Wednesday, March 07, 2007

If you supported the impeachment of Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice in the effort to cover up the affair with Monica Lewinsky, even though the offense occurred only in the investigation - there was no underlying crime in the first place, then you cannot then oppose the conviction of Scooter Libby on the grounds that there was no underlying crime, and the offense happened only as a result of the investigation.

Federal law is clear - you cannot make false statements to investigating federal officials, period. Many, many people have been prosecuted on that basis. (See, for example, the case histories involving exculpatory denial).

It applies to all of us, it applied to a sitting President, and it applies to Libby.

There are many reasons to criticize Libby's prosecution and conviction. This isn't one of them.

Splash, out


Did Libby lie? I think there's substantial doubt. In this case I trust my own judgment over that of a partisan jury that was fed limited and prejudicial information and still had difficulty reaching a verdict. If Libby had lied I might agree with you, though I think the use of the false-statements law to convict people who would otherwise not be convicted is often unjust.

Anyway, Clinton perjured himself and obstructed justice in connection with substantive matters (the Paula Jones lawsuit). In Libby's case there wasn't enough evidence to charge him on anything substantive, so I don't think the parallel between Libby and Clinton is close.
I would say that the inconsistency would be for a supporter of Clinton's impeachment to grant that Libby lied, but insist that the lie was justified by the unreasonable circumstances to which he was subjected--not to mention the malicious motives of those who asked him. That, it seems to me, was the defense of the Clintons.

Most of the defenses of Libby that I've seen, echoing Jonathan's first point, suggest that he may legitimately have misremembered the key points. I'm willing to grant that if twelve jurors saw it otherwise, knowing a lot more than I do, I should be careful second-guessing them. If he lied under oath, no matter what about, then I'm glad he was convicted.
Geez--can I delete that comment? I should really have read your post more carefully before responding, as I may have just restated your exact freakin' point. Sorry.
Good point. However, it's perfectly possible to simultaneously support Libby's conviction and decry the nature of the investigation that ultimately led to his indictment.

In fact, that was precisely my position on Clinton: I thought an independent counsel investigation into his sex life was a pointless exercise in digging up non-criminal dirt. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that he lied to a jury and a prosecutor, and I think he should have been removed from office and done time in jail.

In Libby's case, there's the added anger that the traitors who leaked data about real intelligence operations continue to hold their jobs, while our "special counsel" was only able to secure the ruination of a man who, until the investigation examined him, hadn't done anything wrong at all.
Ray, I think your last paragraph is extremely well-put, and that's the best point yet.

I have not been following the case closely enough to have an opinion as to whether Libby legitimately misremembered. Generally, as far as I know, it is unusual for a conviction to occur unless there is evidence more concrete than someone else remembering someone a different way. I.e., an effort to cover up or destroy records, a memorandum that exists that falsifies the defendant's testimony, etc.

But because I have not followed the case closely (it's not that interesting to me, personally), I must defer to the jury.

If there are evidentiary issues, or if the defense can establish that the 90% Democratic Washington D.C. jury pool is so hopelessly biased that there was no way Libby or any Bush official could have received a fair trial, than that should be pursued on appeal, and I hope it's successful (though that means that the Federal Courts could no longer try Republicans in Washington D.C!)

Defense could also raise a selectivity claim: Obviously Armitage has not been prosecuted. I think that's iffy, though, because Armitage's testimony, as far as I know, has not been falsified.

My point was limited to countering a meme I heard from Sean Hannity and other conservative talk-types. My point was limited to the matter of discounting a cover-up attempt, or an attempt to derail an investigation, simply because there was no underlying crime.

It is a crime even for innocent individuals to deliberately decieve Federal investigators.

The right wing is wrong on this one.
The right wing is wrong on this one.

No, we where simply under informed during Bill Clinton's trials and tribulations where going on. We've seen the light.

One wonders, tho, how the lefties who decried our previously under informed position have arrived at the lying under oath is a criminal offense and should be punished position...
I don't think the two situations are exactly analogous.

Clinton's first perjury/obstruction of justice charge arose from a deposition given in a civil case, not from the Starr investigation. Regardless of whether Clinton sexually harassed Paula Jones, a judge lawfully ordered Clinton to be deposed in the civil case. It was during that deposition -- in a civil case -- that Clinton first committed misconduct.

When evidence arose that Clinton may have committed perjury, Janet Reno authorized the Starr investigation to specifically investigate those allegations. That is, Clinton's misconduct first arose outside of the independent counsel probe (unlike Libby's), and then the independent counsel was expanded to investigate his previous misconduct. Then, Clinton lied to the grand jury during the indepent counsel probe as well.

After the impeachment, Clinton was cited for contempt of court for lying during the Paula Jones deposition.

All of Libby's misconduct arose during the independent counsel probe.

Clinton's first perjury would have happened without the independent counsel; Libby's would not have.

I am not trying to defend Libby at all and haven't followed the case that closely.

But the two cases are different -- and one can feel sympathy toward Libby without being hypocritical about the Clinton impeachment.
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