Corn on “Hardball”: Cheney, Bush & Libby–The Story Doesn’t End

Time magazine posted a marvelous piece of journalism today on the final days of the Bush-Cheney administration–and the final drama of their administration: Dick Cheney pressuring George W. Bush to pardon Scooter Libby, and Bush, with the backing of most of his aides, resisting Cheney. This was a conflict that threatened to ruin the relationship between Cheney, who wanted to protect the guy who took a bullet for him, and Bush, who didn’t want to pardon Libby (after having commuted his prison sentence) because he believed that Libby had indeed lied to the FBI during the investigation of the Valerie Plame leak and feared that a last-minute pardon would taint his presidency (as did President Bill Clinton’s out-the-door pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich). It’s a telling tale, and it shows that Cheney, by the end of the administration, was isolated and off in a world of his own.

In response to the Time article, Cheney released a statement declaring Libby “an innocent man” and noting that Libby was not the source of the leak that outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA officer. But Cheney had it wrong: Libby was convicted not for leaking but for lying to the FBI agents. That lie came when Libby did not tell the agents that he had learned about Valerie Wilson’s CIA position from Cheney. Instead, Libby had told the investigators that the late Tim Russert was the person who first informed him about Valerie Wilson’s CIA connection; Russert testified at the trial that he could not have told Libby any such thing because he hadn”t known about Valerie Wilson’s CIA position until after it became public knowledge. Even Bush acknowledged the validity of the jury’s verdict when he wiped out Libby’s jail time, arguing that this particular sentence (30 months) was excessive. The Cheney statement seemed to indicate the ex-veep doesn’t understand the Libby case–or that he’s willing to obfuscate facts to defend his former chief of staff.

Cheney is good for business–my businesss, at least. I was invited to go on Hardball to discuss the Time article and Cheney’s response. And Chris Matthews does enjoy talking about Cheney. Here’s what happened:


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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.