- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Vice President Dick Cheney will be called to testify on behalf of his former chief of staff in the CIA leak case, defense attorneys said yesterday , ending months of speculation about what would be historic testimony.

“We’re calling the vice president,” attorney Ted Wells said in court. Mr. Wells represents defendant I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who is charged with perjury and obstruction.

Sitting presidents, including Presidents Clinton and Ford, have testified in criminal cases, but presidential historians said they knew of no vice president who has done so.

William Jeffress, another of Mr. Libby’s attorneys, would not say whether Mr. Cheney is under a subpoena to testify. Issuing a court order to a sitting vice president could raise separation-of-powers concerns, but Mr. Jeffress said it was not an issue.

“We don’t expect him to resist,” Mr. Jeffress said.

Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who said last week that he did not expect the White House to challenge his witnesses, said yesterday that he did not plan to call Mr. Cheney.

Mr. Wells immediately said he would.

“That settles that,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

Neither Mr. Jeffress nor Mr. Wells would say whether they expect Mr. Cheney to testify in the courtroom or offer videotaped testimony to avoid infringing on the separation of powers.

“We’ve cooperated fully in this matter and will continue to do so in fairness to the parties involved,” said Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for the vice president. “As we’ve stated previously, we’re not going to comment further on a legal proceeding.”

Mr. Libby is accused of lying to investigators about what he told reporters regarding former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Mrs. Plame’s identity was leaked to reporters around the time that her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly criticized the Bush administration’s prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Mr. Libby says he was focused on more important issues — including terrorism, Iraq and nuclear proliferation — and didn’t remember his conversations regarding Mrs. Plame.

Mr. Cheney could bolster that argument by testifying about the many other larger issues for which Mr. Libby was responsible. During cross-examination, Mr. Fitzgerald likely will press Mr. Cheney to acknowledge that Mrs. Plame was a key concern for him and thus would have been important to Mr. Libby.

The trial could offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Bush administration’s march to war. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said he planned to ask potential jurors whether their feelings on the administration’s policies would interfere with their ability to serve.

Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby got to know each other when Mr. Cheney was defense secretary under the first President Bush. Mr. Libby has been extremely loyal to Mr. Cheney and, in return, had the vice president’s unwavering trust.

By 2000, Mr. Libby was working as a top adviser to Mr. Cheney in the presidential campaign and then followed him to the White House. In the White House, he was known as “Cheney’s Cheney” for being as trusted a problem-solver for the vice president as Mr. Cheney is for the current President Bush.

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