Everyone agrees that Fitzgerald's perjury case against Libby hung on the testimony of NBC's Tim Russert. Libby said that he heard about Plame from Russert. Russert said he had never discussed it. The jury members who have spoken said they believed Russert.
And why should they not? Russert is a perfectly honest man who would not lie. He was undoubtedly giving his best recollection.
But he is not the pope. Given that so many journalists and administration figures were shown to have extremely fallible memories, is it possible that Russert's memory could have been faulty?
I have no idea. But we do know that Russert once denied calling up a Buffalo News reporter to complain about a story. Russert later apologized for the error when he was shown the evidence of a call he had genuinely and completely forgotten.
There is a second instance of Russert innocently misremembering. He stated under oath that he did not know that one may not be accompanied by a lawyer to a grand jury hearing. This fact, in and of itself, is irrelevant to the case, except that, as former prosecutor Victoria Toensing points out, the defense had tapes showing Russert saying on television three times that lawyers are barred from grand jury proceedings.
This demonstration of Russert's fallibility was never shown to the jury. The judge did not allow it. He was upset with the defense because it would not put Libby on the stand -- his perfect Fifth Amendment right -- after hinting in the opening statement that it might. He therefore denied the defense a straightforward demonstration of the fallibility of the witness whose testimony was most decisive.
Toensing thinks this might be the basis for overturning the verdict upon appeal. I hope so. This is a case that never should have been brought, originating in the scandal that never was, in search of a crime -- violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act -- that even the prosecutor never alleged. That's the basis for a presidential pardon. It should have been granted long before this egregious case came to trial. It should be granted now without any further delay.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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