- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

A Chicago prosecutor charged with investigating the leak of a CIA operative’s identity targeted senior White House adviser Karl Rove, casting a net so wide that journalists and legal analysts speculated it might ensnare Vice President Dick Cheney.

But all he got was Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff.

Today, jury selection begins in the case against I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who faces perjury and obstruction of justice charges in the investigation of the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity to reporters.

The trial is expected to include testimony by several high-profile journalists and Mr. Cheney, marking the first time a sitting vice president has testified at a criminal trial.

Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday.

Mr. Cheney, who has steadfastly defended his former aide, says he likely will testify in the case, but he did not say whether it will be in open court or via television.

Attorneys for Mr. Libby, 56, who faces 30 years in prison if convicted, say the identity of Mrs. Plame was not leaked to reporters as part of a high-level White House conspiracy to retaliate against her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a critic of the Iraq war.

During preliminary arguments, defense attorneys have laid out their strategy: Mr. Libby, in his sworn testimony to prosecutors, could not recall details of his conversations with reporters because of far more pressing matters, including the war in Iraq, worldwide terrorist threats, and nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.

The trial is the culmination of a saga that stretches back to July 2003, when Mr. Wilson accused Mr. Rove of outing his wife to punish him for an opinion piece he wrote for the New York Times. Mr. Wilson, who wrote that the administration had exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to justify military intervention, demanded that the president’s top political adviser be “frog-marched out of the White House.”

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has since spent more than $1.4 million on his investigation, which has not produced charges against anyone for exposing Mrs. Plame as a CIA employee.

In September, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, who openly criticized the war, acknowledged that he had inadvertently divulged Mrs. Plame’s identity. Mr. Armitage has not been charged.

The identity of Mrs. Plame was first made public by conservative columnist Robert Novak. Years later, after the investigation was complete and indictments handed up, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward said he also was told of her identity in the weeks before the Novak column was published. “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert was also in the loop, but he said he and Mr. Libby never spoke of Mrs. Plame.

All three newsmen are expected to be called during the trial, which is expected to run at least a month.

The makeup of the jury will be crucial to Mr. Libby, but his attorneys have a difficult task: In Washington, Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-to-1. Defense attorneys plan to ask prospective jurors about their political affiliations, as well as their sentiment of Mr. Cheney, according to their list of proposed jury questions.

Mr. Fitzgerald plans to ask about 60 potential jurors what newspapers and magazines they read, among other questions.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, a Republican who was one of Mr. Bush’s first judicial nominees in 2001 and who served as deputy drug czar under the first President Bush, has made clear that he will limit arguments to facts and will not allow the proceedings to turn into a circus trial.

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