If Libby's Indicted, Cheney Will Feel the Heat
WASHINGTON, D.C.If, as the New York Times reports, Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis Libby is to be indicted today in the Plame Affair, then the person in the Bush administration most on the hot seat is actually Vice President Dick Cheney.
The Times today says that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may press charges that Scooter Libby lied to the grand jury investigating the leaking of the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent whose husband, Joe Wilson, was a vocal critic of the White House's rationale for the war in Iraq. The paper says Fitzgerald will likely ask to have the grand jury's term extended:
Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, is expected to be indicted today for making false statements to the grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case, lawyers in the case said Thursday.
Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, will not be charged today, but will remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case said.
It remains unclear what role, if any, Cheney played in revealing Plame's identity to reporters. But having his chief of staff under indictment would deal a serious blow to his office. Among other risks is that Fitzgerald could get Libby to start providing a fuller picture of what happened, which might not be in Cheney's best interests.
Thursday in the National Journal, Murray Waas gave a rundown of the kind of thing Cheney could well prefer to hide:
"Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources."
If Cheney were forced to resign, speculation has been that Bush might name Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the job. Other names flying around include that of Rudy Giuliani.
The last time a vice president had to be replaced was during Watergate, in 1973, when Richard Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew, had to go. At the time, Agnew was trying to get around a grand jury inquiry into kick-backs, bribery, and tax evasion by insisting only the Congress could remove him.
Agnew ultimately resigned as part of a plea bargain. Gerald Ford was named to replace him, and after Nixon resigned, Ford became president and picked Nelson Rockefeller as his second. This was the first use of the 25th Amendment.
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