Blogs > HNN > What Did Cheney Know and When Did He Know It?

Oct 30, 2005 1:22 pm

What Did Cheney Know and When Did He Know It?

Lost in the hubbub yesterday is a key question about Vice President Cheney's conduct. Has he known for the last two years that his chief of staff was claiming to have learned about Mrs. Wilson's identity from reporters? If so, then he knew his chief of staff was lying. According to the Libby indictment, the vice president was one of several people in the government who told Libby that Mrs. Wilson worked for the CIA in a classified position:

On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson’s wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.

This conversation is critical. It strains credulity to think that at the time Libby would not have indicated to his boss that he already knew Mrs. Wilson's identity from reporters if that were the case (and the calls with reporters were only beginning; the first newspaper story about the case was in May, the second occurred the day of this conversation and the others a month later when Novak got involved and others followed). This would mean that Cheney knew at that moment the actual state of Libby's knowledge. The question then becomes, Did Cheney know that Libby was telling the FBI and the grand jury that he learned Mrs. Wilson's identity from reporters? If he did, then he countenanced his top aide's dissembling, which is a crime since Libby was dissembling to the FBI and the grand jury.

It is certainly conceivable that Libby did not tell Cheney what went on in the grand jury. But isn't it likely that Libby talked to Cheney about the statements he planned to make--or made--to the FBI? The two men are very close. They would have wanted their stories to mesh. But if they talked, what did Libby tell Cheney? Did Libby say he told the FBI the truth--that he'd learned the identity of Mrs. Wilson from government officials (including Cheney)? Or did Libby say he told the FBI he learned the information from reporters? If the former Libby told the truth to Cheney and lied to the FBI. If the latter, Libby lied to his boss and told the truth to the FBI. Given this choice, it's easier to believe that Libby lied to the FBI and told Cheney the truth. But what then did Cheney tell the FBI when he was interviewed?

This raises the additional question of Libby's reason for lying. What was he trying to hide? And was he trying to hide his boss's involvement?

One additional dimension to this matter is worth exploring. In October 2003, two years ago, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that he had asked Libby if he was involved in the leak of Mrs. Wilson's identity. Libby said no, according to McClellan. Is it conceivable that Cheney thought this was true? Cheney knew he'd told Libby her identity. Cheney knew that Libby talked with reporters. Isn't it likely that at that point Cheney went to Libby and asked him directly what the situation was? Again, we are back to the likely scenario that Libby told Cheney the truth.

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