ABC Reporter Spins Libby Trial as Blow to Bush, Skips Over Important Facts
On Tuesday, jury selection began in the trial of Lewis Libby. And "Good Morning America" reporter Claire Shipman couldn’t resist spinning this occasion into an attack against President Bush. Libby, the former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. He does not, however, face prosecution for publically outing Wilson's wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame. However, through sloppy phrasing and omission, Shipman encouraged the assumption that this is yet another example of the Bush administration’s misconduct. The most brazen example is the GMA reporter’s description of the "original crime":
Claire Shipman: "Prosecutors are trying to show that Libby lied to investigators about conversations he had with reporters regarding CIA officer Valerie Plame, the undercover agent who was outed. Libby blames a faulty memory. And in classic Washington style, Libby isn't in trouble for the original crime, outing Plame, but, rather, the, quote, ‘the cover up,’ according to the prosecutor."
No government official has been charged with revealing the identity of Valerie Plame. So, how can there be an "original crime?"
Just a few minutes earlier, Shipman began the piece, which aired at 7:12am, by allowing Lanny Davis, former Special Counsel to Bill Clinton, to make the case that this is one more woe for the Bush White House:
Diane Sawyer: "Well, now we turn to the trial that has all the makings of a political thriller. The white hot center? A former White House insider, one of Vice President's Dick Cheney's inner circle. Jury selection begins today in the trial of the Vice President's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, who faces charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. And GMA Senior national correspondent Claire Shipman has more from Washington. Claire?"
Claire Shipman: "Good Morning, Diane. Well, Scooter Libby has been called Dick Cheney's Dick Cheney, a master of discretion. And this public trial promises to be something of a high profile blood letting. It will pit senior White House officials against senior Vice Presidential officials, those Vice Presidential officials against prominent journalists. And, of course, the central subject matter, Iraq is just devastating for the White House right now. The brutal spotlight falls on Vice President's Cheney former right-hand man, Scooter Libby, and the questionable tactics used to justify the war in Iraq, just as the President is trying to gain some traction on the unpopular war."
Lanny Davis (Fmr. Special Counsel to President Clinton) "I can also imagine Tony Snow behind closed doors saying, ‘Oh my God, of all things we have to face is a trial when we're facing all this stuff in Iraq. This couldn’t happen at a worse time.’"
Again, this case is about perjury. And yet, Shipman chose to focus on the questionable tactics Libby and others used to "justify the war in Iraq." She continued:
Shipman: "On the star studded witness list, the Vice President, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and prominent journalists, like ‘Meet the Press’ host Tim Russert. Prosecutors are trying to show that Libby lied to investigators about conversations he had with reporters regarding CIA officer Valerie Plame, the undercover agent who was outed. Libby blames a faulty memory. And in classic Washington style, Libby isn't in trouble for the original crime, outing Plame, but, rather, the, quote, ‘the cover up,’ according to the prosecutor."
Michael Isikoff (Investigative correspondent, Newsweek) "What he's arguing in court is that Scooter Libby lied about what he did know and what he did say to reporters about her."
Shipman: "Indeed, Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff in his book ‘Hubris,’ revealed that it was former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who originally leaked Plame's identity. Still, prosecutors are hoping to show that the Vice President and his staff had an organized and memorable campaign to leak negative stories about Plame and her husband, retired ambassador Joe Wilson. Why? Wilson had traveled to Africa for the CIA to check on reports that Iraq was pursuing weapons of mass destruction. When he got back, Wilson publicly discredited those reports, angering the Vice President. So far, all the Vice President has said is that he stands by his man."
Dick Cheney: "I believe he's one of the more honest men I know."
Shipman: "Now, this will be a hard case for prosecutors to make. If Libby is convicted, though, he could face up to 30 years in prison. There will be no cameras in the courtroom, Robin, but in something of a twist, bloggers for the first time, will be allowed in the federal courts. We'll be able to see the proceedings on the blogs as well."
Shipman neglected to cite some extremely salient facts in her report. For starters, there’s no mention of the fact that Wilson’s wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, actually sent Wilson on the trip to Africa. Secondly, the former ambassador, who "publically discredited" Bush administration claims about WMDs, has himself been discredited. Clifford May recounted the undoing of Wilson’s claims in a July 12, 2004 NRO piece:
"And for the New York Times, [Wilson] was happy to put pen to paper, to write an op-ed charging the Bush administration with ‘twisting,’ ‘manipulating’ and ‘exaggerating’ intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs ‘to justify an invasion.’ In particular he said that President Bush was lying when, in his 2003 State of the Union address, he pronounced these words: ‘The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.’ We now know for certain that Wilson was wrong and that Bush's statement was entirely accurate. The British have consistently stood by that conclusion. In September 2003, an independent British parliamentary committee looked into the matter and determined that the claim made by British intelligence was ‘reasonable’ (the media forgot to cover that one too). Indeed, Britain's spies stand by their claim to this day. Interestingly, French intelligence also reported an Iraqi attempt to procure uranium from Niger."
Finally, the ABC reporter noted that "prosecutors are hoping to show that the Vice President and his staff had an organized and memorable campaign to leak negative stories about Plame and her husband, retired ambassador Joe Wilson." Since when is that a crime? Perhaps Ms. Shipman didn’t notice, but the Clinton administration waged a few organized campaigns against people like Ken Starr and Paula Jones.