The Libby trial unfolded verrrry sllooooowly this morning, with a return visit to the question of the government’s evidence and a debate over releasing the audio of the Libby grand jury testimony. The debate was between the defense and the Associated Press, and the Press won, though Judge Walton gave a nice passive-aggressive threat against “mischief” in the media, warning that if reporters wrote about the tapes in a biased way, they might risk ruining the release of tapes in future trials. (Apparently, getting actual tapes — as opposed to transcripts — is a fairly novel event with little precedent to guide judges.) It is only somewhat ironic that a trial concerning the White House’s manipulation of the news cycle has resulted in the press being told what to do by a judge.
The evidence question went back to the government wishing to submit two articles about the initial federal investigation that were recovered Libby’s files. One of the articles has sections underlined — and these sections have to do with how the release of Valerie Wilson’s name might have been a crime. These passages, says Fitzgerald, go to Libby’s “state of mind,” and show that he might have been worried about both losing his job and getting arrested.
The defense first tried to argue that Libby hadn’t necessarily read the articles. The judge just waved that objection away. Then Libby’s lawyers tried to argue that the grand jury testimony contained plenty of evidence that Libby was following the investigation, so why introduce these two specific articles? This did not work, either.
Walton put off a decision, however. The remaining concern is whether the stories will make the jurors look at Libby’s guilt in light of the initial criminal investigation. Walton has instructed the jurors not to consider the results of that investigation at all in deciding this case. Whether Valerie Wilson was a covert agent or not isn’t important; it’s what Libby lied about doing in the course of that investigation that matters
The specificity — some might say nit-pickiness — of this instruction reinforces the frustrating Russian-doll aspect of the investigation and its aftermath as a whole. Take a step back from the trial, and you see the investigation; it was about the leak of a CIA operative’s name that happened in the course of a larger debate about uranium from Niger. Take another step back and the uranium debate is just a small side point in a larger debate about invading Iraq. Take a step back from that and you might be able to see the 3,000 soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, who’ve died while the administration was playing with Russian dolls.
I left trial to work on something for the print magazine (they still produce it!) around 11. Tomorrow may find someone else covering it for the readers of Swampland, I hope to return on Wednesday.