Goodfellas on Trial?

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From all the references to getting thrown under a bus, putting one’s “neck in a meat grinder,” and, today, having one’s “feet planted in cement,” you’d think U.S. v Libby was a mob trial.

This White House does have a certain wise guy aspect (you’re either with us or against us), and the defense’s case rests on portraying 1600 Pennsylvania as a nest of vipers, with Libby fighting not to keep his job but to preserve his honor.

Fitzgerald’s case is, on its face, more believable. Libby wanted to avoid being prosecuted for leaking Plame’s name (a key fact for the government is that Libby thought he might have broken the law), so he changed his story. He didn’t get Plame’s name from an official, he got it from reporters.

The government further argues that Libby was frantically marshaling White House support, specifically in the form of a statement from Scott McClellan saying that Libby “had nothing to do” with the leak. And once that happened, Libby was locked into the cover the White House gave him (this situation being the source to the cemented feet metaphor Fitzgerald used).

This morning, with the jury out of the courtroom, Fitzgerald tried to admit clips from the 2003 White House briefings in which McClellan poured the concrete.

The defense tried to argue that the clips were prejudicial… Wells referred to them as a “feeding frenzy” so many times I started to get hungry. The judge eventually agreed to show the jury the clips, if the government edited out the “press people” questions; “it’s clear that the press doesn’t believe what’s being said,” and the jury shouldn’t be contaminated by the press’s incredulity. Hmm.

Fitzgerald contends that Scottie’s statements disprove the defense’s narrative about a tong war (those gangsters again!) between the White House and the office of the vice president. If Scott went out to defend Scooter, how could Scooter possibly then be so overwhelmed with concern about being “sacrificed” by the White House that, four days later, he mixed up his story to the FBI?

The White House had Libby’s back, Fitzgerald said, “it was Mr. McClellan who was in front of the bus.”

He certainly had that look on his face.