A high-powered political lawyer blasted the guilty verdict in the case of Lewis “Scooter” Libby and called for President Bush to pardon the former vice presidential chief of staff.
Richard McLellan, head of the Government Policy Department in the “super-firm” of Dykema-Gossett, told me hours after the verdict that the case of Libby and whether he leaked the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame to different reporters “expects attention to detail and memory that none of us could muster.”
“In general, the jury system works and there is some value in trusting the system,” said McLellan, a one-time special assistant to Michigan’s former Democratic Atty. Gen. Frank Kelley, from his office in Lansing, “But any politically-driven prosecution raises real concern about public service.” In the case of Libby, he added, “it expects attention to detail and memory that none of us could muster.” Recalling his own years dealing with grand juries, McLellan noted that witnesses are required to testify without notes, appointment calendars, or counsel.
“Can you recall who you had lunch with 11 months ago?” McLellan asked rhetoricially — an obvious reference to Libby not recalling lunch with former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who testified in court that the former Cheney aide told him over a meal in the White House Mess that Plame — the wife of Administration critic Joseph Wilson — did indeed work for the CIA.
McLellan believes that the case will be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals and that “any minute mistake can mean that the verdict will be overturned.” However, he quickly added, that would only open the way for a second trial in District Court unless Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald decided to terminate the prosecution of Libby outright. Getting the Libby verdict considered by the Supreme Court is “remote,” according to McLellan.
The Water Wonderland lawyer strongly voiced his view that, given the circumstances of the Libby case, “George W. Bush should pardon Scooter Libby on his last day as President, just as his father pardoned all of the people convicted in the Iran-Contra case in his final days as President [in 1993].”
At this afternoon’s White House briefing for reporters, Acting Press Secretary Dana Perrino refused to entertain any questions about Bush pardoning Libby, saying discussion of a pardon was “hypothetical.”
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