, he has generally advocated for others, whether Mr. Rich or Mr. Cheney.
Some of you may be wondering ... WTF? Why would Libby's team focus their pre-trial publicity campaign on reminding American readers that Scooter Libby's spent several years getting paid $585/hour getting a tax dodger who traded with Iran? You'd think the optics would be somewhat dangerous. And it's not like the framing that Paul Gigot and friends and Scott Shane give this talking point really makes sense. Scooter's so clever for for dreaming up some scheme that says people like Marc Rich shouldn't be subject to the same rules of accounting the rest of us should? This is heroic, clever, charitable? And nevermind that Fitzgerald appears not to have had the same central role in this as Comey...guilt by association you know.
Here's where I think this is going.
At least from a PR stance, they're trying to argue that Fitzgerald and Comey selectively prosecuted Libby--and not Armitage or any other shiny objects--because they were still pissed about Rich. Libby's minions will make the case--at least in the public sphere--that this is all one big revenge prosecution.
But it may not just be a matter of public sphere. You see, Libby's lawyers are threatening to call Fitzgerald to the stand, under the guise of challenging his assertion that Judy tried not to testify. They want to get Fitz on the stand--so they can turn this into a trial of his decisions.
Too bad for Libby this smear is so patently stupid. I'm still working on the Marc Rich stuff. But the other accusation is easy to dismiss. Here's the claim.
But Mr. Libby and Mr. Comey tangled more recently as well. In 2004, as Mr. Fitzgerald was gearing up his investigation, Mr. Libby was the Administration's point man in trying to get Justice to sign off on the NSA wiretapping program. In early 2004, Mr. Comey was acting Attorney General while John Ashcroft recovered from gall bladder surgery, and Mr. Comey reportedly refused to give the NSA program the greenlight, prompting the White House to seek out Mr. Ashcroft in the hospital in a bid to circumvent Mr. Comey.
Motive is a difficult thing to gauge. We don't know whether this long personal history played any role either in Mr. Fitzgerald's single-minded pursuit of Mr. Libby, or in Mr. Comey's decision to grant the prosecutor plenary power even though the central mystery of the case had already been resolved.
Get it? Comey was so pissed that BushCo overrode his decision on NSA domestic spying that he gave Fitzgerald more power--and precisely the power he needed--to be able to indict Libby in the Plame Affair.
Only problem is the Wingnuts are in one of their time machines again. The date when BushCo overrode Comey's non-authorization of domestic spying? Sometime after March 4, when Ashcroft was hospitalized for gall bladder surgery. And the authorization for Fitzgerald to pursue charges of perjury and obstruction? February 6.
Interesting rules of physics, these Wingnuts. The WSJ would have you believe Comey authorized Fitzgerald to investigate perjury and obstruction in retaliation for an event that happened a full month later.