- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007


Attorneys for former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. want more information about an unusual immunity-from-prosecution deal that government lawyers gave former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in the CIA leak case.

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald says that in early 2004, as his investigation was heating up into who revealed CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name to reporters, Mr. Fleischer stepped forward with an offer to prosecutors: Promise no prosecution and he would help their case.

Mr. Fleischer acknowledged being one of the leakers, but he wouldn’t say a word without a promise of immunity.

Prosecutors normally insist on an informal account of what a witness will say before agreeing to such a deal. It’s known in legal circles as a proffer, and Mr. Fitzgerald said Thursday that he never got one from Mr. Fleischer, who was chief White House spokesman for the first 21/2 years of President Bush’s first term.

“I didn’t want to give him immunity. I did so reluctantly,” Mr. Fitzgerald said in court Thursday. “I was buying a pig in a poke.”

Defense attorneys are skeptical. Mr. Fleischer is expected to testify Monday against Mr. Libby, who is accused of lying and obstructing Mr. Fitzgerald’s investigation. Defense attorneys are preparing court documents demanding to know exactly what Mr. Fleischer promised in exchange for immunity.

“I’m not sure we’re getting the full story here,” defense attorney William Jeffress said in court.

Once the deal was struck in February 2004, Mr. Fleischer revealed that he had discussed Mrs. Plame with reporters in July 2003, days before leaving his job at the White House. He also said he learned about Mrs. Plame from Mr. Libby, who was the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Fleischer’s testimony is significant because he says he talked to Mr. Libby about Mrs. Plame days before Mr. Libby told the FBI he was surprised to learn it from a reporter.

Mr. Libby’s attorneys want details about Mr. Fleischer’s agreement to cast the defendant as someone who’s pointing fingers to protect himself. Mr. Fitzgerald says he doesn’t have to disclose his conversations with Mr. Fleischer because they weren’t about specific testimony.

“It wasn’t as if someone said, ‘Here’s what I can give you about Mr. Libby. Is that good enough? You know, will that give us immunity?’ ” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “That wasn’t it.”

The deal he made was unusual enough that Mr. Libby’s defense lawyers questioned whether it could be true. They suggested that Mr. Fitzgerald got a secret summary of Mr. Fleischer’s testimony — a deal they want to discuss with jurors when Mr. Fleischer takes the stand.

Defense attorneys said they will ask U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton to force Mr. Fitzgerald to reveal what Mr. Fleischer promised him. Mr. Fitzgerald told Judge Walton that no promises were made.

“We got no specifics,” he said.

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