Scooter Libby reinstated to the bar

The Daily Caller reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has reinstated Lewis (Scooter) Libby’s license to practice law, eight years after he was disbarred as a result of his conviction in connection with what became known as “Plamegate.”

If you have forgotten the details of the preposterous proceedings against him initiated by James Comey’s appointed counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, here’s a primer.  In short, he was convicted of having a different memory of conversations from those of the late Tim Russert and Matt Cooper, the husband (since separated) of Mandy Grunwald, then and now a close Hillary Clinton aide, months after these conversations occurred.  While it has often been misreported that he leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the leaker was Colin Powell’s deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, something known to Fitzgerald from the outset.  Whether Comey was apprised of this fact or when is not known.

The Daily Caller quotes former U.S. attorney Joe DiGenova on this development:

Washington D.C.-based former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova believes the Libby decision is a “terrible blow” to FBI Director James Comey, who announced Sunday that the agency had no new conclusions on Hillary Clinton and her private server from the 650,000 new emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

“Scooter Libby was restored to the practice of law by the DC court of appeals because they believed that Scooter Libby presented evidence that his original trial had been corrupted by false testimony. And that false testimony was coerced by Jim Comey’s friend Patrick Fitzgerald and Comey was part of the team to destroy the vice president of the United States and it didn’t happen,” DiGenova said.

He added,” It’s such a smack in the face to Jim Comey.  Comey and Fitzgerald tried to frame Scooter Libby, and they did, but then they didn’t get it done. And then of course that idiot George W. Bush didn’t give him a pardon he only commuted his sentence.”

In his petition to the court, Libby argued that he met all the standards set forth for such reinstatement to practice and, among other things, quoted from the witness (then N.Y. Times reporter) Judith Miller’s book, later written about a conversation she’d had with Libby.  In that book, Miller recanted her former testimony, indicating she’d been confused when she read the notes that she’d relied upon in testifying, and that, in fact, “Libby had not mentioned” Plame to her on the day in question.  Peter Berkowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Still, Mr. Fitzgerald … sought a conviction, and he went so far as to jail Judith Miller for 85 days to obtain evidence against her sources, one of whom was Mr. Libby.

Ms. Miller’s new memoir recounts that after her conditions had been met and Mr. Fitzgerald asked the court to release her from jail in September 2005, she was summoned to testify before the grand jury. While Mr. Fitzgerald prepared her, she recalls, his pointed queries led her to believe that a four-word question regarding Joseph Wilson surrounded by parentheses in her notebook—“(wife works in Bureau?)”—proved that Mr. Libby had told her about Ms. Plame’s CIA employment in a June 23, 2003, conversation (well before Mr. Libby’s phone conversation with Russert). She so testified at trial in 2007.

Three years later, Ms. Miller writes, she was reading Ms. Plame’s book, “Fair Game,” and was astonished to learn that while on overseas assignment for the CIA Ms. Plame “had worked at the State Department as cover.” This threw “a new light” on the June 2003 notebook jotting, Ms. Miller says, since the State Department has “bureaus,” while the CIA is organized into “divisions.”

Ms. Miller, who had spoken to many State Department sources around the same time she spoke to Mr. Libby, says in her memoir that she then realized she must have begun her conversation with him wondering whether Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the State Department. Ms. Miller also now understood that “If Libby, a seasoned bureaucrat, had been trying to plant her employer with me at our first meeting in June, he would not have used the word Bureau to describe where Plame worked.”

Mr. Fitzgerald, who had the classified file of Ms. Plame’s service, withheld her State Department cover from Ms. Miller—and from Mr. Libby’s lawyers, who had requested Ms. Plame’s employment history. Despite his constitutional and ethical obligation to provide exculpatory evidence, Mr. Fitzgerald encouraged Ms. Miller to misinterpret her ambiguous notes as showing that Mr. Libby brought up Ms. Plame.

If Ms. Miller had testified accurately, she would have dealt a severe blow to Mr. Fitzgerald’s central contention that Mr. Libby was lying when he said he was surprised to hear Russert mention Ms. Plame.

In its account to the Court of Appeals, the disciplinary counsel who recommended his reinstatement notes that Libby had maintained his innocence of the charges for which he was convicted.  And noted (footnote 3), “[W]e have not found a basis with which to quarrel with his presentation of facts.”

In sum, I agree entirely with Joe DiGenova’s view.