Cheney, Witness for the Prosecution

Of course Vice President Dick Cheney is a likely witness in any perjury case against his former aide, I. Lewis Libby. He has personal information about a material part of a criminal case and it would malpractice on the part of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald not to consider him as a potential witness. Now, whether the Veep ultimately makes it onto the witness stand or not at Libby's trial is another matter. Between now and then there are about a dozen things that could or would happen to prevent Cheney from starring in the case against his former employee.

The first thing that could happen, of course, is that he could not be called to the witness stand at all. In the court filing that started last night's bulletin-o-rama on this story, all Fitzgerald was quoted by the Associated Press as telling the court was that "contrary to the defendant's assertion,the government has not represented that it does not intend to call the vice president as a witness at trial. To the best of the government's counsel's recollection, the government has not commented on whether it intends to call the vice president as a witness." That's a far cry from an affirmative statement that Cheney is loosening up in the bullpen.

Sure, there are other portions of the filing in which Fitzgerald offered logical explanations for why Cheney would be a witness in the case. But just because someone is a logical witness doesn't mean they are ultimately going to find themselves on the witness stand. Take former Enron official Richard Causey as only the most recent example of a prime witness who never gets asked to show up at trial. Causey was a co-defendant of Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling right up until the eve of their still-continuing fraud and conspiracy trial when the former accounting chief cut a plea deal with prosecutors. Obviously, he is a big part of the story of Enron, right? But neither side called him. There are all sorts of factors, strategic, tactical and otherwise, that determine whether a special witness will testify at trial.

Other legal and political pressures aside, whether Cheney testifies or not depends entirely upon what he would be asked on the witness stand. If he is asked to talk only about what Libby said to him and what he said to Libby, which seems a reasonable presumption given all that we know about the interaction between the two on the subject of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, it seems to me it will be hard for the Vice President to successfully assert an "executive" or "national security" privilege against testifying. I mean, if the Watergate case teaches us anything it is that the executive branch cannot always and forever hide behind the wall that separates the branches, especially when a person's liberty is on the line in a criminal case.

Like any other witness may do, I'm sure the Vice President is talking to his own attorneys, and certainly executive branch attorneys, to determine how to proceed if and when he is called in the case. And if he is called, we'll all have a chance to see the extraordinary scenario in which a Republican-appointed Justice Department lawyer dukes it out with a Republican-appointed White House lawyer to determine whether a super-secret vice president has to testify on behalf of the government and against man who exercised his will for all those years. Last night's bulletins didn't bring big news. But big news may be coming and sooner rather than later.

By  |  May 25, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
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... just so long as he checks his shotgun at the door.

Posted by: Phil S. | May 25, 2006 07:35 AM

The idea of Cheney on the stand--beholden again to the law and to the rule of law (like the rest of us)--is titillating! Lacking a hunting budddy on the bench, Cheney's scorn for transparency and process might, unhindered, ignite; Colonel Nathan Jessep, anyone?

Posted by: ape dersen | May 25, 2006 12:38 PM

I have been reading Washington newspapers since 1972 and it is sad to note that wishful thinking scenarios have overtaken traditional "news" reporting based on confirmed facts. That's why I no longer subscribe to the Washington Post. Have you read this piece aloud to yourself?

Posted by: MikeR | May 25, 2006 09:58 PM

what is this talk about anyway? bush will pardon these felons,just as his father pardoned the iran-contra gang.

so why waste time with all this?

Posted by: inedal | May 26, 2006 05:24 AM

The whole Republican Party is in denial.....Speaketh with forked tongue.

Posted by: Larry Ross | May 26, 2006 09:06 AM

I overheard someones comments the other day. Is killing innocent Iraqi's Pro Life

Posted by: Ed Jones | May 26, 2006 09:44 AM

Recently realized, our country is beeing led by a whole group of people who fuction in "concrete" operations, even though we humans are supposed to gain abstract thinking by the age of 11 years. Hence they have no imagination, no "vision" and we are a nation crashing into walls & pitfalls.

Posted by: janice Porter | May 26, 2006 01:34 PM

I think was the neocons illuminati bunker underground pedophiles are sinking USA. And no one made something!

Posted by: Al Rovati | May 26, 2006 11:47 PM

Dick Cheney:Spiro Agnew::George W. Bush:Richard M. Nixon

Posted by: History redux, pt 2. | May 30, 2006 01:22 PM

Columns & Blogs comment on facts raised in topical issues, typically news stories. A recent special prosecuter Patrick Fitzgerald filing states the US would like to know the 'state' of Cheney's mind at the time he wrote the comments on Jos Wilson's NYT Op-Ed peice. We know Fitz has interviewd Cheney already for 70 minutes in the Oval Office. It is reasonable in a blog, to explore the 'meaning' of Fitz's pleading, whethger that means Cheney would be interviewed again, deposed or called as a witness at trial.

If all this makes you stop reading the WaPo MikeR, that's your loss.

Posted by: Sue Ismiss | June 4, 2006 01:00 PM

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