Postie Chats About Libby

Earlier today, Amy Goldstein held an online chat where she fielded questions about Scooter Libby’s sentence. Some excerpts:

    Washington: When and where does he have to report? (Will be free pending an appeal.) What is the possibility of a Presedential Pardon?

    Amy Goldstein: Thanks for this central question — now that Mr. Libby has been sentenced to 30 months in prison, when does he actually have to go. U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton didn’t resolve this at today’s sentencing, but it should be settled in about eight days. Towards the end of today’s hearing, the judge granted a request by the defense to file a written argument laying out the case for Mr. Libby to remain out on bond while he appeals his conviction. Judge Walton asked the defense and the prosecution to turn in their arguments and scheduled a hearing on the matter for next Thursday, June 14.

    As for the pardon, the answer is that nobody knows. Until today, the White House has refused to discuss the possibility. Today, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino addressed the matter, just a little, saying,

    “The president said he felt terrible for the family,” Perino said. “He’s not going to intervene.”

    Baltimore: We keep hearing that no one ever was charged with the underlying crime (breaking the IIPA). Is that the usual standard? If the police investigated a drug dealer but found a money-laundering operation instead, would they be unable to charge? Personally I am tired of the crying that a Washington elite may serve jail time when any other less-connected resident of the District would have been sentenced without a whimper.

    Amy Goldstein: This question of whether is matters that no one was ever charged with an underlying crime — in this case, the actual leak of Valerie Plame’s identity — figured prominently in the case that the defense made to try to keep Mr. Libby out of prison.

    Defense attorneys argued that his sentence should be lessened because there was no underlying crime that Mr. Libby was obstructing. This was a big part of the oral argument made in court this morning by one of Mr. Libby’s main attorneys, William H. Jeffress Jr. On the other hand, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald argued this morning that the existence of an underlying crime didn’t matter. Fitzgerald said that what counted was simply that Mr. Libby was well aware of the criminal investigation and that the investigation was legitimate. Judge Walton sided with the prosecution on this.

    Chatham, N.J.: What role do you believe the media played in this case? Were they an active or passive participant? Was the coverage in proportion to the importance of the underlying issue?

    Amy Goldstein: The role of the media is one of the most intriguing aspects of the Libby case. To start with, there was, of course, extensive coverage of the trial, and defense lawyers argued this morning that the coverage itself was part of his public humiliation — grounds, they argued, for a compassionate sentence

    At a deeper level, though, the media were what you might think of as involuntary active participants. During the course of the investigation, Mr. Fitzgerals, the special counsel, broke new ground in compelling journalists to divulge information they had learned from confidential conversations with government sources. He did this largely by maneuvering to get those sources to waive the confidentiality promises. This put several prominent Washington reports — including a few of my own Post colleagues — in the rare and not entirely comfortable position of testifying before the grand jury and at the trial. As you might remember, one reporter, Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times, went to jail for 85 days in an attempt to avoid cooperating in the investigation; in the end, even she testified. This testimony from journalists, perhaps not more important than that of NBC’s Tim Russert, was essential to the prosecution in establishing that Libby had lied to investigators.