FBI agent testifies in perjury trial

By Michael J. Sniffen The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby acknowledged he may have discussed with Vice President Dick Cheney whether to tell reporters that a prominent war critic’s wife worked at the CIA, an FBI agent testified yesterday.

Agent Deborah Bond’s brief description of Libby’s acknowledgment was about the only new information disclosed on the day. Otherwise, Libby’s perjury trial was devoted mostly to dealing with vigorous and repeated defense efforts to exclude evidence that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called “the guts of our case.”

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton accepted some defense arguments and rejected others during hours-long debates held outside the jury’s presence.

But the government was able to show the jury small portions of video of then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan saying President Bush would fire anyone who was found to have leaked classified information. The video also showed McClellan saying he had been assured Libby did not leak classified information.

McClellan spoke in October 2003, shortly before Libby was interviewed by the FBI.

Libby is charged with lying to the FBI and a grand jury about his conversations with reporters concerning CIA operative Valerie Plame and obstructing an investigation of how her identity and CIA job were leaked to the press in 2003. Fitzgerald said Libby’s motive was to avoid being fired.

Libby’s acknowledgment of a possible discussion with Cheney about revealing Plame’s job is likely to have more impact on political debate about the Plame leak than on the trial because Libby is not charged with the actual leak.

The trial recessed until Monday before Bond was asked whether Libby described for the FBI details of his talk with Cheney or any decisions he and Cheney may have reached. Libby denies he leaked the name.

The legal arguments delayed the jury’s entry into the courtroom until after 2 p.m. Jurors remained attentive even though Bond testified in a low, often halting monotone.

Bond said that during Libby’s second FBI interview in his office on Nov. 23, 2003, Libby described flying back from Norfolk, Va., with Cheney on July 12, 2003, at the height of public controversy over allegations made by Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.